Boxing Ledgend Jimmy Slattery wins another fight on October 27,
1924, beating Norm Genet.
of the Ring
by Ed Dunn
He came out of Buffalo's old First Ward, starting as a long rangy kid
in the Broadway auditorium, to become one of the smoothest, most efficient
fighting machines in the world. The first pair of green trunks he ever
wore in the ring were made by his mother; the bathrobe slung carelessly
over his broad young shoulders was borrowed. He fought him, first professional
fight for $40. Yet in a few swift ears, Jimmy Slattery's murderous left
had clouted him a straight path to Madison Square Garden, where he eventually
became the light heavyweight champion of the world and a heavy weight
title contender. In his hey-dey, he was like the hero of some ancient
Irish fable-a ring wise, black haired Irish imp who carried man made
lightening in his gloves.
He was only 20 years old when he fought his first fight in the big time.
Hoarse-voiced thousands that night in 1924 watched this dancing will-o'-the-wisp
out-box. out-guess and outfight the veteran Jack Delaney. Yet within
that same year the same Madison Square Garden crowd watched, agonized,
while Paul Berlenbach, a huge hunk of ex-wrestler, belted Buffalo's
golden boy all around the ring. The referee stopped the fight in the
eleventh round after Berlenbach had smashed Slats to the canvas three
Despite this beating, though, he lived to win the title five years later
when on February 10, 1930, he won a 15-round decision over another Buffalo
fighter, Lou Scozza, in the Broadway Auditorium. But those were five
fast years that only served to grease the skids for Slattery's ride
bloom hailed a cab on Eighth Avenue and rode it nearly four hundred
miles to a training camp up in the Adirondacks.
The vanishing act was another of his pet tricks; he'd drop out of sight
regardless of circumstances. His manager, Red Carr, once lined up a
big fight for Slats only to find that Slats was nowhere around. For
five days he was gone. Police at Elkhart, Ind wired to Buffalo that
he had been arrested for vagrancy. Another time-in New York-Slats told
Carr he was going out to buy a hat. He was gone for half a week before
he came back without the hat.
Once Slattery turned up missing in Venice. His companions were getting
ready to have the canals dragged when they found him at 4 a. m., floating
aimlessly around in an appropriated gondola.
Anyone could put the "bite" on him. That was another of his
weaknesses That staunch heart of his was brimming with too much kindness.
A buck? Sure. A fin? Sure. Fifty? Hell yes! He made more than that a
second. So the gang hung on. Used his cars, his liquor, his money and
used him for all he was worth. Once a delegation of 28 home-town pals
dropped into his New York - hotel after a fight. They had spent all
their money. How were they going to get home? Slats snapped his fingers.
"Nothing to it," he said, and picked up the phone and ordered
28 Pullman berths for Buffalo.
What caused Slattery's rapid downfall as a fighter, as meteoric as his
rise to fame? Maybe the trouble was too much too soon. Maybe it was
a case of "too many parties and too
many pals." One guess is as good as another. Slattery himself perhaps
had the answer to the ride down. He once said that he'd give up fighting
in a minute if he could play the piano. However, be never learned to
play anything but the harmonica. Before Slat's first 15-round fight
with Paul Berlenbach, the late Tex Rickard went to his dressing room
with the idea of soothing, the nervous youngster. He found Slattery
stretched out on the rubbing table trying, to play his harmonica with
But for a fighter who preferred music to mayhem, he made-and lost -a
tidy fortune. In a career of 126 fights he earned and flung away $438,000.
He could have been heavyweight champion of the world, according to most
sports experts who saw him in action in his prime. Gentleman Jim Corbett
made it a point to see every Slattery fight because, according to sports
writers, he saw his own greatness mirrored in the lean Irishman. Gene
Tunny has called him the greatest natural boxer of those times.
Slattery boxed frequently with Tunney when the latter was getting into
shape for his second Dempsey fight during one furious session, Slats
sent Tunney sprawling through the ropes. Newspaper stories said Tunney
"slipped," but Slattery's followers have always maintained
that it was a clean punch that nearly knocked the heavyweight champ
Slattery fought his last professional fight on August 22, 1932 in Offermann
Stadium. He was knocked out in the second round by Charley Belanger,
Canadian light-heavy weight champion.
Main Street Vol. I May 1, 1945 No. 1.
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