Hank Cisco grabbed the photo of Muhammad Ali in the ring at the old Philadelphia Arena. Ali, in street clothes, wasn't boxing that night. Next to him was a bow-tied boxing referee - Hank Cisco.
"He jumped in the ring and said, 'I'm the greatest,' " Cisco said of Ali, who was performing in the service of promoting his upcoming bout with Joe Frazier. Frazier wasn't there, but some in his contingent were.
"They were arguing back and forth with Yank Durham," Cisco said, referring to Frazier's trainer. "I grabbed him by the arm to get him the hell out of the ring."
You don't even have to speak to Cisco to understand why he is going into the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame's Montgomery County chapter on Friday. A tour of his back room on Powell Street in Norristown explains all. Photos and books of more photos and videotapes and boxing gloves and awards given to this man who shared the ring.
The treat, however, comes with talking to Cisco.
Or Frank Ciaccio, the name given at birth more than 92 years ago. When he began boxing, a manager said nobody would be able to pronounce it, so he became Cisco, common practice at the time.
The photos go back 70 years. Cisco was a great friend of Frank Rizzo's - Hank was a pallbearer. Photos with Rocky Graziano, Jersey Joe Walcott, a hundred with Dave Zinkoff. On The Mike Douglas Show with Graziano, Sonny Bono, and David Brenner. Founding the Columbus monument in Elmwood Park in Norristown, teaching kids to box at the Valley Forge Army Hospital.
"I was a stablemate of Rocky Marciano," Cisco said, pointing to another photo, explaining broken bones in his hands got him out of the ring, but he still helped in the gym. Of Marciano, Cisco said, "He loved to train."
Cisco's hearing isn't 100 percent these days. Old friends and new, he calls just "Rock."
Cisco grabbed another photo of another Norristown icon.
"Here's Tommy Lasorda - I used to teach him boxing. Tommy Lasorda was a southpaw, a street fighter," Cisco said. "He was called Mongo. I took him in the gym. I was teaching at the YMCA. In comes Tommy. 'C'mon, I want to box.' He was a straight street fighter."
What kind of ref was Cisco?
"Good!" Cisco said. "I'm a former boxer. A lot of these referees today are not former boxers. And they want to get on camera. You've got to let the two guys fight. You've got two guys in the clinch, you don't jump in there and break, because that's part of the fight. They're in there working. I say, 'Break, break, work yourself out.' It's not fair to an infighter if you're going to jump in and break it."
Giving a tour of his own life, Cisco, on his feet, imitated all this infighting as he talked, throwing punches. The man turns 93 in November? He grabbed another photo in which he's in the ring as a ref and is airborne jumping out of the way of the action. He saw a photo of Mike Tyson and it reminded him of Tyson's asking him for his polka-dot tie. "No!"
Another photo of Ali - "He never wears a hat." They found out because Cisco's wife had knitted one for Ali. He accepted it and said he'd pass it on to a family member.
That reminded Cisco . . .
"My wife and I went up to Deer Lake to watch him train because Chris Dundee used to be my brother Tony's manager," Cisco said.
What did Cisco think of Ali?
"I didn't like him in the beginning," Cisco said. "But then after I got to have lunch with him - we're sitting at the table, Angelo Dundee . . . he's sitting across from me. I got to like him because this guy, he made all his own decisions. The phone rings, 'Yeah, OK, no, go.' Boom. He didn't have to call a meeting to answer."
Cisco relates how he told his wife that Ali had just finished training, not to ask any questions, let the reporters ask the questions.
"Ok, we're sitting there, we're eating," Cisco said. "He says, 'Come on, everybody eat all this food. If not, the government's going to take it.' A lot of humor."
Cisco said his wife piped up, "Muhammad, I read in the paper where you don't like to get hit."
Ali's response is another reason Cisco liked him.
"His eyes opened, 'Who'd want to hit my pretty face?' " Cisco said.
Cisco kept moving through photos, showing his brother: "He fought two or three world champions." There was Jimmy Young. Michael Grant, who still calls the house all the time to check in. Frazier again.
"I refereed Joe Frazier's second pro fight in Philadelphia," Cisco said. "In the Philadelphia Arena. And he was heavyset. It was a Philadelphia crowd, for some reason they don't like local people. I don't know. So Joe Frazier is in there throwing boom, boom, boom, boom. He's beating the hell out of this guy, first round. Second round, he knocks the guy down. The guy's like this."
Cisco gave his best deadeye expression.
"I stop the fight," Cisco said. "People start booing. 'Oh, fix, fix, fix!' I said, 'This guy hits with both hands. You watch him.' He turned out to be king of the world. Anytime I ever called him for a fund-raiser, he was there."
Cisco showed a photo of himself fighting in the finals of the Golden Gloves.
"They give you a Philadelphia decision," Cisco said. "I beat the hell out of the guy."
Over the years, Cisco worked up a whole routine of learning from the times he came in second, including that fight, and getting secondhand clothes from his brothers, taking two times to pass his driver's license and GED tests, getting into the Army on his second try.
"I even married a widow," said the Hall of Famer.