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The Fort Wayne Journal

21 Jan 1917

By Robert Edgren

 

Have the days gone by when a sturdy Fighting man can come from nowhere and leap to the championship class in a single bound?. It seems that way, with our modern innocuous ten-round no decision boxing. To-day a champion ignores all challengers and waits months, or years, without taking the slightest risk of losing a title to a formidable rival.

 

Each challenger is as carefully inspected as an insurance applicant, his weak and strong points tabulated and the risks matched and balanced and summed up before the champion even deigns to answer his challenge. It wasn't like that in the old days.

 

Then champions were jealous of their ring fame and too quick to oppose aspiring rivals. Consequently it happened now and then that an unknown found his chance to become world famous over night.

 

I was in San Francisco when Tom Sharkey came ashore at Vallejo from the cruiser in Philadelphia and fought some fireman bruiser from another ship. Sharkey knocked his man out with the first punch struck, won thousands of dollars for his shipmates, who had wagered six months' pay on their Champion, and made such an impression that he was talked of even in San Francisco forty miles away.

 

In those days the good fighters, went at the sport like huntsmen. They weren't rabbit hunters. They liked to go after bear and elk and big game. So when Sharkey's name appeared in the sporting columns all the skilled fighting men in his class immediately took interest in him. Result, in a few days the sailor, who had finished his term of enlistment in the United States Navy, was offered a number of good matches. He didn't look for soft marks to work up on —

which is the modern practice. He took them as fast as they came. First he knocked out Australian Billy Smith in seven rounds, then John Miller in nine, and then fought an eight-round draw with the great old veteran of those days, Alex Greggains.

 

The sailor having shown himself to be a mighty tough customer, Joe Choynski gave him a match. Joe always was a sport. And Sharkey, coming with a rush knocked Joe out in eight rounds. That fight made Sharkey famous. Choynski was a tremendous hitter and as clever as any heavyweight. Twice he knocked the raw sailor clean through the ropes and out of the ring, to fall on his head on the floor. And twice Sharkey ran around the ring to his corner, climbed in under the ropes, and leaped to his feet and after Choynski like a wildcat. After beating Choynski, Tom knocked out Jim Williams in three rounds.

 

By this time he had attracted the attention of Jim Corbett. then heavyweight champion and the idol of the Queensberry world. Jim came to San Francisco and at once consented to take Sharkey on for a four-round bout. It was a risky thing to do. No modern champion would have considered such a risk for a second. Sharkey had shown himself a tremendous mauler.

 

I was in both camps during the training, Corbett, secure in his dazzling skill, laughed as he said he'd make a fool of "that sailor dub". Sharkey grimly declared he'd lick Corbett. When the fight came off Sharkey rushed the champion with a speed and fury that offset his skill and forced him to cling desperately to avoid the bewildering flurry of unscientific blows that came from every angle. Time and again Sharkey threw Corbett off and rushed him into the ropes before he could even place a simple jab. Half a minute before the end of the fourth round a police lieutenant leaped into the ring to save Corbett from a knockout in the roughest mauling the champion had ever taken.

 

The bell clanged the official end of the round and the referee called it a "draw." Sharkey, with that other half minute, might have become world's champion. Think of It—a raw sailor, with a half dozen land fights under his belt, beating a Jim Corbett in four rounds. The mere possibility made Sharkey famous all over the country. From that time on until he fought Jim Jeffries for the

title, three years later, Sharkey was always a championship possibility – always in the position of runner-up. He was the man who had to be whipped before a heavyweight, champion could wear his crown with ease and security.

 

In that battle with Jeffries Sharkey was again within reach of the world title - only a doubtfully close referee's decision at the end of twenty-five furious rounds barring his way. Sharkey carried the fight to Jeffries every minute of the twenty-five rounds. After the twentieth Jeffries, realizing that the decision was lost unless he fought desperately, hammered with all his might at Sharkey's heart every time Sharkey plunged in. He broke three of Sharkey's ribs, battered him so that, although he whipped many good men afterward, he never was the same untamable fighter again, and put him out of the title hunt. The leap of Jim Jeffries into the top rank of fighting men was even more sudden than that of Sharkey, he was given his chance to fight a champion before he had long been in the ring, and

Jeffries won. Big Jim was a boiler maker near Los Angeles. He began fighting by knocking out a negro heavyweight quite famous on the coast in those clays. He joined Jim Corbett's training camp at Carson before the Corbett-Fitzsimmons fight and learned a lot about boxing by

studying Corbett's action.

