(A whole bunch of stuff you didn't know about boxing)
Jack Johnson shades his eyes from the bright Cuban sun
in his KO loss to Jess Willard
A STORM OF CIGAR BUTTS
In August 1938, a bloody and battered Henry Armstrong took the lightweight championship away from Lou Ambers to become the only fighter every to hold three world titles simultaneously. Armstrong had knocked out Petey Sarron for the featherweight title in 1937, and then, three months before the Ambers bout, he had bludgeoned welterweight king Barney Ross.
The 19,000 fans cheered Ambers, a 3-1 underdog, who was fouled several times by his groggy opponent. When a trembling, grasping Armstrong -- winner of a split decision -- stumbled to the center of the ring to have his arm raised in victory, they threw newspapers and cigar butts at him.
ARCHIE MOORE: GARDEN-WORTHY, AT LAST, AFTER 141 BOUTS
In August 1954, at age 37, Archie Moore defended his light heavyweight world championship against Harold Johnson with a 14th-round KO of No. 1-ranked contender Harold Johnson. It was the first-ever fight at Madison Square Garden for Moore, who had 141 pro fights at the time.
Moore, who campaigned for 18 years before the boxing monopoly permitted him to appear at Madison Square Garden, took his case to the public on ABC television . Said Moore: "It's just too tough for me to get a crack at the heavyweight title. I understand Rocky Marciano's manager, Al Weill, said, 'We'll fight Moore 10 years from now.' That's too long." Moore urged fans to write the TV sponsors, sportswriters and the New York State Athletic Commission, demanding the match. To prove his right to title shot, Moore told Sportscaster Guy LeBow he would undertake to knock out Cuban contender Nino Valdes and defeat British heavyweight Don Cockell within the space of two weeks. Promised Archie: "If I don't knock out Valdes, I'll give my purse to charity. And if I don't beat Cockell, I'll retire from campaigning in the heavyweight ranks — permanently."
'ONE OF THE BIGGEST SWINDELS IN THE HISTORY OF BOXING'
The man who broke the original story of Harry Thomas' fixed bouts in 1939 was Arch Ward, sports editor of the Chicago Tribune, nationally known for the development of amateur boxing's Golden Gloves tournament. Ward described the events revealed by Thomas as "one of the biggest swindles in the history of boxing."
Sports Editor Ward spent two months investigating Thomas before he printed the story, convinced then that the boxer was telling the truth. "The Tribune's investigation of Thomas' ring career," he reported, "uncovered no irregularities or indications of dishonesty until his fight with Schmeling." And as to allegations that Thomas was "punch drunk," Ward told Illinois' Assistant Attorney General Edwin T. Breen: "I've seen 250,000 fighters [sic] in the last 10 years and if Thomas is punch drunk, so are all of them."
When the Illinois State Athletic Commission wound up eight months of sporadic hearings with a no-decision verdict that the Tribune's revelations were "not substantiated," Ward was understandably bitter. He pointed out that the Tribune had not retracted a word of its story. "It isn't necessary to mention," he wrote, "that a newspaper must know what it is printing when it presents a piece like that and makes it stick."
There was no mention of Norris in the Tribune disclosures. At that time Ward, presumably for excellent legal reasons, refused to identify another person described as a principal in the case. He would name this party, Ward said at the time, only before a grand jury or in a court of law.
"You've got to give a decision!" Jones barked at Ertle. "The crowd wants to know who won."
"I've given my decision," Ertle said. "It's a draw."
For half an hour, the squabble went on with Jones at Ertle's heels in the ring, and hotheads all around on the outside blocking the referee's exit. Ertle could see that he was in a tough spot. For his safety, he had to do something to pacify the mob. Changing his decision, he gave the bout to Stribling. After that he was permitted to leave the ring. An hour later, when he felt relatively safe, Ertle issued a statement in which he again reversed his decision, declaring the bout a draw. Thus McTigue's title was saved.
Accompanied by an escort of military police from Fort Benning, Ertle, McTigue and the champion's manager, Joe Jacobs, slipped out of Columbus during the night and were conveyed by automobile to Atlanta to make connection with a northbound train.
Alton Lister Brown, "The Dixie Kid"
DIXIE, DUCK AND BARBADOS JOE
Aaron Lister Brown, better known in boxing history as "The Dixie Kid," earned a shot at "Barbados" Joe Walcott's welterweight championship in 1904 in San Francisco, one of the rare title bouts in which both fighters were black.
The more-experienced Walcott held the advantage through 19 rounds, but referee "Duck" Sullivan stopped the fight in Round 20 and awarded the title to The Kid on a foul. Walcott's manager, Hall of Famer Tom O'Rourke, stormed into the ring and punched Sullivan in the mouth, and the promoter and fans of Walcott rushed the ring, too. Sullivan somehow managed to escape, but never officiated another title bout. It was later discovered that he'd placed a bet that day on The Kid.
