King Kong, Prince Charles and fists flying on New Year’s Day

King Kong, Prince Charles and fists flying on New Year’s Day Photo by Ryan Hafey/ Premier Boxing Champions 01 Jan by Lee Groves Today marks the dawn of 2022, and for boxing it is expected to be busy and eventful. According to Boxrec.com, six shows are scheduled to take place in five nations (Malawi, Mexico, Pakistan, Tanzania and the United States), and, of those, the most prominent will take place at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Fla., a two-platform telecast that will begin on FOX at 5 p.m. EST, then transition to FOX pay-per-view three hours later. The show topped by two-time title challenger Luis Ortiz against former IBF heavyweight champion Charles Martin marks the first New Year’s Day PPV show ever staged on American soil as well as the first U.S.-based card involving either a future or former world champion since 1961, when future 154-pound titlist Freddie Little scored a 10-round decision over Charley Joseph at the Municipal Auditorium in New Orleans. The nugget imparted in the last sentence was the result of a deep dive into Boxrec’s archives, a project that was inspired by a similar search concerning notable Christmas Day boxing since 1900 that unearthed many fascinating factoids, many of which were posted on Twitter. So what information was gleaned about the history of New Year’s Day boxing since 1900? As it turned out, plenty. Consider: * Given the potential aftereffects of the night-before revelry, one would have thought that the slate of January 1 fights would have been much sparser than that for Christmas Day (a card was staged every December 25 except for 1904). Surprisingly, “The Sweet Science” faithfully presented shows every year since 1900. In fact, this streak dates back to 1881, when Billy Hawkins stopped Frank Secoat in Winnipeg in the day’s only recorded bout. * The first notable fight of the study was a scheduled 25-rounder between former middleweight champion Charles “Kid” McCoy and Irish power puncher Peter Maher, an 11-year, 138-fight veteran, in 1900. Scaling 172 to Maher’s 163, McCoy scored knockdowns in rounds one, two and five on his way to a fifth-round knockout victory at Brooklyn’s Coney Island Stadium. The pair met again in July 1908, with McCoy stopping Maher in two. Battling Levinsky. Photo by HUM Images/ Universal Images Group via Getty Images * An oft-told tale regarding Hall of Famer Battling Levinsky was that he supposedly fought three main events on January 1, 1915. According to his manager “Dumb” Dan Morgan (also a Hall of Famer), Levinsky fought a 10-round no-decision against Bartley Madden in Brooklyn in the morning, a 10-round no-decision against Soldier Kearns in Manhattan in the afternoon, and a 12-round draw against Gunboat Smith in Waterbury, Connecticut in the evening. Although historians tried their best to confirm Morgan’s story, Boxrec determined that only the Gunboat Smith fight actually took place. “A tall story was circulated, told years later by Levinsky’s manager Dan Morgan, to the effect that Levinsky had three fights on this date,” the notation read. “However, despite much effort, only the fight (with) Smith has been found. The story seems to have been an invention of Morgan’s.” * The first day of 1913 bore witness to the inaugural fight for the “White Heavyweight Championship of the World,” an obvious retort to Jack Johnson’s ownership of the world heavyweight title. Nebraska native Luther McCarty met Iowa’s Al Palzer in a scheduled 20-rounder in Vernon, Calif., and the justification for the match, according to Boxrec, was that Canadian newspapers said Johnson was in retirement (he was actually in exile overseas due to his skipping bail after his racially motivated accusation, conviction and sentencing for violating the Mann Act). The more truthful motivation can be found in the opening paragraph of the preview story printed in the Tacoma Times that declared the title was “apparently declared vacant by common consent following the impeachment of Jack Johnson as a champion.” McCarty, who predicted a KO win between rounds one and 10, battered and bloodied Palzer before referee Charles Eyton stopped the match in Round 18. * Only one other New Year’s Day “White Heavyweight Championship” fight was staged; after McCarty died from injuries sustained in his first-round KO loss to Arthur Pelkey in May 1913, Pelky was stopped in Round 15 by Gunboat Smith on January 1, 1914 in Daly City, Calif. Smith then lost it to Georges Carpentier by sixth-round disqualification in July 1914. Carpentier, who fought once more before enlisting in the French military to fight in World War I, never defended the belt, which was declared defunct after Jess Willard knocked out Johnson in April 1915. * New Year’s Day also saw two fights for the “Colored Heavyweight Championship.” In 1917 Sam Langford, who first claimed the title in 1909, successfully registered the second defense of his third reign by out-pointing Battli

