New-York Historical Society's Bill Shannon Dictionary of New York Sports

Category Archives: Boxing

Joe Louis

Joe Louis (Boxing. Born, Lafayette, AL, May 13, 1914; died, Las Vegas, NV, Apr. 12, 1981.) Famed around the world as the “Brown Bomber,” Joseph Louis Barrow was one of the most active of heavyweight champions – making 25 defenses of the title. He turned pro after becoming the A.A.U. light heavyweight titlist in 1934 and won the heavyweight title June 22, 1937, knocking out Jim Braddock in eight rounds in Chicago. Over his career, Louis was 21-1 in New York fights and was 11-0 in title defenses held here. He fought seven times in Yankee Stadium, twice in the Polo Grounds, and from 1938-47 was 8-0 with seven knockouts in Madison Square Garden. His rematch with Billy Conn at Yankee Stadium in 1946, promoted by Mike Jacobs, was the first ever $100-per-ticket ringside fight. Many of Louis’ defenses came under the heading of “the Bum-of-the-Month Club,” but he also fought many famous fights against the best heavyweights in the world, including Max Schmeling (1938) and Jersey Joe Walcott (1947 and 1948). Louis lost four years of his career when he joined the U.S. Army in 1942. He did not fight again until June 19, 1946, when he kayoed Conn in eight rounds in that rematch at the Stadium.

Mike Jacobs

Mike Jacobs (Boxing.  Born, New York, NY, Mar. 10, 1880; died, Miami Beach, FL, Jan. 24, 1953.)  For more than a decade, Michael Strauss Jacobs was the most powerful promoter in boxing.  In 1907, Jacobs opened a theatre ticket brokerage office in the lobby of the Hotel Normandie.  He soon branched out into handling sports event tickets and became effectively a co-promoter of many fights by taking large blocks of tickets.  In 1934, Jacobs began promoting boxing cards on his own and, after a Barney Ross-Billy Petrolle match drew over 10,000 at the Bronx Coliseum, he formed the 20th Century Sporting Club.  Three years later, Jacobs won a court battle with Madison Square Garden and in the settlement became the Garden promoter.  He already had rights for major outdoor events at Yankee Stadium and the Polo Grounds.  During the reign of Joe Louis, Jacobs was the primary promoter of his title fights and also initiated the “Gillette Cavalcade of Sports” Friday night fights at the Garden, first on radio and then on television.  By 1949, declining health forced him to sell his operation (for a reported $110,000) to Jim Norris.  For many years, Jacobs’ ticket brokerage was located on 49th Street, between Broadway and Eighth Avenue.  The sidewalk in front of the office was usually so crowded with characters from the boxing business sunning themselves, it became known as “Jacobs’ Beach.”  Jacobs was the third of nine children of a tailor, Isaac (and his wife Rebecca), on the Lower East Side.

Joe Jacobs

Joe Jacobs (Boxing.  Born, New York, NY, May 7, 1897; died, New York, NY, Apr. 24, 1940.)  A colorful manager of boxers, Joe B. Jacobs handled four champions, as well as heavyweight contender Two-Ton Tony Galento.  Jacobs’ champions were heavyweight Max Schmeling , light heavyweight Mike McTigue and two featherweights – Andre Routis and Johnny Dundee.  Known as “Yussel the Muscle,” Jacobs, though Jewish, shepherded the career of Schmeling, billed as the Nazi champion from Germany in the tense days before World War II.  He was eminently quotable and, therefore, a favorite of boxing writers.  After Jack Sharkey defeated Schmeling in a title bout June 21, 1932, at the Madison Square Garden Bowl, Jacobs claimed foul and said, “We wuz robbed.”  On another occasion, after attending a baseball game with promoter Mike Jacobs, no relation, on a cold, raw day, he said, “I shoulda stood in bed.”

