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Anton Christoforidis-Christo Fisto


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The first Turkish-born and Greek world boxing champion, Anton Christoforidis aka "Christo Fisto", was the light heavy world champion for 4 months in 1941, losing the title to the excellent Gus Lesnevich. Christoforidis was not a flashy fighter but was very tough, sturdy and durable. He defeated some fine fighters such as Jimmy Bivins, Melio Bettina, Lou Brouillard, Bep van Klaveren, Johnny "Bandit" Romero and Ceferino Garcia. He also fought Ezzard Charles. 

Contrary to earlier reports, which said he was born in Messina, Greece in 1918, Christoforidis was born in Mersin, on the southern coast of Turkey, on 26 May 1917. It was still a part of the Ottoman Empire, which would collapse a year later. He lived in Smyrna (today Izmir) on the west coast of Turkey, but after the Greek-Turkish war ended badly for the Greeks, in 1922 he and his mother and two sisters had to flee to Athens, Greece. Antonios, later shortened to Anton, grew up to be a 5'8 (173 cm) tall guy with a 72 inch (183 cm) reach and as a boxer was rather muscular as well. He had a very poor childhood and when he realized he was very strong and didn't mind fighting, he started boxing. He soon became the champion of Athens, at only 16 years old. He then decided to go to Paris to develop his skills. He did not possess heavy hands but he did develop his boxing skills enough to become a world class fighter and was also very durable and strong, as already stated. 

Anton turned pro in 1934, having his first 2 fights in Athens and winning them, before starting to fight in Paris and had a draw in his first fight there. He then scored 14 straight wins, before drawing again against Kid Tunero, an experienced fighter. On 20 September 1935, he experienced his first loss on points to Czech Vilda Jaks, a technician who outboxed him clearly by all accounts. He beat Jaks in the rematch 2 months later, also on points. He opened 1936 by losing the rematch to Kid Tunero by PTS10 and then for the first time fought the Algerian-born Carmelo Candel, who beat him by PTS10 also. In April that year, he first beat Jaks again, before avenging the loss to Candel with a rare knockout in 8. In his next fight in May, he lost his first fight against Martinique-born Victor Janas, whom he would then defeat twice, all on points. On 8 November 1937, he won the Greek middle and light heavy titles by decisioning Costas Vassis in 15 rounds. After beating the 77-12 German Gustav Eder and then drawing against him, he went to Rotterdam to fight Bep van Klaveren, a former welter contender and world title challenger. He lost by PTS10, but in the rematch, again in Rotterdam, he won by PTS15 to win the European middle title.

However, in his first defence on 14 January 1939, he was of bad luck when he broke his hand in the 11th round against Edouard Tenet, after being dominant, and was forced to go on the defensive for the remainder of the 15-round fight, in the end losing on points because of that. He then beat his first bigger name, French-Canadian Lou Brouillard, in his next fight, on points. After going undefeated for 8 fights, he lost to Jimmy Bivins by UD10, 15 November 1940 in Cleveland, Bivins' hometown. Bivins was dominant in the first 8 rounds, but the Greek challenger came on strong in the 9th and hurt Bivins with a left to the body and pounded him against the ropes. He also did the same in the tenth and last round, but naturally, it wasn't enough. Less than a month later, on 2 December at the same arena, he became the first man to defeat the 19-0 Bivins, a future hall of famer; despite being down in the second round and barely beating the count, he came back to assert himself in the middle rounds and rallied strongly in the later rounds to get the decision from two judges, while the third scored it even.

This victory then propelled him towards a world title shot for the light heavy title, which was left vacant by Billy Conn. He faced Melio Bettina of Connecticut, a strong fighter but only an inch taller than himself. It was on 13 January 1941 at the Cleveland Arena, that Christoforidis made history by once again coming on strong late and thus getting the decision and the title and becoming the first Greek and Turkish-born world champion! He then had two non-title fights, knocking out the 133-38-7 Johnny "Bandit" Romero in 2 rounds in the second, before defending for the first time against "Russian Lion" Gus Lesnevich. Lesnevich, a 5'9 tall and very strong but also cagey fighter, just turned out to have enough in his arsenal to get the better of the tough Greek and came off with a unanimous victory after 15 rounds, 22 May at Madison Square Garden. He went back in action in December and beat Ceferino Garcia impressively, also hurting him in the seventh round with a right to the jaw and winning by UD10.

On 12 January 1942, he met the man who would stop him for the first time: Ezzard Charles. The fight was in Charles' hometown of Cincinnati and "Christo" was down twice before being stopped by TKO3. He then reeled off 6 wins and 1 draw before fighting Bivins again for the "duration" title, 23 February 1943 at Cleveland Arena. It was a gruelling fight and both guys took a lot of punishment-in the end, Bivins was proclaimed the winner by UD15. Christoforidis disagreed, saying: "I won that fight, it was strictly a hometown decision." He next fought another world class light heavy, Lloyd Marshall, on 21 April same arena. Marshall put him down once in the second and punched him groggy in the fourth, while Christo the Greek landed some heavy blows but failed to follow up properly and in the end lost by UD10.  He then won two fights by stoppage before getting stopped for the second time by former middleweight contender Steve Belloise, TKO10 and then in his final fight he lost to Anton Raadik by RTD7. It was 18 February 1947 at Chicago stadium and Christo was the better man until round 6, when he started to take a bad pounding and after it continued in the next round, his corner wouldn't let him continue. A sad ending to such a career.

His record is 53 wins, with 13 ko's, 15 losses and 8 draws. After retirement, he ran a bar in Geneva, Ohio. He was also fond of Cleveland as he boxed a lot there and won the world title there as well. After getting divorced, he moved to Florida. In 1971, he went to Greece for the first time in long, originally on vacation, but enjoyed it so much that he stayed there for 15 years. It was in Athens that he suffered a heart attack on 19 October 1985 and died, aged 67. He was regarded as a hero in Greece and also holds significance in Turkish boxing history as actually the only Turkish-born boxer to hold a world title. Firat Arslan, still the only ethnic Turk to hold a world title, was born in Germany. Ironically, Christoforidis is a Greek, but that also holds a certain unifying value I guess. 



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