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San Francisco Pugilism, A Brief History

    San Francisco has had a long and colorful boxing history with over 120 champions having competed in the city. At the turn of the 21st century Peter Howes and the team at Howes Entertainment, LLC facilitated some of the most compelling professional boxing to ever grace the San Francisco ring. Many of these fights were televised on ESPN2 and HBO World Championship Boxing and included such talent as Floyd Mayweather Jr., Jesus Chavez, Manny Pacquiao, Agapito Sanchez, Tony "the Tiger" Lopez, Leonard Dorin, Paul Nave and Emanuel Augustus.

    Some additional noteables who fought in past San Francisco bouts have included Ezzard Charles, James Corbett, Jack Dempsey, Bob Fitzsimmons, Emil Griffith, Jim Jeffries, Jack Johnson, Sonny Liston, Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, Archie Moore, Bobo Olson, Floyd Patterson, Ray Robinson, John L. Sullivan and Joe Walcott. Lightweight Joe Walcott was defeated in a 12 round contest by Kid Lavigne in 1897. Light heavyweight Bob Fitzsimmons won a 20 round bout against George Gardner in 1903 and then lost a title bout against Jack O'Brien in 1905 (KO13). Jim Jeffries fought for the heavyweight title on four occasions between 1901 and 1905 in San Francisco. He won all four by knockout. Middleweight Ray Robinson won a 15 round bout against Bobo Olson in 1952 and Rocky Marciano won a heavyweight title match over Don Cockell (KO9) in San Francisco's Kezar Stadium in 1955.

    Many other noteworthy bouts and boxing stories can be found in the history books or by talking to San Francisco's boxing fans. Featherweight Solly Smith won a 56 round bout against George Giddons in 1892. Colorful boxing promoter "Sunny" Jim Coffroth was credited with bringing the champions to San Francisco during the early 1900's. One of the most spectacular fighter-manager combinations in ring history was Jack Dempsey and the flamboyant Jack Kearns. Their partnership began with a casual meeting in a San Francisco bar in 1917. When promoter Tex Rickard entered the scene, the "Golden Triangle" of Rickard-Dempsey-Kerns introduced the million dollar gate to boxing. During the Second World War San Francisco commonly hosted two fights per week, one at the Civic Auditorium by City Hall and "smokers" at the National Hall in the Mission District.

    The first circular ring in the United States was built in a San Francisco shipyard and demonstrated before workman in 1944 by former middleweight champ Fred Apostoli (who had 25 bouts in his hometown of San Francisco) and Vic Grupico. Ezzard Charles' heavyweight bouts sold out the Cow Palace in 1949 and 1951 with more than 15,000 fans. The Dick Tiger versus Gene Fullmer middleweight title match in 1962 at Candlestick Park had some 30,000 fans. Newman's Gym was the epicenter of northern California boxing for over 60 years in what is now known as San Francisco's Tenderloin District, and was a preferred training facility for Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, Muhammad Ali (Cassius Clay during the 1960 Olympic Trials held in San Francisco), and George Foreman after his return from the 1968 Olympics.

    The glory days of San Francisco boxing were from the 1900's through the early 1960's and again during 2001 when Howes Entertainment, LLC brought multiple televised events in addition to world title bouts to the city. No significant bouts occurred with respect to live professional boxing from 1962 through 2000 although there were appearances by Roberto Duran, Hilario Zapata, Gerry Cooney, and local talent Pat Lawlor, Andy Nance, Paris Alexander and Dan "Danimal" McGuire. Nevertheless, closed circuit events were well attended at San Francisco venues and the USA Boxing Golden Gloves tournaments, sponsored by the San Francisco Examiner, were very popular amateur feeders for the Nationals during the 1970's.

    Historical Input: Ray Rickey, Stan Smith, Jack Macphee

    Honorable Mention: Mayor Willie Brown Jr, Kery Davis, Bob Yalen, Paul Nave, Lou DiBella, Rob Lynch, Billy Franchey, Freddie Martinez, Sashah Branscombe and Jeff Ruf

© 2001 Howes Entertainment, LLC