articles by Robert Edgren
The Syracuse Herald
17 Dec 1911
There are just three world's boxing champions in America today, Johnny Coulon, bantamweight; Abe Attell. featherweight, and Ad Wolgast, lightweight. Of these Coulon and Attell obtained their titles by claiming them, and then defending them against all comers. Fortunately, they have been successful for several years, and there can be no question that they have earned a right to call themselves champions. There's no flaw in the title to-day.
With Wolgast it is a different affair. Wolgast is the only champion of the world in the ring (since Johnson's retirement) who earned his title by whipping the former holder. Wolgast whipped Battling Nelson, who had defeated Joe Gans, who had defeated Frank Erne, who had defeated "Kid" Lavigne, who had won the championship of America and clinched his right to the world's championship by going to England and knocking out the famous Dick Burge, greatest lightweight; known to England's ring followers in many long years—perhaps in all the history of the game.
There is no possible flaw in Wolgast's title. He is of the direct descent from the old line of kings of the lightweight class. When he stopped Battling Nelson in that gory ring at Port Richmond, Cal., he won his title on the spot, and there are only three ways in which he can lose it again. He can retire from the ring or die, or be officially beaten in a battle where his opponent makes the weight. Wolgast's enforced retirement for a few months, owing to an operation, doesn't invalidate his right to be called champion according to our American custom.
Ad will come out and fight again as soon as he is able to, for he's the busiest little champion we have had in some time, with the possible exception of Battling Nelson. Bat Nelson was a better champion than Wolgast in one way. He was so willing to fight that he always gave his victims a second chance if they wanted it. He fought Britt, Corbett and Gans each two or
three times, these being the toughest men on his list. Perhaps Wolgast will do the same after a while. Up to date he’s been keep busy by the new claimant, and to give him credit for his work, he surely has shown that he's the best in the world over the long route.
Now Johnny Coulon — no one disputes his right to be called champion in his class, although he came into the title in a roundabout way. Frankie Neil years ago took the bantam championship from Harry Forbes in San Francisco. Neil, later on, went to England expecting to pick up some easy money, and was trimmed by Joe Bowker in his first fight. Nell, sr., sent up some frightful
shrieks of agony over the decision, but that made no difference. Bowker won the decision, and no doubt he was entitled to It. Bowker didn't pass the title along legitimately. He grew out of the class and began fighting featherweights. He lost several battles by the knockout route, came to America, was whipped by Al Delmont in Boston and Tommy O'Toole In Philadelphia, and went back to England and oblivion.
The bantamweight title had no real claimant, Delmont was over the weight and was mixing with featherweights and lightweights. Johnny Coulon, after beating Murphy, the 105-pound champion, claimed the bantam title and began "defending" it at 115 pounds ringside.
After a while he fought his way into public recognition all over the country, and to tell the truth, he's a corking little fighter and well worth looking over when he fights. Abe Attell is one of the wonders of the ring. He started in San Francisco nearly twelve years ago, knocked out his opponents as fast as they could be tossed into the ring with him. Went "East" as far as Salt Lake City, cleaned up there and afterward fought all over the country. He became wonderfully clever, and for a long time contented himself with winning on points. He still had a "knockout wallop" when he wanted to use it, however and has it to-day.
Abe "claimed" the featherweight championship when Terry McGovern had ceased defending It. Terry didn't lose that title to "Young" Corbett. The latter never held a championship, for his fight with McGovern was 126 pounds, weigh in the afternoon. while the class limit is 122 ringside. Attell has always been able to make 122 easily, and even two or three pounds less. But to show that he was genuine as a champion he often gave away weight and fought desperate battles with such men as Battling Nelson (who couldn't do anything with Abe in six and fifteen rounds). Tommy O'TooIe. Freddy Welsh, Wolgast (then a feather), Owen Moran, Tommy Murphy, Johnny Marto and Matt Wells. Among the featherweights Attell is supreme.
We have no welterweight champion. Honey Mellody has some sort of a claim to the title because he whipped Joe Walcott and never lost the championship by losing a fight "at weight." But Honey lost several fights and "went back" until people not longer regarded him as champion. He says he s in shape again — but they all think that. He'll have to prove it in the ring. At present the title is being tagged about by all sorts of claimants, none of whom can establish a legitimate claim or make a show of defending the honor against all challengers.
