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The Boxing Biographies Newsletter

Volume 2- No 11   13th May ,  2008


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The newsletter is also available as a word doc on request

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




The following letter was written by Prof. Mike Donovan and sent to George Siler and re-mailed to the Battler at Hegewisch, Illinois.


NEW YORK CITY, Dec. 3rd, 1904, Geo. Siler, Chicago Tribune. Friend George: Battling Nelson's brilliant victory over William Rothwell, "YOUNG CORBETT," at San Francisco, California, Thursday night, revealed a domestic drama which at one time threatened to be a tragedy. The story of the boy's struggles against great odds and his rapid ascent as a pugilist, conceals behind it the fact that for years Nelson has fought with two objects. His objects were outside the prize ring. He fought his way towards the championship with but two ideas to pay the mortgage on his mother's home on Superior avenue, Hegewisch, and to win back the love and admiration of his father, brothers and sister.


His mother's love and tenderness he has had all the time. Practically driven away from home because his family objected to his chosen profession, forbidden scores of times by his father to enter the ring, pleaded with by his mother who feared he would get hurt, Nelson insisted. The boy had fought, and fought desperately, in order that the debt might not worry his father in order that his brothers and sister might go to school and get better educations ; and he has steadily urged the other boys not to follow in his footsteps to keep out of the fighting game.





Nelson Describes His First Fight with

Jimmy Britt for the Championship.


Aside of my natural ambition to win the lightweight championship, one of the strongest reasons I had for my desire to lick Sir James Edward Britt was because he wore a high hat and a Prince Albert coat. It may sound like a ''kid," but, on the level, it made me awful sore to see a prizefighter going around in those swell togs, and I made up my mind that some day I would bring him down to the class where he belonged. In those days it was somewhat of a job for a fighter to lick Britt because he always fought on the coast, and to get a decision over him on points out there was like trying to slip the Washington- monument through the eye of a needle.


After I had licked Corbett, however, there was nothing for Britt to do but to meet me as he had promised. I was doomed to a bitter disappointment, however, before I finally won the championship.




Britt is a strong, game, clever fighter. The only man that ever made Britt show the white feather was Joe Gans. I gave him a much worse beating than Gans did, but the minute he saw the black fellow in the ring he practically threw up his hands and admitted defeat. In his fight with all the other lightweights Britt was game to the core. I never could exactly understand why he let Gans get his goat.


While Britt was a very clever boxer he was lacking in a hard punch. He hit me numerous times on the jaw, but could not even jostle me. He had one punch, though, that was a wonder. It was a low left-hand swing that was a half uppercut and half hook. He would rip this into a fellow's stomach, and as a rule it was a winner. It was one of the best punches that has ever been used in the ring.


Though I had been clamoring for a fight for a long time, this was my first meeting with the pride of the Golden West, and I certainly had my troubles all the way through. Britt did not stand up and fight me, but danced around the ring from the very start to the finish of the fight. As a result, I hardly got a chance to knock him out, although in the thirteenth I laid him flat on his back for the count of nine.