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The Boxing Biographies Newsletter

Volume 2- No 7             4th March ,  2008

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As always the full versions of these articles are on the website

The Battling Nelson Story



Here I met up with a cowboy and he took me out to one of the big ranches close by, where I became a regular cowboy. Another wild ambition of mine had been gratified. I had read novels of Buffalo Bill and other famous men of the plains, and greatly admired their personalities and records. So here I was astride a horse now and actually herding cattle. When winter set in I jumped the "chaps" and tossed the lariat aside and hiked over to Miller, S. Dak. Here I secured a job as waiter in the Vanderbilt hotel owned by B. F. Torrey.  There was a pretty nice boxing club at Sioux Falls, S. Dak., at the time and fights were being held over there weekly. That clinging ambition to become a great boxer wouldn't down in me and early in May I jumped over to the Falls.

Despite the many hardships encountered since leaving home I was determined to become "A Boxer of World Renown."

I called on the manager of the club and asked him to be good enough to bill me for a bout. He looked me over Critically, felt my arms, looked into my eyes, and then said. "Well, Kid, I'll take a chance with you. Be around here next Saturday night and I'll put you on with the famous lightweight, Freddie Green. If you manage to make good, why, I'll give you a chance the next day ( Sunday)  to fight Soldier Williams.  This latter battle to take place at  our annual picnic and field day."


I was Johnny on the spot Saturday evening, all beaming with smiles over my good fortune and serenely confident. I wore, for the first time in my life, regulation fighting shoes and had purchased a pair of pretty green trunks. (I have worn that lucky color ever since.) In fact, I was togged up like a real fighter, even though I was an unknown and from a place called Hegewisch. "Hegewisch, Illinois !" exclaimed the Master of Ceremonies. "Where in the world is that located?" "Battling Nelson ! Whew! what a good fighting name! A regular Admiral Nelson, eh?" "I'm just starting out, sir," I answered in all humility. "I have fought two battles to date and win both that's all." It's a funny thing, indeed, about this Hegewisch business. I made up my mind when I left home that if ever I should be fortunate enough to become famous as a boxer I would certainly not go back on my old town, Hegewisch.

The wheel of fortune turned in my favor, and of course, as the entire world knows, wherever you see the name of Battling Nelson so you will see the name Hegewisch, Illinois.


Bat's Third Battle, Fought May 10, 1898,

at Sioux Falls, S. D.




PURSE, $7.50.


I was up against a real classy fighter in Freddie Green. He had been bucking the padded arena for several years and was then known as "the Champion of the Dakotas." He was a shifty, clever fellow, raw of bone and had a reach like a gorilla. I entered the arena, unknown and unannounced, as it were. I didn't even have a trainer.

From the tap of the gong in the first round to its finish Green danced around me like a grasshopper, pecking bad jabs into my face repeatedly, and then dancing out of harm's way. My style then was slow and awkward, but I felt from the start that he couldn't knock me out, so as the fight progressed I became confident. He drew first blood in the fourth round. It was the first time in my short career that I had suffered such humiliation and you can bet I was angry. I grew a bit wild and commenced to carry the fight to him. I worked him into a clinch and almost put him out. This round he was overly cautious and kept away from me.


It was a new experience for me, this slapping and getting away business of Green. I was really tiring, as I could not catch up with him at all. I changed my tactics then and laid back a while. The crowd, under the impression that I was giving in, began to cry frantically to Green to rush in and finish me.

This was in the sixth round of the battle. Green was a game sort of a fellow and right there I didn't doubt the stories told about his many successful battles and many knockouts. He tried to exchange blows with me. and there's where he made the same mistake as did Wallace's Terrible Unknown, as well as Ole Olson. Ah! how I did tickle his ribs and crack my left into his jaw during that round.

I was warming up to the real fighter's work then. At the end of the round I had the champion hanging on to me, tired and badly battered, though still in the ring. He came up at the call of time in the seventh round in an extremely cautious manner, not making the slightest move to follow up his rushing tactics of the early rounds.


On the other hand, I assumed the aggressive, and when the old bell tapped I was out of my corner in a jiffy and was on him like a tiger cat. I cut out a dizzy pace for Freddie, which I don't think he will ever forget, if he is still on earth and I hope he is.

I boxed and cuffed him all about the ring until he was groggy. Then I stepped back and handed him a left hook full on the jaw. They carried him out of the ring unconscious. I was thereupon proclaimed the Champion of the Dakotas before I had shed my boxing gloves. My titles so far acquired were: Champion of Hegewisch, Champion of Wallace's Circus and Champion of the Dakotas.

Pretty good, boys, for a kid who had  only fought three battles. The purse for the fight amounted to $7.50, which was collected from the ringside in hats. As I had been doing all along, I sent half of the purse back to mother at Hegewisch.