King Kong, Prince Charles and fists flying on New Year’s Day

King Kong, Prince Charles and fists flying on New Year’s Day

Photo by Ryan Hafey/ Premier Boxing Champions
01
Jan
by Lee Groves

Today marks the dawn of 2022, and for boxing it is expected to be busy and eventful. According to Boxrec.com, six shows are scheduled to take place in five nations (Malawi, Mexico, Pakistan, Tanzania and the United States), and, of those, the most prominent will take place at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Fla., a two-platform telecast that will begin on FOX at 5 p.m. EST, then transition to FOX pay-per-view three hours later. The show topped by two-time title challenger Luis Ortiz against former IBF heavyweight champion Charles Martin marks the first New Year’s Day PPV show ever staged on American soil as well as the first U.S.-based card involving either a future or former world champion since 1961, when future 154-pound titlist Freddie Little scored a 10-round decision over Charley Joseph at the Municipal Auditorium in New Orleans.

The nugget imparted in the last sentence was the result of a deep dive into Boxrec’s archives, a project that was inspired by a similar search concerning notable Christmas Day boxing since 1900 that unearthed many fascinating factoids, many of which were posted on Twitter.

So what information was gleaned about the history of New Year’s Day boxing since 1900? As it turned out, plenty. Consider:

* Given the potential aftereffects of the night-before revelry, one would have thought that the slate of January 1 fights would have been much sparser than that for Christmas Day (a card was staged every December 25 except for 1904). Surprisingly, “The Sweet Science” faithfully presented shows every year since 1900. In fact, this streak dates back to 1881, when Billy Hawkins stopped Frank Secoat in Winnipeg in the day’s only recorded bout.

* The first notable fight of the study was a scheduled 25-rounder between former middleweight champion Charles “Kid” McCoy and Irish power puncher Peter Maher, an 11-year, 138-fight veteran, in 1900. Scaling 172 to Maher’s 163, McCoy scored knockdowns in rounds one, two and five on his way to a fifth-round knockout victory at Brooklyn’s Coney Island Stadium. The pair met again in July 1908, with McCoy stopping Maher in two.

Battling Levinsky. Photo by HUM Images/ Universal Images Group via Getty Images

* An oft-told tale regarding Hall of Famer Battling Levinsky was that he supposedly fought three main events on January 1, 1915. According to his manager “Dumb” Dan Morgan (also a Hall of Famer), Levinsky fought a 10-round no-decision against Bartley Madden in Brooklyn in the morning, a 10-round no-decision against Soldier Kearns in Manhattan in the afternoon, and a 12-round draw against Gunboat Smith in Waterbury, Connecticut in the evening. Although historians tried their best to confirm Morgan’s story, Boxrec determined that only the Gunboat Smith fight actually took place.

“A tall story was circulated, told years later by Levinsky’s manager Dan Morgan, to the effect that Levinsky had three fights on this date,” the notation read. “However, despite much effort, only the fight (with) Smith has been found. The story seems to have been an invention of Morgan’s.”

* The first day of 1913 bore witness to the inaugural fight for the “White Heavyweight Championship of the World,” an obvious retort to Jack Johnson’s ownership of the world heavyweight title. Nebraska native Luther McCarty met Iowa’s Al Palzer in a scheduled 20-rounder in Vernon, Calif., and the justification for the match, according to Boxrec, was that Canadian newspapers said Johnson was in retirement (he was actually in exile overseas due to his skipping bail after his racially motivated accusation, conviction and sentencing for violating the Mann Act). The more truthful motivation can be found in the opening paragraph of the preview story printed in the Tacoma Times that declared the title was “apparently declared vacant by common consent following the impeachment of Jack Johnson as a champion.” McCarty, who predicted a KO win between rounds one and 10, battered and bloodied Palzer before referee Charles Eyton stopped the match in Round 18.

