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Boxing Historian

Childs and Johnson
The Final Hurrah:
Frank Childs
vs. Jack Johnson

Tracy Callis (chief historian of Cyber Boxing Zone):  “(Ed) Martin was a strong and shifty competitor who carried a stiff punch but did not possess a tough chin.  Among those who he defeated in his career were Sam McVea, Bob Armstrong, Frank Childs, John ‘Sandy’ Ferguson, Hank Griffen, Victor McLaglen, Fred Russell, Frank Craig, Walter Johnson, Mike Queenan, ‘Mexican’ Pete Everett and Yank Kenny.”
Colored Heavyweight Title: Champion Frank Childs versus Denver Ed Martin (2/24/1902)   

Chicago, Illinois – six scheduled rounds – not sure of attendance numbers but place is packed to capacity – Bob Fitzsimmons is in attendance.  Denver Ed Martin, at 6’4 and over 200 pounds, had only lost once: a devastating 2nd round knockout to the similar-sized (but more experienced), Bob Armstrong.
Pre bout:  An unusual and traditional contrast: boxer versus puncher – but it’s the much larger man (Martin) who is defensive while the smaller Champion (Childs) is aggressive who desires to brawl.
ROUNDS 1-3:  Lively action – though not furious – both men tired.  Martin utilizes his reach advantage – methodically lands lefts and rights to head as Childs charges forward.  Childs receives blows while reaching larger foe as he pounds at body with hard, inside lefts and rights.  Martin backs away with left arm extended; encourages Childs coming to him.
ROUND 4:  Slower round – Childs tired and not as aggressive – challenger patient and refuses to step forward – long left extended – fans boo and shout at boxers to fight.
ROUND 5:  Childs more aggressive and charges forward – lands hard left to jaw – Martin wobbled – crowd roars and cheers their local hero onward.  Childs charges and throws flurry of punches – larger challenger blocks and covers up – Martin steps forward and clinches.
ROUND 6:  Martin keeps long left extended and backs; content to take bout the distance.  Childs continues to charge forward – Martin lands jab to face – Childs wild body blows miss short as opponent backs….  Bell sounds – challenger Martin awarded decision.

Denver Ed Martin

Post bout Chicago review:  “Childs, although defeated, did not lose much prestige, from the fact that Martin simply out boxed him.  The Champion was never noted for his scientific ability, and in all his battles he depends solely on knocking his man out.  With fully five inches the advantage in height and reach, combined with his cleverness, Martin had no difficulty in out pointing Childs.”
By July, 1902, there was increased pressure by Europeans and San Franciscans to unify the racially-divided heavyweight championships.  Frank Childs’ contribution was adding to the prestige of the Colored and Black heavyweight titles.  Unfortunately, his smaller size prejudiced against him.  Denver Ed Martin and Bob Armstrong looked like heavyweights; both larger than undefeated White heavyweight champion, James Jeffries.  There was an elimination challenge between the Colored and White heavyweight titles on July 25th, 1902.  Martin defended his title versus former Colored champion, Armstrong with a 15-round decision.  Jeffries defended his title versus former White champion, Bob Fitzsimmons with an 8th round knockout.  I believe Fitzsimmons would have honored the agreement and would have had difficulty with the much larger Martin.  Jeffries refused to fight Martin based on race/skin-color – so just like that – Martin’s fame and legacy would be forever altered.


Black Heavyweight Title: Champion Frank Childs versus Joe Walcott (10/10/1902)
Tracy Callis:  “(Joe) Walcott was a short, squat fighter with long arms and an extremely powerful punch; He was one of the greatest ‘pound for pound’ fighters in boxing history and fought men weighing from lightweight to heavyweight during his career.  Both Nat Fleischer and Charley Rose ranked Walcott as the #1 All-Time Welterweight; Other sports personalities such as Tad Dorgan, Tom O’Rourke, Dan Morgan and Jimmy Johnston had called Joe ‘the greatest pound for pound boxer who ever lived’; He was elected to the Ring Boxing Hall of Fame in 1955 and the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1991.”
ROUND 3:   (Location:  Chicago, Illinois – Apollo Hall.)  Walcott removes elastic support he had on left arm – pugilists briefly spar or exchange punches – Walcott refuses to continue – claims his left arm is broken.  Childs wins – TECHNICAL KNOCKOUT!
Joe Walcott

