Augie Arellano

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Agustin “Augie” Arellano, who was also known by fight fans as “Tiger Pelon” was a Houston, Texas based middleweight who fought in the professional boxing ranks from 1936 to 1947, compiling a record of 50 wins, 36 loses, and 11 draws.

Augie was also a distinguished combat veteran who served in the United States Army as a Paratrooper, making five combat jumps in three separate invasions, including the Invasion of Normandy in World War II. As accomplished in his military service as he was in the boxing ring, he received a Purple Heart and Silver Star for his efforts while serving his country.

Born in Sombrete, Zacatecas, Mexico, he was billed as a “Mexican fighter” while he competed in the professional ranks, but he actually was raised and lived in Houston, Texas for the majority of his life. It was in Houston that Augie first took an interest in boxing after being bullied as a child. He found a boxing program at a local ‘Boys Club’ and from there competed as an amateur and his early years as a professional. A crowd favorite in his hometown of Houston, Texas, he was nicknamed “Tiger Pelon” due to his ferocious demeanor in the ring.

After establishing himself as a contender in and around the Houston area, he was one of the first in the area to venture to New York, where continued his assault on the middleweight division, facing and holding his own against the best in his division there as well. From there he fought most of his bouts in the The State of New York, as well as the Houston and Gulf Coast areas.

He fought regularly from 1936 until 1942, when he began his military service as a full time soldier. After serving his country and being honorably discharged he returned to the ring in 1946 as a light-heavyweight, and fought until 1947.

He was rarely stopped in his career and most of his loses were by decision, against the better connected contenders in New York. A legitimate contender, he fought many of the best top ten contenders and champions of his time, including Willie McCoy, Sonny Horne, Fred Apostoli, Michele Palermo, Joey Greb, Georgie Abrams, Tami Mauriello, Coley Welch, Artie Levine, Ken Overlin, Jackie “Kid” Berg, Artie Dorell, and James Elder and Lou Schwartz.

Johnny Boudreaux

Johnny Boudreaux boxed out of Texas Boxing Enterprises Boxing Gym and was a four time Houston Golden Gloves Champion, winning the tournament in the Novice Division in 1968 as a Light-Middle Weight, then in the Open Division in 1969 as a Light-Heavyweight, in 1971 as Open Division Champion at Light-Heavyweight, and in 1972 as Open Division Champion at Heavyweight. Johnny was also a two-time National AAU runner up.

As a professional Johnny was known for his extraordinary boxing skills and hand speed, compiling a professional record of 21 wins with 7 by knockout, against only 5 loses and 1 draw.

Johnny was a Texas State and Louisiana State Champion at Heavyweight as a professional and fought many tough boxers including Scrap Iron Johnson, Stan Ward, Roy Wallace, Tony Doyle, Charles Atlas, Randy Stephens, Gerrie Coetzee, and John Tate. Johnny is a name often mentioned when speaking to the old timers of boxing in Houston, and he’s known as a guy who was “Very hard to beat” in his prime as a boxer.

Danny Donatto

Danny Donatto began boxing in the Fifth Ward neighborhood of Houston, Texas. He boxed out of The H.O.P.E. Development Center, on Lyons Avenue, under coaches Jimmy Fields and David Carrington.

Danny won The Houston Golden Gloves in 1971 as a novice featherweight, in 1972 as a novice welterweight, and in 1973 as the Open Division Champion at welterweight. In his amateur career Donatto battled other great local talent such as Oscar Trevino, Danny O’Quinn, and Ruben Nuncio.

Donatto would also pursue a professional career in boxing, compiling an 11-7-1 record while fighting the likes of Ike Fluellen, John Capitano, Darnell Knox, and Milton Seward.

Donatto is also credited with being the initial person to invite future fellow Houston boxing legend Melvin Dennis to The H.O.P.E. Development Center in February of 1969, setting off what would be an extraordinary boxing career for Dennis.

