All posts by Bobby Franklin

Red Burman Was Not Intimidated By Joe Louis

By Bobby Franklin

“I define fear as standing across the ring from Joe Louis and knowing he wants to go home early.” Max Baer

Red Burman And Trainer Eddie Ross

Those words rang true for many who challenged Joe Louis for the Heavyweight Championship. Louis was certainly a champion to be in awe of. He had lethal power in both hands, with blistering combinations and guided missile accuracy. For his challengers, it wasn’t just a matter of being in with a man who repeatedly reinforced his reputation for greatness; it was also a matter of surviving with their senses still in one
piece.

Joe was a machine of destruction in the ring, and that well earned reputation struck even the most professional of fighters with the jitters when the moment came they had to step into the ring to face him. It has been reported that Max Baer, a man whose courage was never questioned, hesitated when the call came to his dressing room that it was
time to fight Louis.

There had been many who had to deal with the Joe Louis Jitters. Some held up okay while others froze up when the bell rang. One man who did not let fear overcome him was Clarence “Red” Burman.

Red Burman was a protege of former champ Jack Dempsey. He was born in Baltimore and fought out of that city for his entire career. Burman began fighting as a professional in 1930. His early fights were in the middleweight division. He gradually put on weight and began competing as a heavyweight in the later 1930s, though he never weighed over 200 pounds.

Throughout the 1930s, he compiled a respectable record. Burman was on a 14-fight winning streak when, in 1936, he took on the great light heavyweight champion John Henry Lewis in a non-title fight. Lewis kayoed Burman in
the second round of a one-sided bout.

Burman came back from that devastating loss and, over the next four years, ran up a record of 27 wins, 3 losses, and 1 draw. It was in 1939 that he began making waves as a serious contender for the world title. In a pair of fights against Tommy Farr he won and lost close decisions. After the loss to Farr, Red went on to win nine in a row. Wins over
Steve Dudas and Tony Musto earned him a shot at Joe Louis.

Red Burman On The Attack Against Louis

The Louis/Burman fight took place on January 31, 1941 at Madison Square Garden. It was not felt Red would be able to put up much of a battle against the Brown Bomber, but he surprised everyone, Louis included. Somehow Burman had not only managed to avoid being intimidated by Louis, but as the UP reported, “The big crowd in Madison Square Garden saw Burman light into Louis like he never heard of him, and continue to fight with everything he had until a final sickening right under the heart sent him down in 2:49 of the fifth round”. (

There is no film of the fight available, but I was able to find a recording of the radio broadcast of the bout. The UP description of the fight is certainly accurate. Joe had his hands full with Burman, who never took a backwards step
during the entire fight.

Louis Finishes Off Burman

Burman who weighed in at 188 pounds to Louis’s 203, looked to be emulating his mentor Jack Dempsey with his all out assault on the champion. He was unable to hurt the champion, but Louis, though landing solid shots to the head
was not able to shake Burman. (Final moments of Red’s fight with Joe Louis)
Going into the fifth round, Burman still appeared fresh though he was cut over the left eye. It was in this round that Louis shifted gears and began attacking the body. A hard right to the pit of the stomach was the beginning of the end. Joe followed this up with a devastating right hand to the heart that finished the job. The reporter at ringside wrote
“It landed over Burman’s heart, and Red crumbled like he had been shot”.

After the fight Louis said “He really came after me. I had to hit him the hardest I ever hit a man”. While Louis was never in danger of being beaten and was not hurt at anytime during the fight, he still had his work cut out for him with the relentless
challenger.

Robert Savon Pious: Joe Louis vs Red Burman

Red Burman was always proud of his effort against Joe Louis, as well he should have been. He gave it his all and then some. He stood up to the punches of the most lethal heavyweight champion in history. Burman was the personification of
courage that night in New York City.

Burman would continue fighting for a little under two more years. He retired in 1942 with a record of 78 wins (33 by knockout), 22 losses, and 3 draws. Later in his life he said “Without Joe giving me a chance at the title, the world would never have heard of me. I’m indebted to him, and in my nightly prayers I never forget to include his name”. That quote is not completely accurate, as Burman’s performance against Louis contributed greatly to the world knowing who he was.

Red Burman died in Baltimore on January 25, 1996 at the age of 80. His legacy lives on in his hometown where they are still proud of the man who took the fight to the Great
Joe Louis.

Max Schmeling Vs Young Stribling

By Bobby Franklin
Stribling And Schmeling

Max Schmeling is best remembered for his two fights with Joe Louis. Both were spectacular bouts. In their first encounter, which took place in 1936, Schmeling, considered past his prime, shocked the world when he kayoed Louis in the 12th round of a scheduled 15-round match. Max fought brilliantly that night, taking advantage of a flaw he saw in Joe’s defense. The two fought again, this time for the world heavyweight championship in 1938. In an event with repercussions beyond boxing, Louis destroyed Schmeling in the first round.

It was in 1930 that Max won the heavyweight crown. The German had arrived in the United States two years earlier and had become popular with the fans on this side of the ocean. His physical resemblance to Jack Dempsey was played up, and he was frequently seen in public with the Manassa Mauler.

After his arrival, Max ran off five straight wins from 1928 through 1929, including a decision over Paolino Uzcudun and a knockout victory of Johnny Risko. The Risko bout was named Fight of the Year by Ring Magazine.

It was at this time heavyweight champ Gene Tunney decided to retire from the ring. Schmeling and Jack Sharkey were picked to fight for the vacant title. Schmeling’s victories had earned him a shot, and Jack Sharkey’s recent decision win over Young Stripling put him into the other corner.

The fight took place on June 12, 1930 before a crowd of nearly 80,000 at Yankee Stadium. In the 4th round, Sharkey hit Schmeling with a low blow. Max sank to the canvas while his manager jumped into the ring yelling foul. The fight was awarded to the German. This was the only time in boxing history that a boxer won the heavyweight championship while on the canvas.

There were cries for a rematch, but Max had other ideas. He wanted to defend the title against another challenger first. No, he wasn’t looking for a soft touch, and this was proven when he agreed to take on Young Stribling.

