Category Archives: Boxing Articles

The First Louis Walcott Fight

70 Years Ago
Louis Won A Controversial Decision

By Bobby Franklin

December 5th marked the 70th anniversary of the first meeting between Champion Joe Louis and challenger Jersey Joe Walcott which took place at Madison Square Garden in 1947.

Louis had been a very active champion and this was to be his 24th defense of the title. Up until 1942 Joe defended the title often and always successfully. In 1941 alone he had met eight challengers including his historic match against Billy Conn. Things would change at the beginning of 1942 as the country was now focused on World War II. After defeating Abe Simon in March of 1942 Joe would not defend the championship again until his rematch with Billy Conn in June, 1946.

Louis stepped up and supported his country during the war by enlisting in the Army. During this time he fought a number of exhibition matches at Army bases around the world, but for such an active fighter the four year layoff took its toll. The Joe Louis who returned to the ring after the war was older and slower than the devastating fighting machine who had dominated the division throughout the 1930s and into the 40s. While Joe’s physical abilities may have faded a bit, he was still a very great fighter.

The long awaited rematch between Louis and Conn turned out to be a disappointment as it didn’t come close to having the excitement of their first go. After the Conn fight Louis dispatched Tami Mauriello in the first round of their fight. At this point the heavyweight division was looking quite weak with no truly outstanding challengers.

Promoter Mike Jacobs decided to go with a former sparring partner of Joe’s for his next title defense. Jersey Joe Walcott was a very slick boxer with a solid punch who never seemed to get a break. Walcott had been a pro since 1930 and was now having a fairly successful run of it. He had only lost 3 of his last 21 bouts which took place since 1944. He avenged all three of those losses. Joe had also missed a few years during the war not fighting since being stopped by Abe Simon in 1940. Walcott was back and giving it one more try in an attempt to get a title shot.

It should also be noted that early in his career Walcott had been trained for a brief time by Jack Blackburn. Blackburn ended up taking on Joe Louis as a pupil so Walcott and he parted ways.

Jersey Joe wasn’t given much of a chance of defeating Louis who entered the ring a ten to one favorite. The challenger made the oddsmakers look a bit silly when he decked the champion in the first round. The two fighters were mixing it up with Louis having Walcott against the ropes. Suddenly, Walcott landed a short right hand that was a solid punch but also caught the Brown Bomber off balance. The Champ went down for a two count.

In the fourth round Walcott would again deck Louis with another right hand. This time Louis was down for a count of seven and hurt. Louis got up and fought his way out of trouble avoiding numerous rights thrown by the challenger.

The rest of the fight was a cat and mouse game with Walcott using his brilliant boxing skills, his feints and shuffle, to keep Louis off balance. Louis’s left eye was swelling while Walcott had no marks on his face. Louis, while determined and steadfast, just could not land a solid combination on Walcott. Jersey Joe, who had started the fight quite aggressively, seemed to be content to keep at a distance as much as he could and rely on his speed tasty out of trouble. Perhaps he was thinking back to when Billy Conn fought Louis the first time.

Before the start of the 15th and final round Walcott’s cornermen told him he had the fight and he should play it safe. He followed their instructions and spent the final round moving and circling Louis intent on not being knocked out.

When the decision was announced two of the judges gave the fight to the champion while the referee scored it for Walcott. The crowd also thought the challenger had done enough to win.

It has been written that even Joe Louis believed he lost the fight. There are two reasons for this. One, Joe tried to leave the ring before the verdict was announced. Second, Louis went over to Walcott and told him he was sorry.

In an interview years later with Curt Gowdy Louis made it clear that while he was not happy with his performance he truly believed he did enough to win. He said he left the ring early because he was disgusted with himself and felt he should have done better. And as far as why he told Walcott he was sorry, Joe responded “I said that to everyone I beat.” Louis felt that in order for Walcott to win the title he would have had to fight more aggressively and not run so much. Apparently, the officials agreed with him. The press, however, did not. 21 out of 32 boxing writers that were polled said they saw Walcott as the winner.

In reality, this was a tough fight to judge. While Walcott fought beautifully, he also seemed to be playing it safety first. It is difficult, especially in that era, for judges take a title away from a champion when the challenger hasn’t won it decisively. It should also be remembered that the scoring of the fight was on the rounds system, so the two rounds where Walcott scored knockdowns did not count anymore than the other rounds he won. Even if it had been scored on points Louis would have won.

The two would meet again a little over six months later. Walcott would once again floor the champion, but Joe Louis would show the old fire in the 11th round when he knocked out Walcott with a blistering combination. Louis would announce his retirement after the fight, but unfortunately, he would’ve to make a comeback because of financial problems.

Jersey Joe would go on to fight for the title three more times finally winning it in the third try against Ezzard Charles. He was 37 years old at the time.

While the first Louis/Walcott may not have been the greatest Heavyweight Championship bout of all time, it was certainly an interesting one and very much worth watching.


 

Billy Conn At 100: How Would He Have Done Against Ali?

By Bobby Franklin
.
This past October 8th marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of Billy Conn. The Pittsburgh Kid held the Light Heavyweight Championship but is best known for his challenge against Joe Louis for the Heavyweight Crown. In that fight Conn gave Joe all he could handle for twelve rounds before Louis caught up with him in the 13th round for the knock out. I consider that bout to be one of the greatest of all-time as both fighters put on a brilliant display of what the Art of Boxing is all about. Conn was magnificent on that June night in 1941. He was fast and sharp. He mixed his punches up and feinted beautifully. He also showed he could withstand the power of the great Joe Louis. Louis was also remarkable. In a fight where he easily could have become frustrated at not being able to catch up with his elusive opponent Louis remained cool and launched a sustained attack on Conn’s body. This strategy paid off as he finally was able to slow Billy down enough to be able to take him out in the 13th round.

Conn was outweighed by over thirty pounds in the fight. Joe Louis had every advantage over him; Height, reach, weight, power, and just being Joe Louis. Max Baer once said of the Brown Bomber, “Fear is looking across the ring at Joe Louis and knowing he wants to go home early.” Conn was one of the very few men to step into the ring with Louis to not be gripped by that fear. Billy was the consummate professional, he was in there to win and had no doubt he could do the job.

Billy Conn was born in Pittsburgh, PA in October 8, 1917. When he was a kid his father took Billy to work with him one day at the Westinghouse factory. Billy took one look around and decided working 9:00 to 5:00 everyday was not for him. He decided early on he would much prefer to make his living in the ring. He made his professional debut in 1934 just shy of his 17th birthday. Hs first year in the ring was not overly impressive as he had eight wins and 8 losses. Even though it didn’t look like an auspicious beginning, Billy was learning his trade. In the second half of 1935 Conn hit his stride. He went 28 and 0 over the the next two years and was gaining recognition. He went on to win the Light Heavyweight title in 1939 by defeating Melio Bettina. Billy defended the title in a rematch with Bettina and then twice against Gus Lesnevich before relinquishing the belt in pursuit of a bigger prize, the Heavyweight Championship of the World.