James Carter

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A long time Coach and Official in the Houston area, Mr. Carter certainly contributed to the history and legacy of Houston boxing by not only volunteering his boxing knowledge, but also as an advocate for our youth. Mr. Carter was a boxer during his time serving in The United States Army and also met his wife, in Germany, while serving our country. In a time in our country when Germany and Germans were demonized, Mr. Carter and his wife experienced prejudice when they came home to The United States. This fact may have contributed to Mr. Carter’s loathing for any sort of prejudice or racism, and he was known to treat all of the mostly Black and Latino boxers he coached like sons.

Mr. Carter was the Head Coach of The Salvation Army Boxing Club, in the city’s North-Side of town at Aldine-Westfield and Jensen. Mr. Carter coached many of the neighborhood youth and coached Kenneth “Iron Man” Walker, uncle of Reggie “Sweet” Johnson, when Kenneth brought a 12 year old Reggie to Mr. Carter for boxing instruction. Johnson’s mother initially did not want her son to box and Mr. Carter took the initiative to visit her at her home and convince her to let Reggie box, assuring her that he would protect Reggie as well as teach him to protect himself in boxing and in life. As we all now know, Reggie Johnson would go on to become a three-time World Champion, and has attributed much of his success to the lessons in boxing and life, that he learned from Mr. Carter. While conducting an interview with Reggie, he mentioned the many times Mr. Carter would invite his boxers to his home for meals, and how Mr. Carter was even more influential and respected by his boxers and the community because of the genuine and heartfelt way he treated them. The way in which Mr. Carter connected and communicated with his boxers, led them to become better persons in boxing and life and he was known to make the bouts and tournaments they participated in fun for his boxers.

From speaking to Reggie it became evident that Mr. Carter’s boxing instruction was also life instruction and Mr. Carter was more concerned with building and developing boys into men, than he was in developing and building boxers. A couple of quotes of Mr. Carter’s that stood out to me were: “Introduce me to your friends and I can predict your future” and “Just as I am here for you today, you must be there for someone else tomorrow”. Mr. Carter also lead by example, remaining humble and open minded, never criticizing other coaches, and even allowing other coaches to work alongside and with him in running the boxing program at The Salvation Army Boxing Club. One such instance in particular that stood out to Reggie was when Mr. Carter allowed long-time area Coach John Alvarado Sr. to join him in training the kids at the club, bringing his already established and accomplished boxer sons John Jr. and Steven with him. This act made the Salvation Army Boxing Club even more effective than it had been before, and John Alvarado Sr. also remained in Reggie’s life, serving as his head corner man when he won his second World Title.

After having to retire from coaching due to medical reasons, Mr. Carter still served the Gulf Association for many years as Registration Chairman. This was where I met Mr. Carter and I always enjoyed visiting him and hearing all of his stories of coaching boxing and the people he came into contact with during that time. Mr. Carter was welcoming and friendly, always making me feel better leaving his home, than I felt when I arrived there. Most of all I can clearly recall being at a smoker event at Savannah’s Boxing Gym when the news of his death was announced along with the moment of silence and ten count bell ringing. The tears in the eyes of Coaches, Boxers, and Officials, from every walk of life, race, creed, religion, and boxing club, told a story I can’t begin to give justice to with this article. This is the type of man, along with many others that I hope to bring recognition to, that have made Houston and Houston area boxing the powerhouse it is today.

