The Boxing Biographies Newsletter
2nd Anniversary Edition
Volume 5 - No 1 4th July , 2009
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Name: Johnny Kilbane
Career Record: click
Birth Name: John Patrick Kilbane
Nationality: US American
Birthplace: Cleveland, OH
Hometown: Cleveland, Ohio, USA
Age at Death: 68
Height: 5′ 5″
Reach: 68 inches
Manager: Jimmy Dunn
The man who ended the featherweight championship reign of Abe Attell, Johnny Kilbane spent much of his life in the public eye. Kilbane defended the featherweight title for eleven years and, in retirement, became a senator in the Ohio state legislature. A Cleveland native, Kilbane started fighting professionally in the Ohio area in 1907 with three victories, according to the somewhat spotty records of his early career.
Kilbane was a good scientific boxer who could also punch. He fought Attell three times, twice in championship bouts. In 1910, he lost a decision to Attell. Two years later, on a extremely hot night in Vernon, California, Kilbane took the crown from Attell with a twenty-round decision. Kilbane scored frequently with his left jab, while Attell resorted to heeling, butting, and elbowing. After the fight, Kilbane claimed that Attell had coated his back with chloroform in an attempt to daze his opponent. Attell said it was cooling cocoa butter and, for many years, bore ill will towards Kilbane for this charge, which Kilbane often repeated. Through five title bouts, including one in 1913, in which he fought Hall of Famer Johnny Dundee to a draw, Kilbane defended his crown until 1923.
In 1917, Kilbane attempted to move up in class and faced the lightweight champion Benny Leonard in a non-title fight. Kilbane could not handle the heavier Leonard and was knocked out in three rounds. World War I put Kilbane's professional boxing career on hold while he served as a boxing instructor at Camp Sherman.
In 1921, Kilbane again defended his title in Cleveland with a knockout of Danny Frush. In 1923, at age 34, he returned to the ring after almost two years of inactivity to face Eugene Criqui at New York's Polo Grounds. Reportedly, Kilbane received $75,000 to come back. At the time, Criqui was the European champion. Past his prime, Kilbane could not handle the punching power of Criqui, who had the champ sagging on the ropes and knocked him out in the sixth.
Never known for his knock-out power, Kilbane knew how to put forth just enough effort to win. If necessary, he could throw a mean punch, but for the most part, he was content to outbox an opponent and avoid getting hit. In retirement, Kilbane refereed and operated a gym as well as serving in the state senate. He was clerk of the Cleveland Municipal Court when he died in 1957.
Attell v Kilbane
Published 23 Feb 1912
Johnny Kilbane Given Decision Over Attell In Battle At Los Angeles
A new pugilistic champion was made in the Vernon arena yesterday, when Johnny Kilbane of Cleveland, decisively outfought, outgamed and outpunched Abe Attell in a 20 round contest and at' the close was awarded the featherweight title by Referee Charles Eyeton.
Nearly. 10,000 persons saw the fight; Fully 500-others were turned away at the gates. This was the greatest crowd that ever viewed a prize fight in Los Angeles. The receipts amounted to approximately $25,000. The men fought for a purse of $10,000, of which Attell was to receive $6,500, win lose or draw and Kilbane $3,500. They agreed to divide evenly the moving picture privilege.
Attell was clearly outfought. His boasted speed and wonderful cleverness were not in evidence. Kilbane made him look like a novice in nearly every round. Only in one round, the seventh, did Attell have a lead, that was not, by any means, as decisive as that of Kilbane in the remaining rounds.
Attell brought the wrath of the big crowd upon his head by foul tactics. Time and again he would hold Kilbane's arms in a clinch and once, In the' eighth, .he grabbed Kilbane's left arm with both hands and tried to bend it back. In the third he "heeled" the Cleveland boy while in a clinch and in nearly every succeeding round his work called for the hisses from the spectators.
In the seventh after rushing into a clinch to avoid Kilbane’s tattoo on the face and body, Attell butted the Clevelander with his head, opening a great gash over Kilbane’s left eye, from which blood spurted profusely.
At the beginning of the sixteenth round referee Eyeton stopped the fight, grabbed a towel and thoroughly wiped off Attell’s body. It was seen to covered with some greasy substance. Attell protested, but the referee paid no attention to him. Kilbane's work was a revelation to even his friends. Entering the ring with the odds 2 to 1 against him, he never faltered for an instant. He fought' fast and showed clever work with his hands and feet.
A straight left jab to Attell's nose or sore left eye was his favorite blow. He would send this in, and then, like a flash cross with his right to the other side of Attell's head and jump back out of harm's way. Attell seemed wild throughout the fight, but this was due as much to Kilbane's foot work as to any other cause. Time and again the bewildered Attell' tried in vain to corner the Cleveland man.
The decision of Referee Eyeton was received with cheers, and Kilbane was carried from the building on the shoulders of his friends. "I want to telephone to Mary." He said, meaning Mrs. Kilbane. Attell, tired, his face drawn and bleeding, left the ring alone. As he reached the edge of the platform, he said to a friend: "Well I had to stand for it; I couldn't do any better."
Fight By Rounds.
Both men walked slowly to center. After sparring they clinched, and Kilbane got in a hard right to the jaw on the break. For the next minute both men stood in the center and not a blow was exchanged, then they clinched and Kilbane got In a left and a right to the jaw he was quick as lightning. They clinched again and Attell missed a right. Round even.
Each man tried to feel out his opponent. Kilbane put a vicious left to the jaw and avoided a left counter . Attell did not seem as fast on his feet as Kilbane. The Clevelander landed right and left and avoided returns. He brought blood from Attell's mouth with a straight left. Kilbane again landed two hard lefts to the face, starting the blood flowing. A right to Attell's bad eye nearly closed the optic. It was Kilbane's round.
They clinched and Kilbane complained to the referee that Attell bent his arm. Attell held on and at the break dodged a vicious left, only to encounter a hard right Each man was fighting rapidly and roughly. In the next clinch Attell was warned for heeling. Kilbane put right and left to the face. The bell rang with the men clinched. Kilbane's round.