DEMPSEY-FIRPO: STEEL HANDS, GLASS JAWS
Jack Dempsey defended his world heavyweight title against Luis Firpo in 1923, a fight that saw nine knockdowns in the opening round.
The champ put Firpo on the deck seven times, and the Argentinan struck back with two knockdowns of his own, one of which sent Dempsey crashing through the ropes, onto the press table.
Dempsey retained his crown by a KO, turning out the lights on the challenger in Round Two.
LES DARCY'S HARD ROAD TO HEROISM
Les Darcy was Australia's best-known sportsman when his country mobilized to join the Allied cause in World War I. Because he failed to enlist int he military, public opinion turned against him. He ascaped the mountain controversy by stowing away on an oil tanker, the S.S. Cushing, and sailed to New York.
In America he was villified by the press and labeled a "slacker." When New York's governor refused to issue him a license for a fight, other governors followed suit, and a sixth-month tour, promoted by the legendary Tex Rickard, failed to materialize.
To regain favor, Darcy signed an oath of allegiance to the U.S. and joined the armed services (with the understanding that he would be given furloughs to fight). Unfortunately, he collapsed a few days later and died in Memphis of blood poisoning from an infected tooth. His body was shipped home to Australia, where he was mourned as a hero.
THE MAGIC TOUCH OF JOHNNY COULON
Johnny Coulon ended his Hall of Fame boxing career in 1920, then hit the vaudeville circuit, during which he made friends with European heads of state, actors, and author Ernest Hemingway.
During his travels he devised a popular trick for his stage act, inviting anyone from the audience to lift him off the ground -- no great task, considering Coulon weighed just 120 pounds. Coulon then would place one finger against the volunteer's neck and ask them to try again, upon which they would inevitably fail. Such luminaries as Jack Dempsey, Primo Carnero and Joe Louis fell victim to the stunt.
Joe Choynski and Jack Johnson
share a Galvaston, Texas, jail cell
after an illegal match in 1901
THE BRAWL ON THE BARGE
Joe Choynski's father was a graduate of Yale University, a writer, and the publisher of a San Francisco newspaper that focused on exposing municipal corruption and anti-Semitism. Not exactly a chip of the old block, Joe dropped out of high school and worked as a blacksmith and candy puller before becoming professional boxer in 1888.
Though not a huge man at 170 pounds, Choynski made his name by fighting top heavyweights, including three wars with his neighbor, fellow San Franciscan and future heavyweight champ Jim Corbett. Their rivalry was intensified because Choynski was a Jewish laborer while Corbett was a Gentile who worked at a bank.
Their first bout, held in Fairfax, Calif., was stopped by the local sheriff in the fourth round. The next week Corbett and Choynski fought again, this time on a barge floating in the San Francisco Bay -- a brawl that was described by boxing historian Frank Menke as "one of the epics of pugilism for its duration of savagery." When Corbett refused to fight bare-knuckled, Choynski donned a spectator's driving gloves, the seams of which created welts on Corbett's face and body. Meanwhile, Corbett's punches left Choynski's face bloody and badly bruised. Corbett broke two knockles on his left hand during the third round, then broke his right thumb in the 14th. Finally, in the 27th round, he KO'd the barely conscious Choynski.
Six weeks later, they fought for the third time, with Corbett winning a four-round decision.
Choynski became a chiropractor after he retired.
'CINDERELLA MAN' CASHES IN
Riding the momentum of his stunning upset of Max Baer, world heavyweight champion James J. Braddock, dubbed "The Cinderella Man," signed to defend his crown against undefeated German Max Schmeling. But Braddock's manager, Joe Gould, broke the contract with Madison Square Garden, ostensibly because f opposition to Schmeling by the Non-Sectarian Anti-Nazi League.
More likely, Braddock bypassed the Schmeling fight because he received an amazing offer from promoter Mike Jacobs to fight Joe Louis. Jacobs offered Braddock $500,000, or half the gate and radio revenues (which ever was greater), plus 10 percent of Jacobs' profits from all his heavyweight title promotions for the next 10 years if Braddock lost to Louis.
They fought June 22, 1937 in front of a crowd of 45,000 at Chicago's Comiskey Park. After Braddock put "The Brown Bomber" on the canvas in the opening round, Louis asserted his dominance and KO'd the champ in the eighth.