An exception to this latter statement is Mike Gibbons, who certainly can beat all of the welterweights with ease, judging by his recent fights. The only doubt connected with Gibbons as a welterweight champion is his weight. He scaled 146 ½ pounds against Coftey. and he'll have to "show" in the matter of weight before he can take it upon himself to defend the title he has claimed.
There is no recognized middleweight champion. Papke inherited the title, perhaps, after Ketchell's death, as he is the most recent of former holders. But he lost to Thompson in Australia, and since returning to America Thompson hasn't shown anything worth mentioning in the line of fighting ability. Papke himself lost a decision to Bob Moha, a middleweight,
in Boston. On this score Moha's claim might be recognized. But there are Frank Klaus, who claims the title and who has whipped good middleweights all over the country, and Buck Grouse, whose claim looks at least as good as that of Klaus. It will take a series of battles to decide
which is the best man amongst the claimants.
The light heavyweight championship has died out. Tommy Burns won that title from Jack O'Brien, but Tommy toured the world, became heavyweight champion by right of conquest, lost to Jack Johnson, and retired from the ring without taking the trouble to do anything with his light heavyweight crown. Langford and Jeanette claim It. but both are over the recognized
Weight Jack Johnson's retirement has left the heavyweight title without a real holder. If Johnson fights again he'll be recognized as champion until he is defeated. But he may not fight again. In that case McVey and Langford fighting in Australia, will come as near battling for the heavyweight championship us any one else. None of the present "hopes" are in the running.
A Fighting Face
“Fighting Face” Has Proved to be a Myth, and “Looks” Offers No Criterion of Pugilistic Ability
You've heard them when a new man steps into the ring. I remember one night when Al Palzer, a giant Minnesotan. appeared for the first time in New York fistic society. There was a momentary hush. Then every spectator turned to every other spectator and exclaimed- "Great Scott — what a face for a fighter"'
Al Palzer certainly had the ideal "Fighting face." His well-rounded jaw was thrust forward like the ram of a battleship. There was firmness and courage in the lines of his mouth. His nose was short, and not too prominent. His eyes were protected by high cheekbones and the brow of a caveman. His neck was like a column, well set on broad and sloping shoulders that promised
plenty of strength and hitting power Palzer's eyes were clear blue, , like those of his Viking ancestors, bold and steady. When fighting they held a berserk glare.
Where is Al Palzer now? Why, out West again, fighting occasional preliminaries in third-rate boxing shows. No other heavyweight in recent years has fallen so fast or so far. He had all the looks of a champion, but in his case the camera lied.
Looks Like World Beater.
About the time that Al Palzer was beating Bombardier Wells and Al Kaufman and scoring his few ring victories, another temporary heavyweight wonder flashed across the horizon. This was Soldier Kearns, an almost exact counterpart of the old timer, Tom Sharkey in feature and physique. The only apparent difference was that Kearns was 20 pounds bigger than Tom
at his best. Kearns certainly did look like a world-beater for a while. He had a tremendous punch and a knack of landing it well. With his high boned, wide face, powerful jaw and great thick neck set on a pair of shoulders like Hackenschmidt's, he looked absolutely invincible. A horseshoer by trade, he had the iron endurance horseshoeing gave Fitzsimmons.
A soldier serving through the Philippine campaigns, he was fearless. A punch was a joke with him, after bullets and fevers. Many prophesied that he'd surely become heavyweight champion.He knocked out several opponents quickly. He met "One Round" Davis, another sensational fighter with a remarkable knockout record, and he knocked Davis cold in less than 2 minutes
of fighting. A week later Kearns met young Jess Willard, a tall, lanky Kansan, whose clownlike antics had made him a joke in local rings. Kearns was grim. Willard was all smiles. Kearns intended to knock the giant out in a round or two.
Willard, laughing and joking with the spectators, looked as if he saw some hidden humor in the whole thing. Kearns looked a champion. Willard looked as much out of place in the ring as If he'd been a circus clown in paint and pantaloons.