Young Stribling

Since his loss to Sharkey in 1929, Stribling had fought 26 times, losing only twice, with both losses by disqualification. At the time of the Schmeling match, Stribling had a total of 267 fights with only 13 losses and 17 draws. 121 of those wins came via knockout. In that time, he had never been stopped, a remarkable feat.

The Schmeling/Stribling bout was scheduled for July 3, 1931 at Municipal Stadium, Cleveland, Ohio. A crowd of 35,000 attended, contributing a gate of $349,000. What they witnessed was a great contest between two boxer/punchers.

The fight was exciting and interesting. In the early rounds, it was close, but as it wore on, Max started pulling ahead. The champion was the aggressor and would work his way in behind a left jab, setting up his powerful right hand. Stribling also employed a sharp left hand, and the two exchanged left jabs on numerous occasions.

Young Stribling (left) And Max Schmeling

It is interesting to watch just how much Schmeling used his left hand in the fight. He became known for his lethal right hand, which certainly was one of the best ever seen, but Max was no one-handed fighter. In fact, he was a brilliant scientific boxer who calculated his every move using both hands.

In the fifteenth round, with the champion on his way to winning the decision and with just seconds remaining in the fight, Max landed a vicious right that put Stribling down for the count. Somehow, the challenger was able to drag himself to his feet but could hardly stand up. The referee wisely called a halt to the fight.

The Stribling/Schmeling fight is an overlooked bout in Max’s career. It is a terrific fight to watch as you get to see two fighters with dynamite in their fists box smartly, employing
ring savvy in trying to outfox one another.

Schmeling Stands Over Stripling In The 15th Round

Schmeling demonstrated that being a great puncher consists not only in having power, but in developing a delivery system for that force. Max did not waste motion or energy by just throwing lots of bombs, hoping for the best. He sized his opponent up, measured him, played physical chess, and then took advantage of the opportunity when it arose.

In a career that consisted of 253 fights, Stribling was only stopped once, and Max Schmeling was the man who did it. This was no fluke either. The punch that ended the fight was not a lucky shot. It was a perfectly executed right hand that did the job.
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Max Schmeling is rarely, if ever, mentioned in a discussion of the greatest heavyweight champions of all time, but he should be. Nat Fleischer, the publisher of Ring Magazine, ranked him 7th out of 10 in his best-of-all-time list in 1971.

Max would have been a handful for any of the champs in history, particularly those with a vulnerability to a right hand. He was deceptively fast and a superb ring mechanic. It is time for Max Schmeling to be reevaluated. A good place to start is with his fight against Young Stribling.

Dempsey Vs Firpo 100 Years Later: Was It Really A Legendary Fight?

By Bobby Franklin

Dempsey Vs Firpo By George Bellows

On September 14, 1923 Jack Dempsey and Luis Angel Firpo stepped into the ring at the Polos Grounds in New York. What happened in the first round turned a one sided fight into the stuff of legend.

The previous July, Jack Dempsey had defended his title against Tommy Gibbons via a 15 round unanimous decision. The fight, held in Shelby, Montana became better known for bankrupting the town than it did for being an exciting fight. 

Since winning the title from Jess Willard in 1919, Dempsey had defended the title four times. He was fighting once or twice a year, which was fairly active for a heavyweight champion in that era. After Willard won the title from Jack Johnson in 1915, he only fought one time before facing Dempsey. 

In addition to beating Gibbons, Dempsey also defeated  Billy Miske (KO in 3 rounds), Bill Brennan (KO in 12 rounds), and Georges Carpentier (KO in 4 rounds). The Miske  and Brennan fights were financial flops, while the Carpentier fight drew the first million dollar gate. The fact was, Dempsey was not a big draw as champion. The fight against Carpentier drew a large crowd because the French Champion was promoted for his heroism during the Great War. This was contrasted with all of the negative publicity Dempsey had received when it was reported he avoided being drafted. The majority of people came to see Jack get beaten. 

During this time, Jess Willard was on the comeback trail. He was itching for a rematch with Dempsey. He believed there had been some monkey business with Jack’s gloves in their fight in Toledo, and he wanted to prove he was the better man. Jess was also still a huge draw,

In May of 1923, Willard took on Floyd Johnson in Yankee Stadium. The fight drew 65,000 spectators. Contrast this with the 13,000 who showed up for the Dempsey/Brennan fight or the approximately 11,000 who attended the Dempsey/Miske bout. It was clear Jack needed am opponent  who could draw if he wanted to make big money.

Firpo Landing A Right On Jess Willard

On July 12, 1923, Jess Willard took on Luis Angel Firpo of Argentina at Boyles Thirty Acres, the same site where Dempsey fought Carpentier. Billed as the Battle of the Giants, this fight actually drew a larger crowd than the Dempsey fight. The winner was to get a shot at the Heavyweight Championship. In front of 100,000 fans, Firpo stopped Willard in the 8th round.

While a Willard vs Dempsey rematch certainly would have been a huge attraction, Firpo now became quite an attraction himself with his display of raw punching power against Willard. Thus, promoter Tex Rickard had a drawing card to match against Dempsey.

Going into the fight with Dempsey, Firpo had fought 28 times losing just twice. He hadn’t lost a match in four years and had scored 22 knockouts. He was crude yet powerful with a devastating right hand. His free swinging style earned him the name Wild Bull Of The Pampas which was also a reference to his home of Argentina.

1923 was a busy year for Firpo. He fought eight times leading up to the Dempsey fight in September. Among his victims were Bill Brennan and Charley Weinert, both of whom he kayoed. 

Firpo And Dempsey

The Dempsey matchup against Firpo proved to be a fight the public wanted to see. 80,000 fans jammed the Polo Grounds on the night of September 14 to see the two fierce punchers go at it. They were not disappointed, though the match might not have become legend if something unusual hadn’t happened in the first round.

The champion weighed 192 pounds while Firpo tipped the scales at 216 pounds. Luis was also taller at 6′ 2½″ to Jack at 6’ 1”, and the size difference showed when the two men met mid ring for the preflight instructions. 