A SHOCKING TURN OF EVENTS
A bout with scarlet fever as a toddler rendered Paul Berlenbach deaf and mute until age 15, when he accidentally touched a downed telephone wire and was electrocuted -- a trauma that inexplicably restored his hearing. He went on to become the only man ever to win both the AAU national wrestling championship and the heavyweight boxing title, which he held in 1925 and 1926.
THE UNSINKABLE LITTLE FISH
Hall of Famer Benny Bass, nicknamed "The Little Fish," was born in Kiev, Russia, coming to the U.S. coming to the U.S. in 1920 on a boat with his mother and four brothers -- a voyage on which they survived a shipwreck near Ireland.
Bass won the featherweight crown in 1927, but suffered a broken collarbone in his first defense. Braving the pain, he battled Hall of Famer Tony Canzoneri for the full 15 rounds, but lost his title. In 1929 he became a champ again, stepping up to junior lightweight to win that belt .
THE DEATH OF WALTER CROOT
Jimmy Barry, "The Little Tiger," was a flyweight title before the weight division existed, and is one of the few fighters to go into the Hall of Fame with an undefeated record: 59-0, with 9 draws.
On May 30, 1898, Barry KO'd Walter Croot with a left to the head, followed by a right to the jaw, in the 20th round of their fight at the National Sporting Club in London. Croot never regained consciousness and Barry was charged with manslaughter. He was exonerated when it was determined that Croot died of a skull fracture sustained when his head hit the unpadded wooden floor. Though cleared of any crime, Barry was deeply affected by Croot's death and retired. He returned to the sport a year later after moving to the United States and fought nine more times.
In 1934 at Madison Square Garden, world heavyweight champion Max Baer scored 11 knockdowns in 11 rounds against Primo Carnero before the fight was stopped.
The victory launched Baer to fame and he was given a starring role in a Hollywood movie, "The Prizefighter and The Lady" (which was banned in Germany because Baer's grandfather was Jewish.) He was romantically linked to innumerable starlets, socialites, chorus girls and Broadway actresses before marrying in 1935.
Meanwhile, he frittered away his boxing career, training lightly before losing his title to James J. Braddock in his first defense. Three months later he got a chance to redeem himself, but was demolished in four rounds by Joe Louis.
He fought for another six years, then retired to act in movies and in a nightclub act (with Slapsie Maxie Rosenbloom, another ex-champ). He also refereed boxing and wrestling matches. His son, Max Baer Jr., played the dimwitted Jethro Bodine on the 1960s television series, "The Beverly Hillbillies."
Johnny Kilbane earned the lasting enmity of arch-rival Abe Attell by claiming that Attell had coated his back with chloroform to win a 10-round decision in 1910 in Kansas City. Attell insisted the substance was cocoa butter.
He was linked to the dark side in retirement, too, when he was linked to the 1919 Black Sox Scandal, in which gamblers (including Attel) reputedly bribed eight members of the Chicago White Sox to throw the World Series. He was never convicted of any crime in connection with the scandal.
John L. Sullivan
THE ORIGINAL LEGEND: JOHN L. SULLIVAN
John L. Sullivan briefly attended Boston College in an effort to satisfy his mother's wish that he become a priest, but dropped out to work as a hod carrier (his father's profession), a tinsmith, and an assistant plumber -- a job he lost when he broke his employer's jaw in a dispute over which pipe to use on a job.
A versatile athlete, Sullivan turned down a contract to play big-league baseball for the Cincinnati Red Stockings and instead began fighting as a teenager, walking into Boston barrooms and declaring that he could "lick any man in the place." He also engaged in weightlifting exhibitions, hoisting and sometimes throwing kegs of beer.
As a boxer, he reigned as heavyweight champion from 1882-1892 before his indulgent lifestyle caught up with him during a 21-round title fight with James J. Corbett, which ended in a knockout loss.
A prodigious drinker in his boxing heyday, Sullivan swore off liquor in retirement and became a temperance lecturer.
A CLASSIC TRILOGY: ZALE vs. GRAZIANO
Upon his return from WWII, world middleweight champion Tony Zale engaged in a triology of career-defining battles against Hall of Famer Rocky Graziano, who was nine years younger.
The first, which took place in front of a crowd of almost 40,000 at Yankee Stadium in 1946, was one of the most brutal battles in boxing history. Zale, the betting underdog, dropped the young challenger in the first round, then went down himself in Round Two. Graziano then battered and bloodied Zale so severely that the champion stumbled to the wrong corner at the end of the fifth round, and fans were screaming at referee Ruby Goldberg to stop the fight. Astoundingly, Zale answered the bell in Round Six with renewed ferocity and KO'd Graziano within the first 2 minutes.
The rematch, in 1947, and the rubber match, in 1948, were equally memorable. Graziano, bleeding from mulitple cuts, took Zale's title with a barrage of punches in the sixth round of their second fight. Zale won their third bout, a fericious 3-rounder, by KO.
