By Ted Sares
Harry Arroyo has movie star good looks and a personality to match. In plain English, he was and is a hellava guy. He was a power puncher from Youngstown, Ohio, the same city that produced Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini and he fought in the same exciting way. Right from the start, he went 22 (17 ko's)-0 before facing popular "Rockin" Robin Blake in Atlantic City on January 14, 1984. Robin was 20-0 at the time. It was a much anticipated fight between two 135 pounders on the move. Harry won a close 10 UD which was seen on national TV and positioned him for an April fight with Charlie 'Choo Choo" Brown, 23-2-1, a tough scrapper out of Philly. When Arroyo beat Blake, he broke into the top twelve IBF Lightweight rankings. Robin Blake retired in 1990 with a 33-8 record. After his loss to Arroyo, his star dimmed as he went 13-8.
The fight with Choo Choo would be for the IBF Lightweight Title at the Sands in Atlantic City. This would be the big one for the likable Youngstown welterweight. Brown had beaten Melvin Paul, 17-2, in January 1984 to take the newly created title by a close 15 round SD and was in defensive mode. Charlie would later recall( in a City Beat article by Benjamin Herold entitled, Fred Jenkins makes sure boxers — both aspiring and accomplished — have a home at his North Philly gym), "[Paul] definitely came to fight. He was a steady comer, he came right at you. So I figured I'll box him," Brown recalls while pantomiming his peek-a-boo style. "Both hands is right there in front of you, but you don't know which is coming first." Brown dropped Paul in round one with a left hook to the body and again in the fourth round with a right to the chest.
In the final round, Melvin Paul hit him with such a crushing right that Brown couldn't remember getting hit. But as a true Philly fighter with great heart, he managed to get up and stay up, even landing some solid shots before the final bell. Brown and Fred "Herk" Jenkins hoped to use the championship to catapult Brown, then 23-2-1, higher in the rankings of the better-established WBA and WBC. Their ultimate aim was a unification tournament involving popular WBA champ Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini and tough WBC champ Edwin Rosario. But that plan, unfortunately for Charlie, depended on beating Harry Arroyo.
Thus, the stage was set. And Harry did not dissapoint, taking the title with a dramatic 14h round TKO. Brown ran out of gas against the better trained and more determined Arroyo and was halted in round fourteen, though Choo Choo claimed the fight was stopped too soon.
Brown went on to win only three more bouts and eventually lost his last eleven fights retiring in 1993. "Things didn't go to well because of the frame of mind I was in," he says. "It got to the point where I just didn't give a damn. "I've been hurt by the fight game a little bit. I expected something from it. I've been to the top, and I even took the city to the top by my being from here. It didn't last long, but I got there." He finished with a mark of 26-16-2 after a 2nd round ko loss to Sammy Fuentes.
In September of 1984, Harry was set to defend his newly won crown against another Charlie Brown....this one nicknamed "White Lightening"............in Youngstown, OH This Charlie Brown, 23-0 at the time and from Moline, Illinois, was a true road warrior having fought in Miami, NJ, MSG, Memphis, NY, Atlantic City, Las Vegas, Illinois, Iowa, PA, New Mexico,Ohio, CA, Virginia, Denmark, and NC. But this didn't help him much as Arroyo dismantled him by KO in the eighth round. Brown would then go 8-10 losing 6 of his last 8, (though one of his wins was against Saoul Mamby by 6 round UD 1992). He retired in 1995 with a 31-11 mark, his last fight a second round TKO loss to tough Ralph Jones, 30-2. He probably will be remembered more for his nickname and subsequent first round KO loss to Greg Haugen than his willingness to fight anywhere in the US.
From the above, one might accurately conclude that Harry Arroyo provided the big detour in the careers of the aforementioned two Charlie's. Heck, numbers don't lie and their fights with Harry were pivotal in a negative way. But what of Harry? Where did he go from here?
After the win against "White Lightening," he defended his title against rock hard Terrence Alli, 24-3-1, from Brooklyn by way of Guyana.The fight took place at Bally's in Atlantic City in January 1985 and for those who were fortunate enough to be there or to witness it on national TV, it was a memorable one with ebb and flow action and incredibly hard punches landing on the heads of the two combatants. Savage and brutal, each fighter took turns hitting the other with sharp combinations and accurate shots. Harry was hurt by a vicious uppercut in the 7th but somehow hung on. In the 11th, with the fight dead even on the judges scorecards, Arroyo, who had been down once, waged a fierce exchange with Alli finally catching him in a corner. Putting his punches together, albeit slowly, he launched a barrage of unanswered punches that snapped Alli's neck back until Referee Tony Perez had no choice but to call a halt to the onslaught at 1:16 in what was hailed as one of the best fights of the year. Both fighters were ready to go at the end;Harry survived.................................but at what cost? He won the battle, but likely lost the war.
While the loss seemingly had no adverse impact on Alli's career (he would go on to win 29 more bouts though his last nine were winless), it was a different story for Harry. In April 1985, and perhaps too soon after the Alli fight, he defended his title against rugged Jimmy Paul, 21-1, again at Bally's. This time he lost a lopsided decision. Paul put Harry down five times to take the IBF title away from him and to signal that perhaps the Alli fight took far too much from him. Affirming this notion, Arroyo's career then went in the same direction as that of the two Charlie's.......and like "Choo Choo" and "White Lightening," he too fell on hard times. Unlike those two, however, Harry's detour resulted from a hard earned win. He went 14-10 the rest of his career. He did pick up the WBC Continental Americas Light Welterweight title from undeafted Rick Souce in 1988 only to lose it two months later by a brutal first round knockout to Loreto Garza, later WBA Junior Welterweight Champion. After dropping a 10 round UD to undefeated Vinny Letizia in 1993, Harry Arroyo called it quits with a fine record of 40 (30 ko's)-11 and a willingness always to fight the very best opposition out there.
He now lives comfortably off his ring earnings with his wife and four children in Ohio and has become involved with law enforcement and religion. Humble, sincere, friendly, and spiritual, he is one of the nicest people to meet and talk with at the annual International Hall Of Fame induction weekend. Though meeting the same boxing fate he rendered onto the two Charlie's, Harry, like too few others, has made a positive transition from boxing to a life after boxing and remains a true credit to the sport. He now enjoys being out of the limelight and with his family and his religion.......and that's a good thing.
"When I was going through my transition of being famous, I tried to ask God why was I here? What was my purpose? Surely
It wasn't just to win three gold medals. There has to be more to this life than that." Wilma Rudolph
Attention is called to an outstanding interview between fellow writer Jim Amato and Harry Arroyo in the ESB archives.
Ted Sares is a boxing historian and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America he can be reached at [email protected].