At the bell, Dempsey came out with fire in his eyes. It was clear he was looking to make an early night of it. In the first few seconds of the fight, In his haste to get to the challenger, Jack actually slipped to the canvas briefly. With under a minute gone Dempsey had decked Firpo four times. With the fourth knockdown it looked like the fight was over as the Argentinian was slow to arise, just beating the count. He was dropped again almost immediately. This was turning into a one sided match. 

Firpo was throwing haymaker rights hoping to connect. Dempsey was staying low and focusing on the body where he was doing serious damage to the challenger. After being down for the fifth time, Firpo went for broke throwing punch after punch while hurling himself forward. One of these punches grazed Jack and caused him to drop to a knee for less than a one count. Could Firpo get lucky?

Dempsey kept pounding the body and dropped Firpo again with a right hand and then a seventh time. The end appeared near. By now Firpo was throwing right hands almost exclusively. Big, strong and powerful, he remained dangerous.

Firpo Knocks Dempsey Out Of The Ring

It was at this point the fight turned from Pier Six Brawl to something else. Firpo was lunging at Dempsey throwing those rights. He backed Jack against the ropes where he caught the champion with a good right hand to the jaw. He followed this up with another right to the side of the face that was more of a push. This was enough to cause Dempsey to fall through the ropes and out of the ring. 

The crowd, which had been on its feet since the first knock down was going wild. Dempsey was back in the ring by the count of nine and the fight resumed. Firpo was going wild now and was all over the champion, but could not hurt Jack again. 

At the bell for the second round Dempsey was not wasting any time. He dropped Firpo for the eighth time, and then finished him off with a left and a right to the chin. The fight was over at 57 seconds of the round. 

Dempsey Stands Over Firpo

There was and still is controversy over the fight. When Jack was knocked out of the ring, the rules state he had to return under his own power. It has long been argued whether or not the sportswriters at ringside assisted him with getting back through the ropes. The referee, Johnny Gallagher was criticized by some for not disqualifying the champion. He was also called to task for not keeping Dempsey away from Firpo when the challenger was on the canvas. While there was no neutral corner rule at the time, the referee was supposed to prevent the fighter from scoring the knockdown from standing directly over his floored opponent. Gallagher was suspended from the sport after an investigation and never refereed again. In 1930 he was found dead in a New York City hotel room. The official cause of death was liver failure due to alcoholism. Many believed he committed suicide.

As for the fight. If you take out the moment Dempsey was knocked out of the ring and the controversy surrounding his getting back in, the fight would be looked back on as an exciting but one sided affair. It’s doubtful it would have become the thing of legend. For a century now the fight has stirred excitement in the hearts of boxing enthusiasts. It has been mentioned in movies and was the subject of a famous 1924 painting by George Bellows titled “Dempsey and Firpo”, but popularly known as “Dempsey Through The Ropes”.

Jack Dempsey would not fight again for three years, losing the title to Gene Tunney in 1926. Luis Firpo retired in 1926 but made a comeback ten years later. His last fight was a loss by stoppage to Arturo Godoy in 1936.

In his fight with Dempsey, Firpo was dropped nine times in less than four minutes. The fight was almost as one sided as the Dempsey/Willard fight, and in fact, Jess was still standing at the end of that fight while Luis was counted out against Jack. However, The Wild Bull did something Willard never came close to; he not only decked Jack, he knock him clear out of the ring. This eclipsed what was otherwise a very one sided fight. Firpo was always dangerous in there, but he did not have the skill to defeat Dempsey.

While the fight can be broken down and analyzed, it is better remembered for the emotional thrill it has given fight fans. The line from “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” seems appropriate here:”When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” I can go along with that!

Rest In Peace Roy Harris

Heavyweight From Cut And Shoot Texas

Challenged For Heavyweight Title

Roy Harris

By Bobby Franklin

Roy Harris, who in 1958 fought for the Heavyweight Title, passed away on August 8th. He was 90 years old. He died peacefully at his home in Cut and Shoot, Texas surrounded by his children and large family. Mr. Harris was born in Cut and Shoot on June 29, 1933, and he lived his entire life there.

When Roy was eight years old, his bother Tobe traded a couple of wild ducks for a pair of boxing gloves. Their father gave the boys boxing lessons. This was the start of the long road that led to Roy getting a shot at the Heavyweight Championship of the World.

Roy and his brothers would spend their free time sparring in a makeshift ring. Eventually, Harris would move on to an amateur boxing career where he won four consecutive Texas State Golden Glove Championships. He then turned pro in order to earn money for college tuition. 

Young Roy Getting Pointers From His Father

In the professional ring, Harris reeled off 23 consecutive wins. With victories over Charley Norkus,  Bob Baker, Willie Pastrano, and Willi Besmanoff, Roy was deemed worthy of a shot at champion Floyd Patterson. The fight took place on August 18, 1958 at Wrigley Field in Los Angeles, California.

The gate of 21,680 fans set an attendance record at the time for the state of California. In addition to the live gate, another 200,000 people watched the fight on closed circuit television. The fight also put the town of Cut and Shoot in the spotlight as reporters descended on the challenger’s hometown.

The fight didn’t disappoint when it came to action. Though the people in Roy’s hometown were disappointed he wasn’t able to bring the title belt home, they were and remain proud of the battle he put up. 

Floyd Patterson And Roy Harris At Weigh In

In the second round Harris landed a solid uppercut on the Champion’s chin that dropped Patterson. When Floyd got up he was hit with a left hook that he later admitted “dizzied” him.

As the fight entered the seventh round, Patterson began to hit his stride and dropped Harris. In the eight round he floored the challenger two more times, and in the twelfth round floored the very game Harris one more time.

Roy was willing to come out for the next round, but his trainer Bill Gore stopped the fight before the bell rang. It was the right thing to do. The man from Cut and Shoot had given it his all but Patterson was just too much for him. 

Harris would continue fighting hoping to earn another shot at the crown. He added some impressive wins to his record including victories over Charlie Powell, Joe Bygraves, and Alejandro Lavorante. While not getting another title bout, he was matched with the number one contender. Unfortunately, that meant stepping in the ring with Sonny Liston. Liston was at his deadly prime at this point. Patterson was avoiding him and the future champ was mowing down the top contenders.