Three months later, Zale lost his middleweight crown to Marcel Cerdan, who knocked him out in Round 12, and he retired. He played himself in the movie version of Graziano's autobiography, Somebody Up There Likes Me, which starred Paul Newman.
THE CHAMP & THE MOBSTER
Isiah "Ike" Williams held the world lightweight title for more than six years, from 1945-1951, but his career got sidetracked after he became involved in a dispute with his powerful manager, Connie McCarthy. When Williams ended their relationship and decided to go it alone, McCarthy blackballed him so effectively that Williams couldn't get any fights.
He solved that problem by signing on with mobster Frank "Blinky" Palermo, who immediately got him a fight against Bob Montgomery, who held New York's version of the lightweight crown. Williams fought masterfully and KO'd Montgomery in the sixth round.
After losing his title to Jimmy Carter, Williams was called to testify in front of the Kefauver Committee during the Senate's investigation of organize crime's relationship with the sport of boxing. He admitted that Palermo often suggested that he throw fights, but claimed he had never taken a dive. He did confess that he had carried an opponent named Enrique Bolanos, and that he had put forth less than his best effort in other bouts. He also told the committee that he often saw nary a penny from his fight purses during his relationship with the dangerous and intimidating Palermo.
JERSEY JOE'S LONG CLIMB TO THE MOUNTAINTOP
Hall of Famer Jersey Joe Walcott was 33 years old before he got a shot at the world heavyweight championship, and it took him four more years to win the title. He literally outlived boxing's color barriers of the 1930s and 1940s by never ducking an opponent.
His real name was Arnold Cream, but he took his ring name in honor of his idol, Barbados Joe Walcott, a Hall of Famer from his childhood.
Walcott fought as a second-tier attraction for most of his career, taking any fight he could find to support his mother and siblings. At times he simply couldn't afford to box, working a variety of jobs or subsisting on welfare. He got married, fathered six children, and by 1941 was fighting only once or twice a year in a career that seemed to be winding down.
Then, in 1945, perhaps because so many fighters had gone to fight in World War II, doors began to open. He got offers to fight tougher opponents, won some key bouts, and suddenly showed up in The Ring Magazine's ratings of the top 10 heavyweights in the world.
In 1947 he was put up against Joe Louis for the heavyweight championship at Madison Square Garden. Walcott knocked Louis down twice and nearly closed the champ's left eye. At the end of the 15th round, referee Ruby Goldstein indicated Walcott had won, but two judges scored the fight for Louis.
He got another chance a year later, but Louis was better prepared and knocked him out in Round 22.
Walcott's first two tries to take the title from Ezzard Charles also failed, but in 1951, at Pittsburgh's Forbes Field, he KO'd Charles with a thunderous left hook and became the heavyweight king at age 37. He also won a rematch, but lost his crown in September of 1952 to Rocky Marciano, who recovered from a first-round knockdown to score a KO in round 13. They fought again in 1953, a fight that resulted in a first-round KO for Marciano and sent Walcott into retirement.
Esteemed trainer Eddie Futch called Walcott "one of the finest technicians in heavyweight boxing history."
THE ALL-TIME K.O. KING
The great Archie Moore knocked out more opponents in major competitions than any other boxer who ever lived. "The Old Mongoose" turned out the lights on 145 foes during his amazing career.
THE LONG AND SHORT OF IT
Sandy Saddler, one of the greatest featherweights of all time, had a reach of 70 inches -- two inches longer than the only world heavyweight champion who ever retired undefeated, Rocky Marciano. Marciano's 68-inch reach was the shortest of any heavyweight in history.
GETTING UP FOR THE CHALLENGE
Hall of Famer Floyd Patterson was knocked down more often than any other modern heavyweight champion -- 20 times.
Joe Louis, "The Brown Bomber"
LONG MAY HE REIGN
Why is Joe Louis revered by so many as the greatest heavyweight champion who ever lived? One reason might be the fact that he successfully defended his world title 25 consecutive times between 1937 and 1949, the longest streak in the history of the sport. Second on the list is Ricardo Lopez, who held the WBC's version of the world strawweight crown from 1990-99 with 21 straight title defenses. Tied for third, each with 19 successful defenses in a row, are welterweight Henry Armstrong (undisputed world champ from 1938-40), featherweight Eusebio Pedroza (WBA featherweight belt-holder from 1978-85) and Khaosai Galaxy (WBA junior bantamweight king form 1984-91).
Louis held the heavyweight belt for 11 years and 7 months, the longest reign of all time, just ahead of former featherweight champion Johnny Kilbane, who was king of that division for 11 years, 4 months.