 

After Carson Jeffries fought eight fights in California and one in the east, then retired to Los Angeles only a fairly well known heavyweight. Billy Brady, the famous theatrical man, had a world of faith in Jeffries . he persuaded Jeffries to come East again. Meanwhile Brady had talked of a Jeffries match to Bob Fitzsimmons, then champion, and had suggested that as Jeffries weighed about 225 pounds to Fitzsimmons 158, Fitz’s great skill and hitting power might be offset by Jeff’s strength and bulk sufficiently to make it a good match. Incidentally, Brady told Fitz that they would draw a good gate because Fitz hadn’t been in the ring for some time and people wanted to see him. Fitz took the match on , confident that he’d knock Jeffries out with ease. He believed in his own adage that “ The bigger they are the harder they fall”.

 

On the night of the fight Fitzsimmons walked to Jeff’s dressing room to throw a scare into Jeff. Brady had his giant boiler maker artistically stretched out on a cot to show his tremendous chest and huge muscles. Fitsimmons came in, and even Fitzsimmons was impressed with that first glance that he stopped for a long look. Jeffries got up with a grunt and shook hands. Fitz began discussing the way in which they were to fight. He illustrated hitting in the breaks.

 

“You’ll have to protect yourself at all times” said Fitz. “How about that ?”. “Oh fight any way you please” growled Jeff, and putting his hand against Rob’s shoulder he shoved him away so violently that he fell against the wall. Jeffries stretched himself on the cot as if to take a little nap before the fight. Fitz awed for once in his life walked out.

 

But Fitzsimmons was the gamest man in the ring and a real champion. Impressed as he was with the gigantic strength of his youthful rival he carried the fight right to Jeffries furiously from the start. The end began to show when Jeffries knocked Fitzsimmons flat on his back with a straight left on the mouth. Although he fought with even greater fury afterward Fitz never fully recovered from that blow and when Jeffries measured him and struck him fairly on he point of the chin in the eleventh round, the freckled champion fell like a log. Jeffries, twenty four years old and only two years a professional fighting man, had won the world’s heavy weight championship.

 

If Jeffries could come along to day, just the same powerful boiler maker of twenty years ago he’d be allowed to mingle with our present heavyweight champion. Willard might be willing to fight him, but fighting has become purely a business affair. A champion is managed by a syndicate, like a railroad or a gold mine. And no syndicate would give Jim Jeffries a chance.

 

So unless another chance comes along in the sport of boxing we’re not going to see any more champions come up in the mushroom fashion of twenty years ago. To day they like the “soft ones” too well.

End

 

 

The Fort Wayne Journal

28 April 1918

 

 

Jess Willard and Fred Fulton will furnish the next heavyweight championship fight, whether it's held on July 4 or some other time. Fulton is Willard's natural rival for the title. He will be the first, man of his own height Willard ever met in the ring. He will be the cleverest boxer Willard ever met, with the single exception of Jack Johnson. And, unlike Johnson, Fulton is coming, not

going.

 

Fulton has a longer reach than any other man Willard ever fought. He has bigger fists than any other man Willard ever fought, and a harder punch than any other man Willard ever fought.

 

It may be that when he fought Willard Gunboat Smith could hit as hard as Fulton does now, but he was a wild swinger, not a clean and scientific puncher. Smith beat Willard in twenty rounds, being the referee’s decision.

 

Fulton isn't the heaviest man Willard ever fought, but he is the fastest big man so far. Johnson and Morris were both, heavier, which was a handicap.

