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Remembering the Tough Brawler Frank “The Animal” Fletcher


By Donald “Braveheart” Stewart

Opening emails from my erstwhile Publisher, brings both a sense of trepidation and excitement. The first is often because he wants something done and the next is because it is usually exactly what I love doing. This time round…

I found a boxer I knew little about! Step forward Mr Frank Fletcher, 18-6-1, 12 KO’s.

Active between the years 1976 to 1985, Fletcher is a cousin warrior who may have gone a little under the radar, so I am delighted to bring him out of a cupboard, dust him down and offer him as yet another guy who fought hard, dreamt big and gave value.

A middleweight southpaw from Philly known as “The Animal” – what’s not to like?! With a come forward style that excited crowds then and YouTube watchers now, Frank Fletcher was someone who took adversity as a badge and wore it with pride.

One of three fighting brothers, Frank had Anthony “Two Guns” (the lightweight) and Troy (the bantamweight) as siblings to push his career. Whilst he has recently not had the best of health his narrative includes a crooked pathway in a tough Philly family which includes his brother Anthony, currently still on Death Row, though both were ultimately unable to escape that tragic and cliched boxing tale. The reasons for Anthony’s incarceration are documented elsewhere but dig them out; and be prepared to feel a “Hurricane” of disbelief.

Of course, there was, at home, a strong matriarch in the shape of 5 foot 2 Lucille, who had her hands full as Frank was no stranger to the law, from the age of 9! As we argue fake news and Facebook policy on social media posting it was one of the social medias back in the day – ESPN that provided a platform for Frank in the 1980’s that saw his popularity soar. Of course, a platform is one thing, the opportunities are given freely to those that deserve it, but they need free hands with which to grasp it. When one free hand was not in cuffs, Frank managed that with some style.

That uncompromising style was his both in the ring and on the tough streets he walked.

He was reckless and foolhardy but oftentimes very lucky. But the thing about luck ids, the harder you work, the luckier you seem to get… Once he lost the love for the art form, the formula for the sweet science all the luck in the world found a new home.
Whilst it lasted though he won, flirted with danger and made all who saw him forget they had seats in admiration at his risky strategy on the canvas.

Mind you, when your mother, herself no stranger to gang life and fighting, stood in cream, ruffles and with your likeness on an orange t-shirted teddy bear that was allegedly at every fight, I would have made sure I came home with belts or bruises and no excuses.

It is reported that Frank made a fortune through television appearances though did not manage to hold onto it – another all too familiar fighter’s tale.

So too is the tale of what could have been and should have been as he was on the cusp of fighting Marvin Hagler in a contest that would have brought $1/4 Million into his bank account BUT it was not to be.

All he needed to do? Beat a guy.

What did he do? Lose to him…

Before then his reputation had been cemented in massive fights in Atlantic City that included big scrapes and high level entertainment against the likes of Ernie Singletary (stopped in 8 rounds) and James “Hard Rock” Green (stopped in 6 rounds). It is hard to believe, given the glowing references to his style and the effect that his professional career had on the boxing fans, his career was just short of a decade long. This included the beginning, the middle and the end; the establishing his career, the living of it and the demise.

His real big break was in 1980 when winning the first 160lb ESPN tournament. In his wake were Ben Serrano, Jerome (Silky) Jackson, William (Caveman) Lee and Randy O’Grady. Of those four fights it was the brutal knockout of Jackson that made all them folks sit up and pay attention. Frank got his nickname, Jackson got stitches in his lower lip and a night of observation in hospital.

In 1981 he won the USBA middleweight title by outpointing Norberto Sabater, 23-8, 9 KO’s, (a man who fought Iran Barkley twice) and he retained it on 4 occasions.

Then in February 1983, in the opposite corner was Wilford Scypion, 32-9, 24 KO’s. On the table was the USBA title once again; the winner getting a shot for a world title. Frank lost on points.

Three months later Hagler took the winner and battered him to the point of a fourth round stoppage that was described judiciously described as brutal. Frank was to continue fighting and managed five more fights, three of them lost by stoppage or being knocked out. The worst and the most brutal was the defeat by the Argentinian, Juan Domingo Roldan, 67-5-2, 42 KO’s. Roldan was to go on and give Hagler and Thomas Hearns difficult fights, so “The Animal” was in with a likeminded brawler. His final anonymous climb into the ring was on the 4th of February 1985, when he was stopped by Curtis Parker in the 3rd.

News of his retirement came from Frank himself when he called Elmer Smith of the Philadelphia Daily News, to meet him in a bar. Frank was on the run for assault charges and violating his parole and wanted Smith to accompany him when he surrendered to the authorities! Oh and by the way, Frank said during that encounter, I am retiring from boxing…

His life away from boxing drew him back to old ways and once again he found himself inside. It was a life that gave him toughness and then brutally showed how much he was losing before finally dropping him in places he should not have been. Had he held onto that cash he truly earned who knows where he might have ended up. Failed businesses and bad decisions aside those days onscreen in the 1980’s will always be his and no matter what scrapes he endured outside of it, we salute a tough guy who was a tough customer in a very tough sport. Thanks “Bad” Brad – well worth the digging!

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