A Brief Look At The Time Boxing Matches Were Held At Fenway Park
By Bobby Franklin
Fenway Park is the home to a team that can now be called among the best, if not the the best, in baseball history. The Boston Red Sox were dominant this year and in the World Series.
Fenway Park is the proud home to the Sox. It is considered one of the most beautiful ballparks in the country and one of the few remaining old time parks. Bostonians are not only proud of their team, they also take great pride in having such a wonderful home venue to host that team.
Fenway Park first opened in 1912. Over the years it has been the sight of baseball games. It has also been known to have other events as well. Among these were professional wrestling, rock concerts, ice hockey, football, ski jumping, and boxing.
The first boxing card to take place at Fenway was on Monday, August 11, 1919. In the main event that night, local boxer Frankie Britt won a 12 round decision over Ralph Brady in a lightweight battle.
There would be two more fight cards held at the park over the next year before taking a break. Boxing would resume being staged at Fenway on June 26, 1928 when Al Mello faced Billy Murphy for the New England Welterweight Title. Mello came away with a win after 12 rounds. Other local fighters who appeared that night included Hy Diamond, Charlie Donovan, Jack Donohue, and Ray Cross. They all were victorious.
There were 22 more fight cards held at Fenway from 1928 through 1937. The last during that period was held on August 24, 1937 when Tony Shucco and Al McCoy fought to a draw in the main event promoted by Rip Valenti. There would not be another fight held there until after WWII.
During those years there were a number of great venues for staging boxing matches. These included the Boston Garden, Boston Arena, the Mechanics Building, and another ballpark; Braves Field.
Staging an outdoor fight always came with the risk of bad weather forcing a cancellation or hurting attendance. Often times big title fights were held outdoors because they could accommodate the huge crowds eager to attend so the risk was worth taking. I don’t believe crowd capacity was the reason for holding outdoor fights in Boston. It more likely was because it is such an attractive place to be on a warm summer night. Also, in the days before air conditioning was widespread it could be a nice alternative to sitting in a stuffy arena.
During the 1930s some of the world’s leading contenders made appearances at Fenway Park. The ill fated Earnie Schaaf lost a decision to Babe Hunt on September 2, 1930. Tony Shucco fought there again in 1937 when he lost a decision to top contender Natie Brown. Maxie Rosenbloom defeated Joe Barlow there in 1932, and the great Kid Chocolate also fought at Fenway in 1932 defeating Steve Smith by decision. Future heavyweight king James J. Braddock made his only appearance at the park when he won a decision over Joe Monte in 1930.
In 1936 former heavyweight champ Jack Sharkey, on the comeback trail, took on Phil Brubaker in a ten round main event at Fenway. He came away winning a close ten round decision. The Associated Press gave this report on the fight:
“Jack Sharkey projected himself back into the heavyweight picture today as the result of a close but convincing 10 round victory over young Phil Brubaker. Sharkey got up off the floor at Fenway Park last night, gave the 22 year old Brubaker an artistic boxing lesson, and promptly served notice that he’s serious about making a comeback. Knocked down, cut and battered by Brubaker’s first round rush, Sharkey rallied to outbox, outpunch and outpoint the California clouter. The 33 year old ex-champion, all things considered, waged one of his best fights to score an uphill victory.”
The win would earn Sharkey a match against an up and coming heavyweight contender by the name of Joe Louis. Jack would retire after losing to Louis.
Boxing returned to Fenway in 1945 when two aging former heavyweight contenders faced off. Tami Maurlello took on Lou Nova. Both had challenged Joe Louis for the championship years before and were at the tail end of their careers. Tami showed he still had quite a bit of fire in him when he destroyed Nova in the first round, dropping him less then a minute into the fight. He then opened a cut over Lou’s left eye before finishing him off with a right to the jaw.
There would only be two more fight cards promoted at Fenway Park and they would be in the mid 1950s. Both would be headlined by one of the most exciting fighters to ever come out of Boston, the great Tony DeMarco.
In 1954, hot on the trail for a shot at the world welterweight title, Tony showed his vaunted power when he stopped George Araujo in the 5th round. Araujo put up a valiant effort but was outgunned by the power punching DeMarco.
The final boxing show to be held at Fenway Park took place on June 16, 1956 when Tony DeMarco once again headlined a show promoted by Sam Silverman. Tony was now the former welterweight champ, but was on the comeback trail coming off two wins since losing the title to Carmen Basilio.
Tony showed he was still a serious contender to be dealt with as he won a ten round decision from the very talented Vince Martinez. Martinez started fast, winning the early rounds, but Tony came on to dominate the rest of the fight nearly stopping Vince in the tenth round.
I don’t know if Boston will ever again see another boxing show at Fenway Park, but it sure would be exciting. Taking a seat at ringside on that field of dreams would be an unforgettable experience. Maybe some promoter will consider doing it again.