 

Fulton has a frame fit to carry 240 pounds. He might weigh 240 without carrying fat. But he is of the leanly muscular type, like Bob Fitzsimmons. Fulton is not inclined to take on fat He trains regularly and fights often. Willard trains little, being lazy and fights less, because he has no ambition to fight.

 

Fulton has a habit of knocking out opponents. Willard has the ability to knock out opponents, but doesn't do it except on rare occasions. He lacks natural aggressiveness. He is satisfied to lead, to avoid punishment himself, and to show off his own skill without making too much effort. Again, he is lazy in the ring as well as in the training quarters. Also he has an overwhelming sense of caution. In his early fights, when it was hard to win he had streaks of aggressiveness, usually a flash after being hurt.

 

Willard was as big and as fast before fighting Johnson as he was at Havana, although he, lacked the really great skill he showed in that fight. If he had been a Fulton in aggressiveness and fighting spirit, he would have knocked out Arthur Pelky, Luther McCarty, Carl Morris, Gunboat Smith. Charley Miller. George Rodel. Tom McMahon and Frank Moran. He had the power and the ability to beat all these men, but he didn't use it through sheer lack of aggressive spirit.

 

Of course when he fought McCarty ten rounds Willard was a novice and McCarty counted the best white heavyweight, in the country, so when Willard outfought McCarty and met his rushes with solid counters through ten rounds he did well enough, and much more than was expected of him.

 

Willard Can "Take It."

 

Willard. in shape to fight, has better assimilating powers than Fulton. I saw Fulton badly dazed twice by Al Reich's right handers, he recovered finely and stopped Reich in a few rounds more. But the fact remains that he was badly shaken by two hard blows on the jaw. And I don't believe either of those blows would have troubled Willard in the least.

 

I have seen Willard take blows. I saw Soldier Kearns, who was a tremendous hitter then, land a crashing swing in Willard's body and step back to let him fall. And Willard lunged forward and knocked Kearns cleanly out with one blow.

 

I saw Jack Johnson, in Havana, work for two rounds for the opening he wanted, and finally sink his glove to the wrist in Willard's solar plexus — and Willard countered and knocked Johnson about ten feet. I saw Johnson catch Willard with a fearful left hook on the chin, and as Willard was hammered over to one side by the blow, lift a swinging right-hander from his knee and catch Willard flush on the other side of the jaw with what looked like a sure knockout punch.

 

And Willard. With a quick shake of his head, ripped in a body blow that took all the aggressiveness out of Johnson for a couple of rounds. He told me afterward that the swing on the jaw dazed him for a second, but he showed no effect of it. In the Frisco fight Gunboat Smith caught Willard on the jaw with a smashing right swing. The giant didn't totter, but he was so careful afterward that he lost the decision.

 

Several men have given Fulton a severe shaking. When he was a beginner Al Palzer stopped him. Porky Flynn, never a very hard hitter, is said to have staggered him once at New Orleans. I saw Reich stagger him twice. Miske gave him a hard fight, and Cowler shook him up and dazed him badly in their first, round.

 

Fulton Come Back Fighting.

 

There's one thing in Fulton's favor in all this. He comes back very quickly when dazed by a blow, and uses good judgment when in trouble of any kind. He outfought Miske, and he outfought Flynn, and stopped Reich, and knocked out Cowler.

 

He took Moran's "Mary Ann" without flinching, and quickly stopped Moran. As a punishing hitter Fulton is far ahead of Willard. The champion strikes a terrible blow and is likely to land a one-blow knockout at any time. But Fulton wears his man down quickly and cither knocks him out or has him so helpless after a few rounds that, the fight is stopped. Fulton gave Reich such a beating in seven rounds that Reieh gave up the game.

 

He beat Carl Morris until Morris fouled persistently, preferring to lose on a foul rather than take the knock out that was surely coming. He closed both of Sam Langford's eyes, so that Sam quit. He knocked Sam down early in the fight with a left hook, and Sam got up and swung one on Fulton’s ear, dazing him. Fulton told me after the fight that he didn’t know what had hit him for a moment, but was able to stall Sam’s next two or three rushes off and take up the lead again.

