Montana Standard 11 March 1934
They used to tell some funny stories about the Big Fellows of the prize ring. There was one about Sullivan's famous tour in which he knocked out 50 men. The great John L had no one to fight so they thought of a trip around the country meeting all comers. That was pie for John until one night up in the northwest when he met a local blacksmith who had some reputation as a prizefighter and a good deal of stuff to back it.
John L. did no training and took no care of himself. He was a sort of a demigod in the sport world in those days, and everywhere he was entertained lavishly —most of the entertainment being liquid. John must have lapped up a small ocean of champagne on that trip. When he fought some local celebrity he didn't even sober up a t ring time. Jo h n would get into the ring sit glaring at his victim, pump up a t the bell and rush roaring over to knock his man out with a swishing right swing and get back to the high life.
John L. In Trouble.
This blacksmith was giving John trouble, and John wasn't in shape to stand too much trouble that evening. It looked very bad for John, who was getting winded from his own violent efforts. And then, according to the story. Parson Davies, who was behind the scenes on the stage, had a stroke of genius. The parson saw a mallet the stage carpenter had left lying around. From behind a curtain at the back of the ring the Parson whispered hoarsely to Sullivan: “Push him around this way, John.” John pushed, the blacksmith’s head came against the curtain, showing a nice, round bump to Parson Davies hidden behind it. The mal1et tapped gently on the bump, but not to gently.
Just at that instant John L. was letting fly one of his wild swings. The Blacksmith dropped in his tracks. John thought he had landed a knockout. They carried the blacksmith out and revived him with some difficulty. Half an hour later, while John was celebrating in the dressing room, there was a knock on the door. In came the blacksmith.
“If you please, Mr. Sullivan,” he said, '‘would you mind telling me what punch you knocked me out with? I’ve got a bump like a turkey’s ekk on the back of my head.” "Hell,” roared Sullivan, " that’s where you h it the floor.” And John L. thought it was.
Sullivan Liked His Joke.
John L. liked his joke, and had a lot of funny tricks. One was to imitate a conjurer he had seen on the stage. He's go into a saloon, set up a few drinks for the crowd, and then tell the bartender to get a big towel and a lot of glasses and John would show him a fine trick. John went into a bar in Green River, Wyoming, set 'em up for the crowd and then announced that he'd show his friends and admirers a trick they never saw before.
"Give me a big bar towel,” John demanded of the bartender, who was a small, inoffensive looking party. The towel was spread on the bar "Now give me every glass in the house,” demanded John. The glasses were set on the bar. John stood the glasses on the towel.
A Costly Trick.
"Now move back and give me elbow room,” sled John. "This trick takes a lot of skill. I'm going to take the towel out from under the glasses and leave them standing on the bar. John yanked the towel. The glasses crashed on the floor. John put on a look of astonishment and said to the bartender: "That trick never went wrong before, Get me some more glasses and I’ll try it again.” The bartender reached down behind the bar. His hand came up holding an old Frontier model muzzle loader Colt which he trained on John’s middle vest button. “That will cost you just $50, Mr Sullivan” he sais softly. Sullivan paid. He played no more tricks in Wyoming.
The mallet story has often been told with variations and later managers have been given credit for the Parsons invention. They say Danny McKetrick tried to pull it on Billy Papke when Papke was boxing an exhibition with Willie Lewis on a stage in Paris. As I heard the story Papke peered around the edge of the curtain and got wise, He attended to Willie Lewis and then dashed around behind the curtain and socked Danny too for good measure. No affidavit goes this. but it might be true. Dan was a tricky bird when he had fighters working for him.
Kid McCoy a Great Schemer
Kid McCoy told me once of his fight with a big Zulu in South Africa. The Kid was a wandering adventurer, and a whim took him to Africa. He was quickly short of funds, and there was no one to fight except the big black, who had something of a reputation among the natives. McCoy heard that the Zulu always fought barefooted, so he schemed a scheme.
His fight was out of doors, the floor of the ring bare earth. Just before the fight started, so McCoy said he went across the ring to shake hands with his opponent, who was a black giant a head taller than McCoy, and barefooted. In the pocket of the Kid's bathrobe was a package of carpet tacks. Walking back to his corner the Kid spilled tacks across the ring. The bell rang. McCoy Jumped up. The big native started across, and suddenly bent over with a howl grabbing a t his feet, which were collecting tacks a t every step, McCoy arrived just as his opponent stopped, and let go a right hand wallop that knocked him cold. Before he recovered the Foxy kid had collected his side stake and was on his way to another part of Africa.
The Kid Real Comedian
The Kid claimed this was the most comical trick ever pulled in the ring. And he pulled plenty of them. One I remember well was the night he fought a 6 foot 8 inch giant named Herr Henri Joseph Plaacke of Philadelphia. The giant ran at McCoy with wild swings and kept him busy dodging until near the end of the first round, when McCoy landed some terrific punched on his nose and jaw. After a minute rest the bewildered giant got up and stood in his corner. McCoy ran across the ring, stopped, pointed at Plaacke’s waist and said “your belt’s broken, better tie it up”. Plaacke, the poor sap, looked down and the Kid laughed as he swung the long knockout punch.