The Inhuman Harry Greb

Damon Runyon

Wilkes-Barre Evening News/February 13, 1926

Mr. Harry Greb, the celebrated Pittsburgh windmill, middleweight champion of the world, called on the local trade recently and the folks are still wondering just what to make of him. They shake their heads in a bewildered manner when his name is mentioned and say, “My goodness!”

Mr. Greb came out here to give Mr. Ted Moore, of England, a fanning at the Vernon Club. I saw Mr. Greb a couple of nights before the struggle doing his roadwork in the Plantation, which is a sort of road-house, and therefore very appropriate for roadwork.

Mr. Greb charlestoned about eight miles all told, and then the orehestra rung a waltz on him. I feared the waltz might prove just a little more training than Mr. Greb required, and cause him to go stale, but the manner in which he fanned Mr. Moore proved that the extra work had put the windmill right on edge.

Mr. Greb had an engagement in Oakland to give Mr. Jimmy Delaney, of St. Paul, a slamming, so he resumed his roadwork at the Plantation. He was stopped in the middle of a fox trot by Mr. Tom Gallery, the matchmaker for the American Legion’s famous club in Hollywood, where the movie actors go, and requested to fill a date there with one Mr. Buck Holley, of Stockton.

Mr. Greb obligingly consented. It only interrupted his roadwork for a few hours. He plunked Mr. Buck Holley with several gross of gloves until Mr. Holley’s chief handler chucked in a towel.

This was after the fifth round. Mr. Holley’s chief handler was Mr. Charley McDonald, an urbane young man who confided to me afterwards that he was getting dizzy himself watching the gloves, and knew that Mr. Holley must also be feeling quite topsy turvy.

I sat just behind Mr. Greb’s corner that night, and Mr. Greb took aim at me with his best eye—the other not being as good as it used to be, and said, “Hello.”

“How is it?” I asked.

“Well, I’m feeling a little stiff,” said Mr. Greb, twisting his shoulders about. It was probably a good thing for Mr. Holley that Mr. Greb wasn’t loosened up.

From Los Angeles, Mr. Greb went to Oakland a few days later and pummelled Mr. Jimmy Delaney with neatness and dispatch. The last I heard of him he was headed into Arizona where he had another customer. Just before coming to Los Angeles, he stopped over in Omaha and gave Mr. Joe Lohman a shellacking.

He had four fights in less than a month, all against pretty fair opponents, and two decisions. Mr. Buck Holley struggled ten noble rounds with Mr. Tommy Loughran, of Philadelphia, a year back, and made it close.

Moreover, Mr. Harry Greb is bearing down upon a fifteen round battle for his title against the rather formidable Deacon Flowers, of Georgia. I doubt that the history of the Manly Art of Scrambling Ears will disclose a world’s champion of such inordinate appetite for activity as Mr. Greb.

As I have said before, twenty years from now, we of this generation in the Manly Art of Scrambled Ears will be telling the little folks what a great fighter Mr. Harry Greb, of Pittsburgh, was. We shall never see his like again.

I have an idea that Mr. Greb fights often to avoid real training. In other words, I think he figures that it is no harder work fighting these ten round bouts than it is to toil in a gymnasium.

I observed him closely in his Los Angeles bouts, and I believe the secret of his astonishing endurance is the manner in which he practically rests while he is fighting. He is always relaxed, save when he is actually buzzing gloves at an opponent in one of those mix-ups he seems to love.

He frequently falls against the ropes and hangs there, arms limp at his side, and every muscle loose, getting several seconds of relaxation while in that posture. He stands perfectly still in the ring at times, watching his man, but quite relaxed. That way he is avoiding the physical tautness and strain that most fighters undergo.

He rarely visits a gymnasium between bouts of this kind, because Mr. Greb has social duties to discharge in every city he visits, and gymnasiums take up time.

The Los Angeles folks viewed Mr. Greb’s social activities, noted him at his roadwork in the roadhouse, then saw him whistle through round after round of boxing, and they shook their heads and said, “My goodness! How does he do it?”

I must confess I don’t know. I believe that some deeper thinker than myself on the Manly Art of Scrambling Ears once summed it up when he said of Mr. Greb, “He ain’t human.” I know of no other explanation.

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