Yet see what happened. For several rounds Kearns grimly plunged in and swung furiously at the giant's jaw, while Willard leaned back out of range, winked at the spectators and laughed like a comedian who appreciates his own jokes. Then Kearns grew impatient of hitting at a mark
he couldn't reach, and drove a terrific smash into Willard's solar plexus. The laugh on Willard's face disappeared. Kerns stepped back to let him fall, as all others had fallen when he drove that right hand in. But instead of falling Willard lunged at Kearns and shot out a right arm that looked as long as a fence rail. His glove hit Kearns on the chin so hard that the soldier turned a somersault in the air and struck the floor on the back of his neck. He was paralyzed by that blow, and even after being counted out couldn't get to his corner without help. Willard, the laughing, careless clown.
has become world's heavyweight champion, and is regarded as one of the greatest heavyweights that ever held the title. Kearns, after losing to Willard, fell into a long string of defeats, and at last dropped out of sight. For all I know he may be shoeing horses again. You can't know a man's fighting ability by his looks. The "aggressive" jaw, the short, thick neck tell us nothing at all. If you have trouble on the street the slender soft looking fellow may be ten times as dangerous as the man who carries the "earmarks" of a slugger.
Sullivan's Fighting Face.
John L. Sullivan set the style in fighting faces for a generation or two John had a heavy neck, a bold profile and a rounded, heavy, protruding jaw that gave him the fighting look of the bulldog. Jim Corbett, who whipped him, was slender, clean cut and so ordinary in appearance that he'd have been lost anywhere in a group of college boys. The next champion, Bob
Fitzsimmons, might be taken for a preacher or a doctor. He has a rather high nose, a round, smooth face and a well-set chin that is a trifle retreating rather than protruding. His eyes,instead of carrying a "fighting expression," show only a mild, innocent baby stare when he's in action. And Fitzsimmons has knocked out more men — in nearly 400 ring battles—than any
other fighter that ever lived.
Typical "Ring Countenance."
Jeffries, of course, looked like a fighter. He was thick-necked, short-nosed, heavy boned, with protruding brows, a strong jaw and a grim and surly appearance in the ring. Tommy Burns looked like a fighter. So did Johnson. But Jess Willard—perhaps the greatest of them all—is just a big, smiling, good-natured farmer still. He's a fighter because he's a wonderful man
physically, and because, besides his physique, he has what many other big men have lacked. Intelligence enough the to know that skill would make him invincible, and patience enough to work and study for years to acquire the skill.
Among the smaller men Terry McGovern had a typical "fighting face" He had the glaring eyes, the short nose, the out-thrust lower chin. Also he had a very long neck. He won his fights by carrying such a furious pace that the other fellows didn't have time to think of hitting him. But I remember another fighter who was no less aggressive and relentless. This was "Fighting Dick" Hyland, and "Fighting Dick" had buck teeth and a retreating chin and about as much alert aggressiveness in his appearance at ordinary times as a marshmallow. Kid Lavigne was a furious fighter, but the famous Kid looked like a cherub even when in the ring.
Tommy Ryan, who had a large "beak" and a small head that ran right up to a point, and hair that grew nearly down to his eyebrows, was everything that he didn't look He was one of the cleverest and most crafty fighters that ever fought. He looked sad and apologetic until he found his opening for the knockout Nobody would have picked him out of a crowd as a fighter. Yet he was one of the most wonderful men of his time.
And there was Kid McCoy. The Kid has always been an exceedingly troublesome person in any fight, either in or out of the ring. He's as peaceful as a stepped-on rattler. His brown eyes smile so much that they carry wrinkles at the corners. His face is nearly always smiling .He is slender and graceful in build. His forehead is high and broad, his features regular, his chin small and set back instead of pushed forward like that of the man with a "fighting face " McCoy was as desperate a fighter as ever lived, utterly game and utterly relentless
He put Tom Sharkey flat on his back twice with his "corkscrew punch" He fought Ruhlin and Maher and many other heavyweights while he was still only a middleweight himself. He out tricked Tommy Ryan and he outfought others. Joe Gans was a marvel in the ring. He had a profile which was more Arab than Ethiopian in character with a well shaped head and a strong well rounded chin. Gans had a high, thin nose. His expression was never savage. Rather it was melancholy. He neither smiled nor scowled while fighting, but went through his work as if his body was a perfect machine driven by a well-ordered and smooth calculating brain.
Sharkey Appears Ferocious.
You can argue either way on the "fighting face." There was Sailor Tom Sharkey, who had one of the most ferocious "fighting faces" I've ever seen in a ring - a bony, big-jawed face with caveman brows, set on a great thick| neck. His fighting expression was simply cold, icy ferocity and grim determination combined He fought like a fury. And then we have Squires, of Australia who was a marvel — in looks.
The "fighting face" is a delusion and a snare, and not worth a bet.
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