Jul 25, 2017

Pete and Nick Spanakos, the Boxing Twins

Identical twins Petros (Pete) and Nicholas Spanakos were born on July 26th, 1938 in the working-class Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York.  They were the youngest of eight boys born to Greek immigrants Michael and Stella Spanakos, who owned the Paramount Restaurant on Court Street.

Topping off at 5'3", and the only Greek kids in Red Hook, Pete and Nick were often targeted by neighborhood bullies -- the Italians one day, the Irish the next.  Bigger guys were always calling them out, insulting them.

One day when they were 14 years old, they walked into a gym, and someone said "You guys want to try punching the big bags?"  They did.  They strapped on pairs of boxing gloves, and never took them off.

In 1952, they entered the Golden Gloves competition for amateur youth, making sure that they had different weights so they wouldn't have to fight each other (although they usually entered the same tournaments).

On February 21, 1955, they both won boxing matches on the same night.

They were fast and energetic, not hard-hitters.  But what they lacked in strength they made up for in sheer enthusiasm.  Over the next 10 years, they won 17 Golden Gloves titles.

Pete competed the 1959 Pan-American Games in Chicago, and Nick won a bronze medal at the  1960 Olympics. His roommate was the future Muhammad Ali.

  Later he fought the Greek champion in an exhibition round in Athens.

Pete and Nick used their boxing prowess to get scholarships to the College of Idaho, a private liberal arts college that has produced governors, journalists, and Nobel Prize winners, and then went on to graduate school.

Pete got a law degree and moved back to New York, where became a school counselor, later opening a school for South Bronx kids who had been expelled.  He bought a historic house in Sea Gate, Coney Island, and founded the Sea Gate Historical Society.

One of his close friends was Joe Rollino (1904-2010), the "strongest man in the world," who used to perform at Coney Island, lifting 635 pounds with one finger.

Nick got a Ph.D. in Business Administration and taught at SUNY for many years.   He recently retired to Miami Beach.

I can't find a lot of gay connection in their biographies, just some same-sex friendships.  But the beefcake was spectacular.

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