One of the most popular fighters in New York from the late 1920s to the late 1930s, Kid Chocolate dazzled fans with his speed and two-handed punching ability. Chocolate, a Cuban whose birth name was Eligio Sardinias-Montalbo, first started fighting as a newspaper boy in Havana, defending his sales turf. After he won an amateur boxing tournament sponsored by the newspaper La Noche, Chocolate came under the guidance of the newspaper's sports editor, Luis Gutierrez. Neither Gutierrez nor Chocolate knew a lot about boxing at that point and part of Chocolate's training was to watch films of famous fights.
Chocolate never lost a fight as an amateur and racked up 21 knockouts in 21 bouts as a pro before taking on New York in 1928 at the age of eighteen. Chocolate quickly made a name for himself, and his fights moved from small clubs to Madison Square Garden. By 1929, he was ranked the top featherweight contender in the annual ratings by The Ring. In 1930, Chocolate faced his stiffest challenge when he met Hall of Famer Jackie (Kid) Berg at the Polo Grounds with 40,000 fans watching. Berg outweighed Chocolate by almost ten pounds. Chocolate's best round of the fight was the third, when he pounded Berg with jarring uppercuts to the head. As the fight went on, however, Berg's relentless attack tired Chocolate. Berg won a fairly close decision, handing Chocolate the first defeat of his career.
Later that same year, Chocolate lost decisions to Fidel LaBarba and featherweight champion Battling Battalino. Ringside observers said Chocolate appeared slightly listless. Chocolate was back in top form by July of 1931, when he won his first title with a technical knockout over junior lightweight champion Benny Bass. The same year, Chocolate attempted to add the lightweight title to his holdings, but fell victim to the blistering attack of champion Tony Canzoneri, who won by decision.
In 1932, Chocolate lost a rematch with Berg, but claimed New York's world featherweight title when he TKO'd Lew Feldman at Madison Square Garden. Chocolate defended this particular title twice before relinquishing it, allegedly for failing to make the weight.
By 1933, Chocolate clearly was on the downside of his career. Canzoneri knocked him out in two rounds, and he lost his junior lightweight championship when Frankie Klick scored a technical knockout over him in seven. He continued to fight until 1938 against second-rate competition.
Although he was sometimes criticized for not training seriously enough for important bouts, Chocolate was recognized as a consummate ring artist: skillful, quick, and powerful. His ring earnings spent on New York night life and grand good times, Chocolate retired to Cuba, where he operated a gym.
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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.