Better Boxing in the Four-Round Game

Damon Runyon

Wilkes-Barre Evening News/April 4, 1925

Out here in Southern California they are disposed to smile at the claim of one Samuel Mandell, of Rockford, III., to the lightweight title, vacated for the Winter season by Benny Leonard.

Out here they have a home-grown lightweight, Phil Salvadore, who licked Mandell last October and most of the local “ringworms” think he can do it again.

And Salvadore’s name isn’t mentioned with the names of their two leading lightweights out here, Joe Benjamin and Ace Hudkins. Benjamin has twice whipped Salvadore to decisions in the old four-round game.

Here they attach just as much importance to a four-round licking they do in the East to a ten or fifteen-round licking. Perhaps they are right. After all, in the four-round days a man knew he was going four rounds, was keyed to that pitch, and probably fought as well, if not better, than if he were scheduled for a longer battle.

The New York State Athletic Commission nominated the recent bout between Benjamin and Jack Silver in San Francisco as one of the bouts in its lightweight tournament.

Benjamin won, and was recently drawn to meet Tommy O’Brien in April, presumably in New York. But here arises a most interesting situation:

Benjamin can meet a young man named Ace Hudkins, of Omaha, out here, and draw more money than the entire lightweight tournament has drawn to date in New York. If Hudkins, who is a legitimate lightweight, should defeat Benjamin, does that affect Joe’s standing in the tournament?

This Hudkins is the pugilistic pride of Hollywood, where he first started his California fighting. In Hollywood they think he is a great fighter.

That remains to be seen. Ace hasn’t yet met Benjamin, although he whipped one “Spug” Meyers, who beat Joe. Young Mr. Benjamin’s explanation of this is that Meyers caught him out of condition.

The possibilities of a Benjamin-Hudkins match will perhaps be appreciated when it is stated that Benjamin is asking $10,000 for his end and Hudkins, $7,500. They will probably get it.

Benjamin, who is something of a business man, may not go East to meet O’Brien. He may, through the California commission, invite O’Brien to call on him out here, where Benjamin is a big drawing attraction.

This would seem fair. San Francisco has had one of the bouts of the tournament, Los Angeles is entitled to another, especially when a Los Angeles youth is competing. Benjamin was born at Stockton but claims this as his home.

They like the lightweights in Los Angeles better than any city in which the writer has studied boxing conditions, with the exception of Philadelphia.

Like Philadelphia, this city doesn’t care much for the big men. Philadelphia has tossed nearly every heavyweight of any reputation in the country out of its rings. Almost it tossed out Jack Dempsey one night, when he was fighting Billy Miske.

They haven’t had the opportunity of tossing them out in Los Angeles as yet. Jack Doyle has held one all-heavyweight show at his Vernon arena, and other shows in which heavyweights were featured. They went off fairly well.

Doyle’s face is a study when a heavyweight bout is in progress.

He doesn’t like the big men. He is afraid of accidents while they are in the ring. Years ago he had Jess Willard fighting Bull Young, and Young died afterward.

His death was perhaps due as much to his physical condition when he went into the ring as to the blows he received. But Doyle has never forgotten the accident. He is fearful of a repetition.

The lightweights, and light welterweights—that is to say men between 133 and 142 pounds—seem to be able to find plenty of work out here.

That is because the best drawing cards are lightweights, of course. There are not many little fellows who draw enough to please the promoters. The middleweights are scarce; the light heavies and heavies so far haven’t acquired sufficient reputation.

One California promoter, a gentleman at San Diego, has already quit the ten-round game and gone back to the four-rounders.

He says the ten-round events are too slow for his patrons, that this is the Jazz Age, and people want action. Moreover, he says he has been losing money at the ten-round business because the fighters get it all.

With the four-round events in vogue, he doesn’t have to pay the fighters so much. Also his shows will please his customers more, he says. Perhaps other California promoters will come to the same conclusion.

Some of the pugilistic managers who were here in the four-round days prefer that game to the present era.

Charley Harvey, the famous importer of English boxers, who has returned to New York with Bermondsey Billy Wells, is one of these.

“You could keep a boxer going constantly in the four-round game,” Harvey told the writer. “He could appear every week, and get $1,000 per bout at least for his services if he happened to be just a fair card. From that the scale ranged up to as high as $3,000.

“Now it’s difficult to get matches once a month for a boy, and he has to take much less money. From the manager’s standpoint, as well as from the boxer’s, the old game was much better. And I’m not so sure it wasn’t better for the fans.”

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