Walt Hailey

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Started boxing as an amateur in 1949-50 in New Orleans in the CYO program, under the legendary Ernest “Whitey” Esnault. Continued boxing as a middleweight, in the armed services as a Marine and was an Armed Services Champion. After his service in The Marines and boxing later boxing in college as well, Walt retired from boxing and moved to the League City area approximately in 1960-62. In 1965 he started up a boxing club at a boys home in League City, after noticing the boys home had a boxing ring but no boxing program or club, when he went there to deliver some furniture. He coached the boys home boxing club for a couple of years until the home closed down, then started up the League City Boxing Club in 1967. Coached The League City Boxing Club for 15 years, then started up The Clear Lake Boxing Club. Operated The Clear Lake Boxing Club for a while then started up The Bayou City Boxing Club. While operating The Bayou City Boxing Club he trained his boxers out of The Main Street Gym at it’s original location, later at Lee Canalito’s Gym, back at Main Street at it’s current location, then at Steve Slava’s Gym. Walt continued to coach but began delegating more and more of the coaching responsibilities to current Bayou City Boxing Head Coach Victor Rodriguez Sr. around 2008-09. In 2012 he retired from coaching, and moved from Houston to San Antonio, where he still serves as an Official and judge. During his time in the Houston area Walt trained many Champion boxers, he promoted professional boxing in Galveston, served as an Official with The Gulf Association, and also served as Gulf Association President for several years.

I attempted to come up with a complete list of boxers Walt trained or worked with but the number of names is very high and I am sure many names will be left off for now. I encourage all boxing participants to comment on this article and I will add names as you give them to me. After speaking to Walt briefly and getting some input from Vic Rodriguez and Adrian Lopez, here is a preliminary list.

Charlie Small, Ricky Webb, Gilbert Galvan, Felix Cora Sr, Manuel Pena, Paul Nuncio, Aaron Navarro, Guadalupe Martinez, Adrian Lopez, Benjamin Flores, Bobby “El Jefe” Flores, John Paul White, Travis Roach, Darlington Agha, Eugene Hill, Miguel Flores, Johnny Torres, Luis Mendoza, David Martinez, Jacob Espinoza, Victor Rodriguez Jr, and Daniel Ybarra.

I also was able to catch Walt at the tail end of his coaching career as well as my amateur boxing career, and felt I learned more from Walt in a short time than I had learned in all the previous years I participated in boxing. I have always felt that if I had linked up with Walt earlier, I would have been able to accomplish much more, but I am thankful I did get to learn from him and cherish the times I was able to watch him operate at The Lee Canalito Gym, and later have him instruct me in the sweet science at The Slava Boxing Gym. My lessons from Walt did not stop at boxing and I feel I learned more about being a gentleman from him than any other coach before, as well as how to conduct myself as a man in life. These are the things that make Walt Hailey a great man and Coach even more so than his priceless knowledge in boxing in my opinion.

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Houston Boxing Legacy

howard mena, reggie johnson, kenny weldon, manny recio, bob jordan

Houston, and it’s boxing participants have a long history of being involved in boxing at it’s highest levels. This photo is a great example of that as Howard Mena, Manny Recio, Bob Jordan and Kenny Weldon stand with Three Time World Champion Reggie Johnson, as he readies for a bout.

Reggie would manage to obtain World Champion status on three occasions and at two different weight classes, (middleweight and light heavyweight), and fought the best fighters of his time. Many of Reggie’s loses were disputable and he proved to the world of boxing once again, that Houston develops some of the best boxing talent in the world. A few of the esteemed opponents Reggie faced in his career include: Ismael Negron, Sanderline Williams, Eddie Hall, James “Lights Out” Toney, “Irish” Steve Collins, Lamar Parks, John David Jackson, Jorge Castro, William Guthrie, Roy Jones Jr, Antonio Tarver, and the late Julio Cesar Gonzalez.

I’d like to thank the family of Kenny Weldon, Howard Mena, David Martinez Jr,  Dwayne Muhammad, Ernest Tobias, Warren Williams, Ray Zaragoza, Thomas Smith, Jesse Valdez, Walt Hailey,  Henry Harris Jr, Melvin Dennis, and a few others I know I’m forgetting, for their generosity in sharing pictures, stories, names, dates, and facts with Clutch City Boxing as we work hard to give recognition and appreciation to our Houston Boxing Legends.  Thank you for reading, commenting, and enjoying this journey with us and stay tuned for upcoming stories, bios, and Houston boxing history. I was able to speak at length with Reggie Johnson at his recent Reggie Johnson Amateur Tournament and we are both excited to collaborate soon on an article about his first boxing trainer and long time Houston boxing Coach, Official, and Legend, Mr. James Carter of The Salvation Army Boxing Club.