Roy Teaching Fourth Graders

Outweighed by eighteen pounds, Harris took the fight to Sonny. He just did not have the fire power to hang in there with the ferocious Liston, and was dropped three times in the first round. The fight was stopped because of the three knockdown rule which automatically meant the bout was over. 

Roy had three more fights before retiring in 1961. His professional record is 30 wins and 5 losses. Most importantly, he quit boxing with his faculties fully intact.

While his boxing career may have been over, he was just beginning his life’s work which included becoming a school teacher and then a lawyer. While in college Harris also was in the ROTC and earned the rank of Captain in the Army.

On top of his teaching, military, and law careers, Roy was also elected Montgomery County Clerk, a position he served in for twenty-eight years. He was always there for his friends and family. Anyone in need knew they could count on Cut and Shoot Roy.

Roy Gets A Good Luck Kiss From Wife Gloria

On September 24, 1955 Roy married the love of his life, Gloria Jean Groce. Together they raised six children. He never completely recovered from the loss of Gloria Jean who passed away in 2008. He loved her deeply. His family has always remained close and have lived by the values Roy instilled in them.

He remained active in the community for the rest of his life. Helping neighbors, supporting family members, and even taking time to give boxing lessons at the local gym. 

Also known as “The Battler From The Backwoods”, Roy Harris was the epitome of what a real man is. He was a soft spoken Southern Gentleman, handsome and physically imposing. While all business in the ring, he was a kind and gentle man when not wearing the gloves. He devoted his life to helping others, never left where he came from both physically and in the values he lived by.

Roy Enjoying A Full Life

Boxing fans mostly know Roy Harris by his losses to Patterson and Liston. He should also be remembered for his many victories in the ring, but mostly for the exemplary life he lived. His family and the people of Cut and Shoot, Texas will never forget his grace and goodness. He may not have won the Heavyweight Title, but the Championship he possessed was much bigger than that. Roy Harris was a true Champion and the best of role models in the way he lived his life. The world would be a better place if there were more people like him in it.

Nature Vs Nurture: Looking At Ali And Marciano

By Bobby Franklin

Boxing has been called physical chess. Gene Tunney once described the sport as “The art of thinking expressed in action”. In fact, in spite of its primitive nature, boxing was the most cerebral of competitions. While the basics of the sport went back to Cain and Abel, the science developed over the centuries. Prizefighting became an art form, albeit a brutal one. When matches were made, fans didn’t just discuss the size and strength of the men involved, they also argued over whose style would prevail. In the simplest of terms there were those who favored sluggers and those who favored “boxers”, but it was more nuanced than that.

It is easy to put fighters into an either or category. Muhammad Ali would be called a boxer by many while Rocky Marciano would be placed in the slugger file. However, it’s not all that simple. While Ali had great speed and reflexes, when those physical attributes declined later in his career he ended up on the receiving end of some serious punishment. An example would be his fight with Earnie Shavers, a bout in which he took some horrific punches; hardly the performance of a “boxer”.

Rocky Marciano would be put into the slugger slot by many fans. This does not do credit to the very great technical skills he had. Did Rocky ever take the type of brain rattling shots in a fight that Ali did when he fought Shavers? I think the answer is clearly no. On a technical level, Marciano had better defensive skills than Ali.

Now I know many will be shaking their heads at that statement, but bear with me. In Ali’s earlier career he possessed amazing physical skills. They could be called phenomenal. He had an uncanny sense for anticipating punches, something he called his “internal radar”. Along with this sense he had the amazing speed to react to what his radar signaled him. As he aged he started to lose that ability to react. Once he slowed down he started getting hit more. In truth, he had never acquired the technical skills to mount a great defense as he slowed down. He started winning fights on guts and willpower. He got hit with a tremendous amount of punches in the second half of his career. This was what caused him to end up in such terrible condition toward the end of his fighting days. This worsened after his retirement. He actually ended up in worse shape than any other heavyweight champion.

Why did this happen? It was because Ali became a victim of his own natural talents. He never learned the fine points of the art of boxing. He didn’t need to when he was young. He did so many things wrong, but never paid a price for these mistakes because he was so fast. Once the speed left him he had no skill set to fall back on other than his ability to absorb punishment and his improvisational moves.

Now let’s look at the slugger, a man whose natural abilities were not the greatest fit for boxing, but when schooled properly he was able to take what he had and become an unstoppable force in the ring. He also used the schooling he received to become a difficult target for damaging punches.

Rocky Marciano was not the usual model for becoming successful as a heavyweight fighter. He wasn’t as tall as the average competitor, he had short arms, weighed under 190 pounds, and came to boxing later than most (his first wish was to be a professional baseball player).

When the great trainer Charley Goldman was initially asked to school the young prospect from Brockton, he didn’t have much hope for turning him into a top boxer, but once he got to know Rocky he could see there was something special in this man.

Marciano though clumsy, possessed amazing strength, stamina, willpower, self- discipline, and an extraordinarily hard punch. Goldman was able to work with him to develop a style that played on Marciano’s plusses and compensated for his weaknesses.

Over time the Rock became one of the greatest heavyweight champions of all time. Goldman schooled him well, but the style Marciano used would not have worked for a man that didn’t possess his unusual physical attributes. He became a cagey yet brutal force in the ring. It wasn’t just his powerful punch but also his ability to throw one blow after another with all the force of his body behind it while moving forward. Yes, he had skill, but he also had the endurance to be as strong in the later rounds as he was in the early rounds; in fact, he actually got stronger as his fights progressed; just ask Archie Moore.

Some fighters are called “naturals.” They are the ones that show tremendous talent from the moment they first step into the ring. This talent is the type that is not taught; it is rather a combination of great physical ability and good instincts. Ali possessed both of these traits. Marciano, while very powerful, was not blessed with great moves right out of the box. His had to be developed.