He gave Moran the worst beating Moran ever had in his life, and did it in a couple of rounds.

 

Bulk Is Willard's Only Advantage.

 

Willard will have some advantage over Fulton in sheer bulk and strength, an inch or two in height, and if perfectly fit will be a tougher man to hurt. But Fulton is a better hitter, more aggressive, far more willing to take risks and will be driven by ambition instead of a desire to hold something already won.

 

Willard has a little better defensive build. His neck is thick and short, and his well rounded lower jaw is wide and not too prominent. Fulton's jaw is wide, but projects enough to make an easier mark to bit. A long jaw is more affected by a blow than a. short jaw , a matter of leverage.

 

Willard has been loafing, while Fulton has been busy fighting the best men he could find.

 

End

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The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette

2 June 1918

 

Benny Leonard is a great lightweight champion, and would be busy defending his title If he wasn't in khaki, acting as boxing instructor at Camp Upton.

 

The hard work of the military training camp is making Benny take on weight, and the followers of boxing are wondering if, when the war is over Benny won't be a candidate for the championship in a heavier class. Up to this time Benny has always fooled them all at the scales. Managers of other fighters have claimed freely that Benny had outgrown the lightweight class, but Benny weighed in a pound or so under the limit at ringside whenever there was any need

for weighing in. He scaled 132 pounds when he fought Johnny Kilbane, and his low weight was as much of a surprise to the featherweight champion as the ease with which Leonard out-speeded and outfought and knocked Johnny out.

 

Leonard has had visions of fighting for other titles, for he has even spoken of an ambition to match his skill and punch against Mike Gibbons. If Leonard should grow out of the class there will be many candidates for the lightweight title. Two of the best offer a strong contrast. One is Lew Tendler, a Philadelphian youngster unknown until a couple or months ago, and the other

is Johnny Dundee, the Iron ribbed and steel jawed "Scotch Wop."

 

As for Johnny Dundee, he was a veteran when Benny Leonard was in knickers — but although a hundred hard ring battles arc behind him, he shows no sign of losing his class. Dundee might have a chance to win the championship.

 

But the fight followers look for Leonard's coming rival among the new fighters coming up rather than to a fighter who is good but probably never will be better.

 

Tendler May Be Coming Champion.

They turn to Tendler.

Down In Philadelphia the fans regard Tendler as a winner every time he starts. He has the slim, wiry and half developed physique of a boy. He boxes in his own natural style, standing with right foot and right fist advanced. He is a southpaw like that great favorite of a few years ago, “Knockout Brown”. But unlike K.B. he is a shifty boxer. He carries no scars, and his hair maintains its part through every fight. He has a high beak of a nose that would make ita great target if he didn’t protect it well. And he has a small chin like Kid McCoy’s, that is hard to reach. He is slightly built, but with good shoulders and evenly developed arms and legs.

 

When he boxes he shifts about lightly, and is always ready to drive a hard left for head or body, using it as other boxers use their right hands. He is one "southpaw" boxer who doesn't seem in the least awkward because he doesn't assume the orthodox position. Usually it is the other fellow who seems awkward, for while Tendler is used to fighting right handed boxers, few right-handed boxers are used to fighting a man who extends his right arm and uses it to parry a jab.

 

To show how rapidly Tendler has come along, March 26 Johnny Dundee had a little the better of him in a decision less Philadelphia, six-round bout. Then on April 8 Tendler startled every one by beating Patsy Cline in another six-rounder. The club that night was so packed that the police had to close the doors while thousands of people were in line before the box office.

 

Slugger Was Easy For Lew

 

April 29th Tendler, suddenly famous and in great demand among fight promoters, beat Willie Jackson in New Haven, fifteen rounds, referee's decision. Jackson (the same who knocked out Dundee) is a hulking, powerful lightweight with a tremendous punch. He had been matched with Dundee, who was prevented from fighting by an attack of pneumonia. Tendler took the bout on short notice. He had no trouble in beating Jackson.