Conn vs Louis I

Conn began campaigning as a heavyweight taking on the leading contenders while working his way to that title shot. It is interesting to note that while Conn rarely weighed more than 180 pounds, and was usually closer to 170, he never lost a fight against a heavyweight. In fact, though not preciously known as a big puncher, Conn knocked out more than half the heavyweights he faced. He did not do this by bulking up. What happened is when he got in against the slower moving big guys he was able to set himself more in order to throw harder punches.

Billy Conn was a truly great fighter. Watching him in action is a master class in the Art of Boxing. There have been very few fighters who were as consistently good as Conn. When you take his outstanding skills and combine that with his boundless self-confidence, superb conditioning, and tremendous heart you have all the makings of one of the greatest fighters to ever step into a boxing ring.

Conn had just the style to give Ali all kinds of problems.

I have given some thought to how The Pittsburgh Kid would have done against Muhammad Ali. It is a dream fight that is never brought up when old school fight people argue about what might have happened if two greats from the past had been matched up, but it should be. I believe Billy Conn had just the style to give Ali all kinds of problems.

What is often overlooked when analyzing Ali is the trouble he had with smaller and faster opponents. Going back to his fights with Doug Jones and Billy Daniels you could see how when his speed was not dominant he had problems. Even against Henry Cooper it was shown how he could be tagged by a smaller and faster man. Ali did his best against the big and slow moving heavyweights, much as Conn did.

Cooper vs Clay I

In Billy Conn Ali would be facing a man that not only could match him in hand and foot speed, I would argue Conn was faster in both departments, but also a man who would not be in the least intimidated by him. Conn was also a much better scientific fighter than Ali as Ali depended more on his speed and reflexes when young and his amazing toughness when older. Conn had a full palette of boxing moves he could tap into.

In Ali’s fight against Jimmy Young he was frustrated by Young’s cagey moves, and Jimmy Young was no Billy Conn. In three fights against Ken Norton, Ali could never improve on his performance, never being able to solve the one dimensional style of Norton.

In Conn’s fight against Louis the deciding factor was Joe’s body punching which slowed Billy down and made hm vulnerable. Ali never threw body punches so Billy would have never tired in a fight against him. Conn would have set a torrid pace against Muhammad darting in and out and while throwing a broad array of punches. Ali would for the first time be facing an opponent who was faster than he was. He would also be facing a smaller man who had incredible physical strength. Watch Conn in the clinches with the much bigger Joe Louis and you can see how he was able to hold his own with a much bigger man.

The more I think about this match up the more surprised I am that it is never discussed. It has all the makings for a great fight and a great argument. Sure, Ali had blinding speed when facing big men like Liston and Foreman, but what would happen if he was in with a talented boxer who was faster than he was? Billy Conn would have provided the answer.

Doug Jones, Boxer Who Gave a Young Cassius Clay His Toughest fight, Dies at 80

By

Mike Silver

Doug Jones

Word has reached us that Doug Jones, the former light heavyweight and heavyweight contender of the early 1960s, passed away recently at the age of 80. Prior to Muhammad Ali’s three and a half year exile that began in 1967 Doug Jones gave the fighter then known as Cassius Clay his toughest fight. On March 13, 1963, before a sold out Madison Square Garden crowd of 18,732 fans, Clay struggled to win a close but controversial 10 round decision over his persistent foe.

Opinion was split as to who deserved to win. Many fans in the Garden and those watching the bout at 40 closed circuit locations thought Jones had done enough to edge Clay who chalked up his 18th straight victory. Doug’s record fell to 21-3-1. (Eleven months and two fights later Cassius would upset Sonny Liston to win the heavyweight title).

Interviewed 20 years later the defeat still rankled Jones. “Clay ran like a thief”, he said. “I carried the fight to him. Suppose I went the other way, what kind of fight would it have been? Clay didn’t hit me with any solid punches. There wasn’t any real power in his punches.”

Few boxers at his weight have engaged in so many tough fights against top competition in so short a time as Doug Jones. He was a talented boxer with a powerful right hand but what separated him from the crowd was his incredible toughness and heart. Doug had an extensive and successful amateur career during military service in the Air Force. (He was alternate light heavy for the 1956 U.S. Olympic team).

Jones Lands A Left Hook On Cassius Clay

Doug turned pro in 1958 with a four round decision over Jimmy McNair. He was rushed much too quickly yet managed to survive and attain contender status in spite of Madison Square Garden matchmaker Teddy Brenner’s tendency to destroy up and coming talent through horrible matchmaking. Doug only had 10 pro fights when he fought his first main event against tough former New York Golden Gloves champ Juan Pomare. After two more victories he took on hard punching Philadelphia prospect Von Clay in back to back10 rounders. His next outing was a nationally televised bout against former middleweight champion Bobo Olsen. Doug ended matters with a left right combination in the 6th round. He followed up with knockouts of Floyd McCoy and Pete Rademacher before taking on Von Clay for the third and final time winning via a 10th round TKO.

Up next was top heavyweight contender Eddie Machen. Doug lost the decision and five months later faced Harold Johnson for the undisputed light heavyweight title. Doug never stopped trying but with only 20 pro bouts under his belt he was just too inexperienced to take the measure of the great boxer and lost a unanimous 15 round decision. On October 20, 1962 Doug was matched with a 9 bout pro named Bob Foster. He stopped the future light heavyweight champion in the 8th round. (Previously Doug had defeated Bob twice in the amateurs while both were in the Air Force).

Although he rarely weighed more than 190 pounds the rest of Doug’s career was spent fighting heavyweights. A dramatic 7th round KO of top ranked Zora Folley (a few months earlier he dropped a decision to Folley) moved Jones into the ranks of heavyweight contenders and led to his match with young Cassius. Doug’s manager Alex Koskowitz and his trainer Rollie Hackmer decided the best strategy was for Doug to slip past Clay’s jab while constantly pressuring him, upset his rhythm, and land the right.

Jones at 188 pounds and 6 feet tall was 14 pounds lighter and three inches shorter but was significantly faster than Clay’s previous opponents. In the first round Clay was sent back on his heels by Jones’s right cross. He was tagged solidly again in the 4th and 7th rounds. Clay responded with swift combinations and it was anybody’s fight going into the ninth round. Clay turned it on in the final round landing frequently with combinations to seal his victory.

