A Greek Tragedy?


We all love money; but some people don’t just love it they are actually in love with it and to them it is the most important thing in the world. Theodore Anton, was one such man, and when combined with his apparent inability to see danger when it was in front of him it ended up costing him his life!

He was born, Theodore Antonopoulis, but boxed under the name Anton the Greek, and was known by a wealth of other names too. Greek by birth he moved to the United States when he was 11 years old and immediately began saving money, and these money grabbing ways were to be the benchmark for the rest of his life.

He started boxing professionally as a spindly welterweight in 1908 when he was just 17 years old; he wasn’t much on style, but what he lacked in skill he more than made up for in heart. But that doesn’t mean to say he was a pushover; quite the opposite, if you were in the ring with him you knew you had a battle on your hands. Driven by his excessive fondness for money; poor managerial skills, and total lack of regard for his own safety he was climbing in the ring with men who were way out of his league.

With inexhaustible endurance he had the ability to soak up more punishment than a ship full of galley slaves and not bat an eyelid, and many an unsuspecting boxer punched himself out on him and was left to face the consequences. Unfortunately for him the majority of his opponents managed to avoid this trap and danced their way to victory over him leaving him with a record that doesn’t really do him justice. Of the 100 or more professional contests he had, he lost more than two thirds of them and mainly on points. But because of his ability to generate excitement in a ring he was very much in demand and would fill stadiums out wherever he went. When people came to watch him fight it didn’t matter to them if he won or lost just seeing him perform in the ring was a treat for them. He even gave the British fans a treat once when he came over to England in 1914 and had a couple of fights here. He lost both of them of course, but on each occasion his fight was voted the best bout of the evening. Not bad for a man with neither a trainer nor a manager; he thought them an unnecessary expense and every penny the promoter’s paid him went straight into his own pocket.

By the time he retired from boxing in 1921 he was already a fairly wealthy man but had ambitions to become even richer and dived straight into the faltering property market by buying up land and properties like they were going out of fashion. He rather unwisely decided to make the quaint little town of Cicero the hub of his property empire, but Cicero is a suburb of Chicago, and we all know what Chicago, was famous for in the 1920’s!

One of the properties he bought was called The Hawthorne Hotel, this was his main money spinner, its bar and fancy restaurant were frequented by the more affluent citizens of Cicero and the money soon came flooding in. Unfortunately for Anton, included amongst these affluent customers were members of the Chicago mob and their deviant boss, Al Capone!

Any other person in the world would have been quaking in their boots to have such men on their premises; but not Anton, he didn’t care who they were, all he could see was dollar signs because these men were the biggest spenders he had ever seen in his life, and he went out of his way to make them welcome and even became friends with Al Capone, himself. However, every rose has its thorn, and in this instance the thorn came in two different guises, the Chicago Police force, and the menacing, North Siders, a notorious criminal gang and arch enemies of Al Capone.

The police now considered The Hawthorne Hotel to be Capone’s headquarters and started raiding it on a fairly regular basis looking for members of the Capone gang who were on the wanted list. This affected the hotel’s takings drastically which did not go down well with Anton. He even tried to sue the police for harassment but they in turn countered this by charging him with keeping an unruly house! He was already losing money hand over fist when the straw that broke the camel’s back finally came. And when it did come it came with a bang and was reminiscent of a scene from a Martin Scorsese film.

On September the 20th 1926, a line of cars pulled up outside the Hawthorne Hotel, each with a Thompson Sub Machine gun protruding from its window, they all opened fire simultaneously and began strafing the building – it was a major assassination attempt on Capone and his gang; it failed, but to the owners dismay the building had been badly damaged in the onslaught.

That was it, Anton had had enough! All this cops and robbers stuff was bad for business and it was now costing him a fortune, so in the same reckless manner in which he fought in the ring, and in no uncertain terms, he told Al Capone, and his cronies to sling their hooks from his hotel and never to darken its doorstep again. It turned out to be a big mistake because a few days later he suddenly disappeared; and five days after that his blood soaked body was discovered in a shallow grave, he had been shot through the eye and one of his fingers was missing!

Al Capone, who everybody knew had ordered the killing tried to come the old pal’s act and supposedly openly wept on hearing the news of his so-called friend’s untimely death; but he wasn’t fooling anybody and his generous offer to pay the funeral expenses was politely declined by the family and he did not attend the service.

Alas, poor Anton, was not really a proper gangster; he was merely a man who tried to make money on the back of them and it cost him his life. His funeral was a quiet family affair but Anton’s, wife and brothers in tribute to his sporting past did place his old boxing gloves in the coffin with him and laid a floral wreath in the shape of a boxing ring on its lid.