I came across this over the weekend, my father's first boxing license.
He was 18 years old, really just a baby-faced kid.
Looking at that photo, there was no way to know what he had gone through. He was scared of nothing and scared of everything.
My father had just graduated from Division Ave. HS.
Within a year of this photo, he would be married, I would be born and he'd be unbeaten in 17 pro fights. Whatever pressures awaited him, was going to be far easier than what he already survived.
As a kid, my father and his brother were beaten on a regular basis by their stepfather.
The stepfather was a cowardly drunk who took out his frustrations on two young boys, whom he liked to call “Irish low lives.” For a man who would make his living as “Irish” Bobby Cassidy, he didn't even know he was Irish until he was 16.
That was the year Bobby Cassidy had enough, turned the tables on his stepfather and delivered a thorough beating in the kitchen of their Levittown home. His stepfather locked himself in his bedroom and called the police.
“It was a thousand beatings to one, it didn't seem fair,” is what my Dad always told me.
But that one moment, that one victory, gave him confidence for the first time in his life, if only in his fists.
My father didn't meet his real father until he was 19 and he showed up at one of his fights. They never had much of a relationship.
As much as my father hated his stepfather, he told me that he hated his mother more— because she allowed the beatings to happen.
Bobby Cassidy was supposed to go into the Golden Gloves but the Daily News went on strike in 1963 and since they sponsored the Gloves, the tournament was canceled.
He turned pro without a single amateur fight– the only thing he could draw upon were his street fights at the Green and the battles of Pelican Road.
He boxed professionally for 18 years and was rated No 1 in the world in 1975.
Bobby Cassidy learned his trade at Sunnyside Garden and fought many times at Madison Square Garden. He fought twice on the same card as Muhammad Ali and Larry Holmes turned pro on one of his cards in Scranton.
He later trained many fighters, including two world champions – one of them – Donny Lalonde – was also physically abused as a child. He fought Sugar Ray Leonard and some of the biggest names in boxing and he used that platform to speak out against child abuse on national TV.
They were a pair of survivors who formed a bond that lasts to this day. A pair of really special people who beat nearly unbeatable odds.
Editor Note: Didn't want to get too gush-y, but I want to make clear: THIS is what I see is the spirit that NYFIGHTS ideally should be guided by.
It's hard, it's an age where numbers mean way more than words, or actions, unfortunately. Can't change the game, though, the rules are curious and malleable and so imperfection abounds….yet we soldier on, doing the best we can within an often not ideal framework.
Like Bobby Cassidy Sr did, bless his soul, of which people who know his kids are familiar with…Dude turned pro without an amateur fight. Twas a different age, no?
And he plied the trade with massive honor and dignity and yeah, that's a legacy to look up to. Salute to Sr, Jr, Chris and company, you all are role models in character for more people than you know.