The great French boxer Georges Carpentier started his career as a flyweight (105 pounds) and ended up as a heavyweight. He fought at least once in every weight division boxing had to offer.
THE SHORT SHIFT
Most first-round knockouts in a career? Young Otto registered 41, Tiger Jack Fox scored 30, Jack Dempsey had 26, Sean O'Grady logged 24, and Buddy Baer got 23.
Alberto "Baby" Arizmendi
Youngest professional debut by a boxer? Believe it or not, Hall of Famer Alberto "Baby" Arizmendi fought for money for the first time at age 10 or 13, depending on which legend you believe. Teenage pros included Teddy Baldock, Al McCoy, Battling Nelson and Georges Carpentier, all of whom debut at age 14.
THE PEACH-FUZZ CHAMP
The youngest man ever to win a world title was Wilfredo Benitez, who was 17 years, 3 months old when he captured the junior welterweight crown.
Pete Rademacher (1957), Jack Skelly (1892) and Rafael Lovera (1975) all made their professional debuts in world title bouts.
THRILLING YES ... BUT WAS IT CLOSE?
l "The Thrilla in Manila" is widely regarded as one of the greatest heavyweight championship fights of all time. Surprisingly, when Joe Frazier failed to answer the bell for the 15th round in that classic war against Muhammad Al, the judges cards favored Ali by scores of 166-160, 166-162 and 167-162. Smokin' Joe needed a knockout to win the fight.
Albert "Chalky" Wright
AN UNUSUAL DEMISE
Hall of Famer Albert "Chalky" Wright drowned in a bathtub.
Heavyweight champion Primo Carnera, known as "The Ambling Alp," weighed 22 pounds at birth.
MAKING IT COUNT
Emile Griffith fought 339 rounds in title bouts alone, the most ever, ahead of Abe Attel (337), Hilario Zapata (303), Julio Cesar Chavez (301) and Sugar Ray Robinson (288).
The last world title fight that was scheduled for more than 15 rounds was a 20-rounder between Joe Louis and Bob Pastor for the heavyweight belt in 1939. Louis made a shorter night of it with an 11th-round KO.
The oldest fighter to compete for a world title was Roberto Duran, who was 47 years, 2 months, and 12 days old when he lost to defending champ William Joppy for the middleweight title in 1998. (Ten years earlier, Duran became the oldest man ever to win the middleweight title). Archie Moore also was 47 when he defended his light heavyweight crown against Giulio Rinaldi (and won) in 1961.
"Jersey" Joe Walcott
TRY, TRY, TRY, TRY, TRY AGAIN
It took Jersey Joe Walcott five tries to finally win the heavyweight championship, which he accomplished by knockout out Ezzard Charles in 1951.
A BORN WINNER
Willie Pep posted the most official wins in boxing history with 229.
The first world title fight ever contested in a communist country was between Italian champ Nino Benvenuti and New Yorker Tom "The Bomb" Bethea, who met for Benvenuti's middleweight belt in 1970 in Umag, Yugoslavia.
THE END GAME
The last two boxers to participate in a fight to the finish were Sam Langford and Kid Savage, who battled in 1923 at the Plaza de Toros in Mexico City. Langford finished the fight with a first-round knockout.
The greatest combined weight of two boxers was 700 pounds, when Jimmy Black showed up at 360 pounds to fight 340-pound Claude McBride in 1971.
The great Hall of Famer Alexis Arguello lost his pro debut by a first-round knockout.
A STRANGE SUCCESS STORY
Hall of Famer Fritzie Zivic holds the all-time record for most career losses by a world champion with 65.
THE FIRST VENUE
The first stadium ever built for boxing was Figgs Amphitheatre, which was constructed on Oxford Road in London in 1719.
BIRTH OF THE ELECTRONIC MEDIA
The heavyweight title clash betwen Jack Dempsey and Jess Willard was the first fight ever broadcast on radio in the year 1919. The first televised bout was a 1931 battle between Benny Leonard and Mickey Walker
WHAT'S IN A NAME?
Henry Armstrong first appeared in a professional boxing match under the name Melody Jackson.
BIRTH OF THE ELECTRONIC MEDIA
The heavyweight title clash between Jack Dempsey and Jess Willard was the first fight ever broadcast on radio in the year 1919. The first televised bout was a 1931 battle between Benny Leonard and Mickey Walker.
THE FIRST MILLION-DOLLAR BABY
The first boxer who ever fought for a million-dollar purse was Sonny Liston, when he defeated Floyd Patterson to retain his heavyweight title in 1963. The bout lasted 129 seconds.
The first lefty every to win the heavyweight crown was Michael Moorer.