After splitting two fights with Billy Daniels, Doug’s tenure as a heavyweight contender ended with an 11th round TKO loss to George Chuvalo on October 2nd 1964. During the fight Chuvalo centered his attack on Doug’s body and many punches strayed into foul territory. As a result of the punishment Doug suffered a hernia and was out of action for close to a year. His last chance for a title ended with a 15 round loss to WBA heavyweight champion Ernie Terrell on June 28, 1966. By the time up and coming Joe Frazier knocked him out in the 6th round on February 21, 1967 Doug was pretty much used up and punched out. If he needed any more convincing to retire it was provided six months later by young Boone Kirkman who TKO’d him in six. The Harlemite ended his career with a 30-10-1 (20 KOs) record. He appeared in 11 nationally televised bouts.

Doug was an unlucky fighter. He came along at the wrong time when Harold Johnson was light heavy champ. If not for that Doug was a good bet to have won that title but he chose to go for the big money and take on heavyweights. Never an easy opponent at any time during his nine year pro career, he would be a terror among the light heavyweights of today. They did not come any tougher than Doug Jones.

Mike Silver is the author of The Arc of Boxing: The Rise and Decline of the Sweet Science (McFarland Publishers) and Stars in the Ring: Jewish Champions in the Golden Age of Boxing, A Photographic History (Lyons Press).


Youtube Boxing

Studying The Art Of Boxing

With
YouTube

By Bobby Franklin

Boxing was once a great art. Unfortunately, it is now a lost art. The practitioners of this once noble form, men such as Johnson, Robinson, Dempsey, Louis, Leonard (Benny and Sugar Ray), Moore, Tunney, and so many others, were the Michelangelos and DaVincis of their craft. And while the likes of the great Florentines will never be seen again, so it is with the Old Masters of Boxing.

Boxing was once a great art. Unfortunately, it is now a lost art.

Leonardo has been dead for hundreds of years, but we can still gaze upon his art in museums around the world. The sculpture, painting, and architecture of Michelangelo is still very much with us. To gaze upon the David in Florence or the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican is a moving experience. These great works and so many others still speak to us and leave us in awe, so much so that it is almost impossible to think of the men who created them as being dead. They live on through their work and the influence it continues to have on us.

While I may be bordering on hyperbole to compare boxing with such great masters in the classical arts, when it comes to the world of sports I can think of no other that encapsulates the art spirit as much as boxing. So, how are we able to experience and appreciate what is now a lost art? You certainly cannot hang the Louis/Conn fight on a wall in a museum. We can read about these great practitioners and learn what interesting lives they led, but in order to truly experience what they accomplished we have to see it.

The art form boxing is closest to is dance, something that is beautiful because of its motion. You can look at photograph of Nureyev gliding through the air in much the same way you can see one of Ray Robinson executing a perfectly timed left hook, but that only gives a view of a split second in time of their performances. To truly appreciate what these great talents do you have to see them inaction. Thanks to Thomas Edison and his invention of moving pictures many of these great works have been preserved on film. However, it was not until recently that we were able to gain access to so much of this material. Yes, thousands of hours of footage were recorded but it was very rare that we ever got to see any of it. That is until the advent of YouTube.

Robinson vs Fullmer

YouTube is the Smithsonian of boxing. For anyone interested in looking back at the years when boxing was a true art form YouTube is the Holy Grail. It is beyond belief what can be seen there. Not only is there film of great masters dating back to the 19th Century, but much of it has been restored and even corrected for problems with the speed at which it was originally shown making these pieces even better then when they were originally shown.

Where is all this footage coming from? I have no idea, but there are a lot of people out there who are digging it up and sharing it with the rest of us. They are the caretakers of this history, and their work is invaluable. Because of them I have been able to finally view the great Sam Langford in action. I can watch Jake LaMotta training at the original Bobby Gleason”s Gym. Do a search for “D’Amato, Dundee, and Ali training” and you will be a fly on the wall listening in while the two great trainers exchange comments while watching Ali spar. You can see Gene Tunney in a playful sparring match with James J. Corbett. But most of all you can go back and watch some of the great fights of all time, some you may have only read about. You can watch them as often and whenever you want to, and quite often you may find they are a bit different from what you have read about them. I found this to be the case when I watched the first Joe Louis v Billy Conn bout.

Now that we have this great museum of boxing masters available for us to watch in our homes how do we best appreciate them? As with all great art, you can enjoy them just by watching them. But, to really delve into the art it is best to learn more about what you are watching. There are many ways to learn what I call “Boxing Theory”, understanding what is happening on a deeper level when watching these artists. Looking at the Mona Lisa is a moving experience, but as you learn more about the subtleties and different interpretations of it you gain so much more. Great art truly appreciated often leaves us asking more questions the more we view it. This is true of boxing.

Seeing how there are no courses on “Boxing Art Appreciation” it is up to us tom take the autodidactic route. Finding books that work as guides that lead us to uncover more and more of these treasures is a good place to start. Good books on boxing will also cue you in on what to look for when watching a classic fight. It will also give you historical context which is very important. As with any art, it is important to view it with a proper perspective of when hit was created. Seeing Jack Dempsey in the ring with Jess Willard is much more interesting when you know what led up to him being there.

Paul Beston’s The Boxing Kings: When American Heavyweights Ruled The Ring is an excellent overview of a great period in boxing history. As you read each chapter you can then go to YouTube to watch footage of the men Mr. Beston has written about. Reading and watching in tandem makes it a truly wonderful experience.

To delve more deeply into the techniques of the old masters I would recommend Mike Silver’s The Arc of Boxing: The Rise and Decline of the Sweet Science. Reading this work along with viewing the fights all help you to better understand that is happening in the ring.

There are also many autobiographies and instruction books that were written by the fighters from the great era of boxing. For instance, I read Tommy Farr’s autobiography in which he gives a beautiful account of his fight with Joe Louis. After reading it the fight took on a whole new meaning as I watched it.

With great books such as those written by Mike Silver and Paul Beston as your guide you can embark on a wonderful adventure studying the Art of Boxing. Bring a critical eye when watching these films. Look for the subtleties. As with any great art, look beneath the surface, you will find there is so much there. I must warn you though, once you start it will become an addiction.

“I Fought Willie Pep”

by Mike Silver

“He’s in front of you, in back of you. He’s all over the damn place. But he never stood toe to toe with you.”

The date was June 5, 1953. Thirty year old former featherweight champion Willie Pep, one of boxing’s all-time greats, was in trouble. For eight rounds the 3700 fans in Madison Square Garden and a national television audience of several million had been treated to another brilliant performance by the man who defined the art of boxing. The elusive “Will o’ the Wisp” was giving Brooklyn’s tough Pat Marcune a boxing lesson when the tenor of the bout abruptly changed. Moments before the round was to end Marcune bounced a left hook off Pep’s brow that opened a deep gash.

Pat Marcune

During the one minute rest period the ringside physician visited Pep’s corner. He took one look and advised the referee to halt the fight if the cut continued to bleed. Pep’s seconds worked frantically to patch him up. At the bell starting the ninth round an inspired Pat Marcune charged out of his corner intent on ending the bout. Pep, fearing the bout would be stopped, planted his feet to get more leverage into his punches. He had to try and stop Marcune before the cut reopened. The round was the most competitive of the fight.