What Charley Goldman did with Rocky was to come up with moves that would take his strengths and build on them while compensating for his shortcomings. It took time and a lot of dedication, and hard work to mold the diamond in the rough from Brockton into the great champion he became. Ali, on the other hand, had so many natural moves that Angelo Dundee pretty much let him ad lib his development. This is not to say he did not give Ali instruction, but this advice came more as suggestions rather than schooling. This method worked as long as Ali had possession of his amazing physical gifts, but he paid a huge price for having not learned to supplement that gift with a schooling in the Art of Boxing.

In Ali’s career you can see an arc in his skills. That arc follows the changes in his athleticism and the decline that ensued as his physical abilities waned. With Marciano, the trajectory you see shows continual progress. He was always learning, always listening, and aways improving.

With both men, their physical strengths played a major role in their greatness. But with one, Ali, he almost exclusively depended on his natural gift, while the other, Marciano, nurtured the strong points he had. So when comparing the two I would say nurture was the better path than nature.Rocky Marciano retired in 1955 at the age of 32 after his 49th fight, and until his death in 1969 he was clear headed and showed no signs of damage from his career. Of course, because of his unfortunate death at the age of 45 there is no telling how he would have fared as he got older. But we do know when he walked away from the sport he was fine.

Ali retired in 1981 after his 61st fight. He was 39 years old and had already been showing signs of brain damage for a number of years. He not only stayed in the game too long, he took terrible punishment in those later years. Much of this is attributable to the fact he never learned good defensive skills. Those would be the kind of skills men like Archie Moore and Harold Johnson possessed that allowed them to fight for many years without ending up badly damaged. If Ali had at least some of the skills these men possessed he very well would have been able to avoid the awful shots he took from Earnie Shavers and others.

Just imagine how great Muhammad Ali would have been had he allowed himself to be schooled in the finer points of the art. If he had, he may have walked away with his faculties intact as Marciano did, rather than becoming the poster boy for boxing head injuries.

 

John Henry Lewis: Forgotten Great

By Bobby Franklin

John Henry Lewis

It has long been talked about how many great fighters never got a chance at a title. Many agree that if people like Charlie Burley and Holman Williams got the breaks they deserved in boxing, history might very well be different. For many years the fighters who became known as The Black Murderers’ Row lived in obscurity. However, in recent years they have been receiving their due. Thanks to the work of writers like Springs Toledo whose epic book Murderers’ Row: In Search Of Boxing’s Greatest Outcasts did so much to educate the public about these forgotten men, their names are now much more familiar to the boxing public.

It’s interesting to note that it is not only those who never got a shot at the top who have been forgotten, but there are also great fighters who did win and defended titles that have faded from memory. One reason for this is there were so many great fighters back in the 1920s and 1930s that some overshadowed others. Benny Leonard, Joe Louis, Barney Ross, and a host of others gained legendary status and have become almost immortalized, with countless articles and a number of books written about them. They deserve all the praise they get. Others have slipped from view though.

Joe Louis And John Henry Lewis

One of these was Light Heavyweight Champion John Henry Lewis. Up until recently I wasn’t able to find many photographs of the former champ. While I was familiar with his name it was mostly for the same reason most people would have heard of him; He was kayoed in one round when he challenged Joe Louis for the Heavyweight Title. It was John Henry’s last fight and he was almost blind in one eye. The story goes that Joe Louis gave him a shot as the two were friends and he wanted him to have one big payday before the boxing commissions took his license from him. It has also been said that Joe the Champ dispatched him early to spare him taking too many punches. In fact, John Henry was quoted later saying  “…that was really the easiest fight I was ever in. I went to sleep early and easy.”

The loss to the great Joe Louis should not define John Henry’s career. While no footage exists of his fights, except for a 15-second clip of the Louis fight, Lewis certainly deserves to be mentioned when the greatest light heavyweights of all time are discussed. The International Boxing Research Organization (IBRO) listed John Henry as the 15th greatest light-heavyweight in their All-Time Ratings on December 31, 2019.

Lewis had a total of 117 fights of which he won 101 with 57 by knockout. He lost 11 times and Joe Louis was the only man to stop him. He also had five draws. On the way up he fought Light Heavyweight Champion Maxie Rosenbloom five times, winning two and losing three. In their third fight Lewis dropped Rosenbloom five times. That was something that did not happen to Maxie. It is interesting to note what Lewis said about his bouts with Rosenbloom: “Maxie and I fought five times, and each time I learned something new. He was the craziest and trickiest fighter you ever saw. Of course I had learnt a lot from my father and those old time fighters, but fighting with Maxie was like going to college.”

In the era in which John Henry fought, it was no shame to lose a fight. The important thing was to learn from your losses, and having fifty rounds with Maxie Rosenbloom truly was like going for a Phd in boxing. The things he picked up in those fights are what contributed to him becoming a great champion.

Lewis’s father had also been a fighter and owned a boxing gym in their hometown of Phoenix. Arizona. It was there at an early age that John Henry and his brother got to meet old-timers like Sam Langford and Eddie Anderson. He said “…they taught us some tricks like jabbing and footwork.” That knowledge stayed with him and was instrumental in him later developing into a savvy and complete boxer.

John Henry was close to his father who not only taught him boxing but instilled in him the importance of dressing and behaving like a gentleman. Looking at a photo of the two of them together you can tell these are two classy gents. Lewis retained his gentlemanly demeanor even when he was signed to fight Two Ton Tony Galento, a fighter not known for being careful with his words. When Tony pulled out of the match due to having contracted pneumonia, a disappointed Lewis visited him in the hospital. The fight was never rescheduled.

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John Edward Lewis’ philosophy on life was summed up succinctly in the aftermath of the Louis-Lewis fight when Joe Louis went to John Henry’s dressing room and spoke to him and his dad. John Henry’s dad stared in awe at Joe and then said. “You are a great man, Joe. I’m honored to shake your hand.” Louis blushed, “I’m sorry what happened to John, but we both made some money, and after all, that’s what counts in the long run.” “No,” John Henry’s father broke in. “Money isn’t what counts in the long run, as you will learn when you are as old as I am. Human dignity and mutual respect for your fellow man count in the long run. Remember that, both of you, victor and vanquished.” And both men did remember that – the record proves it.

