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TSS Old School Spotlight: Ad Wolgast (Part 2)

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In March of 1910, the newly minted world champion Ad Wolgast made a triumphant return to Milwaukee, where he was the guest of honor at a banquet attended by politicians and the city’s high society. Thousands flocked to the train station upon his arrival, including a brass band and city officials who awarded him with the ‘Freedom of the City’.

The March 5th, 1910 edition of the ‘Monterey News’ announced Wolgast’s upcoming wedding, to Eugenia Howey, a local girl he met at one of the beach resorts. In the afterglow of victory, Wolgast flirted with the idea of opening a saloon in his Cadillac, MI hometown as well.

By mid-March, Wolgast was appearing at Kansas City’s Century Theatre as part of a 10 week vaudeville show where he is said to have made $1000 a week. The legendary heavyweight Jack Johnson would be playing the Century the following week. Ad’s show consisted of setting up a ring and putting on boxing exhibitions, most of them likely with ‘Hobo’ Daugherty. Reports from the day say that Wolgast went all out in many of these exhibitions, with little distinction from a real fight. For Wolgast however, it seems he longed for the real fights and was not taken by being on stage.

In May of 1910, he was thrown from a moving car and considered to be lucky to be alive. Ad Wolgast apparently liked to live like he fought, and that is full throttle.

Wolgast would take a few months off recovering from the Nelson fight and enjoying the limelight before he was itching to fight again. After potential title defense fights with Packey McFarland and Owen Moran did not materialize, Wolgast signed to return to Milwaukee and the Badger Athletic Club on June 10th, 1910 to fight Jack Redmond. Wolgast fought twice more in 1910, in non-title bouts in Muncie, Indiana and Fon Du Lac, Wisconsin.

A great deal of 1910 was spent on the road, doing publicity for the films of the Nelson – Wolgast title bout that were starting to appear in theaters throughout the country. At one such stop, in Chicago, Wolgast viewed the ’pictures’ and is quoted as saying ‘The fight was a lot harder, judging from the pictures than I thought it was…….. I got more respect for Battling Nelson than I ever had before too, for he took a worse beating than I thought he did’.

Wolgast would stumble out of the blocks a bit in 1911, dropping two fights in a row to the tough Valentine ‘Knockout’ Brown, one in Philadelphia, the second in New York. At the time, the pudgy, pigeon toed, cross-eyed Brown was a bit of a sensation in the east coast circles because his appearance hid the fact that he could really fight, and these two bouts helped further his reputation.

Wolgast’s toughness and gameness were never in question, but he was also starting to seal a reputation as a dirty fighter. An account of the first KO Brown match reads ‘Every man, and the few women who were there agree that Wolgast is a fighter. He rushed, he butted, he used the heel of his glove and he did everything known to the fight game, some of which could hardly be called fair’. The first bout was a non-title bout, and the second bout was set so that the title would only change hands with a stoppage, so Wolgast returned to the West Coast beaten but with his title still in hand. In another true reminder of the times, the Philadelphia press reported, ‘Women To Attend To-Night’s Bouts’ as the event around the first meeting catered to the city’s wealthy elite.

In another account, this one of the second Wolgast-Brown meeting, the fight was described as a ‘savage bout from start to finish’ and told of Knockout Brown’s manager, Dan Morgan saying ‘Just one blow-any kind of punch-and you would have won the title’. Wolgast had escaped and was now hoping to snap a two fight losing streak in his first title defense. Wolgast was lambasted in some corners for not defending the title, with title matches being delayed for various reasons, including theater tours and recovery from an alleged broken arm he received in the Redmond fight, and later reinjured.

Wolgast had his next fight arranged by Tom McCarey, and after considering opponents such as One Round Brown, Owen Moran, Lew Powell and Anton LaGrave, they settled on George Memsic. The bout was scheduled for Vernon, California on February 22nd, 1911, the one year anniversary of the Nelson fight. Wolgast had some business instinct and was known to be trying to create opportunities to bring in money. Among the barrage of barbs he received from rival Battling Nelson was, ‘He is the cheapest fighter I know’, however planning his return for the one year anniversary shows some forethought.