At the conclusion of the round the doctor climbed into the ring again to take another look at Pep’s damaged brow. He nodded to the referee indicating the bout could continue. Marcune, way behind on points but on the verge of a huge upset, knew what he had to do—but he had to do it quickly.

A victory over Willie Pep was a rare happening. In 13 years and 184 previous fights only three opponents had been able to chalk up a win. Would 25 year old Pat Marcune’s name be added to the list? He possessed a modest but respectable record that included 36 wins against 11 losses and 2 draws. Over the past year he had shown steady improvement. Leading up to the bout Marcune had scored impressive victories over Tito Valles, Bill Bossio, Eddie Compo and former featherweight champion Lauro Salas. In May 1953 he was rated the 10th best featherweight in the world by The Ring magazine.

Marcune was expected to give a credible showing, but very few thought he had a chance to win. Nevertheless, he’d already achieved a victory of sorts. For no matter what else he accomplished the highlight of Pat Marcune’s boxing career would always be his ten round bout with Willie Pep. How many people can say they fought one of the greatest boxers who ever lived?

Willie Pep is no longer with us, but I am happy to report that Pat Marcune is alive and well. I caught up with the 90 year old former featherweight contender in his home on Staten Island where he lives with his daughter. (Pat’s wife passed away in 2013). Despite his age and the wear and tear of 60 professional bouts Pat is spry and alert. He even jogs three times a week to keep in shape. Of course the first question I asked was about the Pep fight.
“I pressed him the entire fight but Pep was very shifty and very difficult to hit”, said Marcune. “He’s in front of you, in back of you. He’s all over the damn place. But he never stood toe to toe with you.

“I was a young kid and Pep was on his way out. But he was a great boxer. I don’t think I could ever duplicate him. A win over Pep would have put me in line for a title shot but that was not my main goal when I turned pro in 1949. I just wanted to fight the main event in Madison Square Garden. That was the big thing. To be champ would be something, but, like Brando said in On the Waterfront, ‘I coulda been somebody. I coulda been a contender’. I wanted to be a contender, but most of all I wanted to top the card at the most famous arena in the world.”

Within four years of his professional debut Pat had accomplished both goals. He became a contender and also topped the card at the Garden not once but twice (vs. Lauro Salas 13 weeks earlier).

Pat Marcune fought in an era when boxing had eight undisputed world champions in eight traditional weight classes. Eight champions! The idea seems almost quaint today but that’s the way it was for over half a century before a gaggle of competing quasi-official “sanctioning organizations” in cahoots with rapacious promoters took control of the business in the late 1970s and destroyed forever boxing’s traditional infrastructure. Perhaps most obscene of all, the boxers are forced to pay hefty “sanctioning fees” out of their own pocket for the “privilege” of fighting for an organization’s title belt. Since the 1980s hundreds of obscure boxers of dubious quality have fought for a title. The only people happy about that are the leeches who run the sanctioning organizations. Currently there are over 90 “world champions” spread across 17 weight classes. Even the most enthusiastic boxing fan cannot name more than a few of them.

How different it was during Pat Marcune’s day when everyone knew the names of the champions and top contenders. The featherweight title (126 pound limit) was ruled by the awesome Sandy Saddler, a ring great who won the title from Pep in 1949, but lost it back to him in 1950. Saddler subsequently defeated Pep twice in rematches. Rocky Marciano, the indestructible “Brockton Blockbuster”, was heavyweight champ. The ageless wonder Archie Moore was king of the light heavyweights and Cuban’s colorful Kid Gavilan ruled the welterweights. The incomparable Sugar Ray Robinson, as close to a perfect fighter the sport has ever seen, had recently given up the middleweight title to enter show business. A tournament involving the four top rated contenders was underway to determine a new champion.

These were the waning years of boxing’s great golden age of talent and activity that spanned the 1920s to the 1950s, an era when champions and contenders achieved their status the old fashioned way—they earned it. There were no shortcuts to a title shot or contender status. Pat Marcune had 44 fights before engaging in his first ten rounder.
“Today guys are winning titles with just nine fights, or whatever it is”, said Pat. “That’s ridiculous. I’d be glad to fight a guy for the title who just had nine fights. They’re beginners.”

I asked Pat how he was able to avoid the debilitating neurological damage suffered by so many ex-professional boxers. “I knew how to fight” he said. “The reason I’m talking like this is that I never took that kind of punishment. I was an aggressive fighter but I tried to avoid getting hit. Today’s fighters take too many punches. I don’t think they get the proper trainers. They’re all gone.

“The fighters I see on television couldn’t compare with the fighters in my time”, he said. “They were tougher and more talented. Today’s fighters are not hungry enough. Remember Ike Williams? There were so many good fighters. I would see them in Stillman’s gym. Guys like Beau Jack, Rocky Marciano, Roland LaStarza and Archie Moore. Pep was on top of all of them. Him and Ray Robinson.”

Pat did his roadwork on the Coney Island boardwalk. “From the boardwalk I’d run down to Ocean Parkway, then to Seagate and back. I used to meet Herbie Kronowitz and Vinnie Cidone and other boxers doing their roadwork on the boardwalk. I miss those days.”
One of the fondest memories of his fighting days was the huge block party his Coney Island neighbors threw for him when he knocked out Brooklyn rival Tommy Pennino, who was an undefeated Golden Gloves champ.

As often happens with opponents who were once bitter ring rivals, Pat maintained a decades long friendship with former featherweight contender Bill Bossio. Their first bout on March 8, 1950 was so exciting promoters brought them back six more times, including three semi-final eight rounders in the Garden. They were tied at 3 wins apiece when Marcune won their last fight in 1952 by a split 10 round decision at Brooklyn’s Eastern Parkway Arena.

Pat is also proud of the friendship he maintained with heavyweight contender Roland La Starza and light heavyweight champ Archie Moore. He met both while training in Stillman’s gym in the early 1950s and stayed in touch with them for years.

Despite the good memories he is also mindful of the downside of his brutal profession. “I got destroyed by the fight game”, he said. “Lost the sight in one eye, got my nose busted, busted my ears. I’ll show you a picture of what I looked like before I started fighting”. He produced a photo of a strikingly handsome young man in a Coast Guard uniform. Pat at the age of 17. He had just enlisted in the Coast Guard in the spring of 1945.

Pat realized he was passed his prime as a fighter after consecutive losses to featherweight contender Miguel Berrios and future junior lightweight champion Harold Gomes. He announced his retirement in 1956. His final stats were 38 wins against 19 losses and 3 draws. Twenty of his victories had come via knockout.

Needing a steady source of income to support his wife and infant son, Pat opened up a retail jewelry establishment. He operated the business for several years before selling it and taking a job with the Port Authority of New York, working in their maintenance department for 20 years.

