Tall, thin, and all muscle, Panama Al Brown held the world bantamweight title for six years. He was born in Panama's Canal Zone and as a young man was employed as a clerk with the United States Shipping Board. He became interested in boxing while watching bouts between U.S. military personnel and, when encouraged by his boss, gave the ring a try.
Brown had surprising punching power and an incredible 76" reach. He turned professional at age 20 and won the Isthmus flyweight title in his third fight, with a decision over Sailor Patchett. Brown's performance caught the attention of fight manager Dave Lumiansky, who took him to New York. Brown was unbeaten in his first seventeen bouts in the U.S. and was ranked as the third-best flyweight in the 1924 annual rankings of The Ring. By 1926, Brown had moved up to the bantamweight level and was ranked sixth by The Ring. He then spent a year in Paris, where he was a great favorite of French fight fans, compiling a 6-2-1 record in nine bouts.
In 1929, Brown challenged Vidal Gregorio for the vacant world bantamweight title. The fight took place in Queensboro Stadium in Long Island City, with 15,000 looking on. Brown dominated the fight and easily won the decision. Over the next six years, Brown, a true world champion, defended his title in New York, Paris, Montreal, Marseilles, Toronto, Milan, London, and Tunis, and fought non-title bouts in many other cities around the world.
The merry-go-round stopped in Valencia, Spain, in 1935, when Baltazar Sangchilli beat Brown in a fifteen-round decision and walked off with the title. Brown kept fighting, mostly in Paris and New York, and finally back home in Panama. He twice retired and twice came back, until he at last quit the ring in 1942. Although the money had poured in during his globe-trotting days, Brown died penniless in New York in 1951, after a bout with tuberculosis.
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Excerpted with permission from 'The Boxing Register' by James B. Roberts and Alexander G. Skutt, copyright © 1999 by McBooks Press. All rights reserved.