The fight however would be pushed back to March 17th, and would see Wolgast defend his title with a 9th round KO. But, the bout wasn’t without problems for the champion, who along with Mesmic was arrested after the fight for violating the California anti-prize fighting laws that were in place. The charges against the fighters, referee and promoter were dropped after two days of proceedings determined that the match was a ‘boxing contest’ and not a ‘prize fight’, which was described as a match to the finish.

Wolgast took another title defense right away on March 31st, meeting Anton LaGrave in a match where both weighed 133 pounds at ringside, just two weeks after the Mesmic bout. Wolgast would send LaGrave to the mat in the 5th for a KO win.

There is consistent evidence Wolgast was now engaged in a battle with the press over his willingness to defend the title and throughout the rest of his career. Wolgast was stung by their portrayal of him as dumb and as an unwilling titleholder. Wolgast went so far as to write a rebuttal stating, ‘Now as a starter for this story, I want to say right here that in Michigan, my own state, I have so few actual friends and well-wishers in the sporting editors’ chairs that I can stick out one hand and count them on half the fingers’. He went on to address criticism that he was ducking Owen Moran. Moran, a former world champion who had defeated Wolgast in a 6 rounder, was relentlessly pushing hard for a match. Wolgast wrote, ‘Am I afraid to meet Moran? No, I have met him. As a greenhorn at the game I stood on equal foot with the Britisher when we fought in New York, and he had several years of ring experience then. He has improved, but I need not brag when I say that my improvement has been so much more rapid than his that there is no comparison.’

Historically, July 4th is a day where big events in boxing history have occurred, and for that day in 1911, Wolgast signed to meet up with former British world champion Owen Moran in a rematch. The agreement was reached in March, so despite the fact that Wolgast fought and beat George ‘One Round’ Hogan by KO in 2 rounds in New York City in April and beat ‘Oakland’ Frankie Burns by TKO in 17 rounds in San Francisco in a May, there was considerable build-up for the fight.

The One Round Hogan bout on April 26th, 1911 was a return to New York City, the mecca of boxing for Wolgast. Wolgast entered the fight with little local credibility, but famed boxing historian Nat Fleischer listed it #10 on his list of ‘Fights I Can’t Forget’. He describes a chaotic two round affair that saw Wolgast out on his feet and nearly falling out of the ring before being saved by the bell to end round 1, only to take more punishment at the start of round 2 before coming alive and taking it to Hogan relentlessly. Wolgast tired from pouring on the ‘pistons’ and asked the ref to stop the fight. He sent one more barrage Hogan’s way that finally got the ref to say ‘enough’. Another boxing historian, Tad, wrote that, ‘Of course, Wolgast was the holder of the title, but easterners could never see him before. On that night Wolgast made good’.

Against ‘Oakland’ Frankie Burns, at San Francisco’s Eighth Street Arena on May 27th, Wolgast comfortably outgunned a game young contender. One account, from the Madison Democrat, offers details – ‘Wolgast was never in distress. His speed and strength completely smothered the Oakland boy’s offense and he carried the fight to the challenger the whole time.’ Burns was cheered for his ability to absorb punishment, but as the end of the match drew near, the crowd clamored with the referee to stop the fight.

The wins must have felt like a big upswing in momentum for Wolgast, and his next fight was the much anticipated bout with Owen Moran. The ‘Police Gazette’ captioned a series of three pictures from the match: “When Wolgast crushed Moran. It wasn’t the biggest fight of his life, but he showed class by defeating the little Englishman.” Wolgast worked until the 13th round before sending Moran to the canvas for the finish.

Wolgast would hear the names Battling Nelson and Packey McFarland at the head of a long list of potential next opponents as 1911 rolled on. Wolgast would have a bout of appendicitis in November of 1911 that would extend his time away from the ring until the second quarter of 1912.

In the first few months of 1912, Wolgast again made the national news for several non-boxing event such as being laid up in bed laid up in bed sick with pneumonia and getting stopped for recklessly driving a vehicle.