Although Pat no longer worked for the Port Authority when America was attacked on September 11, 2001, he was quick to respond. He used his PA badge to gain access to Ground Zero where he volunteered to be part of “the bucket brigade” that helped to remove tons of debris. He believes the throat cancer he was diagnosed with a few years ago may have been caused by his exposure to the toxins at the site. Fortunately his cancer never progressed beyond stage one and he is now free of the disease.

Less fortunate was his son Patrick, an officer with the New York City police department. Patrick was a first responder and worked for weeks at Ground Zero. Like so many other first responders he later became sickened by the toxic dust clouds and developed a variety of illnesses, including respiratory disease and cancer. Previously robust and healthy, Patrick was constantly ill in the years that followed 9/11and passed away from cancer in 2009 at the age of 55. His father wears a replica of his son’s policeman’s shield on a chain around his neck.

Oh, I almost forgot! I want to tell you what happened in the crucial tenth round of Pat’s bout with the peerless Willie Pep. At the close of the ninth round Pat was hurt by a flurry of punches. He wasn’t fully recovered when the bell rang for the start of the tenth round. Pep quickly backed him against the ropes and was landing shots but Pat wouldn’t go down. The round was only 14 seconds old when the referee—former featherweight champion Petey Scalzo—jumped in between the fighters and called a halt, awarding the bout to Pep. The following day The New York Times, while acknowledging Pep’s superior boxing skills reported that “the Coney Island warrior gave a fine display of courage as he absorbed Willie’s punches.”

To no one’s surprise Pat objected to the stoppage. To this day be believes the referee purposely acted hastily to end the bout because Pep, in jeopardy of losing on a tko, had the right connections and he did not. But it really doesn’t matter. What does matter is how he lived his life after his boxing career ended.

Pat Marcune never won a world championship but to his everlasting credit when his city suffered a horrific terrorist attack, he did not hesitate to step up to the plate, as did his noble son, to give selflessly of himself in the service of others. If that’s not the definition of a true champion, I don’t know what is.

Note: Boxing historian Mike Silver is the author of “The Arc of Boxing: The Rise and Decline of the Sweet Science” (McFarland Publishing, 2008), and most recently “Stars in the Ring: Jewish Champions in the Golden Age of Boxing: A Photographic History” (Lyons Press, 2016)

When Everyone Knew Who The Heavyweight Champion Was

The Boxing Kings:
When American Heavyweights Ruled The Ring
By Paul Beston
Rowman & Littlefield
356 Pages

Reviewed by Bobby Franklin

From the time of John L. Sullivan up to the reign of Mike Tyson just about everybody knew who the Heavyweight Champion of the World was. It was the most prestigious of all sporting titles and the man who held it was one of the most famous, if not the most famous man on the planet. From 1885 up to 1990 only 30 men were able to claim that title.

Being the Heavyweight Champion went beyond just winning fights. Unlike other sports, the Champ did not compete as part of a team. This was a solitary accomplishment that was the epitome of rugged individualism. It took more than just physical prowess to win the title, it also took strength of character and a determined will.

People who have come to the sport of boxing in recent years have no idea what an important figure the Heavyweight Boxing Champion was to past generations. In that period I doubt there was a boy alive who didn’t at one time dream of holding the title. The history of those men who did reach that goal is a very rich one that often mirrors society as a whole. While many books have been written about individual title holders, there has been a need for a broad history of the era when everyone knew the names John L. Sullivan, Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, Muhammad Ali, and many others.

People who have come to the sport of boxing in recent years have no idea what an important figure the Heavyweight Boxing Champion was to past generations.

Now, thanks to Paul Beston, the Managing Editor of City Journal, that need has been filled. In The Boxing Kings: When American Heavyweights Ruled The Ring Mr. Beston tells the story of these unique individuals with insight and respect while at the same time not glossing over their weaknesses. If you are not already familiar with this history there is no better book for you to learn from. If you are an experienced boxing fan you will find this work refreshing and informative. I consider myself to be a bit of a boxing expert and I still found much that was new to me while reading this lively narrative.

It was interesting to find out that John L. Sullivan, who is well known for drawing the color line when it came to defending the title against black challengers, was one of the first people in the ring to congratulate Jack Johnson, the first black champion, when he defeated Jim Jeffries. Sullivan also rode on the railroad car with Johnson and his black supporters after the fight. There may have been an ulterior motive for Sullivan’s actions, but it is still surprising to read about this considering the time in which it took place.

There is so much more. Johnson, who is seen today as a man who stood up and broke through the color line drew one of his own and would not defend the title against some of the finest “colored” heavyweights of his day. Johnson, with his extreme behavior, not only offended whites but finally even blacks who did not find him a good example for their children. To quote the author, “As a black man living on his own terms-not those of whites, not those of blacks, and not those of Booker T. Washington or W.E.B. DuBois-Johnson had no home in the America of his time. But he didn’t have to make the choices he made.”

Mr. Beston moves through the years concisely but without giving short shrift to any of the personalties involved.

Mr. Beston moves through the years concisely but without giving short shrift to any of the personalties involved. In the case of Jack Dempsey, a man who would become one of the most beloved figures in the history of sports, we learn he had his problems stemming from his not having served in the military during WWI. It was a stain that would haunt the great champion for years. Yet, even with that baggage his magnetism provided for the first million dollar gates in history. Dempsey also brought boxing out of the shadows and into the mainstream.

Mr. Beston shines in this book in that he not only has done painstaking research, but he is also a great writer who never gives his readers a dull moment. In a chapter entitled The Substitutes he covers the period between Dempsey and Joe Louis. For many this time is looked upon as a lull between two great champions, but it was actually a fascinating period. It was during this time that two of the champions were not from the United States, making it truly a world championship. As that world was slipping into chaos it appeared the Heavyweight Championship was too. Max Schmelling won the title on a foul, the only fighter ever to do so. Gangsters were becoming heavily involved in the game, and there was even a question of whether or not Jack Sharkey threw his fight with Primo Carnera.

It took Joe Louis to bring stability and honor to the sport. While reading Mr. Beston’s chapter on the Louis years one is filled with joy and sadness. Louis was not only arguably the greatest heavyweight of all time, but also one of the most important figures of the 20th Century when it came to unifying the nation and breaking down racial barriers. Louis does not receive the credit he deserves for all he accomplished. He is given his due here. As Mr. Beston writes “Louis was a light in black America’s darkness, and a generation would never forget him for it.” When reading that line I can’t help but think of how Muhammad Ali would later mock the aging champion.

Louis was the first black golfer to play in a PGA event, another wall he broke through. I have to admit I was almost bought to tears reading about Joe’s days after boxing. This man who had done so much for boxing and for his country was hounded for years by the IRS and relegated to being a greeter in LasVegas. Paul Beston gives this great man the respect he earned and deserves.