Jock McAvoy And John Henry Lewis

Lewis won the Light Heavyweight title from Bob Olin on October 31, 1935 by decision in an exciting fifteen round battle. From then until his final fight in 1939 against Joe Louis, John Henry fought 59 times in a combination of title defenses and non-title fights against light heavyweights and heavyweights. He lost only five times including the loss to Louis. One loss was a controversial decision to heavyweight Al Ettore whom he defeated in two subsequent bouts. He also beat Johnny Risko, Elmer Ray, Jimmy Adamick, Al Gainer, Jock McAvoy, Len Harvey, and Patsy Peroni. Before winning the title he defeated Red Burman, Tiger Jack Fox, future heavyweight champ Jimmy Braddock, and Tony Shucco. His career of 117 fights took place over ten years in an era that was extremely rich with talent. Lewis still wanted to fight despite having lost the vision in his left eye which was the reason the commissions pulled his license; a wise decision. He was only 25 years old. (Jock McAvoy and John Henry)

Upon retirement he became a liquor salesman. Having started boxing professionally at the age of 14 he managed to put together a spectacular career and leave the game while still a young man.

John Henry Lewis died in 1974 at the age of 59. He was suffering from emphysema and Parkinson’s disease. It is believed he was a descendent of Tom Molineaux the great bare knuckle boxer. It is sad that this great fighter and soft spoken gentleman has been all but forgotten. Perhaps if he didn’t have to retire so young things may have been different. When you hear the name John Henry Lewis, resist the urge to immediately think of his fight with Joe Louis. Rather, take some time to look at his record and learn more about his outstanding career.

Carter Vs Griffith: Spectacular First Round Kayo But Was It Within The Rules

By Bobby Franklin

Emile Griffith

On December 20, 1963 Emile Griffith and Ruben Hurricane Carter stepped into the ring to face each other at the Civic Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Griffith was the reigning welterweight champion who was  campaigning as a middleweight seeking a title shot. Carter was ranked number two in the middleweight division. A win by either man would be a big step towards getting a shot at champion Joey Giardello.

At the time of the fight Griffith had won seven out of nine against middleweights including wins over Denny Moyer, Yama Bahama, Don Fullmer, and Holly Mims.

Carter had twenty-one fights at this point in his career with four losses and seventeen wins. He had scored 11 kayos including a one round devastation of Florentino Fernandez. In his last fight before facing Griffith he lost a very close split decision to Joey Archer.

The fight in Pittsburgh didn’t last long and the ending was quite a surprise. After Griffith had been dropped to the canvas twice in the first round referee Buck McTiernan stopped the contest and raised Carter’s hand. The stoppage was a good call as Emile was clearly unsteady and could have been seriously hurt had the fight continued.

I have watched the Griffith/Carter fight over and over again as it was a shock to see Emile Griffith taken out so fast. It has to be remembered that on top of having not been stopped previous to this match, he also went to the end of his career with only one other kayo loss. That happened in 1971 against middleweight champion Carlos Monzon. Griffith had not been off his feet in that fight, but rather was stopped when he was caught in a corner and unable to respond to Monzon’s barrage of punches. In a career consisting of 112 fights, Monzon and Carter were the only two men to defeat Griffith via a stoppage. 

Rubin Hurricane Carter

I have always believed the kayo by Carter was a fluke and that if the two had met a dozen times it would never happen again. So, how did Carter do it. Well, his devastating left hook was, of course, the major factor. Rubin could hit and hit hard. He was a good boxer, but did have flaws. Those flaws, such as throwing his punches a bit too wide should have enabled Emile to avoid getting tagged so seriously. Emile was a master boxer/puncher. Of course, no matter how good a fighter is, if he gets caught with a punch from the likes of a Hurricane Carter it can be lights out.

Recently, I was talking with Mike Silver boxing historian and author of The Arc Of Boxing about this fight. Mike pointed out something very interesting  that might explain how Carter was able to land the left hook that put Griffith down for his first trip to the canvas, a punch he never recovered from. I rewatched the bout after my conversation with Mike and I believe he is onto something.

Here’s what happened in the fight. Griffith weighed 151 1/2 pounds while Carter came in at 157. Griffith was above his welterweight fighting weight while Carter was around his usual poundage.

Before the fight started the referee called the two men to the center of the ring for a final few words on the rules. Among his instructions were “I insist on a clean break”. When you watch the fight remember those words.

At the bell, the men came out of their corners and the action was lively. They traded quite a bit of leather over the first minute with each giving as good as he got. In the first clinch of the fight referee McTiernan called for the men to break, and they both stepped back, obeying his instruction, before resuming boxing. 

A short while later the two again were exchanging punches with Carter landing a good left hook to the midsection of Griffith. a couple of seconds later they fell into another clinch. This is where Mike Silver’s shrewd observation comes into play. As with the first clinch, the referee calls for the men to break. Griffith steps back, but Carter, instead of stepping back, immediately jumps in with the left hook that floors Griffith. It is a powerful shot landing on Emile’s chin. 

Griffith hit the canvas and got onto his knees while taking a nine count. When he arose he was wobbly and was dropped again. It was at this point the referee stopped the bout. It was all over at 2:13 of the first round. 

Griffith On The Ropes Against Carter

Mike Silver makes the point that the blow landed by Carter was thrown and landed on the break when, by the rules, he should have stepped back before starting to fight again. I have watched this over and over and agree with Mike. It was basically a sucker punch and illegal. Did Carter do it on purpose? I think he did. Should he have been disqualified for it. Well, that’s a tough question to answer as it happened so quickly the fans would have certainly been in an uproar as most wouldn’t have seen what took place. Also, the old adage that a fighter must protect himself at all times would have been cited. But that adage doesn’t apply to illegal blows that occur when the referee’s instructions are not obeyed. 