Post bout:  Club physician, Dr. Bennett, states that Walcott should have continued.  His purse of $330 is temporarily suspended.  An x-ray the following day proves the arm was fractured; likely due to prior injury.
Black Heavyweight Title: Champion Frank Childs versus Jack Johnson (10/22/1902)
TRACY CALLIS:  “(Jack) Johnson is rated as possibly the best heavyweight who ever fought; He was a master on defense and almost flawless in all other aspects of pugilism; He was fast, possessed an outstanding jab and uppercut, and was practically impossible to hit cleanly.  Nat Fleischer ranked Johnson as the #1 All-Time Heavyweight; Charley Rose ranked him as the #2 All-Time Heavyweight; Herb Goldman ranked him the #4 All-Time Heavyweight; Johnson was inducted into the Ring Boxing Hall of Fame in 1954 and the International Hall of Fame in 1990.”
Location:  Los Angeles, California – Hazard’s Pavilion – Childs is 10-7 favorite – scheduled for twenty rounds – Johnson has wide smile while Childs is expressionless.
Pre bout:  Smallish male creature with large coat and hat finds way to front seat – takes off hat and begins brushing long hair.  It is a little old White lady.  Management is unhappy with her presence and wants her evicted, but they are afraid she will cause a scene, so they reluctantly leave her alone.  She retains steady smile throughout with hands folded neatly on lap.
ROUNDS 1-10:  Crowd boos inaction; Childs sort of stalks and unsuccessfully searches for opening to land his right to jaw.  Johnson is patient as he picks off foe with left jabs to face.  Johnson is content to let smaller Champion come to him and methodically score points as he wears foe down.
ROUND 11:  Johnson has advantage – Childs spits blood from mouth with one eye closed. Childs continues to unsuccessfully stalk.  Johnson smiles and lands long left jab to face.  Suddenly, Johnson opens up offense with lefts, rights which land to head and body – Childs forced back – Johnson quits attack and reverts again to defense.

:  Both have slowed down – briefly spar – crowd hisses – Childs sort of stalks with broken right arm limp to side.  Champion had spent eleven rounds hoping to set up and land right; now reduced to a one-eyed, one-armed pugilist who is frustrated and unable to land left to jaw. Johnson remains defensive – clearly dominates – senses title is his for the taking.  Johnson suddenly becomes aggressive – lands lefts, rights – Childs wobbled and forced back.  Johnson pounds at face and foe’s good eye – Champion’s corner-men throws sponge into ring as ‘quit’ – referee spots and waves bout over – technical KNOCKOUT!
Jack Johnson and Denver Ed Martin