Mr. Beston brings us Rocky Marciano, the Brockton Blockbuster. Marciano possessed the grit, determination, and sheer will that allowed him to overcome his physical shortcomings to become the only undefeated champion in history. He was also a hero to working class America. Following Rocky, Floyd Patterson’s rise to the throne ushered in a period when boxing appeared to be fading away. Then along came the colorful and handsome Swede Ingemar Johnson who briefly shot some adrenaline into the veins of the sport. We see Sonny Liston, the man whose stare paralyzed opponents and whose lifestyle made him unwanted as champion. Mr. Beston gives us insight into this complicated man who is almost impossible to understand. If boxing were the works of Shakespeare, then Liston would be one of the “problem plays”.

In reading the chapter on Muhammad Ali, the man who certainly saved boxing but at at a cost, I can’t help but think of how different things would have been if Ali had made some other choices. His decision to become part of a radical black separatist movement that preached racial hatred was so at odds with the unifying movement led by Martin Luther King Jr. This charismatic young champion could have done so much to further race relations but chose to take a different path. It is ironic he is looked upon as a great Civil Rights leader when he preached separation of the races. Mr. Beston gives us much insight into Ali’s career, but I think he could have a whole book just on this one subject where he would be able to delve more deeply into this subject.

Paul Beston closes his history with the years following Ali and ends with Lennox Lewis taking over as champion. In these chapters he discusses the bitterness of Larry Holmes and even made me feel some sympathy for Mike Tyson. He gives his thoughts on why the Heavyweight Champion is no longer a recognizable figure.

Paul Beston’s work is truly worthy of the Championship Crown.

I read a lot of books on boxing. There are a number of good ones out there. However, some are well researched but poorly written and not well edited, while others are plain awful. In The Boxing Kings we have the rare book that is well researched, well written, lively, informative, and fully conveys the author’s love for the sport while taking an honest view of it. If books were fighters some would be tomato cans, some journeymen, some contenders, and a very few would be Champions. Paul Beston’s work is truly worthy of the Championship Crown. I highly recommend it.

 

 

Rest In Peace Jake LaMotta

The Bronx Bull Passes At 95

by Bobby Franklin

It has often been observed when someone has lived a long life that they have outlived their friends. Sometimes longevity is measured by how many doctors they have buried. In the case of Jake LaMotta who died last week at the age of 95, he managed to outlive his reputation. If Jake wasn’t, he certainly was very close to being a sociopath. He was a vicious guy who struck fear into all who knew him when growing up. Growing up during the rough years when LaMotta was a kid in New York City was tough. It led a lot of young men to a life of crime. Most were very tough and quick with their fists. But with Jake, he carried it further. For example, when robbing a jeweler he knew, he wasn’t satisfied with just scaring the guy and running off with the goods. No, he also had to nearly beat the man to death with a pipe. He also physically abused his wives. Jake truly seemed to take pleasure in causing physical harm to others. He had a sadistic streak in him. This character trait, if I may call it that, was featured in the Martin Scorsese film The Raging Bull. It is an ugly story about a vicious and cruel man.

The movie made LaMotta a household name again long after his boxing days were over. He never disputed his characterization as depicted in the movie. A few years earlier he had written a book with the same title and in it he didn’t hold back about his life. It isn’t that he was proud of what he had done, but he didn’t exactly appear to be ashamed by it either.

I first met Jake at a boxing writer’s dinner in New York City in 1971. I was a kid but remember the time well. I was seated next to a boyhood friend of LaMotta’s by the name of Toppy who also ended up in the Scorsese movie. He asked me if I would like to meet Jake. Well, of course I would. I was fanatical about boxing at the time and getting to meet one of the great champions was something that was very exciting for me.

Robinson vs LaMotta

Jake was moving about the room and made his way to our table. Toppy introduced us and Jake shook my hand. He was smoking a cigar and had a very aggressive personality. He was telling jokes and enjoying the attention. But, what I remember most was how tense Toppy and the other people at the table became. This was a 49 year old LaMotta. He was still relatively young and still a pretty edgy guy. I found out after he left the table the reason everyone was so tense. They were afraid of saying something that would set the former champ off. They al knew him well and knew how unstable he still was. Years later when I saw the movie Goodfellas the Joe Pesci character Tommy immediately reminded me of the LaMotta I met that night in 1971.

Strangely enough, even after the movie Raging Bull came out, somewhere along the line Jake turned from vicious sociopath into a elder statesman of boxing. I have to admit when I would see him years later wearing his cowboy hat he did look like a lovable character. I guess that can happen if you live long enough.

Vicki and Jake

I am not writing this to speak ill of the dead. I honestly believe Jake would not have a problem with this as he was always honest about who he was. I might also add that Jake was not a bully in the sense Mike Tyson was. Jake was crazy but, unlike bullies in the Tyson mold, he had no quit in him. He could not be intimidated physically. Tyson’s will could be broken, not so for LaMotta. I am not sure if that was guts or insanity, but for anyone in boxing it is a trait that is very much admired.

LaMotta is often underappreciated for his boxing skills. His reputation as a slugger is well deserved, but he was also a brilliant tactician. Contrary to popular belief, Jake did not just walk in with his chin sticking out. He was a master at rolling with punches. If you look closely at many of his fights you may at first think he is absorbing some brutal punches. Look a little closer and you will see how he is moving his head as those punches are landing. This head movement lessens the impact of the blows. Jake likened it to the way a baseball player will pull back his glove when catching a ball in order to better absorb the force of the ball.

Jake was also a master at feinting, parrying, and slipping punches. And, it should be noted, he had an excellent left jab. He showed how effective the jab could be when throw from a crouch. Yes, LaMotta was a true artist in the ring.

He was the top middleweight contender for years before getting a title shot. There are a couple of versions of the story why he didn’t get a shot earlier. They are similar. One has it that Jake wouldn’t play ball with the mob. The other has it that the mob wanted nothing to do with him as he was too crazy. At any rate, they finally did business. The deal was Jake would throw a fight against Billy Fox and then later get a title shot. He did throw the fight but not very convincingly. Nineteen months later he finally got his chance at the title, winning the belt from Marcel Cerdan. Jake was past his prime at this point in his career. He would hold on to the title for less than two years before losing it to his old rival Sugar Ray Robinson. He would fight off and on for just a few more years before retiring.

Jake LaMotta will most likely be remembered fondly by many. He certainly should be remembered as a great fighter and one of the top Middleweight Champions of all time. However, we should not forget that being a champion in the ring does not necessarily make you one out of it.