* Only one other New Year’s Day “White Heavyweight Championship” fight was staged; after McCarty died from injuries sustained in his first-round KO loss to Arthur Pelkey in May 1913, Pelky was stopped in Round 15 by Gunboat Smith on January 1, 1914 in Daly City, Calif. Smith then lost it to Georges Carpentier by sixth-round disqualification in July 1914. Carpentier, who fought once more before enlisting in the French military to fight in World War I, never defended the belt, which was declared defunct after Jess Willard knocked out Johnson in April 1915.

* New Year’s Day also saw two fights for the “Colored Heavyweight Championship.” In 1917 Sam Langford, who first claimed the title in 1909, successfully registered the second defense of his third reign by out-pointing Battling Jim Johnson over 12 rounds in Kansas City, Mo. Exactly three years later, Harry Wills, now the champion after scoring a pair of knockouts over Langford in 1918, kept the designation with a three-round no-contest against Jack Thompson at San Francisco’s Coliseum. According to Boxrec, the lack of action triggered loud boos and prompted the promoters to withhold both fighters’ purses. The pair fought again on January 12, with Wills winning a 15-round decision.

In terms of widely recognized world title fights, January 1 has had its fair share:

*1903 — Joe Gans WDSQ 11 Gus Gardner to retain the world lightweight championship in New Britain, Connecticut.

*1908 — Abe Attell D 25 Owen Moran to retain the world featherweight title in Colma, California.

*1916 – Young Ahearn NWS 10 Al McCoy for the world middleweight championship in Brooklyn, New York (Boxrec indicated that Ahearn won the “newspaper” decision but because the rules of the “no-decision” era dictated that a KO was the only way a defending champion could lose his title, McCoy retained the title).

*1917 – Jack Britton NWS 10 Lockport Jimmy Duffy to retain the world welterweight title at the Broadway Auditorium in Buffalo, New York.

*1929 – Joey Sangor NWS 10 Tod Morgan for the world junior lightweight title in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (Boxrec indicated that Sangor won the “newspaper” decision but, under the rules of the time, Sangor would have won the title only if he had stopped Morgan. Because he didn’t, Morgan remained champion).

*1934 – Freddie Miller W 10 Jackie Sharkey to retain the NBA featherweight championship in Cincinnati, Ohio (the NBA – the National Boxing Association – was the forerunner to today’s World Boxing Association).

*1937 – Freddie Steele W 10 William “Gorilla” Jones to keep the NBA middleweight title in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

*1943 – Manuel Ortiz W 10 Kenny Lindsay to retain the world bantamweight championship in Portland, Oregon.

*1977 – Guty Espadas KO 7 Jiro Takada to keep the WBA flyweight title in Tokyo, Japan.

Although Japan has staged world title fights on New Year’s Eve for many years, Espadas-Takada is the last widely recognized world title fight held on New Year’s Day.

The Boxrec search also revealed other stories and factoids:

*On New Year’s Day in 1908, future featherweight champion Johnny Kilbane, then 3-0, defeated Tommy Kilbane on a three-round decision in Lorain, Ohio. Exactly two years later in Canton, Ohio, Johnny won a 15-round decision over Tommy to end their five-fight series with a 3-1-1 lead. Kilbane went on to fight four more times on New Year’s Day, stopping Oliver Kirk in two rounds in 1913, losing “newspaper decisions” to Patsy Brannigan in Pittsburgh (1915) and Richie Mitchell in Cincinnati (1916) while also capturing a “newspaper decision” against Al Shubert in Philadelphia (1920). As for Tommy, he fought one other January 1 contest, a six-round draw in 1909 against Emergency Kelly in Columbus, Ohio.

Jimmy Wilde. Photo by The Ring Magazine/ Getty Images)

* According to Boxrec, legendary flyweight Jimmy Wilde made his professional debut on New Year’s Day 1911 by knocking out Ted Roberts in three rounds at the Millfield Athletic Club in Pontypridd, Wales. It would be the first of 98 knockout wins the website credited to him. Interestingly, the man who ended Wilde’s long flyweight title reign, Pancho Villa, also made his pro debut on January 1 as he stopped Alberto Castro in three rounds exactly eight years later in Manila.

* Welterweights Julio Sanchez Leon and Cesar Valdez fought a three-round no-contest in Mexicali on January 1, 2006. The cited cause: Both boxers were disqualified for “unsportsmanlike conduct.”

