By Clive Bernath: Art Hafey is one of life’s nice people. In fact being such a nice down to earth humble guy may have cost him a shot at the world featherweight title.
For those of you that are too young to remember or not familiar with the career of ‘Irish’ Art let me enlighten you? Hafey was born in Nova Scotia, Canada on January 17, 1951 and between 1972 and 1976 the powerfully built 5ft 2 strongman fought, beat and terrorised some of the greatest featherweights of all time. Unfortunately, despite sitting patiently at the top of the world rankings for what seemed like an eternity Hafey just could not secure a shot at the title.
There are many great and exciting fighters that have missed out on securing a crack at the ultimate prize their profession offers but Art Hafey has to be remembered as one of the most unfortunate of them all.
As mentioned earlier Hafey fought in arguably the greatest era of assembled featherweights in a series of fights from 1972 to 1976, appropriately and affectionately dubbed ‘The West Coast Featherweight Wars’. During the aforementioned time period Hafey fought an incredible 43 times against such legends as Ruben Olivares, Octavio Gomez, Alex Arguello and Danny Lopez, not to mention the countless public sparring wars he engaged with Bobby Chacon. It was indeed a very special era for boxing in general when venues like the Forum in Inglewood, the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angles and the Coliseum in San Diego were regularly sold out. It was also the ere in which Hispanic boxers emerged onto the scene to dominate the lower weight divisions and Hafey being a white crowd pleasing brawler was in the thick of it all. The then 22 year-old Canadian of Irish decent was feared so much by his peers, Hispanic boxing fans often referred to him as ‘The Executioner’ because of the way he regularly destroyed their heroes.
Maybe the best way to describe Hafey and understand just how good a fighter he was is to compare him to Filipino legend Manny Pacquiao. Admittedly Art was not a pound for pound top 10 fighter but he did engage and beat the likes of Ruben Olivares and Octavio Gomez in much the same fashion as Pacquiao ended the careers of Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera. Unfortunately that is where the comparison ends. Whereas Pacquiao has gone on to cement his greatness Hafey failed to endear himself to the fans and the tv networks despite his crowd pleasing style. Unlike Olivares, Gomez, Chacon and Danny Lopez-Hafey was just not charismatic enough. He did not create headlines; he shunned the showbiz lifestyle and late night partying. There was never any showmanship or disrespecting of opponents. He was just a regular guy that loved to fight and never had a bad word to say about anyone.
Now, the remarkable, albeit short career of Hafey is being serialised in a remarkable new documentary entitled Toy Tiger. The double DVD collection edition has been expertly put together and directed by Brad Little and features more than five hours of some of Hafey’s biggest fights, behind the scenes sparring sessions with Bobby Chacon and exclusive interviews with some of the fighters he came face to face with inside the ring.
Hafey’s success as a fighter was all the more remarkable because all through his 53-8-4-(36), career he suffered from Thomsens disease, a milder form of Myotonia congenital, a constant stiffness of the muscles. The disease effects 1 in 100,000 people. Art often complained he suffered a stiffness in his arms and legs immediately prior to fights but was not diagnosed with the disease until after his career was over.
If you are still looking for that special Christmas gift for a boxing mad friend or family member there is no better gift than Toy Tiger
The three hours of fight footage alone is incredible and features some of the greatest featherweights of all time including Bobby Chacon, Ruben Olivares and Danny Lopez.
For information on how to order Toy Tiger, a bio of Art Hafey and much more go to toytigermovie.com