Benny “The Ghetto Wizard” Leonard

Benny Leonard, Bill Gore, Kenny Weldon, Houston Boxing Legacy, Benbo's Gym, Downtown Gym, A&B Boxing Gym, Boxing Purest

Benny Leonard, arguably the greatest lightweight in boxing history, as well as one of the best boxers in history, held the lightweight title for 7 years and 6 and a half months, from 1917 until 1925. Leonard’s record stood until broken by Roberto Duran, another candidate for greatest lightweight ever, in the 1970’s. Leonard fought in an era of newspaper decisions and no-contests bouts and is thought to have had over 200 bouts in total, with only 21 loses on record. Leonard lost 3 of his first 13 bouts but would later turn his career around and become one of the most successful boxers in history.   

 Leonard got his start fighting in the streets of New York as a means of self-defense, when he was in his early adolescence. His uncles taught him boxing so that he could survive those street fights without having to resort to using weapons as some of the local brawlers had become accustomed to. Before long Leonard became adept at not only defending himself but became an excellent boxer and began participating in “bootleg” boxing matches at the age of 12, at The Silver Heel Club. The “bootleg” boxing matches were held in clubs around New York and were fought for small purses for the fighters, and betting between the friends and associates of the respective neighborhood boxers. Leonard continued participating in these “bootleg” boxing matches for three years, which served as his amateur career, then began boxing professionally at the age of 15 in 1911. 

 Leonard actually lost his first professional fight by knockout, then dedicated his time and efforts into becoming the best boxer he could be. Leonard became a master boxer who could win the majority of his bouts without receiving major damage and was also a strong puncher with both hands. Leonard approached boxing as a profession in that he felt he needed to spend the majority of his day in the gym perfecting his craft, working on his skills, and also watching other boxers spar and work out, to learn any movements he felt he could incorporate into his repertoire. Leonard also was a master strategist who perfected using psychological tactics to defeat opponents of every imaginable style.  

 So how does an early 1900’s Jewish boxer from New York figure into the boxing legacy of Houston, Texas? For a significant portion of his prime boxing years Benny Leonard trained at the famous Stillman’s Boxing Gym, where he became friends with and shared his knowledge and professional approach to boxing with a then young trainer named Bill Gore. Gore as I’ve mentioned in previous articles would later train and/or work with a virtual who’s who of Houston boxing legends when he and his business partner Lou Viscusi moved their boxing operations to Houston in the mid 1950’s. The Gore/Viscusi influence began at that time in several different downtown gyms including the famous A&B Boxing Gym owned by Bud Adams and Hugh Benbo, which is referred to by the old school Houston boxing legends as Benbo’s Gym, or Benbo’s Downtown Gym. Their influence would continue directly up until the late 1980’s through the mid 1990’s with the Height’s Boxing Gym and will always be a part of Houston boxing through all of the legendary boxers and trainers involved with them through those years. 

 There are too many names to list of the known and some not so known Houston boxing participants that were involved with Gore and Viscusi throughout the years but some of the names include Kenny Weldon, Termite Watkins, Roy Harris, and Cleveland “Big Cat” Williams. Joe “Old Bones” Brown and Manny Gonzalez, not from Houston but who lived and trained here with Gore at Benbo’s Gym, also helped teach and work with many Houston and Houston area boxers. Joe” Old Bones” Brown trained Kenny Weldon for a while when Bill Gore died, and Manny Gonzalez has been credited with helping Jesse Valdez perfect some of his pristine footwork. Through some of these connections many boxers from the area benefited from the Benny Leonard/ Bill Gore influence through their training with Weldon, Watkins, and Harris and the respected programs and gyms they operated, and still operate but there would still be more to come. 