Freddie Welsh lost his world middleweight crown in a 1917 fight against Benny Leonard. To add insult to injury, Welsh's manager bet his entire purse on Welsh to win, so they went home penniless.
THE BAREFOOT BOUT
A 1954 championship fight between Jimmy Carruthers and Chamrern Songkitrat was held outdoors in a tropical rainstorm. Instead of cancelling the fight, both fighters removed their shoe and fought barefoot to avoid slipping on the wet canvas.
Freddie Welsh lost his world middleweight crown in a 1917 fight against Benny Leonard. To add insult to injury, Welsh's manager bet his entire purse on Welsh to win, so they went home penniless.
SEE YA LATER
A 1923 bout in Havana between heavyweight champion Jack Johnson and challenger Jack Thompson was so action-free that the referee left the ring in disgust. The fight was refereed for the last couple of rounds by the promoter, and both fighters were fined $500 for "stalling."
THE LIP IS SILENCED
When Muhammad Ali was asked by a stewardess to fasten his seat belt, he told her "Superman don't need no seatbelt." When she responded, "Superman don't need no plane," Ali relented and fastened his belt.
ONE GIANT LEAP FOR DENTISTRY
Ted "Kid" Lewis was the first man ever to use a mouthpiece in the ring when he fought Jack Britton in 1915.
THE LONGEVITY FACTOR
Roberto Duran and Jamie "Kid Azteca" Garza fought professionally in five different decades. Kid Azteca's career spanned from 1929 to 1961. Duran fought from 1968 to 2001.
THE MOST-DANGEROUS MAN IN THE RING
When Tom Sharkey fought Bob Fitzsimmons for the world heavyweight crown on Dec. 2, 1896 in San Francisco, the referee was the infamous sheriff and gunfighter, Wyatt Earp, and the fight was delayed for a couple of extra minutes after Earp was asked to remove his gunbelt in the ring. Earp DQ'd Sharkey in the eighth round, nearly causing a riot.
British fighter Nel Tarlton went the full distance in 12 title fights even though he had just one lung.
MAN WITH A GREAT CHIN
Europeon featherweight champ Eugene Criqui was shot in the face during World War I, a wound that required his jaw to be replaced by a silver plate, held together by wire. After the war he went 99-17, with 53 knockouts, and was KO'd just five times in a 15-year career.
Argentina's Luis Firpo, known as "The Wild Bull of the Pampas," had a chance meeting with a man who was thrilled to be in his presence and shook his hand vigorously as he gushed over the No. 1 contender for the world heavyweight championship. When the fawning was over, Firpo turned to a companion and said, "Who was that man?" The man, he was informed, was Calvin Coolidge, the president of the United States.
A GIANT OF HIS TIME
Italian giant Primo Carnera was easily the largest heavyweight champion of his time, standing 6-foot-7 and weiging 270 pounds. His breakfast, according to his PR man, included a quart of orange juice, two quarts of milk, nineteen pieces of toast, fourteen eggs, a loaf of bread and a half-pound of Virginia ham. Legendary boxing writer Paul Galico described Carnera as "the only giant I have ever seen who was well proportioned throughout his body for his height. His legs were massive and he was truly thewed like an oak. HIs waist as comparatively small and clean, but it rose from a torso like a Spanish hogshead from which sprouted two tremendous arms, the biceps of which stood out like grapefruit. His hands were like Virginia hams, and his fingers were 10 red sausages. His head was large, and he had a good nose and fine, kind eyes. His skin was brown and glistening and he invariably smelled of garlic."
THE BUTLER DID IT
The first documented boxing match took place in 1681 in Britain when the Duke of Albemarle engineered a bout between his butler and his butcher. In the coming years, bare-knuckle boxing contests would be held in amphitheatres all over England. Jack Boughton, known as "The Father of Boxing," developed the first set of rules for the sport and published them in 1743, two years after a bout in which he killed his opponent. The most revolutionary change came in 1865 when John Sholto Douglass, the Eighth Marquess of Queensbury, drew up new rule which basically transformed the sport into what it is today. CLICK HERE to read the whole set of 12 Marquess of Queensbury rules.
THE SCOTCH WOOP
Johnny Dundee (born as Joseph Corrara, and nicknamed "The Scotch Wop") introduced a boxing technique called "The Scotch Woop." Dundee bounced his body against the ropes, and rebounded to attack his opponent with full power, plus the power of the bounce. This technique was very dangerous, either for his opponent or himself. In 1917, he tried the technique against a quicker opponent named Willy Jackson, whose straight right hand connected with Dundee's wide-open chin for a first-round KO.