Wolgast’s return bout was a 4 rounder on May 11th held at Jim Coffroth’s Arena in San Francisco, against Willie Ritchie, a man who he would later meet again. The two fought to a draw. Wolgast left California, and on May 17th won a NWS over Freddy Daniels in Saint Joseph, Missouri. Two weeks later, on May 31st, he won a 6 rounder over ‘Young’ Jack O’Brien in Philadelphia.

The second of Wolgast’s fights that would go down in the annals of history is his July 4th, 1912 contest with ‘Mexican’ Joe Rivers. Many years later, the fight would be recalled as ‘the most controversial match of all time’. For Wolgast it was a title defense that was even on paper, with many of the writers of the day not able to prognosticate a winner.

There was a lot of pre-fight hype. Roughly two weeks before the fight on June 24th, 1912, writer Jerome Beatty penned in a column called ‘Hitting the High Spots’ that ‘very few persons are so rash as to predict at this stage of the proceedings which boy will win the Rivers-Wolgast scrap’, and he went on to say ‘Each has fought good fights and bad fights. Each has a habit of cracking a hand every now and then’ and ‘It will be a meeting of two of our most prominent erratics’. The match was getting attention and the betting action would be hot around the fight.

As the two combatants entered the ring Jack Root, the first ever light heavyweight champion of the world who was in Wolgast’s corner describes Ad as being ‘cool as a cucumber’, while Rivers was ‘hot with Mexican impatience to get into action’.

Most accounts describe a hard fought, grueling battle that was fairly even after 12 rounds. Wolgast suffered a bloody ear in the second round that got worse as things went on. In the 11th round, both men would fall through the ropes.

Accounts of what happened in round 13 vary. The facts are both men struck simultaneous blows and went down in a heap as the round came to close, with Wolgast on top. The referee started the count. The timekeeper rang the bell to end the round somewhere between the count of 4 and 6, Referee Jack Welsh is seen to physically help Wolgast stand up. In the end, Welsh counted Rivers out and gave the win to Wolgast, who retained the belt. The crowd, which was bolstered by a heavy Mexican contingent, was in near riot from a Welsh left the ring.

Jack Root, who was there for some of the biggest fights of the early part of the 20th century, called the Wolgast-Rivers fight ‘The Fight I Can’t Forget’. In a retrospective piece written for ‘The Ring’ when he was in his 80’s, Root labeled it more deeply imbedded in his mind than even the famous Dempsey-Tunney ‘Long Count’.

Check back for the final part.

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2015 Fight of the Year – Francisco Vargas vs Takashi Miura

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The WBC World Super Featherweight title bout between Francisco Vargas and Takashi Miura came on one of the biggest boxing stages of 2015, as the bout served as the HBO pay-per-view’s co-main event on November 21st, in support of Miguel Cotto vs Saul Alvarez.

Miura entered the fight with a (29-2-2) record and he was making the fifth defense of his world title, while Vargas entered the fight with an undefeated mark of (22-0-1) in what was his first world title fight. Both men had a reputation for all-out fighting, with Miura especially earning high praise for his title defense in Mexico where he defeated Sergio Thompson in a fiercely contested battle.

The fight started out hotly contested, and the intensity never let up. Vargas seemed to win the first two rounds, but by the fourth round, Miura seemed to pull ahead, scoring a knock-down and fighting with a lot of confidence. After brawling the first four rounds, Miura appeared to settle into a more technical approach. Rounds 5 and 6 saw the pendulum swing back towards Vargas, as he withstood Miura’s rush to open the fifth round and the sixth round saw both men exchanging hard punches.

The big swinging continued, and though Vargas likely edged Miura in rounds 5 and 6, Vargas’ face was cut in at least two spots and Miura started to assert himself again in rounds 7 and 8. Miura was beginning to grow in confidence while it appeared that Vargas was beginning to slow down, and Miura appeared to hurt Vargas at the end of the 8th round.

Vargas turned the tide again at the start of the ninth round, scoring a knock down with an uppercut and a straight right hand that took Miura’s legs and sent him to the canvas. Purely on instinct, Miura got back up and continued to fight, but Vargas was landing frequently and with force. Referee Tony Weeks stepped in to stop the fight at the halfway point of round 9 as Miura was sustaining a barrage of punches.

