View Full Version : History of the Heavyweights part 5 (Tommy Burns)


kerrminator
12-09-2005, 10:19 AM
Tommy Burns


If gentleman Jim Corbett was the first scientist of the ring, Tommy Burns has been described as its first dictator. He was a shrewd operator. He knew as much about finance as he did about fighting; and when it came to laying down the terms of a contest, Burns proved himself to be an extremely smart promoter.
Burns also stands in the recordbooks as the least impressive physical specimen to hold the heavyweight crown. He stood just 5 ft 7 in tall, and weighed a mere twelve and a half stones. Far from making the most of his inches, Burns accentuated his diminutive frame by adopting a crouching, panther-like stance, His greatest assets were his speed- he was exceptionally quick on his feet- and enormous upper body strength. His huge shoulders gave him a 74-inch reach, greater than many men six inches taller.
Burns was born Noah Brusso on 17th June 1881. The tough French-Canadian battled his way through the middleweight ranks, then showed his hallmark astuteness by eyeing up the more lucrative heavyweight division. His timing was impeccable. When Jeffries announced his retirement, white contenders were thin on the ground. Corbett, Fitzsimmons and Sharkey were too old. The best heavyweights aroung were black, with Jack Johnson the pick of them. But America wasn't about to accept a black champion, Tommy Burns saw his opportunity and grabbed it with both fists.
He took on champion Marvin Hart over twenty rounds in Los Angeles on 23rd Feb 1906. It was Hart's first defence after beating Jack Root for the title vacated by Jeffries. Using his legendary speed, Burns comfortably picked off the champion-who was much the bigger man-while dexterously avoiding the blows coming the other way. Burns won on points and walked away with the title, while Hart was left to take his place as probably the least known and least impressive of all heavyweight champions.


STRING OF DEFENCES


Unlike some of his predecessors, who sat on the crown for long periods, Burns title defences came thick and fast. In less than three years he had 13 title fights. Of the first 12 contests, the only blot on his record was a draw with light heavyweight champion Jack O'Brien. Burns won the rematch in a fight that also went the 20 round distance.
Burns was the first man to see the commercial potential of taking championship fights on the road. After knocking out the Australian heavyweight Bill Squires in two minutes fifteen seconds to win the shortest title bout on record, Burns travelled to Britain to take on the British champion, the tough tattoed "Gunner" James Moir. Moir was as tough as they come, but without the mental sharpness needed to step up to championship class. Against the cunning, polished, fleet-footed Burns, the bigger heavier man came up short. Moir didn't lay a glove on the champion during the fight, which ended when Burns floored his opponent with a crushing right to the jaw in the 10th round.
After a brief interlude in Dublin, where Burns disposed of that country's top man, Jem Roche, in double quick time, the champion moved onto Paris. There he faced a novice named Jewey Smith. The result was never in doubt, but Burns agreed to let the contest go a few rounds to give the crowd their money's worth. The champion was as good as his word, until a photographers magnesium flash set fire to some of the streamers with which the hall was festooned in honour of his appearance. As panic began to spread, Burns laid out Smith with a right to the chin, then made a swift retreat to the safety of his hotel room.
From France it was on to Australia, where the pattern continued. Burns took on Bill Squires for the third time, and knocked him out for the third time. He then disposed of Bill Lang, who had claimed th Australian title in Squires's absence.


PURSUED BY JOHNSON


On all his travls Burns was pursued by Jack Johnson. Like Burns, Johnson realised that the heavyweight crown was all that mattered if a boxer wanted the greatest prestige and, more importantly, the serious money. Burns didn't discount the match on principle, as Sullivan and Jeffries had done.He would fight the top black heavyweight, providing the terms were favourable. Finally, the money was right. Burns was offered $25,000 to meet Johnson, the largest purse ever guaranteed to a heavyweight champion.
The two met at Rushcutters Bay, Sydney; fittingly enough, it was Boxing Day, 1908. Burns' 13th title fight would be his last. He finally came up against a man several classes above any heavyweight he'd met during his reign. He also bore the brunt of Johnson's seething resentment at the way he'd been treated for so many years. It was a bloodbath, and it wasn't Johnsons blood, thats for sure. A new era had begun.

Dempsey 1919
12-09-2005, 01:19 PM
intersting. i guess tommy burns wasn't that bad after all.

Da Iceman
12-09-2005, 05:34 PM
all i want to know is was he racist

j
12-09-2005, 11:54 PM
burns was racist, just perhaps not to the extent that sullivan or jeffries was. for the best account on this fight, there is a book called "boxing day" which is about the most informative piece of literature written about the burns/johnson fight i have read.

people should remember that whether a person was racist or not does not necessarily denote having lesser skill in the ring or being particularly scared of black/other race fighters. it does, however, show a lack of charactor and mental development.

LondonRingRules
12-10-2005, 10:11 AM
Let's also remember that racist is a modern term never meant to retroactively be used on older peoples in history. Fact is the term is so overused that it's original meaning has been lost and is watered down by modern peoples as a crutch and excuse when someone cuts them off in traffic or any decision goes against them.

