Category Archives: History

Billy Papke

By David Martinez / Boxing Historian /

One of the most underrated middleweights, and one that had a quadrilogy of memorable bouts with Stanley Ketchel, was William Herman Papke.

Born in Spring Valley, Illinois on September 17, 1886, he was the son of German immigrants, and was nicknamed  the “Kewanee Thunderbolt” and the “Illinois Thunderbolt”.

He was as tough as nails and a true competitor in the ring, winning the world middleweight championship during his career.

The four-bout series with Ketchel was one of the most grueling collection of fights in middleweight history.

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Tiger Flowers

By David Martinez / Boxing Historian /

Theodore “Tiger” Flowers was the first African-American to become middleweight champion. Born on August 5, 1895 in Camille, Georgia, Flowers’ nickname, “The Georgia Deacon”, was most appropriate because he always carried his own Bible with him. A deeply religious man, he would recite a passage from Psalm 144 before every bout.

Flowers began his professional career in 1918 at the age of twenty-three and was actually introduced to boxing while working at the shipyards in Philadelphia during World War I when he wandered into a gym that was owned by former light heavyweight champion Philadelphia Jack O’Brien.

O’Brien was not prejudiced and allowed all colors and creeds to train in his gym, and he became very impressed with Flower’s natural talent, encouraging him to become a prize fighter.

A southpaw, Flowers won his first 25 bouts before losing by a sixth round knockout to Panama Joe Gans in August 1921. After four successful wins, he would meet Gans in a rematch four months later in December and would lose again by a fifth round knockout.

In 1922, Flowers engaged in 20 bouts, mostly wins, but did suffer knockout losses to Kid Norfolk, Lee Anderson, Sam Langford, and the Jamaica Kid, followed by another knockout loss to Kid Norfolk.

In 1923, Flowers had sixteen bouts with a record of 13 wins, 2 losses, and 1 draw. His only losses were by stoppage to Kid Norfork and Fireman Jim Flynn.

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The Marquis of Queensberry Rules

By David Martinez  / Boxing Historian /

Arguably, the most important piece of boxing writing was by John Graham Chambers in 1865, a member of the Amateur Athletic Club in London, England.

Chambers wrote twelve rules to govern the conduct of boxing matches which would end the governed structure of bare-knuckle fighting.

John Sholto Douglas, eighth Marquis of Queensberry, was responsible for putting these rules into effect and gained fame with his sponsorship and by lending his name to the title. The new rules thus would supersede the Revised London Prize Ring Rules, which were written by Jack Broughton in 1743.

The first fight that applied Queensberry Rules was the heavyweight championship when Jim Corbett knocked out John L. Sullivan in twenty-one rounds to win the title at the Olympic Club in New Orleans on September 7, 1892.

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By David Martinez / Boxing Historian /

Back when I was a kid in the fifties, I came across a magazine called The Referee that was either at my father’s barber shop or at the newsstands nearby.

It was in 1961 that I would start to obtain these magazines to educate myself with boxing and wrestling. It was mainly a west coast publication that was published to serve as a fight program with updates for the upcoming various events. It was available at fight venues as well as news-stands.

Although, I do not have every issue, the issues I have are certainly treasured collectables.


Sam Langford

By David Martinez / Boxing Historian /

Born on March 3, 1883 in Weymouth, Nova Scotia, Canada was one of  the all time greats in boxing, Sam Langford.

Langford was known as The Boston Tar Baby, and was not a big heavyweight in stature; he stood 5’7″ with a career weight range of 126 to 190 pounds. He was powerfully built with a waist of 32 inches, a chest of 44 inches, and a 74 inch reach.

Langford started his professional career as a featherweight in 1902. The following year, he defeated Joe Gans and drew with Jack Blackburn.

Langford is considered to be the greatest boxer to never have won a world title.  On September 5, 1904, he fought welterweight champion Joe Walcott in a non-title bout that resulted in a 15 round decision draw. In that fight, Langford knocked Walcott down in round three and was well ahead after eight rounds before Walcott would come on to win the later rounds.

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Oddities in Boxing

By David Martinez / Boxing Historian /

Boxing has certainly had its share of odd events. In no particular order of preference here are ten that have always stood out to me.

1 – November 6, 1993 / Las Vegas, Nevada … Holyfield vs. Bowe II, a fan James Miller lands by parachute into the ring during round 7 causing a 21 minute delay in their heavyweight championship fight.

2 – December 4, 1912 / Paris, France … Georges Bernard fell asleep at the end of the sixth round during his middleweight title fight with Billy Papke.

3 – September 13, 1975 / Caracas, Venezuela Luis Etaba defeated Rafael Lovera by 4th round knockout to win WBC junior flyweight title, only to learn afterwards Lovera had never fought a professional fight before and only fought that one fight in his career.

