FELIX BOCCHICCHIO was born in Pennsylvania on August 31, 1906. He is best remembered today as boxer Jersey Joe Walcott‘s manager during and after his rise to the heavyweight championship in the late 1940s and early 1950s. He had a long and colorful career prior to and after the Walcott era in a variety of activities, both legal and on the other side of the law.
April 1930 found him incarcerated in the Northumberland County PA jail when the Federal Census was taken. When released he apparently made his way to New Jersey, and was residing on Clifton Avenue in West Berlin when picked up for questioning in the murder of Camden police detective William Feitz. In 1935 Felix Bocchicchio was again active in Lancaster County PA. Tried and acquitted for a tavern robbery in 1935, he came to the Camden area. By the summer of 1936 Felix Bocchicchio had moved to Mount Ephraim NJ. He was known locally as “Man ‘o War”, apparently after the famous race horse. Involved in gambling, he was already well known to police when picked up in Camden NJ in August of 1936 by Officer John V. Wilkie for involvement with pinball machines, which were considered illegal gaming devices at the time. By this point he already had a long record of arrests on a variety of charges including suspicion of murder, jailbreak, and larceny.
Felix Bocchicchio and Jersey Joe Walcott
Jersey Joe Walcott‘s career had stalled in the mid-1940s. He was fighting on small-time cards in the Camden areas when he came to the attention of Felix Bocchicchio. He saw in Walcott what so many others overlooked – a rugged jaw and iron fists. Sportswriter wrote that Bocchicchio “knew as much about boxing as the Mona Lisa did about swatting flies, but he decided to learn. He was seldom seen without a fight promoter, trainer or prizefighter in his company. He learned from them the mannerisms of the fight game.”
Felix Bocchicchio offered to manage Walcott. At first Walcott refused, saying, “Fighting never got me nothin’ before, and all I want now is a steady job so my wife and kids can eat regular. I’m over 30 and just plain tired of it all.” But Bocchicchio bought food for the Walcott family, put coal in the bin, and got Joe’s boxing license renewed. Jersey Joe went on the comeback trail and in 1945 he had nine bouts, winning eight. More importantly, he beat three Top Ten ranked fighters; Joe Baski, Lee O. Murray, and Curtis Sheppard.
This was the start of a journey that would take him to the pinnacle of the boxing world in 1951, when Walcott knocked out Ezzard Charles to take the heavyweight title. The comeback began, training under retired Camden boxer Joey Allen. During these years, Felix Bocchicchio and Walcott were regularly mentioned names in the sports pages of America, as Jersey Joe climbed the ladder towards his title shot. Also during this period Bocchicchio employed Angelo Malandra as his and Walcott‘s lawyer. Angelo Malandra would go on to a long career in Camden political and legal circles, served as a judge, and was for many years a community leader in the Fairview section of the city.
Jersey Joe Walcott held his title for only fourteen months, before being knocked out by Rocky Marciano. Felix Bocchicchio was quoted in LOOK magazine on the subject of Marciano in January of 1953, saying “Marciano must be made of iron.”
Bocchicchio suffered a heart attack on January 16, 1953 in New York, but recovered. Walcott fought a rematch on May 15, 1953 against Marciano, but was knocked out in the first round, after which he retired from boxing. The two men maintained their business relationship for several years thereafter.
Felix Bocchicchio spent his last years as a resident of Mount Ephraim NJ. He died on June 17, 1975.