According to many revisionist pseudo-historians all ancient history to the present of mankind can be explained by racism and/or homophobia.

DEM3
07-21-2007, 10:04 PM
Burns was a racist by the standards of 2007, but he was downright progressive by the standards of 1906. He told people what they wanted to hear. When talking to white reporters, he used the 'n' word often. When talking to blacks, he was friendly and respectful.
When he won the title he announced publicly that he would take on all comers, regardless of race or religion. His exact quote, widely reported in the press, was:
"I will defend my title against all comers, non barred. By this I mean white, black, Mexican, Indian or any other nationality. I propose to be the champion of the world, not the white, or the Canadian or the American.
* His first marriage was to a black woman, the sister of black fighter Harry Peppers, whom he had defeated in the ring.
* He had two black sparring partners as champ (Klon***e and Woods).
* He fought seven blacks during his career.
* He was the first heavyweight champ to fight a black man (Jack Johnson)
* He was the first heavyweight champ to fight a Jew (Jewey Smith)
* He had a good friend who was black (boxer Billy Woods)
When Jack Johnson visited Vancouver in 1909, he said, "Let me say of Mr. Burns, a Canadian like yourselves, that he has done what no one else ever done, he gave a black man a chance for the championship. He was beaten but he was game."
Dan McCaffery
author, Tommy Burns: Canada's Unknown Heavyweight Champion (available at Amazon).

HeartAttack
07-24-2007, 03:28 AM
Burns was a racist by the standards of 2007, but he was downright progressive by the standards of 1906. He told people what they wanted to hear. When talking to white reporters, he used the 'n' word often. When talking to blacks, he was friendly and respectful.
When he won the title he announced publicly that he would take on all comers, regardless of race or religion. His exact quote, widely reported in the press, was:
"I will defend my title against all comers, non barred. By this I mean white, black, Mexican, Indian or any other nationality. I propose to be the champion of the world, not the white, or the Canadian or the American.
* His first marriage was to a black woman, the sister of black fighter Harry Peppers, whom he had defeated in the ring.
* He had two black sparring partners as champ (Klon***e and Woods).
* He fought seven blacks during his career.
* He was the first heavyweight champ to fight a black man (Jack Johnson)
* He was the first heavyweight champ to fight a Jew (Jewey Smith)
* He had a good friend who was black (boxer Billy Woods)
When Jack Johnson visited Vancouver in 1909, he said, "Let me say of Mr. Burns, a Canadian like yourselves, that he has done what no one else ever done, he gave a black man a chance for the championship. He was beaten but he was game."
Dan McCaffery
author, Tommy Burns: Canada's Unknown Heavyweight Champion (available at Amazon).
the fact that this is your first and only post leads me to believe you don't want to be thought of as a racist for putting it up. However, Burns was a PR genius in his time and could've made a spectacular politician if need be. His merits in the ring shouldn't be watered down by the fact that when he finally fought a true legend, he fell dramatically short, then again he wasn't a heavyweight by nature and could've been one of the great light heavyweights. Point is, Burns was the perfect transitional champion the sport needed between two stars. A respected fighter and man was he during his time and now.

Ziggy Stardust
07-24-2007, 09:07 AM
The thing about Burns was he was really a Middleweight. He was good enough to feed off the weaker Heavyweights of the day but was overmatched against Johnson. I can't help but thinking if he had stayed at Middleweight he could have been an all-time great instead of a Heavyweight footnote.

Poet

DEM3
07-24-2007, 03:47 PM
I agree he would have been an all-time great as a middleweight.

But I think his achievements as a heavyweight have been overlooked. He made the division truly international by fighting the champions of England, Ireland and Australia. He also scored the fastest KO every recorded by a heavyweight champ defending his title and set a record for consecutive KOs by a champ defending his title (eight).
He was also the father of the big money fights. Until he came along, professional athletes were generally paid very poorly.

LondonRingRules
07-24-2007, 04:05 PM
I can't help but thinking if he had stayed at Middleweight he could have been an all-time great instead of a Heavyweight footnote.
Poet

** The Don't Know It Poet don't know Burns is in the HOF, that's F as in FAME, not footnote!:duh:

Ziggy Stardust
07-24-2007, 07:52 PM
** The Don't Know It Poet don't know Burns is in the HOF, that's F as in FAME, not footnote!:duh:

You can get a ham sandwich voted into the hall of fame. It has NO bearing on whether you're an all-time great or not. As for you, you're a prick and going into my ignore bin.

Poet

LondonRingRules
07-25-2007, 06:58 AM
As for you, you're a prick and going into my ignore bin.
Poet

** Hey, great.

Ignore The Bore, The Don't Know It Poet.....cool.....you do have a certain ring and cadence to ya!

braveheart31
07-27-2007, 10:44 PM
Tommy Should Have Stayed At Middle Weight

Ziggy Stardust
07-28-2007, 08:56 AM
Tommy Should Have Stayed At Middle Weight

Agreed! He could have owned the division for years, except maybe for a Mr. Ketchal who was fighting about the same time.

Poet