A BOXER EXPOSED
In a 1942 fight between Tommy Cross and Timmy Larkin in Newark, Larkin waved at the crowd after he was introduced and pulled off his robe, only to discover that he'd forgotten to wear his trunks and was completely naked, except for his gloves and boxing shoes.
In 1926, a boxer named Billy Wells was scheduled to fight welterweight champ Mickey Walker, "The Toy Bulldog," in Chicago. Prior to the bout, Wells was seen talking to legendary mobster Al Capone. It remains unclear what they discussed, but Wells never made it to the ring, and he was never seen again.
NO WAY TO TREAT A CHAMP
Heavyweight legend Joe Louis hired a former nemesis, Jersey Joe Walcott, to serve as a sparring partner as he trained for his bout against Max Schmeling, but fired Walcott two days later after Jersey Joe knocked "The Brown Bomber" down three times.
Willie Pep earned $3 a day in 1938 as a sparring partner for the great Manuel Ortiz. Six years later, he beat Ortiz in a 10-rounder in Boston and collected $20,000.
Near the end of his boxing career, the great Jack Johnson picked up extra money by fighting bulls in Spain.
Young Griffo, one of the greatest defensive fighters of all time, used to brag that he could stand on a handkerchief and dodge punches without taking a step in either direction. Griffo fought a host of notables, including Joe Gans, George Dixon, Kid Lavigne and Jack McAuliffe, but never got a title shot.
He never took his boxing career seriously, rarely training for his fights, and, according to legend, offen arrived in the ring drunk or hung over.
By 1900, the years of hard living began to show, and by the time he retired he had used up all of his fame and money and wound up panhandling in Times Square, where he became a familiar figure, spending his days perched on the steps of the Rialto Theatre. When he died in 1927, promoter Tex Rickard reportedly paid for his funeral.
Irish heavyweight Nutty Curran flew to Paris for a pre-WWI bout against 40-year-old American Kid McCoy. Curran decked McCoy in the 12th round of that fight, knocking him to the canvas near the edge of the ring, where a spectator handed him a brandy and soda. McCoy chugged the drink, beat the count, and went on to win the fight by decision.
A STRANGE SEND-0FF
One of the most-colorful boxers of his era, Art Aragon, was the original "Golden Boy" in the 1940s and '50s because of his flamboyant style in and out of the ring -- including a penchant for Hollywood's hottest women, including Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield, Mamie Van Doren and Sophia Loren. But Mexican fans didn't cotton to Aragon, feeling he had forgotten his roots, and booed him regularly -- a tradition that eventually evolved into a sign of affection for the charismatic boxer. In March 2008, when Aragon died at the age of 80, Mexican fans attending his funeral booed him as his casket was lowered into the ground.
Agile, with fast hands, Jem Belcher held England's prize ring title from August of 1799 to December of 1805, avoiding fights over the last two years due to a blind eye caused when he was struck by a ball during a game of racquets. He lost his crown to former protege Henry Pearce, then, in 1807, took a fight with Hall of Famer Tom Cribb. In the 20-round bout, Cribb almost managed to close Belcher's good eye, but the fight went another 21 rounds before Belcher submitted. They fought a 31-round rematch, with Cribb winning again -- a painful loss for Belcher, who wagered his life savings on himself. He served four weeks in prison for starting a fracus after the fight, became seriously ill while incarcerated, and died in 1811 as a ruined man. His funeral was well-attended.
George Dixon, known as "Little Chocolate," became the first black man to win a world boxing title when he won the bantamweight crown in England in 1890, then defended it in Providence, R.I., the same year. He became interested in fighting while assisting a photographer who took posed boxing photos. The Hall of Famer fought legends like Young Griffo, Terry McGovern, Abe Attell and Jim Driscoll. He died penniless in 1909, three years after retiring.
WAS HE PAID WITH A GIMBEL'S COUPON?
Theodore "Tiger" Flowers, known as "The Georgia Deacon," recited a passage from Psalm 144 before every bout. He amassed an amazing record of 115-14, with six draws, from 1918 to 1927, against the likes of Harry Greb, Micky Walker and Maxie Rosenbloom.
Ironically, Flowers earned a world title short after a controversial loss to light heavyweight Mike McTigue -- a special holiday-time bout in New York that was judged by Bernard Gimbel owner of Gimbel's Department Store and Peter J. Brady, a banker.
Larry "Kid" Fine
THE FIGHTING STOOGE
Larry Fine of "The Three Stooges" had one professional fight, under the name "Kid Fine," on September 11, 1936 in Brownsville, Texas. Fine was 18 years old when he won a four-round decision over Nig Rutledge at Fort Brown Arena, but never stepped into the ring again because his father didn't like him fighting in public. The Philadelphia native became a proficient violinist, performing in Vaudeville, before venturing into comedy with Moe and Shemp Howard. Shemp later pursued a solo acting career and was replaced by another Howard brother, Curly.