Miura still had a minute and a half to survive if he was going to get out of the round, and it was clear that he was not going to stop fighting.

A back and forth battle of wills between two world championship level fighters, Takashi Miura versus “El Bandido” Vargas wins the 2015 Fight of the Year.

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Jan 9 in Germany – Feigenbutz and De Carolis To Settle Score

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This coming Saturday, January 9th, the stage is set at the Baden Arena in Offenburg, Germany for a re-match between Vincent Feigenbutz and Giovanni De Carolis. The highly anticipated re-match is set to air on SAT.1 in Germany, and Feigenbutz will once again be defending his GBU and interim WBA World titles at Super Middleweight.

The first meeting between the two was less than three months ago, on October 17th and that meeting saw Feigenbutz controversially edge De Carolis on the judge’s cards by scores of (115-113, 114-113 and 115-113). De Carolis scored a flash knock down in the opening round, and he appeared to outbox Feigenbutz in the early going, but the 20 year old German champion came on in the later rounds.

The first bout is described as one of the most crowd-pleasing bouts of the year in Germany, and De Carolis and many observers felt that the Italian had done enough to win.

De Carolis told German language website RAN.DE that he was more prepared for the re-match, and that due to the arrogance Feigenbutz displayed in the aftermath of the first fight, he was confident that he had won over some of the audience. Though De Carolis fell short of predicting victory, he promised a re-vamped strategy tailored to what he has learned about Feigenbutz, whom he termed immature and inexperienced.

The stage is set for Feigenbutz vs De Carolis 2, this Saturday January 9th in Offenburg, Germany. If you can get to the live event do it, if not you have SAT.1 in Germany airing the fights, and The Boxing Channel right back here for full results.

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2015 Knock Out of the Year – Saul Alvarez KO’s James Kirkland

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On May 9th of 2015, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez delivered a resonant knock-out of James Kirkland on HBO that wins the 2015 KO of the Year.

The knock-out itself came in the third round, after slightly more than two minutes of action. The end came when Alvarez delivered a single, big right hand that caught Kirkland on the jaw and left him flat on his back after spinning to the canvas.Alvarez was clearly the big star heading into the fight. The fight was telecast by HBO for free just one week after the controversial and disappointing Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao fight, and Alvarez was under pressure to deliver the type of finish that people were going to talk about. Kirkland was happy to oblige Alvarez, taking it right to Alvarez from the start. Kirkland’s aggression saw him appear to land blows that troubled the young Mexican in the early going. Alvarez played good defense, and he floored Kirkland in the first round, displaying his power and his technique in knocking down an aggressive opponent.

However, Kirkland kept coming at Alvarez and the fight entered the third round with both men working hard and the feeling that the fight would not go the distance. Kirkland continued to move forward, keeping “Canelo” against the ropes and scoring points with a barrage of punches while looking for an opening.

At around the two minute mark, Alvarez landed an uppercut that sent Kirkland to the canvas again. Kirkland got up, but it was clear that he did not have his legs under him. Kirkland was going to try to survive the round, but Alvarez had an opportunity to close out the fight. The question was would he take it?

Alvarez closed in on Kirkland, putting his opponent’s back to the ropes. Kirkland was hurt, but he was still dangerous, pawing with punches and loading up for one big shot.

But it was the big shot “Canelo” threw that ended the night. Kirkland never saw it coming, as he was loading up with a huge right hand of his own. The right Alvarez threw cracked Kirkland in the jaw, and his eyes went blank. His big right hand whizzed harmlessly over the head of a ducking Alvarez, providing the momentum for the spin that left Kirkland prone on the canvas.

Saul “Canelo” Alvarez went on to defeat Miguel Cotto in his second fight of 2015 and he is clearly one of boxing’s biggest stars heading into 2016. On May 9th Alvarez added another reel to his highlight film when he knocked out James Kirkland with the 2015 “Knock Out of the Year”.

Photo by naoki fukuda

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