Los Angeles Times:
  “New Champion Of Coon Pugs…. Confidentially, the bout was a bore.  It’s more fun to see two little boys fighting over marbles.”…. Two physicians examine Childs right arm the next day – claim he was faking injury.  Century Athletic Club says Childs will not be paid for bout and will give his earnings to charity instead.
The language used to describe this bout is blatantly racist.  Childs has had trouble with his right arm in the past.  I believe they wanted an excuse not to pay him.  I don’t believe for a moment that they gave his earnings to charity.
Frank Childs vs. Joe Choynski (12/1/1902)
Location:  Chicago, Illinois – Lyceum Athletic Club - non title bout – scheduled for six rounds.
 Chicago Tribune preview:  “The consensus of opinion among close students of the fistic game is that (34-years old) Joe will outpoint (35-years old) Childs during the first 3 or 4 rounds, after which the colored man’s strength, stamina, and hitting power will assert themselves and cause Choynski to collapse.”
ROUND 2:  Choynski lands left jab to face – lands left hook jab to jaw – Childs frustrated.  Choynski lands left jab to face – Childs charges and throws right to head – misses – Choynski lands left jab to head and backs.  Childs pursues – Choynski lands let jab hook to jaw – Childs aggressively wants to land right – Choynski backs.  Childs steps forward – Choynski lands left jab to head – dazed Childs attempts to step forward – Choynski follows with hard ‘ambush’ right which lands to jaw – Childs wobbled and backs off balance, slightly staggers and drops to ground.
Childs rises and attempts to indicate he slipped - (“It was a clean knockdown”) – Choynski pounces and lands left, right, left, right at various angles – Childs unable to stop or defend, but won’t step backward or fall.
Joe Choynski
These are my all-time two favorite pugilists, Frank Childs and Joe Choynski.  I would have loved to view this fight even though both were past their prime.  As an historian, I publish but remain a ‘fan’ so collect these pugilists’ bouts more than anyone.  Let me evaluate Tracy Callis’ point-by-point.  “(Joe) Choynski was a clever, well-coordinated fighter who hit hard with each fist and moved well on his feet.   He was one of the outstanding light heavyweights at the turn of the last century; He also fought as a heavyweight, despite weighing less than 180 pounds.”  I don’t disagree with the gist of the statement, but would like to clarify.  Childs was a slugger who hit hard with both fists – but preferred to set up his right hook-uppercut to jaw.  Choynski utilized his unusual long, left jab which ‘stung’ and curved while arriving at all angles.  He waited patiently with an ‘ambush’ right punch which he rarely employed that his larger opponent did not recognize was invisibly stalking.  Both James Jeffries and Jack Johnson said the ambush right-punch by Choynski was the hardest they received in their professional careers.  In 1901, it knocked out Johnson in the 3rd round and in 1897, embedded Jeffries’ lip into his teeth during the 16th round – with a hand knife needed to split Jeffries lip open mid-bout for him to continue.  Choynski pulled that ambush right on former Colored Heavyweight Champion, George Godfrey and nailed Childs in the 2nd round of this 1902 bout.  Choynski’s 20-round Draw versus Jeffries in San Francisco may be the most creative performance in the history of boxing.
Joe Choynski was the better boxer over Frank Childs – but he was the best boxer over everyone – especially heavyweights.  The quirk in Choynski is when he stopped boxing and decided to slug it out with someone of similar size which was a disastrous decision.  Frank Childs was always the ‘chump’ – and I fell in love – always giving the fans their struggled $5 or $10 fight money while nobody would ultimately appreciate it.
Tracy Callis:  “Joe (Choynski) was most famous for his battles with Jim Corbett, Jim Jeffries, and Bob Fitzsimmons.”  There are fights famous for the moment and others which become legacy.  By 1910, Choynski was most famous for his wild Draw with James Jeffries and knockout of Jack Johnson.  While at his boxing peak, his knockout victory over George Godfrey was high-profile as was his mysterious (but already legendary) knockout losses to James Corbett.  Tom Sharkey’s cheating versus Choynski was scandalous in its time.  Choynski fought the Kid McCoy’s and Gus Ruhlin’s which were all high-profile at the time but decades fade those bouts.  Choynski was extraordinarily popular in both San Francisco and New York City and was slotted to fight White Heavyweight Champion, Bob Fitzsimmons for the title.  Unfortunately, Choynski had a weird flaw that when he patiently fought defensive against larger opponents was genius; but against smaller opponents became overly aggressive and suffered embarrassing knockout losses.  Choynski could frustrate the Hell out of heavyweights 6’1 and 190 pounds and larger while a rail-thin could beat him senseless.  This should help EVERY GUY afraid to fight someone!!  Choynski had Irish heavyweight Peter Maher dominated which would set-up an 1896 heavyweight bout versus Fitzsimmons – but the crowd heckled him to ‘fight’ – so he did and wound up knocked out.  The same guy who knocked out the larger Jack Johnson in the 3rd round – who embedded James Jeffries teeth into his lip in the 16th round which made San Franciscan guys ROAR with hope because he was doing it for US (and every bully we meet and despise) – was soon knocked-out in the 1st round by the smaller, Kid Carter. 
Tracy Callis:  “Choynski was inducted into the Ring Boxing Hall of Fame in 1960 and the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1998.”  Choynski was never champion while Childs was BOTH Colored and Black heavyweight champion while denied any opportunity to fight for the White heavyweight title.  Childs is in no boxing hall-of-fame except mine.  Choynski and Childs were both amazing – the slugger versus the boxer – who both gave boxing spectators tremendous pleasure during their lifetime.
ROUND 6:  (Final 30 seconds):  Childs charges and throws punches, but cannot land right clean to jaw.  Choynski lands left jab and wearily backs – Childs has expended more energy, but still appears to have fresher legs as he pursues and wildly throws punches – Choynski content to land weak left jab and avoid being knocked down from Childs right as he backs….  Bell sounds – bout over – referee awards Choynski victory – crowd applauds both pugilists and agree with decision.
Chicago Tribune:  “Joe Choynski surprised his most ardent admirers by defeating Frank Childs, the colored ex-heavyweight Champion.  Choynski’s cleverness in hitting, blocking, slipping into clinches when in danger, and his artistic ducking of Childs’ vicious right swings for the knockout spot were much admired by lovers of scientific boxing.”
Jack Johnson stands behind Joe Choynski

