In an eerie foretelling , Wildwood’s Chuck “The Professor” Mussachio dreamed that he was knocked down in the 12th and final round of his Saturday, November 19, USBA cruiserweight title fight with Garrett Wilson, but got back on his feet to win.
The knockdown actually happened, but he didn’t get up after absorbing a thunderous roundhouse right hand that sent him backwards to the canvas, his head hitting with a sickening, scary thud, and then bouncing once. Chuck laid semi-conscious, his head under the ropes near his corner, eyes shut, for several seconds, as referee Earle Brown tolled the count, and then began to struggle to his feet, following a true fighter’s instinct, and made it to one knee before rolling onto his side and being counted out.
It was 41 seconds into the final round, and two of the judges had The Professor winning the fight. So close and yet so far, but he showed a champion’s grace after being checked out by the ring doctor in his corner, taking the ring microphone to congratulate Wilson, who retained his title, for a fight well fought. Wilson, in his turn, took the mic and told the crowd that he had needed a knockout because he felt Chuck Mussacio had taken every round, which was far from the case, according to the judges’ cards.
The Professor, whose record fell to 17-2-1 with 5 KOs, was fighting at cruiserweight for the first time after a career as a light heavy, and had managed to block or slip Wilson’s wide right hands for the previous 11 rounds, but admitted afterwards to tiring in the final stanza. “I saw the punch coming out of the corner of my eye,” he said afterwards, “but I saw it too late.”
Until that fateful instant, The Professor had taken the muscle-bound Wilson to school for most of the fight, answering the Philadelphian’s occasional heavy-handed flurries with crisp counter right hands or one-twos, and then sliding out of harm’s way. His ring generalship was outstanding, but he admitted in his dressing room, “He was just too strong. He hit hard.” Indeed, there is a marked difference in punching power between a light heavyweight and a cruiserweight, as Chuck Mussachio readily admitted in a well-attended press interview in his dressing room post-fight. “I got to move back down” to light heavy, he added.
The last-round loss of a title that seemed in the proverbial bag prior to that fateful roundhouse right hand added to the woes of what has been a dismal year since Chuck Mussachio’s last fight: the deaths of his beloved uncle, Robert Stiva, always a dressing room fixture, and best friend Adam Franz, as well as the death in his arms of an elderly woman he pulled from an auto wreck. The tee shirt he wore into the ring carried the photos of Stipa and Franz, and their spirits seemed to be with him – until the dream ended.