*A super middleweight contest staged in Tanzania between Thomas Mashali and Abdallah Paziwapazi also resulted in a third-round no contest, but the unsportsmanlike conduct that ended the fight wasn’t between the combatants, it was perpetrated by some of the spectators thanks to a brawl that erupted at ringside.

*With the current twice-a-year schedule followed by most world-class fighters these days, a devoted viewer could say that he or she might have seen eight future Hall of Famers compete during a given year. Now imagine this: Eight future inductees fought on January 1, 1920 alone.

On that day, four of the eight fighters fought in Philadelphia, which hosted four separate cards and featured future honorees in three of them. At the National Athletic Club, George “KO Chaney” scored a six-round newspaper decision over Frankie Brown while Jeff Smith stopped Art Magirl in three rounds in the main event. Meanwhile, Tommy Loughran’s second professional fight resulted in a no-decision against Kid Emanuel at the Auditorium Athletic Club while reigning world featherweight champion Johnny Kilbane won a non-title six-round newspaper decision over Al Shubert at the Olympia Athletic Club. The other future honorees who competed on the first day of the Roaring Twenties were Jack Britton (10-round newspaper decision win over Johnny Gill in Steelton, Pennsylvania), Harry Wills (NC 3 Jack Thompson for the “Colored Heavyweight Title in San Francisco), Battling Levinsky (KO 8 Bert Kenny in Toronto, Canada) and Gene Tunney (KO 2 Whitey Allen at Schuetzen Park in Bayonne, New Jersey).

*On the first day of 1917, Benton, Illinois lightweight Loren Steinheimer stopped Pete Kid Marlow to advance his quoted record to 2-1 with two KO wins. According to a story published in the Macon Chronicle-Herald, Steinheimer died by electrocution two days later.

* Future Hall of Famer Sixto Escobar fought just once on January 1, and given what happened in 1931 – an eight-round decision loss to Rafael Morales in San Juan that dropped his record to 3-2 – no one would blame him from further tempting fate. The same could be said of then-NYSAC world middleweight champion Teddy Yarosz, whose only January 1 appearance was a non-title seventh-round TKO loss to Babe Risko in Scranton – just his third loss in 85 fights to date. The two met again with Yarosz’s championship on the line that September, with Risko dethroning Yarosz in Pittsburgh by 15-round unanimous decision.

* Future Hall of Famer Pipino Cuevas evened his record at 1-1 on New Year’s Day 1972 in Mexico City by stopping Jose Arias in two rounds.

*Len Wickwar, who fought a record 473 professional fights in his 18-plus year career, fought three times on January 1 (W 6 Bobby Wood in 1929; W 8 Len Fowler in 1933, D 10 George Daly in 1939) while Marco Antonio Rubio, who fought 68 times between 2000-2015, fought eight bouts on New Year’s Day (KO 3 Antonio Mora in 2001, KO 2 Roberto Urias in 2002, KO 4 Saul Roman in 2003, KO 1 Ramon Mendivil in 2004, KO 2 Frankie Randall in 2005, W 12 Daniel Stanislavjevic in 2007, KO 2 Sherwin Davis in 2008 and KO 8 Wilson Santana in 2011).

*While no one has Rubio beaten in terms of multiple New Year’s Day appearances in the modern era, other notable fighters who logged more than one January 1 bout include Harry Greb (1914, 1915, 1917, 1923, 1925), Willie Meehan (1917, 1921, 1924), Billy Miske (1915, 1917), Battling Levinsky (1914, 1915, 1916, 1917, 1920, 1927), Lew Tendler (1916, 1919, 1921, 1924), Jack Britton (1906, 1917, 1918, 1920), Sam Langford (1917, 1925), Pancho Villa (1919, 1923, 1924), Bud Taylor (1921, 1923, 1924, 1925), Tod Morgan (1923, 1929, 1932), Billy Petrolle (1923, 1924, 1925, 1927, 1931), Rocky Kansas (1912, 1913, 1919, 1923), Young Stribling (1923, 1924, 1929), Maxie Rosenbloom (1925, 1926, 1932), Jimmy Slattery (1925, 1926), Tommy Loughran (1920, 1921, 1925, 1926), Freddie Steele (1929, 1931, 1937), William “Gorilla” Jones (1930, 1936, 1937), Baby Arizmendi (1930, 1932, 1935), Henry Armstrong (1935, 1936, 1937), Kid Azteca (1937, 1938, 1941), Tom Bogs (1965, 1966, 1967) and Cesar Soto (1987, 1988, 1989). Among the women, Yazmin Rivas logged four appearances (2003, 2006, 2008, 2010).