Lennox Lewis

Lennox Lewis (Born, West Ham, England, Sept. 2, 1965.) Lennox Lewis may be the precursor of the prototypical 21st Century super heavyweight. At 6’5, 250 pounds and as solid as Stonehenge granite, he is one of the largest men ever to rule boxing’s top division. Lewis’s professional career began auspiciously in London, England with a second-round knockout win over journeyman Al Malcolm. Over the next three years, Lewis was undefeated in twenty-one bouts, each marked by a display of power that was unprecedented for a British heavyweight. Lewis knocked out 18 of these early opponents; ten of his victims failed to survive the third round. His victories earned him both the European and British heavyweight crowns. Despite Lewis’s impressive record, American boxing fans and insiders were skeptical about the Brit’s skills. Most of Lewis’s opponents had been unknowns. However, Lewis’s second round knockout of the rugged Donovan “Razor” Ruddock in London on Oct. 31, 1992 answered many of the questions. Lewis was in command of that fight from the opening bell. He floored Ruddock three times before the referee ended the bout. The winner of this fight was supposed to meet the winner of a match between Evander Holyfield and Riddick Bowe for the World Boxing Council heavyweight championship. But after Bowe defeated Holyfield on Nov. 13, 1992, he refused to fight Lewis. The WBC stripped Bowe of his title and crowned Lewis as the new heavyweight king following his 12-round victory over Tony Tucker on May 8, 1993. Lewis’s initial reign was short-lived. Oliver McCall’s roundhouse right separated the champion from his senses and his title in the second round of their fight in London on Sept. 24, 1994. It was the first loss of Lewis’s career. He avenged that defeat and regained his belt on Feb. 7, 1997 when he TKO’d McCall in the fifth round. However, Lewis knew that the most members of the boxing public would never recognize him as a genuine champion until he defeated Evander Holyfield, the popular titleholder recognized by both the World Boxing Association and International Boxing Federation. The two boxers first met on March 13, 1999 at the Garden. Lewis outpunched Holyfield for most of the twelve rounds, but the three ringside judges ruled the bout a draw. On Nov. 13, 1999, the two fought a rematch. This time, Lewis dominated Holyfield. He won a unanimous 12-round decision to join Cornwall’s “Ruby Bob” Fitzsimmons in the record books as only the second British subject to hold the undisputed heavyweight championship of the world. Although the WBA withdrew its recognition of Lewis in April, 2000, he was still widely regarded as the heavyweight king for several years. – R.L.

Beau Jack

Beau Jack (Boxing.  Born, Augusta, GA, Apr. 1, 1921; died, Miami Beach, FL, Feb. 9, 2000.)  Born Sidney Walker and a one-time shoeshiner at the Augusta National Golf Club, Beau Jack rose to twice become world lightweight champion (1941-42, 1943-44).  Jack, an entertaining boxer who was constantly in motion, was so popular with New York crowds that he fought more main events at Madison Square Garden (22) than any other fighter.  One of those, a non-title bout on Aug. 4, 1944, sold $35,864,900 in war bonds for his fourth match with fellow welterweight Bob Montgomery.  Beau Jack won a 10-round decision that night to split a four-fight series.  His career record showed 83 victories (40 by knockout) and only 24 losses in 112 fights.  He was knocked out four times, including a TKO by Ike Williams in July 12, 1948, in Philadelphia’s Shibe Park in his last challenge for the lightweight title.  He retired from the ring in 1955, ending a pro career that began in 1940.

Tom Hyer

Tom Hyer (Boxing.  Born, New York, NY, Jan. 1, 1819; died, New York, NY, June 26, 1864.)  As the first generally-recognized U.S. heavyweight champion, Thomas Hyer gained recognition in 1849 after a series of victories.  Among Hyer’s most famous fights was Sept. 9, 1841, at Caldwell’s Landing, N.Y., when he defeated George McChester in 101 rounds.  On Feb. 2, 1849, Hyer knocked out Yankee Sullivan in 16 rounds at Rock Point, Md., and claimed the title.  He subsequently lost the championship and when he challenged champion William Perry, the English champion declined the challenge and Hyer retired.

Battling Levinsky

Battling Levinsky (Boxing. Born, Philadelphia, PA, June 10, 1889; died, Philadelphia, PA, Feb. 12, 1949.) Born Bernard Lerowitz, Battling Levinsky was a popular fighter in several weight classes over a 23-year career (1906-29) who fought 56 times in New York. Levinsky also had 24 bouts in Brooklyn, five in the Rockaways, four in Jersey City, and one each in Newark, Passaic, and North Bergen, N.J. On New Year’s Day, 1915, he fought 32 rounds in three different sites, starting with a 10-rounder in Brooklyn (vs. Bartley Madden), then a 10-rounder in Manhattan, followed by a 12-rounder in Waterbury, Conn. All were “no-decision” bouts but newspaper writers gave him the call in the last two. Levinsky was the recognized light heavyweight champion from 1916 until Oct. 12, 1920, when he lost the title to Georges Carpentier at Boyle’s 30 Acres in Jersey City. He also lost a tough 12-round decision to Gene Tunney in a title bout Jan. 13, 1922, at Garden No. 2. Levinsky was credited with 272 bouts as a pro, 174 of them “no-decision,” and lost only 19.