 Lou and Richard Viscusi would later open The Height’s Gym in the 1980’s where many Houston boxers and trainers undoubtedly felt the Benny Leonard/Bill Gore influence. Again, there are too many names to remember but a few of the names include, Al Boulden, Pops Richards, Gary Simons, Ezzard Charles Adams, Creed Fountain, Willie Boyd, Hector Rocha, Raul Marquez, David Donis, Edward “Pee Wee” Parker, Ulysses Boulware, David Gonzalez, Sergio Donis, Cliff Jacobs, Benny Q, Thomas Tate, and Lee Canalito. Benny Leonard’s analytical and scientific approach to boxing has and will continue to influence generation after generation of Houston boxers and trainers, something we can be very proud of as we continue dominating the State, National, and World boxing rankings. 

Kenny Weldon

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kenny weldon, galena park boxing, houston boxing legacy, bill gore, benny leonard, willie pep

Kenny Weldon started boxing as an amateur in Houston in 1953. A native of Galena Park, Texas, Kenny had an amateur record of 216-11, winning 4 Houston Golden Gloves Titles in the process and also competing in the State and National Golden Gloves Tournaments as well as the Pan American Games, before turning pro in 1968. As a pro, Kenny went 50-7-1 claiming the Texas Featherweight Title and N.A.B.F. Super Featherweight title before retiring as a fighter in 1978.

Kenny’s greatest accomplishments, however, came as a coach. A protege of all-time great trainer Bill Gore, who was a Benny Leonard protege, Kenny was taught an analytical and scientific approach to boxing that allowed him to become one of the most successful boxing teachers in the history of the sport.  The program he established at The Galena Park Boxing Academy produced 316 Houston Golden Gloves Champions, 51 Texas State Amateur Champions, 17 National Amateur Champions, 3 Pan Am Medalists, and 3 Olympians. Kenny also served as a coach for The U.S. Olympic Team in 1988.

Gilbert Renteria, currently ranked in the top 10 of the USA Boxing, Elite Men’s 114 pound Division, is one of the last boxers to be directly trained by Kenny Weldon, who is still active in the amateurs. Renteria will undoubtedly become a professional Champion in the future, and will continue to add to the Kenny Weldon and Houston boxing legacies.  

As a professional coach, Kenny cornered 18 world title fights with Hall of Famers such as Evander Holyfield, Vinny Pazienza, Orlando Canizales, Mike McCallum, Raul Marquez and Pernell Whitaker, as well as local legends like Wilford Scypion, Termite Watkins, Mike Phelps, James Pipps, Joel Perez, Stephen Martinez and Lewis Wood.

Always a fierce advocate for teaching proper fundamentals, Kenny also authored one of the top selling boxing intructional videos of all time.
Kenny retired from boxing for health reasons in 2013, but his impact can still be felt in the Houston boxing scene with a host of his former fighters and students now operating gyms of their own.

The Whole Point is to Hit and Not Get Hit in Return

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Bill Gore protege Willie Pep.  One of the best defensive boxers in history.

Boxing is a tough sport but a person’s approach to the sport can make boxing tougher than it has to be.  A persons approach should be to give, while doing their best not to receive. Why would you allow yourself to get hit when you don’t have to? If you want to bleed, get bruised up, and show how tough you are by taking damage, join an MMA school. Boxing, in it’s purest form, is a smart man’s game, not a tough man’s game.  Not that you have to be a college professor to be able to understand boxing, but you do have to be able to be smart enough to think of keeping yourself from getting hurt, before you think about the many ways to hurt your opponent.

Willie Pep, one of the greatest defensive fighters in history, was a Bill Gore protege who’s boxing knowledge lineage can be traced back to another defensive wizard, Benny Leonard, who helped teach Gore boxing. As I’ve stated before in earlier articles, Bill Gore taught many Houston and Houston area boxers during the time he spent in Houston. One of Gore’s students was famed boxer and teacher of boxing Kenny Weldon, who is likely not only one of the most accomplished boxing trainers ever, he also is likely the most emulated person in Houston when it comes to teaching boxing.

