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Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Rest in peace, Ray Bonti

By Michael Woods

Welterweight Ray Bonti of Bayside didn't often tell his family when he was fighting, because he didn't want to worry them.

Yes, the fighter was no Sugar Ray Robinson, and his record in three-plus years as a professional stands for the ages at 7-22-5; however it appears that even if his pugilism skills weren't destined to make him a champion, Bonti's heart, and sensitivity to his kin, was of top caliber.

There is no word on whether or not he told family that he was gloving up against Al Dunbar at the Fort Hamilton Arena on Aug. 14, 1941. Bonti had fought twice in the last four weeks, losing by TKO1 to Tippy Larkin on July 18, and by points against Jimmy Bell on July 28. So, if his mom and dad and wife were not there, then that may have been best.  Dunbar scored a KO of the 24-year-old welterweight Bonti,  who had lost nine straight,  in round five.

Bonti was ahead in the faceoff, a newspaper report says, but went down in the fifth. He rose, and got knocked to the mat for a second time. Again, he got to his feet, and fought on. For a third time, Dunbar punched him to the canvas, and the ref stopped the bout. Bonti lost consciousness because of the KO, and was taken to a local hospital.  He died two days later.

The local papers covered the event, but of course,  life goes on, and but for his family, the name Ray Bonti faded from memory. He was buried in a Flushing cemetery, without a headstone, because the family couldn't afford one. But now Ray's memory will be honored properly.  Rosemarie Saenz, the daughter of one of Ray's two surviving sisters, reached out to Ring 10, a veteran's boxing association based in NY. The daughter of Ray's youngest sister, Frances,  hoped for closure for her mom, who is in hospice, and wondered if Ring 10 could help.

The association offered to pay the remaining half for a headstone, and will put together a memorial ceremony in the coming weeks to give proper respect to the fighter who died in battle. "All we desire to do is put a marker on his grave so that his memory and life counted and existed," Saenz wrote, in a letter which made its way to Ring 10.

"We are in the process of finalizing a date for the ceremony which will take place in Flushing where he is buried," said Ring 10 president Matt Farrago.  "Ring 10 paid off the balance needed to complete the tombstone. Rosemarie will be flying up from Florida for the ceremony. I am still trying to locate any descendants of Al Dunbar to invite them. We are just trying to help put his soul to rest and give his sister who is 91 peace of mind after all these years."