Among the ten greatest flyweights of all time, two of them are Italian. One, Frankie Genaro, (Francesco DiGennara), could not be mistaken for anything but Italian, but the other was Midget Wolgast. In the early decades of the 20th century, many Italian Americans changed their names to avoid the growing prejudice against them. Midget’s dad was from Naples and as a professional fighter fought under the name of Mickey Williams. His idol was an old boxer named Ad Wolgast, so he suggested that his son use the name when he began his professional career. The “Midget” part just seemed to fit, as the young fighter was 5’ 3 ½” tall and weighed 112 pounds. His real name was Joseph Robert Loscalzo, an Italian American born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on July 18, 1910.
Midget was the oldest of ten children and debuted as a professional when he was only 15 years old. He won his first four bouts, but was knocked out in his fifth, still at age 15 and still in his first month as a pro. He didn’t lose again for more than a decade. Midget came to be considered not only one of the best in his weight class, but one of the fastest boxers of all time.
In 1929, he was listed in RING magazine as the #2 flyweight. Wolgast took his first step to winning the crown when he defeated Johnny McCoy, the former World Flyweight Champion, on November 4, 1929 in New York. On March 10, just eleven days before his title bout with Black Bill (Eladio Valdes), Wolgast went ten rounds in defeating Pinky Silverberg, another former title holder.
It was on March 21, 1930, at the old Madison Square Garden in New York City that Wolgast won the crown with a 15-round decision over Valdes. He would hold the title until 1935. His flyweight title was sanctioned by New York State.
Frankie Genero was champion of the separately sanctioned National Boxing Association. An attempt was made to unify the crown by matching Wolgast with Genero. It was set for 15 rounds to take place on December 26, 1930. In a somewhat anti-climactic result, the bout ended in a draw, ending the unification attempt, with each of the boxers retaining their separately sanctioned titles.
Wolgast found it difficult to maintain the 122 pound weight limit of a flyweight, so he also fought regularly as a bantamweight and featherweight during the 1930s. Although Wolgast fought 70 times during the first five years of the decade, it was almost always at a higher weight. He had been defeated by Small Montana in a ten-round bout in Sacramento, California in July, 1935. In a rematch, two months later, Wolgast put his title on the line at the Oakland Auditorium in Oakland, California.
Montana’s nickname “Small” was self-evident. At 5’ 1 ½” and 109 ½ pounds, he was one of the smallest men in the division, but like Wolgast, was one of the fastest men in boxing.
The punching speed of both men was extraordinary. The announcer described “the jabs so fast, you can hardly see them land.” In the fight, there were no judges; it was the referee who made the decision as to the winner and loser. After ten fast-paced rounds, it was Montana who was declared victorious.
Wolgast’s last fight came in 1940, when he lost a decision to Billy Morris in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. George Pace, former bantamweight champion was quoted in a RING magazine article in 1970 saying,” Midget Wolgast was a lightening streak. I have never seen any fighter with trickier or speedier execution in the ring and that included Willie Pep.”
Midget fought over 200 times professionally and was rated # 1 by RING magazine from 1930 to 1934. He died at the age of only 45 years old in his hometown of Philadelphia on October 19, 1955. He was finally inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2001.