 

That Jackson fight brought Tendler $2,500, his biggest purse. He was a new boy in Philadelphia until eight months ago, when his fighting career began. In that eight months he has earned over $10.000, and has reached a position that should command many thousands more before he reaches military age, as he is only nineteen.

 

End

 

The Fort Wayne News and Sentinel

 

 

Thousands of pages have been written about Champion Jack Dempsey and his wonderful hands and arms and legs, and the success he has earned with them. Here and there in the thousands or pages there has been some passing mention of one Jack Kearns, his manager.

 

Usually it is just a line saying that Jack Kearns is In Tia Juana conferring with James Coffroth, the famous promoter; or that Jack Kearns has just received an offer of $500,000, more or less, for a Dempsey- Carpentier match; or that Mr. Cochrane, England, is on his way to California to make a big proposition to Dempsey and expects to see Mr. Dernpsey and Mr. Kearns in a

day or two.

 

Dempsey, as champion, is in the eyes of the world. But behind Dempsey is Jack Kearns. And to my mind Jack Kearns is not by any great margin the smaller figure of the two. It's no small feat to take an unknown boxer, discouraged and with little enthusiasm for a game that has brought only hard knocks and poor success, and in less than two years make him the greatest world champion ever known in the ring.

 

And in such demand that the sums offered for his service make chicken feed of any amount any other champion ever received.

 

I hunted up Jack Kearns in his office in Los Angeles and found him there sitting behind a large flat desk covered with telegrams and letters, gazing admiringly at a long typewritten list that he had just pinned against the wall at his elbow.

 

"There it is, up to date." Said Kearns, indicating the list with a wave of his hand. "There are the first twenty offers for the Dempsey – Carpentier match ranging from $200,000 to $750,000."

 

"I suppose you know which one you are going to take” I suggested.

 

“Oh, no," said Kearns. "I'm in no hurry . I’m just looking them over. When I know the bids are alll in I'll accept the one that looks best. I've had offers of $400.000 for Dempsey’s end and judging from the way the bids are growing It may be higher. But there are other things to be considered besides money. I'll have to know that the people who bundle this match will carry every thing through in the cleanest and most sportsmanlike manner.

 

Dempsey wants no favors because he's champion. He’ll win if he can, and the man who can beat him is welcome to the title and all that goes with it. Jack would like to box every week and take on the best man in sight. But he’s satisfied with any arrangement I make, and it's up to me to take care of the financial end. That's why I'm looking them over so carefully."

 

"You don't seem much excited over all this big money” I said.

 

Jack Kearns is one of those open faced, blond haired, blue eyed fellows who looks as If he were everybody's friend and had nothing on earth to conceal. He leaned back in his chair and laughed as if he'd thought of a good joke.

 

"It might make a fellow a little dizzy." he said, "to think that two years ago I was offered $20 for Dempsey’s end, and now they're falling over each other to hand us four or five hundred thousand dollars." Here the telephone bell rang and Mr. Kearns was told that two gentlemen from New Orleans had just arrived with a personal offer for the bout were waiting in the outer office. He disappeared for as much as five minutes.

 

Just as he came back the phone rang again, with the information that a representative of a certain millionaire movie magnate had just arrived from New York and was coming right up to insist upon getting a signed acceptance of a Carpentier-Dempsey proposition wired on a few

days before.

 

"He says he knows he has outbid any one else and I have no excuse for not taking up his offer at once," explained Kearns. "I'll have to stall. Here's Cochrane all the way from London, and I told him he'd have his chance to bid. And Coffroth and some other fellows I've promised to listen to. No. I won't do any signing or accepting just yet"

 

Kearns Also Fought In Ring.

 

"While we are waiting." said I "let's go on with this story. I believe you used to do a little fighting yourself. What was the biggest purse you ever got?"

 

"Seven hundred dollars," said Kearns promptly, coming right down from the realms of high finance without a jar. "That was about all the money there was in the world in those days. Why, I was born and brought up in Frisco in a fighting district. In those days a fellow was in great luck to have saloon keeperfor a manager because he was sure to eat. He could get next to a free lunch.

