by Wilson Pitts
Piggy Hutchins was an early boxing mentor to me when I was a young man. He had over 70 amateur wins as a boxer in Richmond, Virginia. Hutchins was "most popular boxer" in a 1940 Golden Gloves tourney in Richmond, a win that was followed by a 32-bout winning streak. He had broken his right arm as a kid and the caste had been put on too tight, fusing the bones so that he could not “turn over” a right hand. He punched with a “vertical fist” with his right.
Hutchins made it through a long amateur career without injury and came to the attention of Chris Dundee the manager and promoter. Angelo Dundee’s brother Chris started managing fighters in Norfolk Virginia when it was a center of gambling activity during WWII. After the war Dundee moved his operation to New York. Dundee scouted for talent in Virginia and one of the first fighters he signed was Georgie Freedom Abrams who was from Roanoke. Abrams fought “The Man of Steel” Tony Zale, for the undisputed middleweight title, losing over 15 rounds. He went on to fight all of the best middleweights in that era including losing by SD over ten rounds to Ray Robinson and drawing with Charles Burley.
Carl Hutchins served in the Navy in the Pacific during WWII, where he told me, “I spent my spare time perfecting my cursive handwriting by writing letters to my sister. There was nothing to do and it kept me from going crazy.” He was copying her cursive script. After getting out of the Navy he continued with his boxing career.
In 1946 Piggy went to New York and was looked at by Chris Dundee’s people. He met many famous fight people and stayed at a rooming house where Charley Goldman lived. They assigned a guy to look out for the southern boy while he was in New York, that guy’s name was Tony Conte. He had been a lightweight but had been punched in the throat. In the 50’s he worked for Dundee some, helping trainers and minding fighters.
Piggy was impressed with Abram’s style and learned to imitate it. This 1947 middleweight fight with Fred Apostoli is the next to last fight of Abrams career but it is the closest thing I can find to a video of how Piggy boxed when I first met him in 1977. He taught me this style without any video back then. He had me work on Abram’s footwork, using the educated left hand and bouncing off the front foot to pull the chin back after throwing the combination. More importantly, Piggy taught me life lessons on how to be a good man.
During this stay in New York Piggy sustained a severe break to his right hand and had to return home. After a lay off of four and a half years Hutchins, the hometown hero, finally fulfilled his dream and turned pro in 1951. In his first professional fight he appeared in front of the hometown crowd at City Stadium in Richmond where he KO’d Charlie Alsop in one round. On June 29, 1951 Hutchins lost a unanimous decision over six rounds to Marvin Edelman at Moore’s Field in Richmond.
“Edelman was another of the large group of talented Jewish fighters to come out of Philadelphia. Between 1950 and 1953 Edelman went thirty fights without a loss--during that period he won twenty nine fights in a row before finally being stopped by Ralph Jones in Feb. 1953.” Boxrec.com
During the Edelman fight Piggy’s right hand broke in two places. He stayed the six rounds but he told me it was a bad experience, his fight career was over.
When he could no longer fight, he began teaching local boys, opening the West End Athletic Club at Second and Broad streets in Richmond in the mid fifties.
Tony Conte was a union electrician in New York. He retired to Richmond where he lived in the house that Piggy provided. Piggy introduced me to Tony when I was young and the two of them mentored me on boxing. Tony got a boxing weekly delivered and would save them for me. I would go over and sit at the table with him and talk. Tony taught me a lot bout boxing each week as we met in his kitchen. When Tony would talk boxing in his raspy New Yawkeez it really took me back to the old days. He saw a lot of fights in the 40’s and enjoyed telling stories at his kitchen table. He told me Chris Dundee learned his trade working for Jimmy Coster out of Philly. Tony used to come to the gym and coach my sparring partners, he knew exactly what to tell them to give me fits!
Piggy and I used to get out the old ring record books, invariably in the middle of the night, and look up fighter’s records and he would talk about “the team.” It takes a team to field a professional fighter. He would show me how to study what the manager was doing by looking at the record. “See, this guy got KO’d in a tough fight here and so they have him fighting beginners again for two or three fights until he gets his confidence and his timing back.” The manager was picking fights based on the fighter’s condition, the money, how tough the opponent was etc. That was one part of the team, the trainer was another, the chief second might be another guy.
I used to go to the fights at The Arena with Piggy and Tony and sit between them while they taught me what to look at, how to scout a fighter. Piggy would ask me hypothetical questions. “Do you want to fight that guy?” I’d say OK and then he would tell me “no, see the way he sits back on his right leg, he is loading his right hand, you don’t want to fight that guy.” Piggy would say, "You never get the whole package" in a fighter. The team has to work with what he’s got and work for him so that he gets pay days without being over matched at any given time.
When Piggy was 55 years old he honored me by asking me to train him even though I was just 23 years old. He had gotten up to 210 pounds and wanted to do boxing workouts to get his weight down. I trained him down to 175 pounds and coached him on a new style with his hands up that befitted his new career as a light heavy! Piggy was a successful businessman who helped many people behind the scenes and never took any credit for it. He called them his “projects” and I was always amazed to find out about another one.
Now, I’m 55 and still working with young men, mostly, teaching them the fundamentals of this sport that Piggy taught me to love. Every time I would see Piggy or talk to him on the phone he would tell me “come see me Champ.”
I wish I could.