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Famous boxing brothers: Gibbons


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Now we go farther back in time than we ever went in this thread/series. Mike and Tommy Gibbons were both awesome boxers, Mike at middleweight and Tommy light heavyweight and later heavyweight. Mike was perhaps more clever of the two and holds wins over the great Harry Greb and Ted Kid Lewis, while Tommy became famous as the only man to last 15 rounds against Jack Dempsey and also holds wins over Georges Carpentier, Kid Norfolk, Billy Miske and Harry Greb as well. Both brothers were the pride of St. Paul, Minnesota, where they lived their entire lives.

We start with Mike, the older brother, who was born 20 July 1887 in St. Paul of course. Mike is judged by many historians to have been among the very best boxers to never win a world title ever. He stood 5'9/175 cm and had a reach of 72"/183 cm. Mike was a clever boxer but also possessed enough punching power and was tough like his brother, never getting stopped in over 100 fights. It is reported that he fought 127 fights, but 58 of them were newspaper decisions, so his record is counted as 65 wins, 3 losses and 4 draws, with 38 knockouts. He was known under the moniker "St. Paul Phantom". He turned pro 1 December 1907, aged 20 and won on points against Newsboy Brown. Early on, he lost twice on points to Jimmy Clabby and then went on an unbeaten streak of  21 fights, before losing to Jack McCarron and Eddie McGoorty, both by newspaper decisions. On 9 October 1913, he won the American version of the world title by beating Spike Kelly by a newspaper decision in 10. That would be the only title he would ever win. On 11 September 1915, he lost to the great Packey McFarland by another newspaper decision. Next year, on 18 May, he scored his first great victory when he decisioned Ted Kid Lewis in Madison SG. 

On 10 February '17, he faced the great Harry Greb, considered one of the very best pugilists ever, in Philadelphia. 23-yearold Greb was 7 years younger and hadn't yet fully developed as a fighter, but gave Gibbons a hard fight with his aggressive style. However, Gibbons boxed cleverly and won on points after 6 rounds. They had a rematch 2 years later, 23 June '19, in Greb's hometown of Pittsburgh and this time Greb had obviously matured, as he went on to win on points after 10 rounds, the writers giving him 6 rounds to 3 for Gibbons and 1 even. It was still a close fight, but the writers favoured Greb's attacking style to Gibbons' clever boxing. On 4 August '21, Gibbons beat Augie Ratner, an excellent fighter who held wins over Ted Kid Lewis, Jack Delaney and Mike McTigue, on points in 10 rounds. They fought again on 5 December, this time in a 12-rounder, and Gibbons won again on points. After losing a decision to Mike O'Dowd on 6 May '22, Gibbons had one more fight only 10 days later and beat the 1-1 Danny Fagan by a TKO 5. He was now 35 and knew time had come to retire. He died on 31 August 1955 and was in 1992 inducted into the IBHOF.

Now we come to Tommy. Born on 22 March 1891, Tommy was the taller and stronger of the two, standing 6' and a half/184 cm and had a reach of 74"/188 cm. He therefore fought as a light heavy most of his career, after starting out as a middleweight. Despite being a harder hitter than his brother, he also possessed good boxing technique. He started to box at the local YMCA in St. Paul and turned pro in 1911, beating Oscar Kelly by KO5. He went undefeated in his first 56 fights (!) and was the first guy to beat Billy Miske by a newspaper decision in 1914. On 23 March 1917, he faced the light heavy world champion Battling Levinsky (then with a record of 128-27-27) at the St. Paul Auditorium and defeated him on a 10-round newspaper decision. In 1919, he faced Miske again and this time the result was a draw, as the sportswriters couldn't agree on who won. Next year, on 15 May, he faced Harry Greb for the first time at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh and gave him the "worst licking of his life" according to reports, but the teak tough Greb held on to lose by a decision. Tommy won 7 rounds of 10 according to reports. The rematch was held on 31 July at the same venue and this time, Greb did much better. Despite Gibbons hurting him with a right to the jaw in the first round, Greb dominated much of the fight. A rainstorm errupted midfight and spectators could not see much of the action, but in the end, Greb got the nod because his inside fighting threw Gibbons off his game. 

Gibbons then won 26 fights before again facing Greb, 13 March 1922, at Madison SG. Tommy looked slow and awkward and was outworked by the smaller Greb, who again got the nod by UD after 15 rounds. After getting disqualified against Billy Miske and then beating him on points in their fourth fight, Tommy went up to heavyweight to fight Jack Dempsey-though he weighed in at 175 to Dempsey's 188. That fight was held in Shelby, Montana, 4 July 1923 and Gibbons, a 11-to-5 underdog, cut Dempsey over the eye in round 2 but spent a lot of the fight clinching and holding, while Dempsey was not as sharp as usually. In the end, Gibbons became the first man to go the 15 round distance against The Manassa Mauler. His last two great wins came in 1924, first beating Georges Carpentier by newspaper decision in 10, and then stopping Kid Norfolk by TKO6. In his final fight on 5 June 1925, he faced the great Gene Tunney, who would soon dethrone Dempsey as the world champion. The 6-years younger Tunney would prove to be too much and became the only man to stop Gibbons in the 12th round by TKO after decking him twice. Before that, Tommy had a good showing in round 8 when he wobbled Tunney with two punches. But all in all, he had been bested by a superior boxer and had been fighting for a long time, so he knew the time was right to quit. His record, not counting the newspaper decisions, is 57 wins, 48 by ko, 4 losses and 1 draw. He died on 19 November 1960, aged 69. He was inducted into the IBHOF in 1993, one year after his brother.





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