Brother Fighters of the Queensbury Realm

Damon Runyon

Wilkes-Barre Evening News/April 6, 1925

The Spallas of Italy are among the many brother combinations of pugilistic history.

They are unique in that they wish to fight each other for the heavyweight championship of Italy. This would be a nice arrangement. The title would be kept in the family, no matter what the outcome.

Such a match probably would be permitted in this country. There are too many “brother acts” in American Fistiana as it is, and between gentlemen not blood relatives.

The rule has been in the Queensbury realm that when one brother is a real food fighter, the other isn’t much. Pugilistic talent doesn’t seem to run by families any more than other talent.

There have been exceptions, notably the Gibbons of St. Paul, the Gardners of Lowell, the Sullivans of Ireland, and a few others.

Erminio Spalla, who claims the heavyweight championship of Italy, is a better fighter than many of the American heavyweights. If his brother, Guiseppe, is better than Erminio he is a pretty fair man.

Among the brother combinations of the game, past and present, are these:

The Whites, of Chicago; the Jeffries of California, Jim and Jack; the Dempseys, of Colorado, Jack and Bernard; the Gibbons of St. Paul, Tom and Mike; the Gardners of Lowell, Mass., George, Jimmy and Billy; the Sullivans of Ireland, Dave and Spike; the Sullivans of Cambridge, Mass., Mike and Jack; the Forbes of Chicago, Harry and Clarence; the Attens of California, Abe, Monte and Caesar; the O’Briens of Philadelphia, Jack and Young Jack; the Crosses of New York, Leach and Marty; the Trambitas of California, Jimmy (Darcy), Alex and Johnny; the Hermans of California, Babe and Joe (Souza); the Leonards of New York, Menny and Joey; the Mitchens of Milwaukee, Ritchie and Pinkie; the Ropers of Mississippi, Boo and Tom; the Shades of California, Dave, Billy and George; the Zivics of Pittsburgh, Jack and Pete; the Palusos of Salt Lake, Emil and Lew; the O’Gatty’s of New York, Packy and Jimmy; the Latzos of Pennsylvania, Steve and Pete.

There were many others.

Just one hundred years ago, Jem Ward won the heavyweight championship of England. Fifteen years later, Jem’s brother, Nick, won the title and held it a short time.

That seems to be the only instance of brothers holding the same pugilistic title. Nick won the alleged title on a foul. He wasn’t much of a fighter, history says.

The writer is inclined to think that the best brother fighters of the Queensbury days, taking them as a pair, were the Gibbons boys.

Neither ever held a title. Mike was probably the best middleweight in the country, at one time. Tom is today about the best of the light heavyweights, if he cares to make his weight limit. But neither ever was recognized as a champion.

There have been better fighters than either Tom or Mike on one end of other brother combinations, considering them as individuals. The other brother’s lack of ability weakens most of the combinations, however.

Nearly all the combinations named above were, and are, contemporaneous.

One exception is the Dempseys, Jack and Bernard. The latter is the heavyweight champion’s older brother. He fought under the name of Jack Dempsey in the mountain towns of Colorado long before the present Jack started out.

Bernard Dempsey, now a tall, thin fellow, is one of the three Dempsey brothers who are running Jack’s gymnasium here. Bernard’s most notable battle was with Fireman Jim Flynn, at Durango, Colo., Flynn winning in nine rounds.

Gentlemen who make a scientific study of such matters might say that it is natural that all the offspring of one mother have the combative tendency.

The theory immediately goes to pieces on close analysis of the brother combinations.

Many of the young men named above have real fighting spirit, real boxing instinct and courage. The brother in the combination, however, may be quite lacking in the latter quality.

It isn’t fair to blame lack of courage, “a yellow streak,” on a mother or father, is it?

There’s only one son of a former fistic champion now in the ring. He is young Bob Fitzsimmons of New Jersey, who has been fighting some years.

He rates as one of the craftiest light heavyweights in the business. He inherited none of his great father’s hitting power. He probably knows more about defending himself, however, than his father ever heard of.

Young Bob is such a good defensive boxer that few light heavyweights care to meet him. It is said old “Ruby Robert” didn’t think the boy would ever make a real boxer. He would be greatly astonished if he should come back to earth and try to land a set hand on Young Bob.

Kid Murphy, whose right name is Peter Frascella, a little boxer from Trenton, N. J. has a son in the game.

Kid Murphy lost his eyesight some years ago after a ring career that extended from 1903 to 1913. He met some of the best bantamweights of his day.

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