 

I weighed from 128 to 135 and I fought Chicago Jack O'Keefe and Charlie Rogers and Denver Kid Parker: lost once and won once. I fought Australian Tommy Tracey twice, to a draw, and beat Mysterious Billy Smith in twenty rounds, but Billy was in pretty poor shape. I fought Mose LaFontise fifteen rounds at Idaho. He was a tough one. I fought Jimmy Potts and Billy Landon. And Aurelia Herrera knocked me out in twelve rounds. I fought Dal Hawkins twelve

rounds. Those were days of real fighting.

 

We used to have private fights for Senator Clark and some other big millionaire mining men up north. I was a slim kid and the tough fellows I fought hammered me around the kidneys until I thought I’d be better off as a manager. So I turned right around and managed Kid Parker and kid Scales and Indian Joe Gregg and Young Peter Jackson and freddy Weeks. Weeks was a great bantam in those days. He was a few years too soon to be in the big money he’d make today. I had Kid McFadden and Dick Hyland and Frankie Neil and a lot more.

 

I got together a bunch of good ones and took them to Australia. There were McGorty and Clabby and Joe Bonds, Billy Kramer and Billy Murray And Red Watson. That Watson would have been a champion if he'd taken care of himself. In Australia I signed Les Darcy to a contract and arranged to bring him here but that slipped up. When Darcy came over a bunch of managers went him and got him to throw me over.

 

Les Darcy was a great fighter. "After that I took Strangler Lewis to San Francisco

to wrestle. "I had a training Quarters in Oakland and had Red Watson and Ortega

working out there. "That was how I happened to fall in with Jack Dempsey. Jack had started fighting and lost a four round bout to Willie Meehan and been knocked out by Jim Flynn in a round and had given it up. He was working in the shipyards. I met him standing around on the corner and liked his looks.

 

“How’d you like to come up and work out with Ortega?” I asked Jack. "'Oh. I can't fight” he said. “I’m no good. I'm tired of the game and through with it.' "'Come on over and work with the boys a little anyway.' I said. ""I've got to work all day tomorrow” said Jack, “but I'll be up Saturday afternoon.”

 

"He came up and boxed Saturday afternoon and Sunday. He was a nice boy and I offered to take him east in a month if he'd improve in boxing. He was strong and quick, but he would lead his right hand — said he couldn't use his left.

 

“So I had the boy’s take a punching bag rope and tie Jack's right hand down to his side and make him box with his left. He had to use his left then, and pretty soon he was hitting pretty well, and because he hadn’t a right to block with he was bobbing from side to side and ducking under punches. That was the beginning of his swaying style of fighting he’s used ever since. The style that has fooled Willard and Fulton and all the rest.

 

Offered Kearns $20 for Dempsey to Fight Meehan

 

“I went and tried to get him a match and they laughed. Dempsey’s a bum – he can’t fight” they said.

 

They offered me $20 for Dempsey and I persuaded them to give him 20 per cent. He gave Meehan an awful beating. Then he beat Bob McAllister and knocked out Charlie Miller in eight seconds and Al Norton in two punches.

 

After that they began to look him over. They gave him a match with Gunboat Smith. The Gunner was good then. Dempsey had one fault still. He’d pull away from a punch instead of ducking close in. I told him about It but he would pull away. The Gunner measured him and caught him as he pulled back and nearly knocked him out. Jack reeled forward and the Gunner socked him

again. That was when I learned Dempsey was game.. He lasted the round out. Between rounds 1 whispered to him to go get the Gunner before he could start from his corner. Everybody thought Dempsey was whipped, but he ran across the ring at Smith and gave him a fierce beating. Jack never pulled away from another punch.

 

After that he beat Carl Morris, and then he went east. He knocked Morris out twice. "In New Orleans he shifted, swung around and hit Morris in the stomach and knocked him out with the first punch. Morris fell on his face with his mouth open and his tongue stuck out so far it was covered in resin.

 

Here the telephone rang again and I left Kearns talking to a man from Texas who wants to hold the big bout on his cattle ranch.

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