The Royale Comes Out Swinging

The Royale

At The Merrimack Repertory Theatre, Lowell

Reviewed by Bobby Franklin

The Royal, directed by Megan Sandberg-Zakian, this year’s season opener at the Merrimack Repertory Theatre in Lowell, is a fast paced work that doesn’t let up for a moment during its 80 minutes. Very loosely based on Jack Johnson’s fight against Jim Jeffries it is the story of Jay “The Sport” Jackson who is the first black man to challenge for the Heavyweight Championship of the World.

Toran White and Thomas Silcott. Photo by Meghan Moore.

Jay Jackson is played by Thomas Silcott who brings us into the ring with and into the mind of the confident but conflicted challenger. Playwright Marco Ramirez has given him plenty to work with in this thought provoking play, and Silcott has an amazing presence on the stage. The dialogue is crisp and sharp like an action filled boxing contest. Ramirez not only gives us insight into what a fighter is thinking about while in the ring, but also deals with the wider implications of of having a black man win the white dominated championship in 1910.

Silcott has an amazing presence on the stage.

This conflict is sharpened by a conversation Jackson has with his sister Nina played by Ramona Lisa Alexander. Nina warns Jackson that his victory could result in violence against blacks across the nation, and she suggests subtly that it may be better for everyone if he lost. She feels that things are moving too fast and questions if Jackson is putting his personal gain ahead of his people. It is an intense back and forth that has the power of a hard fought boxing match.

Toran White, Mark W. Soucy, and Thomas Silcott.
Photo by Meghan Moore.

Mark W. Soucy plays the fast talking white promoter Max who also serves as reporter and commentator for the two boxing matches that take place in the play. His sharp dialog keeps the adrenaline flowing. As a ballyhooer he puts Don King to shame. You can feel the excitement build listening to him. He’s good.

George Bennett Watson as Wynton, Jackson’s trainer, and Toran White who plays Fish, Jackson’s opponent in the opening scene as well as his sparring partner for the big fight, are both excellent in their roles which are a bit lower octane but no less important. Wynton has been around the game for some time and seems a bit uncomfortable with the social implications of the fight. Fish is excited to be a part of such a great event but also is naive and is the character who elicits sympathy from the audience. Both actors are strong and very competent in their roles.

Lighting (Karen Perlow) and sound (David Remedios) are used very effectively. A scene where Jackson is hitting the heavy bag while his shadow is cast against the side and back of the stage is very powerful. Mr. Ramirez has said that he sees boxing as a percussive sport and incorporates a hip hop rhythm into the play. Something that works very well.

Ramona Lisa Alexander and Thomas Silcott.
Photo by Meghan Moore.

The fight scenes are different in that instead of having the boxers throw staged punches at each other they face the audience and punch towards them while also using the noise of stomping feet and claps to represent punches. It is a novel and very effective way to stage a fight and the accompanying dialog along with superb lighting allows us to step into the minds of the fighters.

 

The Royale is a boxing play but it is much more. In these heavily politicized times I am always fearful that a playwright will, as they too often do, preach to the audience about how it should think. Mr. Ramirez instead choses to leave us with questions. This is far more effective in helping bring us together to find common ground.

Whether or not you are a boxing fan, The Royale is a play that you should not miss.

The Royale
Through October 8
The Merrimack Repertory Theatre
Lowell, MA
MRT.org 978.654.4678

 

Tony Shucco One Of Boston’s Greatest: He Should Never Be Forgotten

North End Native Defeated Five World Champions

by Bobby Franklin

Tony In His Prime

I remember getting to know Tony Shucco when I was a young amateur boxer training at the New Garden Gym in Boston. He would climb the stairs to the fourth floor of the legendary gym many a day to watch the fighters work out. He was usually quiet, but it was obvious he enjoyed being there. Boxing had been and still was his life.

It is sad that such a great fighter, a man who defeated five world champions including two heavyweight champs, is not better remembered. Tony was among the best boxers to fight out of Boston and deserves to be recognized for that.

Not long ago I spoke with his daughter Angela and she allowed me to look at a box filled with letters, photographs, and news clippings of her father’s career. She is very proud of her father and hopes more people will learn about his career.

Tony Shucco was born June 13, 1911 and grew up in Boston’s North End where he lived most of his life. His original name was Anthony Sciucco, but he changed it to the more easily pronounced Shucco when he began boxing.

The Man About Town

After an outstanding amateur career that consisted of nearly a hundred bouts and numerous championships, Tony moved onto the professional stage with his first bout taking place in 1928. He would remain undefeated for 18 fights before dropping a decision to the great Johnny Indrisano at the Boston Arena. At this time Tony was campaigning as a welterweight but would begin moving up through the weight classes. And, like so many great boxers who start off at lower weights, he retained the speed and skills that are rarely seen in the heavier fellows.

Tony was a brilliant boxer who possessed one of the best left jabs in the business. Though he rarely weighed over 180 pounds he fought many of the leading heavyweights of his day. He defeated Natie Brown, Lee Ramage, Tuffy Griffiths, and two heavyweight champions, Jack Sharkey and James J. Braddock. He also scored wins over champions Maxie Rosenbloom, Bob Olin, and Lou Brouillard.

Tony Shucco was a solid top contender for years and it is unfortunate he never got a shot at a title. He certainly had the credentials for it, but back in those days there were so many outstanding fighters competing you really needed to be connected to get a shot.

Packing For A Fight In Germany

In 1938 Tony traveled to Europe where he had an English representative by the name of Tom Hurst. He was a making a name for himself across the Atlantic with fights in England, Ireland, and Germany. In letters he wrote home he began signing his name “English” Tony Shucco. While there he became close friends with American Flyweight Champion Jackie Jurich who was also represented by Hurst. The clouds of war were starting to gather and it was difficult being separated form his wife Etta and young son Anthony, so Tony returned home. He was immensely popular with the European fans and surely could have built a great reputation on the Continent had he continued fighting there.

Tony Missing His Family

When he returned to the States he dropped a close decision to top rated heavyweight Bob Pastor and then went on a winning streak. It is at this point in Tony’s career where he just couldn’t catch a break. In 1940 Heavyweight Champion Joe Louis agreed to defend his title in Boston. The logical opponent for Joe would have been Tony Shucco who was on a six fight winning streak. Tony was back from Europe, in good shape, and full of confidence. Unfortunately, the title shot was given to Al McCoy who had lost three of his last six fights including two consecutive losses leading up to the Louis fight. I am not sure why McCoy was chosen over Tony, but it should have been Shucco in the ring on that December night.

Jackie Jurich with Tony Shucco

I am not arguing Tony would have beaten Louis as there wasn’t a man on the planet who could have taken Joe back then. But, I will make the case Shucco had the style to give the Brown Bomber some trouble. It is also highly possible Tony could have lasted the distance. It is a shame he did not get the opportunity to fight for boxing’s biggest prize against its greatest champion. I can guarantee you he would have been remembered for that and would have made Boston proud.

It is interesting to note that after the loss to Pastor, Tony continued without a loss until he retired in 1942. In spite of this great record he would never get that elusive shot at the title.