Remember, just a few months earlier Carter had lost a close decision to the very slick boxing Joey Archer. In that fight he was not able to land a knock blow on the elusive Archer. Ruben might have gotten it into his head that he had to pounce at any opportunity to get in a power shot on a smooth boxer such as Griffith, and not leave it up to the judges as happened with Archer. He saw his chance when the fighters broke from their first clinch. The referee did not step between them as some do, but rather trusted them to break cleanly on their own. The second clinch is where Carter took advantage of this chance to play by his own rules. 

The two never fought again, but I am sure if they did Emile would have been very careful coming out of the clinches. The fight was a major win for Carter and led to him getting a shot at the crown a year later. In his title challenge he lost a fifteen round unanimous decision to Joey Giardello. Ruben put up a great fight and bruised the champion but could not land the power shot to end the fight. 

Take a look at the Griffith vs Carter on Youtube. You have to watch closely, but if you do I believe you will see what I’m talking about. After the clinch before the knockdown you will see Carter pounce right on Emile without having stepped back as he was supposed to do. He did not break cleanly and that is how he scored the knockout. He never stepped back, and that is how he landed the punch that won him the fight. 

Jimmy Young: The Most Underrated Heavyweight Of The 1970s

By Bobby Franklin

Jimmy Young

The 1970s are remembered as one of the most exciting eras in heavyweight boxing history. Earnie Shavers, George Foreman, and Ron Lyle all had explosive power. While some credit Foreman as an all-time great based on his brutal knockout of Joe Frazier,his fight with Lyle is often called one of the best heavyweight bouts that ever took place. It was an exciting fight, with both boxers tasting the canvas before Big George scored a knockout over Ron.

Earnie Shavers’s reputation rests on his one-round kayos of Ken Norton and Jimmy Ellis and even more so on two fights he lost. Those losses were his fifteen-round fight with Ali, where he rocked the aging champ time and again, and his second fight with Larry Holmes for the world title. Before Larry was champ, he had lost a one-sided decision to Holmes in 1978. His win over Norton landed him a shot at Champion Holmes in 1979.

Their second fight appeared to be a repeat of their first encounter until the 7th round when Earnie hit Holmes with a devastating right hand that put the champion down flat on his back. Holmes survived the round and went on to stop Shavers in the 11th round. Larry won every round other than the 7th.

The fights I mentioned above are all still widely discussed and repeatedly viewed on YouTube. There is nothing like the big punchers to get a fight fan’s adrenalin pumping. However, being a big puncher by itself does not make someone a great fighter. There is more to boxing than just having power. This is proven by another contender from the 1970s who has slipped from view as time has passed; Jimmy Young.

Young On The Offensive Against Ali

Jimmy Young was a savvy boxer out of Philadelphia who became well known when he challenged Muhammad Ali for the title in 1976 in a nationally televised fight. He wasn’t given much of a chance against the champion but surprised the public when he gave Ali more than he could handle over 15 rounds, losing a hotly contested decision.

Most people don’t recall that Young took on both Lyle and Shavers before facing Ali. In 1973 Young was stopped in three rounds by Earnie, but the two fought again a year later, with the bout being ruled a draw even though just about everyone but the judges saw it as a clear victory for Young.

Young Forces The Action Against Lyle

Two months later, Jimmy stepped into the ring as an underdog against Ron Lyle. After ten rounds, Young was given a one-sided decision, having easily outboxed Lyle. The two would fight again in 1976, with Young once again clearly defeating Lyle.

It should be remembered that both Lyle and Shavers fought Young before they faced Ali, so they were far from washed up and were able to give The Greatest a couple of his toughest fights. Nevertheless, Young certainly fared better and took less punishment from these big punchers than Ali did.

And let’s not forget Jimmy Young’s fight against the man who was not only rated the hardest puncher of the 1970s and, by many, the hardest puncher of all time, George Foreman.

Big George appeared unbeatable after his destruction of Joe Frazier in 1973. He followed this up with a one-round kayo of Joe Roman and a second-round demolition of Ken Norton in 1974. He then lost the title to Ali later that year. While the loss tarnished his reputation, he was still looked upon as a feared puncher, and his bout against Ron Lyle in 1976 saw the fireworks fly between the two power punchers.

Young Decks Foreman

Foreman would continue on with a second knockout win over Joe Frazier and kayos over Scott LeDoux, John Dennis, and Pedro Agosto before facing Jimmy Young in 1977 in a fight in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Once again, the light-punching Young was given very little chance of beating the big guns, and once again, Jimmy proved his critics wrong. Jimmy out-boxed Big George and dropped the former champion in the final round of the fight. The win was decisive enough that Foreman retired after it.

Ali Vs Young

So, here we have the man considered to be the lightest punching heavyweight of the 70s with three wins and a draw that he deserved to win against the biggest punchers of the era. Throw in the fact that he lost a hotly disputed decision to Ken Norton as well as the contested loss to Ali, and you are looking at a fighter with arguably the best record against the top fighters of the 1970s and certainly against the big punchers. Remember, Lyle was kayoed by Foreman, Shavers was kayoed by Lyle, Foreman kayoed Norton, and Ali kayoed Foreman. Young, with the exception of his first loss to Shavers, in what was only Young’s 10th fight as opposed to Shaver’s 44th, and you have a man who did better against each of these men than they did against one another with the exception of Ali vs. Foreman. And, if the judges had been seeing more clearly, they would have had the wins against Norton and Ali. It’s also notable that Ali would never again fight Jimmy.

It’s interesting to note that had things gone just a slight bit differently, and if Jimmy Young had not been handled by the mob (that’s another story worth telling), he might be the man remembered as the best fighter of the 1970s, while also the lightest punching one.

Bill Irwin In “On Beckett” At The Paramount Center In Boston

ARTSEMERSON PROUDLY PRESENTS 

ON BECKETT 

WRITTEN AND PERFORMED BY TONY AWARD-WINNING ACTOR 

BILL IRWIN

ROBERT J. ORCHARD STAGE

SIX PERFORMANCES ONLY

Paramount Center
OCTOBER 26 – 30, 2022

ArtsEmerson, Boston’s leading presenter of contemporary world theater and film and the professional presenting and producing organization of Emerson College, is excited to welcome Tony Award-winning actor and master clown Bill Irwin to Boston for his solo stage piece On Beckett which will run six performances only from October 26 – 30, 2022 at the Emerson Paramount Center Robert J. Orchard Stage. In On Beckett, Irwin explores a performer’s relationship to the works of legendary playwright Samuel Beckett—widely regarded as one of the greatest dramatists of the 20th century— incorporating passages from various works by the Irish writer, including Texts for Nothing, The Unnamable, Watt and Waiting for Godot. On Beckett is produced by Octopus Theatricals and premiered at Irish Repertory Theatre in New York City on October 3, 2018. 

