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Joe Gans ''The Old Master''
(PART BY PART ARTICLE)
Joe Gans, lightweight champion of the world from 1902-1908, whose talent, polished professional style, and punching power earned him the magnificent title of “The Old Master”, was as dominate a fighter as any who ever donned gloves. Gans was a defensive master as well as a devastating puncher. He attacked vital points with pinpoint accuracy and threw every punch perfectly, in combinations and with bewildering speed. He was a master at counter punching, of the now lost art of feinting, and at the neglected art of body punching. He was a complete fighter who could be champion in any age.
Gans great speed, power, combination punching ability and killer instinct is evident from newspaper accounts. The Sep. 28, 1904 San Francisco Chronicle reported, "Those who have watched Gans go through his work every day are amazed at his wonderful agility, his speed and his clean hitting ability." The Jan. 20, 1906 Chronicle summed up these qualities while describing the end of his fight with the highly regarded welterweight Mike "Twin" Sullivan, "He caught Sullivan partly turned away. A dusky right arm swung over with electric quickness. A sodden glove connected with the back of Sullivan's left ear. The Twin spun almost around from the force of the blow, and when he tried to steady himself he found that a straw colored tiger in the person of Joe Gans was upon him. Rights and lefts went with terrible swiftness to his opponents jaw. In went Gans right to the stomach, over circled his left to the jaw. And then Mike "Twin" Sullivan much the bigger and heavier man...fell backward to the canvas."
Gans excellent footwork was described as "beautiful side-stepping, and legwork" By Nat Fleischer in Black Dynamite. The Oct 1, 1904 San Francisco Chronicle reported that "Gans beautiful footwork became evident. He was in and away or inside as it suited him best, with will-o-the-wisp elusivness." Jack Johnson speaking of Gans footwork said, (Ring 1941, 16), "Joe moved around like he was on wheels."
Gans was a masterful defensive fighter and counter-puncher. Against Kid McPartland, “Gans blocked his rivals leads so well it was astounding. Gans presented a beautiful defense.” Against Elbows McFadden, "He danced and ducked, countered and jabbed and simply bewildered his opponent. He was cool, calculating, shifty and blocked most of his opponents blows.” The great lightweight Jack Blackburn was “utterly unable to penetrate the champions defense” acording to the July 14, 1906 National Police Gazette. Against welterweight Mike “Twin” Sullivan, SF Chronicle Mar 18, 1906, “Gans superior cleverness at blocking saved him from any punishment and his quick counters invariably landed with great force.” Veteran boxing observer Billy Duffy agrees saying, Ring Magazine Oct 1926, that "as a counterer he was second to none."
Gans had a remarkable ability to stop his opponent's punches and he is considered, by many, as perhaps the best fighter ever at blocking and evading blows. Ben Benjamin wrote, Sept 7, 1907 San Fransisco Chronicle, that he "blocked blows in his incomparable style" and commented, "It is as a blocker that Gans is at his best. There never was a fighter who could block with such skill and precision as Gans. He is a perfect marvel at stopping, using either hand with equal facility. He rarely wastes a blow, his judgment on distance being almost perfect." The August 1960 Boxing Illustrated in This was Joe Gans said, “Gans was born with a sixth sense. They tell the story of how one of his opponents, after Joe had "carried" him for six rounds, asked The Old Master, "how do you do it?" And Joe just grinned and said, "I really dunno. I tried to figure it out, but I can't put it into words. I guess I just see what you're thinking and when the thought gets down around the elbow I just reach out and stop it.”
The Boston Globe Sep. 2, 1906, described Gans as "one of the most wonderful fighters from a scientific view that the world has ever known. There is not a trick or point that he does not know, and he has a terrific punch with either hand. His wallops travel only a short distance and are better than the far reaching ones. Gans has a beautiful left (jab) and can do great execution with it."
John L. Sullivan, former heavyweight champion of the world, said, St. Louis Post Dispatch, Sep. 2 1906, “I never liked a Negro as a fighting man…but Gans is the greatest lightweight the ring ever saw. He could lick them all on their best day. Gans is easily the fastest and cleverest man of his weight in the world. He can hit like a mule kicking with either hand.”
Bob Fitzsimmons declared that “Gans is the cleverest fighter, big or little that ever put on the gloves. He is also a hard hitter. He uses one hand as equally well as the other and can score a knockout with either”, Seattle Times, Sep. 2, 1906.
James W. Morrison, a referee who saw many of the greats up close, said, “Gans is careful, cool, exceptionally clever, is an excellent ring general, possessing superb footwork, and has the required punch in both hands, and can deliver it with effect at short as well as long range”, San Francisco Chronicle, Sep. 3, 1906.
McCallum in his Encyclopedia of World Boxing Champions stated, “His stance gave him perfect defense. He stood erect, hands held at chin level, ready to block and counter. He moved sparingly and his trip-hammer punches traveled only a few inches. He was a past master of feinting but couldn’t be feinted.”
William Detloff wrote, “Check out Gans knockout total, and you can see that he had the punch to compete with bigger, stronger fighters. He could hit with surprising power for one who made a Hall of Fame career out of studying and perfecting the finer nuances of the game.”
Consider Gans fight with the great Sam Langford on Dec. 8, 1903. Langford was the most avoided fighter in boxing history. Sam was the larger of the two, a natural welterweight at the time. This fight was fought in Boston the day after Gans had fought a no decision bout with black welterweight Dave Holly in Philadelphia (Gans won the newspaper decision). This means that Gans had to travel by train up the eastern seaboard from Philly to Boston for a fight the very next day. Gans admitted that fighting two days in a row and making the trip had sapped his stamina. Nevertheless, Gans dominated early in the fight before fading from lag in the later rounds and losing a close decision. Fleischer penned, (1938, 164-165; 1939, 130), “Gans opened up the first round with a triple left hook. As Sam drew back after the third blow, Gans quick as a flash, sprang forward and landed a terrific right to the jaw, and from that point until the fifth round, Langford seemed scared stiff and did his utmost to avoid infighting.”
The Boston Globe described events in the following manner, “Langford was clever and the aggressor but he had a wholesome respect for the power behind Gans right glove. And Gans proved early in the bout that his good right hand was his stock in trade and ever after that Langford managed to keep his right hand in readiness to stop any lead at which the champion might make…both blocked so well and slipped rushes so dexterously and sparred so gingerly that the bout became monotonous”, Dec 9 Globe. In other words it was a chess match. This fight is considered as the only fight the real Gans lost in a period of more than ten years. Considering it was his second fight within 24 hours in cities 300 miles apart and the quality of his opposition, Gans did very well indeed.
Last edited by Southpaw16bf; 05-17-2009 at 08:11 PM.