In 1944 Tony embarked on a comeback. He had seven bouts winning three, losing two, with one ending in a draw. He retired for good in 1944.

Boxing’s Elder Statesman

When I got to know Tony he was showing the effects of the punches he took later in his career. I remember being told at the time that his managers, one of whom was a relative that I shall not name, kept him fighting to cash in on his reputation. At this point Tony’s legs were not what they used to be and he was taking punches he easily would have avoided as a younger man. Once again, that dark side of boxing reared its ugly head.

I spent many an afternoon talking with Tony in the New Garden Gym. He aways stressed the importance of the left jab to me. He would say “Kid, keep hitting ‘em with the left, and every once in a while toss in a right so they don’t get bored.” He also stressed to me to always fight fair. He told me “Even if the other guy pulls stuff on you never sink to his level.”

There is a sign at the corner of Bowdoin and Cambridge Streets in Boston that names it “Anthony Sciucco Square”. There are two things wrong with this sign. One, it is a Gold Star sign that is meant to remember a fallen soldier. Two, it should read Anthony “Tony Shucco” Sciucco Square, and have a pair of boxing gloves on it. Maybe some politician will read this and correct that oversight.

Tony Shucco passed away February 26, 1983. It was an honor to know this great man. I know his family is very proud of him. It is time Boston rediscovers him. He was one of its greatest athletes, and a man who always fought fair even though he wasn’t treated that way.

Video: Shucco vs Lydon:

Dempsey vs Sharkey: Protect Yourself At All Times

Did Dempsey Hit Sharkey Low?

by Bobby Franklin

On September 23, 1926 Jack Dempsey lost the Heavyweight Championship of the World to Gene Tunney. Dempsey had been inactive for three years before the bout while Tunney had been racking up wins and staying sharp. After the bout there was a clamor for a rematch, but things were a bit different in those days. Even a former champion had to earn his right to a return title bout.

Dempsey, while champion, had agreed to fight Harry Wills but the fight fell through when the promoters failed to come up with Dempsey’s guarantee. Instead, Dempsey went on to face Tunney. Meanwhile, Boston heavyweight Jack Sharkey was compiling a solid record of wins including beating Harry Wills by disqualification. Though Jack won by a foul because Wills was repeatedly backhanding the him, the outcome was never in doubt as Sharkey had administered a severe beating to Wills before the fight was called in the 13th round. This paved the way for a Dempsey vs Sharkey bout with the winner to face Gene Tunney for the title.

Going into the fight Sharkey had gone unbeaten in his last 13 bouts with wins over such men as George Godfrey, Jimmy Maloney, and Mike McTigue. Sailor Jack was brash, cocky, colorful, and a bit erratic. He was also supremely confident he would beat Dempsey. The oddsmakers agreed with him making Sharkey a 7-5 favorite.

The public was very enthused with this matchup as 82,000 fans showed up at Yankee Stadium on July 21, 1927 to witness the fight. Celebrities were there in abundance including Admiral Richard Byrd, Composer Irving Berlin, Flo Ziegfeld, and theatrical producer David Belasco. The gate was an amazing $1,083,530.00, the largest for a non title fight. Dempsey received $252,759.00 and Sharkey’s share was $208,803.00, huge money for the time.

Both fighters were in great shape, but Sharkey was seven years younger and hungry for a title shot. While Dempsey had showed signs of slowing down he was, well, he was still Jack Dempsey and not one to take lightly. The Manassa Mauler was in there to win.

After receiving instructions from referee Jack O’Sullivan the bout began. Sharkey came out very strong in the first round and had Dempsey hurt almost immediately. Sharkey was fighting beautifully, using a very effective right uppercut and a marvelous jab to keep Dempsey off balance. He continued beating Dempsey to the punch for six rounds and it only appeared to be a question of whether or not Sharkey would win by kayo or decision. It did not look good for the former champ.

Though taking a beating, Dempsey was tenacious. He was also doing a very effective job of going to Sharkey’s body. Jack Dempsey knew he couldn’t stand up straight and trade head shots with Sharkey, so he did what he did best, he fought out of his famous crouched attacking the midsection. While Dempsey was hurting Sharkey with those body shots, he was paying a heavy price having to absorb Sharkey’s uppercut and solid left jab. It is overlooked, but Sharkey had one of the best left jabs in the history of the heavyweight division.

As I have written, it just appeared to be a matter of time until the fight went to Jack Sharkey. However, if you watch closely you can see how the body punches were starting to bother Sharkey. As a matter of fact, he came into the ring wearing his trunks quite high in anticipation of Dempsey banging away to the breadbasket. He could use the high waist line as a way to argue Dempsey’s blows were low and hope the referee would warn him to keep his punches up. Sharkey had won three fights in addition to the Wills fight by disqualification. Was it possible he was using that as an ace in the hole in case things weren’t going well? If he did it certainly backfired on him.

At the bell for the seventh round Dempsey stepped up his attack on Sharkey’s body. If you look closely at the film you can see Sharkey was being bothered by those blows. With about thirty seconds gone in the round Dempsey landed lefts and rights to the body. He landed a right hand to Sharkey’s body that appears to land just about at the belt line. Now remember, Sharkey wore his trunks high so this would be in legal territory. Even if his trunks were worn at normal height the belt line is still fair game.

Here’s my take on this controversial fight; Sharkey was being worn down by Dempsey’s relentless body punching. He had hit the former champ with everything he had and Dempsey just would not slow up. Sharkey had thrown a lot of punches. Combine that with the brutal body punches he absorbed and, even though he was way ahead in the bout, he was wearing down. The final right hand Dempsey landed to the body hurt Sharkey a lot. That’s when Sailor Jack made the fatal mistake of dropping his hands and turning to the referee to complain he had been hit low. The second Dempsey saw that opening he fired off a left hook to the face that floored Sharkey. Referee O’Sullivan counted the Gob out.

Now, that punch may have felt low to Sharkey because it was a brutal shot, but I think Jack had had enough of getting hit to the body and was going to try for the disqualification win. The mistake he made was in complaining to the referee while still on his feet. If he had dropped to the canvas and grabbed his groin he may have gotten somewhere with the complaint. Dropping his hands while within punching range of the great Jack Dempsey was about the dumbest thing he could have done. Sharkey broke the first rule of boxing, “Protect yourself at all times.”

Jack Dempsey would go on to have a rematch wth Gene Tunney in what would turn out to be another controversial fight that became known as The Long Count. Sharkey would also be involved in a controversial fight when he took on Max Schmeling for the title vacated by the retirement of Gene Tunney. In this bout Sharkey would lose by a disqualification when Max claimed to be hit by a low blow. Schmeling was a little smarter than Sharkey as he dropped to the canvas before complaining to the referee. Things may have been different if Jack had one the same with Dempsey.