Today in 1930, “Bat” Battalino, cheered on by Governor John Trumbull and 1,500 Connecticut fans, battled back from a battering first round knock-down to defeat Cuban boxing sensation, Kid Chocolate, in a fifteen-round decision at Madison Square Garden.
Christopher Battalino was born in Hartford in 1909, the son of Italian immigrants. His boxing ring name was “Battling” Battalino, often shortened to “Bat”. Battalino got his boxing start in amateur bouts in Hartford and became the national amateur featherweight (126 pound) champion before turning pro in 1927.
Although Battalino had won the professional World Featherweight title a year earlier in a bout against Andrew Routis in the East Hartford Velodrome, his Madison Square Garden bout on December 12, 1930 is regarded by many as Battalino’s most memorable fight. Not only was Battalino’s Cuban adversary the odds-on favorite, winning a title fight at “The Garden”, especially during the Golden Age of Boxing in the 1920s and 1930s, was an honored achievement.
Battalino’s opponent was Cuban-born Eligio Sardiñas Montalvo, who promoted himself in the ring as “Kid Chocolate”. Montalvo, who would later go on to become the World Lightweight champion, entered the ring with an impressive record of 170 bouts with only two losses. Coming in at 8 to 5 odds, he was the oddsmakers’ strong favorite to win.
Over 1,500 Connecticut fans were present for the fight, among a Garden crowd of 18,000. The Nutmeg state contingent included Connecticut Governor John Trumbull, an ardent fan of Battalino, and Hartford’s Mayor Walter Batterson. After suffering a punishing first round, 6-count knockdown by Montalvo, Battalino, heavily battered and bleeding, fought his way back to win the fifteen round match by a one-round decision, thereby defending his World Featherweight title. Governor Trumbull summarized the victory succinctly: “Chocolate had the skill. Battalino had the fighting spirit”.
Battalino retained the World Featherweight title for three years, and continued to fight professionally until 1940, winning 58 of his 88 professional bouts. In addition to being Hartford’s “Hometown Hero”, Battalino also became a real hero and was awarded a medal in 1929 for jumping in Hartford’s Park river to save the life of a drowning three year old.
The final bell tolled for “Battling Battalino”on July 26, 1977 at age 69 in Hartford. His passing was noted by major newspapers around the country, many with eulogies that also honored his famous 1930 win at The Garden – today in Connecticut history.
Researched and Written by Doug Hoover
Mike Messina, “Battling Bat Battalino –One of Hartford’s Heroes,” ConnecticutHistory.org
Neil Francis Milbert, “Kid Chocolate –Cuban Boxer,” Encyclopedia Britannica Online