Archie Moore

Archie Moore (Boxing. Born, Benoit, MS, Dec. 13, 1913; died, San Diego, CA, Dec. 9, 1998.) One of the best fighters and greatest characters of boxing’s last “Golden Age” in the 1950s and early 1960s, Archie Moore was the light heavyweight champion for over nine years (1952-62). Moore fought several times for the heavyweight title, including losses to Rocky Marciano, Ezzard Charles, and Floyd Patterson. He also fought Cassius Clay (as Muhammad Ali then was) Nov. 15, 1962. Moore thus became the only fighter to fight both Marciano and Ali (he lost to both), and was later an advisor to George Foreman. His long-time manager Doc Kearns also managed Jack Dempsey. Moore faced Marciano at Yankee Stadium Sept. 21, 1955, after a long campaign to force Marciano to meet him. He knocked the champion down in second round but was knocked out in the ninth. It was Marciano’s last title defense. As light heavyweight champion, Moore fought nine defenses, including two in the Garden (vs. Harold Johnson, Aug. 11, 1954, and Giulio Rinaldi, June 10, 1961), and another in the Polo Grounds against Bobo Olson June 22, 1955, winning all three. He won the title from Joey Maxim Dec. 17, 1952, when he was 39 years old (although he claimed to be 36). His recognition as light heavyweight king was withdrawn Feb. 10, 1962, when he failed to defend in a timely manner. Born Archie Lee Wright, Moore insisted he was born in Collinsville, Ill., in 1916, but official records (and his family, including his mother) contradicted him. He turned professional in 1935 and he was nearly 50 when he fought his last bout, a third-round knockout of Mike DiBiase Mar. 15, 1963, the 141st knockout of his long career, thought to be a record total for kayoes. Moore complied an overall record of 194 wins, 26 losses, and eight draws. Nearly a third of his losses came at the hands of former, then-current, or future heavyweight champions.

Larry Holmes

Larry Holmes (Boxing. Born, Cuthbert, GA, Nov. 3, 1949.)  No heavyweight ever demonstrated a sharper left jab than Larry Holmes. He could unleash his signature punch while back pedaling and still snap an opponent’s head. This was the consummate boxer. Though not particularly fast, Holmes mastered the art of cutting off the ring until his opponents were within punching range. He was never considered a heavy hitter, yet he scored many knockouts after wearing down his opponents with potent body blows launched behind that jackhammer left.  On defense, Holmes was a study in deception. He often appeared to be an open, plodding target. However, his quick hands enabled him to easily block punches and his constantly shifting angles kept his opponents continually off balance.  Holmes won the WBC heavyweight championship on June 9, 1978 with a grueling 15-round decision over Ken Norton in Las Vegas. As champion, Holmes fought all comers. He would successfully defend his title 20 times, including a 12-round TKO over Mike Weaver in Madison Square Garden on June 22, 1979.  Despite an imposing workload, Holmes would win his first 48 fights without a loss.  He was on the verge of tying the 49-0 record of former heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano when he lost a fifteen round decision and his title on September 21, 1985 to light heavyweight champion Michael Spinks in Las Vegas.  Holmes would also lose a controversial split decision to Spinks in the rematch on April 19, 1986. He retired shortly after that defeat, but came back to the ring two years later only to be knocked out in the fourth round of a title fight with then heavyweight champ Mike Tyson. Even that loss could not end Holmes’s boxing career. Starting in 1991, he started a comeback that continued with mixed results for over a decade. – R.L.

Sam McVey

Sam McVey (Boxing. Born, Oxnard, CA, May 17, 1885; died, New York, NY, Dec. 21, 1921.) In a pro career that spread over more than 17 years, Sam McVey (sometimes spelled McVea) was among the most popular and widely-travelled boxers of his day. To some degree, the racism then endemic in American society forced McVey (along with other black fighters) to go abroad, but his travels were extensive in the extreme. McVey fought 79 bouts in his career, 56 of them in eight countries outside the U.S. He fought in France, where black boxers were welcome, 28 times. McVey also fought in England, Belgium, Australia, Cuba, Argentina, Chile, and Panama. After 1907, McVey had only 16 bouts in the U.S. He faced all of the other black heavyweights after starting his pro career against the fabled Jack Johnson in 1903. He battled Harry Wills five times and Johnson four. McVey had five bouts in New York, starting with Joe Jeanette in 1907 before his first trip to Europe, where he remained for four years. After more than two years in Australia, he faced Jim Johnson in New York in 1914, both Wills and Sam Langford in 1915 and Langford in 1916. McVey then began campaigning in Latin America. His most famous bout was a 49-round classic in Paris Apr. 17, 1909, when he was knocked out by Jeanette. Overall, he won 47 of his 79 bouts, drew five and was kayoed seven times. McVey fought at about 205 pounds.

About This Dictionary

The Bill Shannon Biographical Dictionary of New York Sports is an open database of sports biographies maintained by Jordan Sprechman and Marty Appel. We welcome public and scholarly contributions and suggestions.

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A prolific author, wire service sports reporter, long time Major League Baseball official scorer, football statistician, sports museum founder, theatrical agency owner and public ... read more

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