On February 5th, 1903, Jack Johnson, who had claimed the Black Heavyweight Title from Frank Childs, unified his dominance by winning a 20-round decision over Colored Heavyweight Champion, Denver Ed Martin.  Both fights for which Johnson as challenger claimed titles were held in Los Angeles, California.
Jack Johnson deserves credit, as does Frank Childs that they allowed Black pugilists the opportunity to claim their championship.  For whatever reason – with most of these boxing historians – Peter Jackson is afforded so much more respect as Colored heavyweight Champion than Childs.  Ring Boxing Hall of Fame and International Boxing Hall of Fame inducted a guy who wouldn’t allow Black fighters to compete for his title but deny the guy who allowed anyone (White or Black) to take their best shots and perhaps take his Colored and/or Black heavyweight titles (Childs).  Jack Johnson – so controversial in his personal life with his legacy attached to his relationship with White America – is sort of ignored for his 1902-1907 reign as heavyweight champion.
The ‘Colored’ heavyweight championship lost its allure to the ‘Black’ likewise title.  In the meantime, Jackson fought Black pugilists with dominance.  On February 26th, 1903, Johnson won a 20-round decision over undefeated Sam McVea in Los Angeles.  On May 11th, 1903, Johnson scored a 3rd round knockout over Joe Butler in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  On October 27th, 1903, Johnson won another 20-round decision over Sam McVea in Los Angeles.  On April 22nd, 1904, Jack Johnson scored a 20th round knockout of Sam McVea in San Francisco, California….  On June 2nd, I give Jack Johnson credit for allowing Frank Childs a rematch in Chicago.  Childs, the champion, had been the favorite when they first met in Los Angeles, but broke his arm early and could not offer much competition versus the patient, defensive challenger.  Frank Childs was older, but not over-the-hill so as the boxing axiom states: “the punch is the last thing to go,” and the smaller Childs was a puncher.

Colored Heavyweight Title: Champion Jack Johnson vs. Frank Childs (6/2/1904)
 Location:  Chicago, Illinois – Johnson wins 6-round decision.
Chicago media review:  “Jack Johnson did not come up to expectations, and Frank, although he tried, could do nothing with the Champion.  The latter cut loose in the last thirty seconds of the fight and showed some symptoms of his knowledge of the game.  Johnson has been a long time trying to cut into the local game, and he bungled the job when given the opportunity.”
Frank Childs, though easily defeated, did not make life easy for an opponent.  Jack Johnson could not knock down this smaller man stepping forward and throwing punches.  For the final 30-seconds, Frank Childs fought with the heart of Champion; both hands fiercely flailing.  Childs was the Joe Frazier of his day – without 5% of the respect by future historians because his personal life was his own and everything he presented was inside that boxing ring.  To Johnson’s credit, Childs was a dangerous opponent who would have been easier to avoid; certainly in Chicago where his greatest days and acclaim lay.  Undefeated White Heavyweight Champion, James Jeffries was disposing of another White joke, Jack Munroe, with a 2nd round knockout in San Francisco, and would soon announce his retirement because he had fought ‘everybody’ and no one could beat him.  Of course, ‘everybody’ doesn’t include Jack Johnson, Frank Childs, Sam McVea, Denver Ed Martin or Klondike.  I don’t know if the smaller, aging Frank Childs could have defeated Jeffries, but the 37-year old slugger would not have been afraid to step forward and throw punches.


Author and historian
Christopher James Shelton

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Christopher James Shelton is a product of the American West Coast. He has lived in Los Angeles and San Ysidro, California, Tijuana , Mexico, and currently resides in Phoenix, Arizona.


Shelton was the editor of CHEEERS Soundboard, the first solely written/produced mental health recovery center newsletter in America.  He has several credits as researcher/writer/interviewer for CyberBoxingZone including: “Scandal In San Francisco (1896).” “The Last Bareknuckle Championship Bout (1889)” and “The Art and Science of Daniel Mendoza.”


His research discovery credits include 19th-century pugilists George Godfrey, Professor Hadley, Tom Hyer, John L. Sullivan and Jake Kilrain.  Family interviews, mixed with historical research, include lightweights Jack Britton and Billy Hawkins. 


Shelton conducted the final interview with legendary Phoenix manager Al Fenn, and asked candid questions about George Foreman and H.I.V. with former heavyweight champion Tommy Morrison.  HIs favorite historical article, “124-year-old woman challenges John L. Sullivan for the title," recounts the life story of a feisty 19th-century female slave named Sylvie Dubois.



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