Hall of Famer Mike Gibbons, the "St. Paul Phantom," was so elusive in the ring that he dazzled even the blurringly fast Harry Greb, who, after a 1917 bout, shouted at his manager, "From now on, match me with one guy at a time!"
JACK JOHNSON'S COLOR LINE
The great Joe Jeannette, an African American, was banned from fighting for the heavyweight crown throughout his career, and that didn't change after another black man, Jack Johnson, won the title. Johnson refused to give Jeannette a title shot, prompting Jeannette to say, "Jack forgot about his old friends after he became champion and drew the color line against his own people."
Stanley Ketchel is regarded by some to be the greatest middleweight fighter who ever lived, even though he didn't live long. Ketchel's stormy life was the stuff of a Hollywood movie script, beginning with the fact that he ran away from his adoptive home at 14 and rode the trains as a hobo, traveling by rail throughout the Canadian and American West. He worked as a bouncer in Butte, Montana, taking on all comers in fights at a local theatre before turning pro in 1904.
Six years later, while training at a ranch in Conway, Mo., he died from a gunshot to the lung, compliments of a hired hand who was jealous that Ketchel was trying to steal his girlfriend. He was 24 years old.
His killer, Walter Dipley, was convicted of first-degree murder and served 23 years in prison.
THE KILLER VIRUS
Hall of Famers Joe Gans, Peter Jackson, Jack "Nonpareil" Dempsey, Jim Driscoll, Panama Al Brown, Tom Sayers, Henry Pearce, Tom Molineaux and James Burke all died of tuberculosis, a contagious disease. None of them ever stepped into a ring with any of the others.
Bare-knuckle pioneer James Figg, a Hall of Famer, socialized with the Prince of Wales and other members of the royal family. He was considered a better swordsman than a boxer, but Figg is often called "The Father of Boxing" for his role in popularizing and teaching the sport. He died in 1740.
ROYAL CONNECTIONS II
Hall of Famer John Jackson -- "Gentleman Jackson" -- was recruited during the coronation o King George IV to assemble guards and keep order. He assembled a completment of 18 prizefighters to handle the job. A popular sports celebrity of his day, Jackson was a favorite of the more-common people as well as the aristocrats. When he died in 1845 at age 76, a statue of a crouching lion was erected at his grave to symbolize his great skill and strength.
BRINGING DOWN THE BOSS
Hall of Famer John Morrissey, known as "Old Smoke," used his fame as a fighter to avoid convictions for shooting two waiters who worked at his gambling hall, plus prosecutions on three additional charges of assault with intent to kill, and yet another charge related to the possible assassination of a political foe.
When he retired from boxing, he testified against Tammany Hall political leader Boss Tweed, the infamous New York robber baron, and helped break up Tweed's organization.
Morrissey was elected to two terms in the United States congress and two more in the New York state senate before his death in 1878.
DO AS I SAY...
The great John L. Sullivan led a wild life during his days as a boxing champion, drinking heavily throughout his career. In retirement, he swore off alcohol and became a temperance lecturer.
MAN OF REFINEMENT
Jem Ward, the bare-knuckle boxer known as "The Black Diamond," became a successful artist after his retirement, and many of his paintings were displayed in galleries in London and Liverpool. He also enjoyed playing the violin and flute, and sang in concerts.
Alton Lister, 'The Dixie Kid'
THE INVENTIVE 'DIXIE KID'
Alton Lister, better known by his moniker "The Dixie Kid," was exceptionally creative outside the ring and was granted numerous patents for inventions during the 1920s. But as time passed, Lister sank into a world of drug abuse and squandered his earnings. He died pennisless on April 6, 1934, when he fell, jumped or was pushed from the window of a Los Angeles tenement building.
Hall of Famer Tommy Gibbons was 57-4-1, with 47 KOs, fighting world champion Battling Levinsky to a no-decision in 1917, losing a 15-round heavyweight title fight to Jack Dempsey, and suffering a 12-round KO loss to Gene Tunney in a non-title bout. He never won a championship.
After his career, Gibbons sold insurance and served four terms as the sheriff of St. Paul, Minn.
DEATH OF A LEGEND
Harry Greb, regarded by some as the most-fearless fighter of all time, went 105-8, with 3 draws, in a 13-year career, and reigned as middleweight champion of the world from 1923-26. In 1921 he suffered a detached retina in a fight with Kid Norfolk, and, though half-blind, he Greb continued his career for five more years. He died in1926 while undergoing surgery to repair facial injuries caused by boxing and an auto accident.