Irwin’s physical approach to the comic and tragic sides of Beckett’s writing invites audiences to experience the writer’s language as they never have before in this fun, surprising trek through the works of Beckett. Bill Irwin’s original stage works include The Regard of Flight, The Happiness Lecture, and Old Hats. He won Broadway’s Best Actor Tony Award for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, and picked up a second statue for Fool Moon (created with David Shiner) which earned four Tony nominations. His many television credits include Elmo’s World (as Mr. Noodle) and Legion (Mr. Loudermilk), and his film credits range from Rachel Getting Married to The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.“On Beckett is an invite — it’s a personal invitation — to deep dive into the writing of a man whose work I love AND hate — Mr. Samuel Beckett,” explains Bill Irwin. “I think On Beckett is a good first entry to the wild and beautiful content that is Mr. Beckett’s writing — and it speaks also to those of us who read and re-visit the language often. It’s an actor’s — and it’s a clown’s — look at a great writer’s language. I look forward to bringing my take on Mr. Beckett’s writing to Boston.” 

Tickets for On Beckett performances go on sale on Sunday, September 11, 2022 and may be purchased 24/7 at ArtsEmerson.org, or by calling 617-824-8400 (Tue-Sat from 12:00PM ET – 6:00PM ET). The Paramount Center Box Office (559 Washington Street, Boston) is open for walk-up service Thu-Sat from Noon – 6:00 PM ET. 

Performance Schedule: 

Wednesday, October 26, 2022 7:30 P.M.

Thursday, October 27, 2022 7:30 P.M.

Friday, October 28, 2022 8:00 P.M. 

Saturday, October 29, 2022 2:00 P.M. and 8:00 P.M.

 Sunday, October 30, 2022 2:00 P.M.

Unanswered Questions Surround Death Of Woman At Ogunquit Beach

This article is from the September 2, 2022 issue of the Boston Post Gazette

By Bobby Franklin

Entrance To Main Beach In Ogunquit

On August 15th a woman was pulled from the water at Ogunquit Beach and after resuscitation efforts were performed she was pronounced dead. The woman has been identified as 62 year old Margaret Kelley from Harwinton, Connecticut.

The events that led to her death remain unclear. The situation happened at high tide in the water near the ramp leading down to the main beach. There is a lifeguard stand at that location.The cause of death hasn’t been disclosed awaiting a report from the Medical Examiner’s Office. Her body is still in Maine. The Ogunquit Fire Department issued a press release about the incident that stated:

“At approximately 3:00 PM on August 15, 2022, a patron visiting our beach had what is described as a medical event while in the water. The 62-year-old Connecticut woman was quickly removed from the water by lifeguards and by-standers.  Resuscitation efforts were initiated by our lifeguard and EMS staff. Ogunquit Fire and Ogunquit Police Departments responded immediately to assist. Unfortunately, despite the efforts of the emergency responders the patron did not survive. The event remains under investigation by the Ogunquit Police Department and no further information is available at this time.”

I spoke with Chief Osgood of the Ogunquit Fire Department to try to get clarification of what happened that day. Chief Osgood is also head of the Ocean Rescue Team. He told me he arrived about 30 minutes after the initial call. He said he believed the description of the woman having a medical event came from her husband who was on the beach while his wife was in the water. He added it appeared she had become dizzy and was making her way to the shore. Chief Osgood said lifeguards immediately responded when they heard the commotion and pulled the woman from the water and performed CPR.

A woman who was on the beach at the time wrote “Her husband pulled her from the water…she was under for a while”. Another person who was there told me “It was her husband who had to pull her out when he realized she had gone under. He and bystanders pulled her to the edge of the water…they rolled her on her side and began CPR. By then lifeguards were watching, not participating. A nurse who happened to be nearby asked the lifeguards if she had a pulse. They said they didn’t know”.

These accounts differ from those of the Fire Department. I asked Chief Osgood if the lifeguards had written a report about the event. He said they had. I asked what was in it and he said he couldn’t remember. I asked for the names of the lifeguards who went in to pull the woman out. He didn’t know offhand. I asked for the name of the bystander who initiated CPR. He didn’t know. When I asked what the medical event was he said he couldn’t disclose that due to medical privacy issues. He said he would look at the lifeguard report and get back to me if there was information in it he could share. I also requested a copy of the report.

Earlier I spoke with Police Captain John Lazanecz of the Ogunquit Police Department. The police department is conducting the investigation into the tragedy. He gave me the name of the woman who died but didn’t have much more information to share. He said they were waiting for the Medical Examiner’s report. He did not know if an autopsy was being performed, and said the Examiner’s Office is backed up with cases. 

In response to a question about when the results of the investigation would be released, Ogunquit Select Board member Heath Ouellette said he was told the police were waiting on the results of an autopsy and that could take up to two months. Captian Lazanecz told me he didn’t know if an autopsy was being performed.

There is much that remains to be learned about the terrible event that occurred on August 15th. It is still not known for certain the role of the lifeguards in aiding the woman (she is referred to by the OFD as a patron of the beach). There are conflicting accounts of what happened that day. Neither the Fire Chief nor the Police Chief were there when it happened. The people who were there tell a different story of what occurred. When witnessing a traumatic event such as this it is not unusual for people to become confused about what they saw. That it is why it is so important for a thorough investigation to take place and be made public. 

My heart goes out to the family of Margaret Kelley. Not having closure must be terribly painful. Margaret Kelley was more than a “patron of Ogunquit Beach”. She was a human being who tragically lost her life that day. 

I will be following up this story as I learn more.