Journal of Combative Sport, Nov 2007

Death under the Spotlight:
The Manuel Velazquez Boxing Fatality Collection

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About Manuel Velazquez
By Joseph R. Svinth

Copyright © EJMAS 2000-2007. All rights reserved. If you have additional information and/or photographs, please write

Manuel Velazquez was born on December 6, 1904. He was the second child of Ramon Velazquez and Maria Velazquez Cabrina. Although he said he was born in Tampa, Florida, he may have been born in Havana, Cuba, as he arrived in Tampa, with his mother and older sister Amelia, aboard SS Gussie on June 7, 1905, and at that time, the family’s nationality was listed as Cuban.

While Manuel was in the fifth grade, his family moved from Tampa to Chicago, where they lived in Ward 18; apparently his father had gotten hired by a Chicago cigar factory.

At the time, Velazquez had a younger sister, Emma, and a newborn younger brother, Antonio. During the 1920 Census, his parents said that Amelia and Emma had been born in New York, and that the other children had been born in Florida. On this census, his parents also listed their place of birth as Spain.

During 1920, at age 15, Velazquez quit school to begin working. His first employment was at a railroad roundhouse located in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park. During 1924-1925, he also served in Company F, 131st U.S. Infantry, which was part of the Illinois National Guard.

In 1925, now aged 20, Velazquez returned to Tampa, where he got a job running a trolley car. In Tampa, he became a friend of middleweight boxer Manuel Quintero, and he also started hanging around boxing gyms. Two years later, Velazquez moved again, this time to New York City, where he got a job as a trolley operator on Manhattan’s Sixth Avenue. He didn’t like that job, so he took a job as a trainman-conductor for the New York subway system. After work, he continued hanging out with boxers, and in the process, he became the friend of a fellow Floridian named Pete Nebo.

From Key West, Nebo had begun boxing in 1921. As “Kid Indian,” Nebo sometimes fought two or three times a week. Upon retiring from the ring in 1936, Nebo returned to Key West, where, in 1938, he was arrested for assaulting a man who called him punchy. The judge found Nebo mentally incompetent due to ring injuries, and so, on September 1, 1938, at the age of 29, Nebo was sentenced to spend the rest of his life at the Florida State Hospital at Chattahoochee.

This tragedy was the proximate cause of Velazquez starting to collect information about boxing injuries. Based upon his study, Velazquez became very anti-boxing. For the rest of his life, he wrote letters to newspapers and congressmen, but in his time, his efforts were widely ignored.

Meanwhile, Velazquez was afflicted with multiple sclerosis, and by 1939, he needed a cane to walk. This forced him to quit his job with the subways, and so his next job involved working as a clerk for the Federal civil service. From 1940 until his retirement in 1959, Velazquez worked in US government offices in New York City, St. Louis (Missouri), Arlington (Virginia), and Fort Benjamin Harrison (Indiana).

Following his retirement, Velazquez moved into government housing in Tampa. He wasn’t happy there and so he moved to Arizona. Later, he moved to Greenville, Illinois, where he died on January 11, 1994, aged 89 years.

Published newspaper articles about Velazquez include Tom McEwan, “Dedicated Ring Historian,” Tampa Tribune, April 18, 1962.

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JCS Nov 2007