Some Little Men Harder Punchers Than Big Boxers

Damon Runyon

Reading Times/December 19, 1935

FRANK G. MENKE, the editor of the famous all-sports record book, perhaps the greatest compendium of its kind in existence, leaned over our shoulder at Madison Square Garden the other night, and propounded a conundrum, to wit:

“Why are there so few knockouts by little men as compared with the heavies?”

It was just about the time they were trying to revive Paulino Uzcudun in his corner, and we let the puzzle pass for the nonce, as we say in Lindy’s.

Finally after Mr. Whitey Bimstein, and Mr. Ray Arcel, and Mr. Lou Brix had mopped off Paulino, and removed him to the solace of a cold shower back behind the scenes, we turned to Mr. Menke again, and said:

“All right now, why are there so few knockouts by little men as compared with the heavies?”

“Because,” said Mr. Menke, triumphantly, “the little guys wear about the same weight glove, and it acts as a cushion outside their small fists.”

“Is that so?” we said.

“Yes, that’s so,” replied Mr. Menke in a truculent tone that precluded further debate.

Well, much as we hesitate arguing with a walking encyclopedia like Mr. Menke, we are forced to take issue on this point with him.

We decline to concede that there are few knockouts by little men as compared with the heavies. As a matter of fact, after the passing of Jack Dempsey, and down to the rise of Joe Louis, our heavyweights were mighty niggardly in their knocking out, while the little fellows were going on at their usual rate—not high, not low, just average.

We admit that the heavies used to do more knocking out than the little fellows, but that was before the advent of boxing commissioners, when the business of building up a heavyweight prospect by the simple expedient of giving him numerous pop-overs was considered entirely legitimate.

IT STANDS to reason that little fellows can’t punch as hard as big fellows, though the answer isn’t in the gloves. It is in the muscles, and the heft behind the muscles.

But we make bold to say that the prize ring has had little fellows who could punch, proportionately to their weight, harder than any heavyweight that ever lived, and that goes for Joe Louis. We are pretty sure that Louis cannot punch, proportionately again, any harder than a featherweight of years back named Aurelio Herrera.

This Aurelio Herreara was a west coast Mexican, who weighed around the featherweight mark of his time, and who could knock your brains out with a punch.

There was another west coast fellow, a Negro out of Stockton, Calif., named Rufe Turner, who could hit about as hard as any little man we ever saw, especially with a left hand. Turner was a lightweight.

Jack Dempsey was a heavy hitter, but he didn’t flatten the lads with sharp shots, like Louis. He mowed them down by mauling.

But, proportionately to his poundage, Dempsey wasn’t as good a puncher as a man of our own time, Jimmy McLarnin, the Vancouver chappy had a neat lick when he was at his best. He certainly was a better puncher, proportionately, than heavyweights like Gene Tunney, Jack Sharkey, Max Schmeling or Primo Camera.

Max Baer. for a time, was a great puncher. So was James J. Braddock, the current champion. At one stage of his light heavyweight career, Braddock had one of the deadliest right hands in the business.

The history of the American prize ring will undoubtedly show that there have been more knockouts by men between the flyweight and welterweight division than by heavies, taking the gladiators of contemporaneous periods for comparison.

We are not taking into account the middleweight and light heavyweight divisions. We think good middleweight and good light heavies ought to whip most heavies, anyway. So Mr. Frank G. Menke is wrong. Being a little cautious when it comes to arguing with a sage like Mr. Menke we went to the trouble of peering into history to make sure we are right.

The gloves have nothing to do with it.

You could have put mattresses on Herrera’s hands, and that wouldn’t have saved you from feeling his biffs.

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