Other notable fights that were waged on a given year’s opening day include:

*1912 — Jack Dillon KO 6 Leo Houck (1912, claims world middleweight title)

*1914 — Eddie McGoorty KO 1 Dave Smith (reclaims Australian version of world middleweight title)

*1919 – Lew Tendler NWS 10 Rocky Kansas

*1926 – Jimmy Slattery W 10 Maxie Rosenbloom

* 1932 – Baby Arizmendi W 10 Fidel LaBarba

Henry Armstrong (right) fires at will against fellow Hall of Famer Baby Arizmendi. Photo by Getty Images

* 1935 – Baby Arizmendi W 12 Henry Armstrong II (over-the-weight non-title match for Armstrong, the reigning featherweight champion. This was Arizmendi’s second victory over Armstrong in 58 days, for he won a 10-round decision on November 4, 1934 waged at lightweight)

* 1941 – Kid Azteca W 10 Cocoa Kid (Azteca entered the fight with a record of 113-23-7 with one no-contest while Cocoa Kid’s mark was 125-36-6, meaning they had 311 pro fights between them)

* 1985 – Antonio Avelar WDSQ 5 Gilberto Roman I (Roman was disqualified after a head butt opened a gash over Avelar’s left eye. The two met again on March 30, 1985, once again at the Auditorio del Estado in Mexicali, with Roman – who would win the WBC super flyweight title from Jiro Watanabe exactly one year later — stopping Avelar, the former WBC flyweight king, in round seven)

*Another card staged in Mexico on the same day as Avelar-Roman I featured plenty of star power. This five-fight show included former bantamweight champion Lupe Pintor (KO 6 Ronnie Gary), reigning WBC super featherweight titlist Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. (KO 3 Manuel Hernandez in a non-title fight), future WBC light flyweight champion German Torres (KO 3 Luis Fernando Hernandez) and the professional debut of three-time world title challenger Hector Lopez, who won a six-round decision over Roberto Solis.

Perhaps the best way to end this article is to relay the following story regarding two otherwise non-descript middleweights:

* On the first day of 1915, Joe Swain met Ike Cohen at the Rose Theater in Everett, Washington. While Boxrec depicts the result as being a four-round draw, it is uncertified. The fight’s back story as noted by the Everett Morning Tribune prompted its inclusion here:

“The semi-windup was a comedy scrap that provoked more laughter than any other bout,” it began. “Freddie Brooks, unwilling to take any chances, failed to show up. Romeo Hagan was substituted (but) he was put in jail and couldn’t get out in time to come here, much to the satisfaction of the fans. And so Cohn (sic), the comedy fighter, was substituted at 30 minutes’ notice. Swain couldn’t hurt Cohn and Cohn didn’t hurt Swain and so it was just a slugging match with Cohen talking all the time, and ending each round with a somersault into his corner. As usual, he stuck his face out and let Swain pound away to no avail. The ‘Iron Man’ made a little speech to the audience and said he was going to clean Swain up next month (note: They never met again). In spite of the comedy, neither has any love for the other, and Swain was once ready to take a chair to knock out his antagonist. The only way to beat Cohn is to outpoint him and get a decision, for he can’t be knocked out when sober.”

Happy new year, everyone!

*

Lee Groves is a boxing writer and historian based in Friendly, West Virginia. He is a full member of the BWAA, from which he has won 20 writing awards, including two first-place awards, since 2006. He has been an elector for the International Boxing Hall of Fame since 2001 and is also a writer, researcher and punch-counter for CompuBox, Inc. as well as a panelist on “In This Corner: The Podcast” on FITE.TV. He is the author of “Tales from the Vault: A Celebration of 100 Boxing Closet Classics” (available on Amazon) and the co-author of  “Muhammad Ali: By the Numbers” (also available on Amazon). To contact Groves use the email [email protected] or send him a message via Facebook and Twitter (@leegrovesboxing).