With a professional record of 7-22-5 (2 KO's), it is unlikely that any boxing fan knows of former fighter Ray Bonti.
The 24-year old welterweight tragically died on August 16, 1941 from head injuries sustained during a preliminary fight at Fort Hamilton Arena in Brooklyn, New York. The fallen fighter was quickly forgotten by
the boxing community but now, with the help of Ring 10 Veterans Boxing Foundation, he will finally be respectfully honored and his family given the closure they have been seeking for the last 71 years.
Bonti, a Bayside, Queens resident, had been fighting professionally for over two years in primarily preliminary bouts. He did not achieve any notable success during his career, fighting once at Madison Square Garden and seeing some action in main bouts at lesser clubs. He was an active journeyman who fought in an era where little emphasis was placed on fighter safety. He fought 15 times in six months during 1940 and 16 times over the course of eight months in 1941 as recorded in BoxRec.com. In the seven-week period leading up to the fateful fight against Brooklyn boxer Al Dunbar on August 14, 1941, Bonti fought four times. This included a first round knockout by future champion Tippy Larkin only four weeks prior to the Dunbar bout and a sixth round decision loss 10 days after that. Bonti was back in the ring only two weeks later to face the 42-47-5 Dunbar for a $25 share of the total $50 purse. Bonti was ahead on points entering the fifth of the six round scheduled bout when he was floored by a right hand to the head. He arose and was knocked down twice more before the referee stopped the fight.
Following the knockout, doctors of the Army Medical Corps at Fort Hamilton attempted to revive the
unconscious Bonti for 20 minutes before ordering he be taken to nearby Norwegian Hospital. The Bayside fighter never regained consciousness, dying in the hospital two days later from a brain injury.
Coming from a meager background, Bonti's family was unable to provide the fallen fighter with an adequate memorial or proper burial. A small vigil was held in the living room of Bonti's home in Bayside where he lived with his young wife and her parents. He was buried in an unmarked grave in Flushing due to cemetery policy at the time that prohibited burial with an individual headstone, something the family was unable to afford. Bonti's premature and tragic death had an inexplicable effect on his family, with his bereft father passing away a short five months later. Their inability to put a marker on Bonti's grave and the lack of acknowledgement from the boxing community of the ultimate sacrifice the brave fighter made to the sport has left them without a sense of closure. Recent changes in cemetery policy now allow markers to be placed on the grave site, prompting Bonti's niece, the daughter of one of his two surviving sisters, to reach out to Ring 10 for assistance.
"This family tragedy is still active and alive in the hearts and minds of the two remaining siblings, two sisters. Over these many years and decades, it has led to many unresolved emotions and desires for closure,"
Bonti's niece, Rosemarie Saenz, wrote in a copy of a letter sent to Ring 10 president Matt Farrago.
With half of the money saved for a headstone, Saenz contacted Ring 10 in August soon after the 71st anniversary of Bonti's death asking for the participation of their member fighters in honoring her uncle so he could be formally recognized by the boxing community while her aging mother is still alive. Farrago and Ring 10 Board of Directors agreed to be a part of the memorial and did one better by offering to pay for the remaining half of the expenses for the headstone. "We're not going to reposition him. We're just going to give him a nice headstone and an honorable send-off at the plot with a "10 count" so he gets closure as a fighter. You never know, maybe his soul has been waiting for this for 71 years," said Farrago, a former fighter himself. A date for the services to be held this Fall is being coordinated by the family while Farrago gathers together a group of fighters who will attend to pay respects to one of
their own. Ring 10 is once again demonstrating that this brotherhood extends to all fighters regardless of professional record, status and era.