4 – December 13,  1887 … “Nonpareil” Jack Dempsey retained his middleweight title by knockout in the 45th round over John Reagan. The bout took place in two rings. It Started in Huntington, Long Island and after the ring was flooded by nearby river, in the 8th round, both fighters boarded a tug boat and continued their bout 20 miles away in another ring.

5 – January 15, 1977 /  Las Vegas, Nevada … Howard Smith wins a 10 round decision over Henry Clark. In round one, the original referee (Ferd Hernandez) suffered a epileptic seizure causing a fifteen minute delay before new referee (Richard Greene) was brought and the fight resumed. On a side note, prior to becoming a referee, Fred Hernandez boxed professionally and once scored a 10 round split decision win over an aging 44 year old Sugar Ray Robinson in 1965.

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Boxers Who Have Never Been Knocked Out

By David Martinez / Boxing Historian /

There are many boxers who have retired having never been knocked out in their respective careers.

The most logical rating formula for compiling such a list would be to judge them according to the quality and level of their competition, or by their total number of fights.

However, I have chosen to rate each on their greatness as a fighter; how I see them pound-for-pound at the height, peak, prime, pinnacle of their great careers.

Arguably, you could move them around, changing the order as you wish; but this likely would be the group at the top of most lists.

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Freddie Welsh

By David Martinez / Boxing Historian /

One of Britain’s greatest boxers, is certainly Freddie Welsh.  Born by the name Frederick Hall Thomas, on March 5, 1886, in Pontypridd, South Wales, United Kingdom.  Welsh started his professional career in 1905 in Philadelphia.  He would later win the lightweight championship by 20 round decision over Willie Ritchie on July 7, 1914.   He would go on to hold the title until 1917, when he then lost to Benny Leonard by knockout in 9 rounds.

After the Leonard fight, Welsh went on to serve in United States Army during World War I, and helped disabled veterans at Walter Reed Hospital.  After being discharged at the rank of captain, he returned to the ring after a three year layoff resumed his boxing career in December 1920 .

Welsh would only fight six bouts in 16 months winning four, with one draw and losing a 10 round decision in his final fight, and he would retire in April 1922.

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First Boxing Champions From Their Country

By David Martinez / Boxing Historian /

Many have asked me this question:  Who were the first fighters from the different countries around the globe to be a title claimant to a world championship?  The fighters on this list were born in the country concerned, though some may have emigrated later to other lands.  Here listed are the major nations, the fighter, the year of winning their title, and the weight division of each champion.

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Outdoor Wars … Legendary Bouts in Famous Stadiums (Part 2 of 2)

By Bob Quackenbush /

In last week’s article, we looked at nine classic prize fights that were contested at well known outdoor stadiums.  In Chicago, it was Soldier Field and Comiskey Park; in New York, the Polo Grounds and Ebbets Field; and in Washington D.C., Griffith Stadium.  

Yankee Stadium – 1923

This week, the spotlight will be on “The House that Ruth Built”, the legendary Yankee Stadium. Though the Bambino and his famous baseball teams were the star attraction at this venue, and the New York Giants football team was the gridiron tenant (1956-73), the sport of boxing brought in big names and big crowds, as well.  It was said that Yankee Stadium was Joe Louis’ personal fight club as he appeared there so many times (twelve times per BoxRec).  The stadium was actually prepared for the fight game as a concrete vault with radio lines permanently installed for broadcasters was buried in the ground under second base.

Thirteen famous bouts highlight Part 2 of our look at famous prize fights in the great outdoors. [Reminder … this is not an exhaustive list, but a selection of some of the most famous bouts contested at this location.]

YANKEE STADIUM, the Bronx, New York City:

  • Jess Willard defeated Floyd Johnson by technical knockout in round eleven on May 12, 1923.  In the first boxing event ever held at Yankee Stadium, promoter Tex Rickard organized a benefit program staged as a heavyweight carnival from which a worthy challenger for champion Jack Dempsey could be selected. The 6’ 6” Willard who was 41 and not active at the time was brought in to face the young Johnson who was 38-2.  Willard trained hard and was good for a few rounds, pounding Johnson with uppercuts until the younger fighter took control. Somehow, Willard made it to the eleventh and caught Johnson with a huge punch to end the round, and Johnson couldn’t answer the bell for round twelve. 63,000 were there to see it.
  • Max Schmeling defeated Joe Louis by knockout in round twelve on June 12, 1936.  The experienced Schmeling (59 pro bouts) used timing and counter-punching to conquer the young and powerful Louis, sending him down with a big right hand before an estimated 60,000. Louis would later get a title shot, defeating Jim Braddock in 1937. 
  • Joe Louis defeated Max Schmeling by knockout in the first round on June 22, 1938.  In their much anticipated rematch, Louis pounded Schmeling in front of a sell-out crowd, knocking him down three times in 56 seconds. The third time, the German’s corner threw in the towel as the referee continued the count, and Schmeling could not get up. 
Max Schmeling versus Joe Louis … The Rematch
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