With Kenny Weldon’s contributions to boxing and boxing instruction in Houston, along with the many other outstanding and accomplished boxers and trainers that Bill Gore taught who also have taught and still teach boxing in Houston, there is absolutely no reason why a boxing school, trainer, or boxer should adhere to the “face-first” style of boxing enjoyed by boxing neophytes. If you walk into a boxing gym and notice boxers beating each other half to death in the ring, while other boxers shadowbox in the mirror with most of their weight on their lead leg, and over their lead foot, with the Coaches giving little or no instruction to anyone but their “competition” boxers, turn around and walk out as fast as you can.  Leave and don’t ever go back. I don’t care what credentials they may have or how long they have been doing it, they have been doing it wrong.

And for guys that have been boxing and maybe still don’t understand the point of sparring, it’s a learning exercise not a place to get beat up. Be smart not only in the ring but also outside the ring. If you are being used by a Coach as a crash dummy, taking unnecessary damage, so that one of his favorites can boost his confidence while your confidence is in the dumps, again walk away, your health and best interests are not being respected or protected. The Coach there either is unqualified to be teaching boxing and is ignorant to the fact he’s not protecting you, or he is consciously using you, your health, and self-esteem to boost those of someone else. Think about that the next time you leave the ring from sparring, with a black eye, bruised, and beat up.

The Greatest, Three Knockdowns, and Third Ward, Houston, Texas


Muhammad Ali was and will always be cosmically tied to Houston, Texas as many important events in his life took place in our town, and he spent a considerable amount of time here training and promoting his fights. 

His earliest introduction to the consciousness of the Houston and Houston area boxing scene may have been as Cassius Clay, when he beat Cut ‘N’ Shoot’s Henry Harris Jr. in the light-heavyweight semi-finals of the 1960 National Golden Gloves Tournament. Of course, even if Ali had not spent a considerable amount of time in Houston, he would still have always been connected to us via the October 30, 1974, Rumble in the Jungle, where he knocked out our own George Foreman in the eighth round. For this unlikely win alone we may have never forgotten the name of Muhammad Ali, but we were privileged enough to have him compete in Houston four times throughout the 60’s and 70’s, beating Cleveland “Big Cat” Williams, Ernie Terrell, Jimmy Ellis, and Buster Mathis. His refusal to be drafted into the military and ultimate indictment took place in Houston as well as he had temporarily resided in Houston at that time.  

Ali also filmed many scenes of the movie “The Greatest” in Houston in 1976, but his GREATEST contribution to our great city and local boxing legacy took place in 1971, when he promoted and participated in a sparring match with Houston boxer, coach, and youth advocate Reverend Ray Martin Sr. The sparring match was heavily promoted and was Ali’s way of supporting Reverend Ray Martin and his Progressive Amateur Boxing Association (P.A.B.A). Martin had established The P.A.B.A. in Houston’s Third Ward, as a means to keep our local youth off the streets, away from drugs and in the ring, and at the time did not have very much support or recognition both locally and nationwide. The sparring match took place at The Houston Astrohall, where Ali was “knocked down” by Martin three times. Ali not only pretended to be knocked down three times during the match to help bring support and recognition to Reverend Martin, he also would continue to promote the Reverend and The P.A.B.A. by “calling out” Martin on television and radio whenever he was in town, saying he wanted a rematch with the Reverend and that the Reverend had “Got lucky and knocked me down”! The Champ would also claim he had slipped and promised to send, “The good Reverend to heaven by seven”!  

This kind, generous, and extraordinary act was just one of many of the genuinely GREAT things that Ali did in his lifetime but it left a lasting legacy of love and positivity that continues to bless Houston, and in particular Houston’s Third Ward to this day! Ali’s generosity, heart, courage, and love for his fellow man is what made him “The Greatest” above any of the many accomplishments in boxing he achieved, in my opinion, and I hope this article helps people understand the true GREATNESS of Muhammad Ali!