Jim Braddock, 5-to-1 Shot, May Surprise

Damon Runyon

The New Statesman (Wilkes-Barre, PA)/June 10, 1935

The Cinderella Man of Fistiana, James J. Braddock, will enter the ring with Heavyweight Champion Max Baer Thursday night, one of the longest-price contenders in heavyweight history. The odds against the Cinderella Man, who a year ago was one of the 11 poorest of the poor brothers of the fistic rich and who was transformed by a wave of the wand of circumstances into a title contender, will be at least 5 to 1.

Friends, kindIy remember that the betting odds on a heavyweight championship bout rarely reflect the winner. John L. Sullivan, in the long ago, was any price to lick James J. Corbett, the frail-looking bank clerk from California. The betting boys thought it a shame to take the money they laid on Tunney to beat the mighty Jack Dempsey in their first battle. Fitzsimmons was 2 to 1 to beat Jim Jeffries when they first met for the title. John Arthur Johnson was 3 and 4 to 1 over ponderous Jess Willard in Havana. Jack Sharkey was a 3-to-1 favorite over Camera and Camera was an 8-to-5 favorite over Baer.

So there you are. Most experts think Max will flatten Braddock in just a few rounds, perhaps forgetting that Braddock has always been noted for his ability to absorb punishment and to punch hard himself.

Dead Game Battler

Naturally, the form favors Baer, a great young champion in the first flush of a championship career, as against a veteran of nearly ten years’ service. Who was supposed to be all washed up a couple of years ago. But Braddock, always dead game, will be in there with nothing to lose and the pugilistic world to gain, and with desperation flogging a forlorn hope onward.

If the Cinderella Man wins, what an amazing story his will be. He had quit the ring to go back to hard labor to support his people. He couldn’t get a decent job and he was on public relief for a time, then he re-entered the ring a year ago to fight a preliminary on the Baer-Camera fight to get a few dollars. They threw him in with an up-and coming youngster, and even his best pals had scant hope for him. He was down in the resin right off the bat, got up, and knocked his opponent bowlegged, and since then the comeback of James J. Braddock has been one of the most astonishing chapters of ring history. He will be 5-to-1 Thursday night, but he was 1,000 to 1 a year ago against ever being in the spot you now see him.

So then it is not impossible for The Cinderella Man to go on to the heavyweight championship, though we must concede it seems somewhat improbable if you go by the form.

Expect $250,000 Gate

The fight takes place at the Madison Square Garden Bowl on Long Island and is under the promotion of Colonel John R. Kilpatrick, president of the Garden Corporation, and James J. Johnston, the boxing director. They expect a gate of at least $250,000, which seems a conservative estimate. With the defection of earners and the inability of Max Schmeling to come to this country before September, the Garden turned to Braddock as the next best available opponent for Baer, who is closing out a contract with the Garden with this fight.

Both Beer and Braddock are concluding their training in splendid condition. Baer, always unimpressive gymnasium efforts, is at a weight that indicates he is physically well-nigh perfect. Braddock is bigger and stronger and is firmly convinced that he can win. If a man believes in himself, that is half the battle.

Omaha Rates First

“Well, he’s not a great horse, he’s just the best of a bad lot.” This expression, which has been sounding down through the racing ages, is now being heard of Omaha. The old-timers always say this of a new turf champion. They said it of Omaha’s father Gallant Fox, they will be saying it of other horses long years to come. We do not know just what constitutes a champion horse or man. It always seemed to us that the fellow who is best of his generation at whatever he is doing, fighting, foot racing, or pitching hay, is the champ, and that the horse that beats all the other horses is entitled to similar status. And we never could see any point in always belittling the caliber of competition overcome by the champion. In horse racing they compare all horses with Man o’ War, but Man o’ War never won the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont, and if Omaha isn’t a great horse, he at least is one of the only three horses in all American racing history that accomplished this feat.

Those Close Finishes

It seems that all the charges of astigmatism are not centered on the referee and judges of pugilistic contests. A large number of persons at Belmont Park Saturday thought White Cockade beat Delphinium in the National Stallion Stakes, and there was as much booing when the placing judges decided otherwise as when Jack Dempsey and the two judges said that Barney Ross had bested Jimmy McLarnin. We have no personal opinion on the horse race, though we were present, but we do not believe that any spectator in the grandstand or on the lawn at Belmont can see enough of the finish of the races run over the cockeyed Widener course to determine a winner. The Widener course is the straightaway when they run the two-year-olds at Belmont, though all the rest of their racing lives the horses have to run around turns, and if you can see any logic in this system you ought to be a placing judge at Belmont.

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