Name: Frank Moran
Alias: The Pittsburgh Dentist
Birth Name: Charles Francis Moran
Nationality: US American
Birthplace: Pittsburgh, PA
Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA
Age at Death: 80
Height: 6' 1?
Reach: 77 1/2 inc
During the era of Jack Johnson’s historic but thoroughly unpopular reign as champion over the heavyweight division, the general public clamored for a white man to return the title to the Caucasian race. This period has been called the era of the “White Hopes,” and Frank Moran was one of the toughest, smartest, and most successful products of the craze.
Born Charles Francis Moran in Pittsburgh, boxing had not been his first inclination as a career. Dentistry, it seems was his first calling and he studied the science at the University of Pittsburgh for three years, where he also played for the college football team. He evidently had great success on that team as he later played for the Lyceums, Pittsburgh’s first professional football team, at the same time as he was campaigning as a leading heavyweight contender. Moran’s start in boxing appears to have come while serving a tenure in the U.S. Navy in 1906. His first recorded bout took place at the 18th Regiment Armory in Pittsburgh in 1906 against the more experienced Dick Fitzpatrick. The bout went the scheduled six round distance and decisions in prizefights were illegal in Pennsylvania at the time, thus the fight went down officially as a “no-decision” affair. Apparently not entering the ring again for more than two years, Moran next fought Philadelphia’s Fred Cooley in 1908, knocking the light heavyweight out in just two rounds.
After the Cooley knockout, Moran made a serious go of boxing and fought several bouts in the Western Pennsylvania area over the next few years. Most notably, in 1909, he boxed four round exhibition with world heavyweight champion Jack Johnson, who frequently visited Pittsburgh. In 1910 Frank fought his first match out of the state, in Yaleta, Texas, a fourth round knockout of the otherwise forgotten Joe Sierra. Engagements in Boston and New York followed. He was beginning to make a name for himself, primarily through the savage knockouts he was scoring his with right hand, a beauty of a punch he liked to call, “Mary Ann.” He spent several months between 1911 and 1912 touring Europe, winning all five of his bouts, four by knockout, against mediocre competition in England and France. Returning to America in the Spring of 1912, Moran’s record was spotty for the remainder of the year, including his first professional match against an internationally respected opponent, Gunboat Smith, one of the leading “White Hopes” pursuing a shot against Johnson. On December 27, in San Francisco, California, Moran went twenty rounds with Smith but lost the referee’s decision. A ten round no-decision against another well known “White Hope,” Luther McCarty, came four months later, the newspapers reporting that McCarty had gotten the better of the action.
The Johnson Fight
Thus Moran was considered a meaningless pushover when Jack Johnson announced him to be the next man to get a shot at the title. Johnson, convicted of a federal morals crime, had fled the U.S. and was now living a glutton’s life in Paris, France, where Moran traveled to meet him for the contest. Most regarded Johnson’s lack of enthusiasm for training and fighting as being the real reason for his selection of the challenger, and not any accomplishments on the part of Frank. On June 27, 1914, at the Velodrome d’Hiver in Paris, Moran gave it his best effort. The overweight and unprepared champion was sluggish, which allowed openings for “Mary Ann” on several occasions. It was a shoving, punching, wrestling, and fouling match fought at close quarters in the center of the ring. The challenger surprised many by winning several rounds. Meanwhile, the champion retaliated with fouls Frank by repeatedly punching on the breaks. As the fight drew into the closing rounds, rumors circulated through the arena that the title was about to change hands. When the fight ended, however, referee Georges Carpentier, himself a “White Hope” contender, awarded his decision to Johnson, who could consider himself lucky to have stayed on his feet for the full twenty rounds.
His reputation as a serious contender now firmly established by the struggle against Johnson, Moran traveled to London, England, where he faced Bombadier Billy Wells, that country’s reigning heavyweight champion and a dangerous puncher in his own right. Moran knocked Wells out in the tenth, his first victory over a world class opponent. Returning to America, he knocked out one of New York’s most popular heavyweights, Jim Coffey, and repeated the feat three months later.
Meanwhile, Johnson had been beaten in Cuba by a hulking “White Hope” from Kansas named Jess Willard. A hard hitting mass of bulk who stood more than six and a half feet tall, Willard chose Moran as his first challenger. On March 25, 1916, at Madison Square Garden in New York, Moran got his second shot at the world championship and again he took the reigning champion the distance. After the ten scheduled rounds, decisions being illegal in New York, the fight was declared a “no-decision.” Though Moran gave a good account himself, most reporters at ringside wrote that the champion had gotten the better of the action.
Later Career & Retirement
Moran continued to garner fights against big name opponents, though most of them knew by now to protect themselves against “Mary Ann,” his signature right hand punch. Though his wins in major bouts were few and far between, he would face such noteworthy competition as Jack Dillon, Gunboat Smith, Carl Morris, Fred Fulton, and Joe Beckett before retiring from the sport in 1922. From the late 1920s on into the 1950s he became a successful movie actor, appearing in such films as “The Prizefighter and the Lady” (1933), “The Informer” (1935), “The Call of the Wild” (1935), “Modern Times” (1936), “Sea Devils” (1936), “The Lady Eve” (1941), and “Sullivan’s Travels” (1941), usually playing a boxer, bartender, security guard, or laborer. He died of a heart attack at 80 years of age.