Greb And The Southpaws

Having Fun With Boxing Lore

By Bobby Franklin

I have always maintained boxing is an addiction that is all but impossible to recover from. Once it is in your blood there is no getting rid of it. This applies to those who have actually competed (Once a boxer, always a boxer), or to those who get caught up in its very rich history.

Harry Greb

It is no secret baseball fans are sticklers for statistics, and boxing isn’t quite the numbers game that the American Past Time is. But in many ways the Sweet Science is even more fascinating when you start digging into the records of those who once made it great sport.

It seems like hardly a week goes by when I get a call, or I call, a fellow boxing aficionado and we share some new fact or oddity we have just learned. Sometimes these little known factoids just pop into our heads as if some enchanted muse of boxing has whispered to us. It is great fun to share these thoughts, and just about always the response is “Wow! I never thought of that”, or “That’s really amazing”.

By now I think we have amassed enough material to put together a game of Trivial Pursuit dedicated solely to boxing. We could also supply enough items to the TV show Jeopardy to keep them going with “Boxing” as a weekly category for years.

While a lot of these facts may not exactly excite the non boxing fan, they certainly prove to be great fun for those of us who are really into the history of the sport.

I have shared some of these in the past, and this week I want to offer up another.

Johnny Wilson

Harry Greb is considered by just about all boxing historians to have been one of the greatest fighters of all time. A few even rank him at the top of the list. Unfortunately, no film of him in action is known to exist, but just taking one look at his record is enough to confirm his being listed as great.

The other day I was thinking about Greb and the man from whom he won the title, my friend the late Johnny Wilson. I remembered talking with Johnny about their fights and how animated he would become when the name Harry Greb was mentioned even though decades had passed since they fought. I was recalling how Johnny was a southpaw and just how few middleweight champs had been southpaws. Then it hit me. Harry Greb not only won the title from a southpaw, but he lost it to one too.

The fellow who defeated him for the title was Tiger Flowers, also a leftie. As far as I have been able to determine this was the only time that a middleweight champion both won and lost the title to a left handed opponent. It may be the only time it has happened in any division.

Tiger Flowers

Is that a big deal? Not really. Does it change how we evaluate Greb’s greatness? Not at all. However, it is a lot of fun to come up with things like this, and it is a reminder about how many hidden gems there are to still uncover in boxing lore.

If you are into boxing history consider yourself an archeologist that is engaged in digging for more and more information among the ruins left behind. Grab your pick and start your search. You never know what you might find, but I’m sure you can come up with some artifact that will make the rest of us go “Wow! I didn’t know that”!