Jimmy Clabby - From Golden Days to a Sad, Lonely Death

Out of all the boxers who fought at Sydney Stadium in the early part of the 20th century, the charismatic, skillful and tragic Jimmy Clabby, would have to be one of my favorites.

A charmer with the ladies, dreadful with money, an inspiration to troubled kids who he encouraged and tried to set on the right path.

I wont attempt any formal structure in this post, his story can be told by various news articles. The idea of this post - and indeed the whole blog, is that it will be like rummaging through boxes in an old shop - you never know what you may find.

Place Of Birth: Norwich, Connecticut, USA
Date Of Birth: 14 July, 1890
Date Deceased: 18 Jan 1934
Height: 5’8”
Weight 158 lbs
Divisions: Middleweight, welterweight
Titles: Claimed world welterweight title (1910 -1911). Australian middle and heavyweight champion

Stadium Career Span: 1910 - 1921
Career Span: 1906 - 1923

Misc.: Known as the Lochinvar or Prince Charming Of Boxing.
Managed by Emil Thiery.

Fights at Sydney Stadium

Bob Bryant ko 7 02 Nov 1910

Mark Higgins ko 8 07 Dec 1910

Ed Williams ko 11 21 Dec 1910

Dave Smith lpts 20 17 Jan 1911

Arthur Cripps ko 15 18 Nov 1911

Tim Land ko 10 23 Nov 1911

Dave Smith drew 20 09 Dec 1911

Dave Smith drew 20 24 Feb 1912

Hughie Mehegan pts 20 10 Apr 1912

Jeff Smith lpts 20 06 Jun 1914

Eddie McGoorty wf 8 04 Jul 1914

Dave Smith ko 1 01 Aug 1914

Les Darcy lpts 20 23 Oct 1915

Fritz Holland pts 20 20 Nov 1915

Mick King pts 20 01 Jan 1916

Fritz Holland pts 20 04 Mar 1916

Dave Smith pts 20 20 May 1916

Les Darcy lpts 20 09 Sep 1916

Fred Kay lpts 20 27 Oct 1916

Tommy Uren lpts 20 17 Feb 1917

Tommy Uren pts 20 28 Apr 1917

Dave Smith ko 10 26 May 1917

Albert Lloyd drew 20 11 Aug 1917

Albert Lloyd lpts 20 01 Jan 1918

Fritz Holland pts 20 12 Jul 1919

Tommy Uren lpts 20 31 Aug 1919

George Cook pts 20 27 Sep 1919

Billy Shade lf 13 09 Apr 1921

Frank Burns koby 15 10 Sep 1921

Random Jottings

• Started boxing at the age of fourteen at the request of his father.

• In the USA he defeated Mike Gibbons, Eddie McGoorty, Sailor Grande, then toured England, Australia, New Zealand.

This information was taken from New York Police Gazette. (Clabby in fact made four trips to this country.)

• Involved in argument with Snowy Baker after “Cyclone” Johnny Thompson fought Tim Land.

• Also involved in weigh in incident “Cyclone” Johnny Thompson fight with Hughie Mehegan.

• Won many titles that he never assumed.

• In 1914 when Mike Gibbons, Jeff Smith, Frank Klaus and others claimed the title, it was generally conceded by boxing writers that Clabby was the uncrowned champion. (1)

• Spent all his money. When he last left Australia and returned to Milwaukee, he had only $10 in the bank, which a bank clerk suggested he left deposited.

• Worked with a crew of concrete workers on a road gang.

• Enlisted in AIF but never left Australia.

• Immensely popular and highly regarded by other boxers and fight fans.

• Fred Kay tells a story of how when he was playing cards with Clabby, he suggested he put some money away for when he was “old and grey”. Clabby replied “Son, I ain’t going to live to be old and grey”.

• “Solar Plexus” (Will Lawless) was critical of his fighting style. Other boxers conceded he was tricky, but they still held him in high esteem.

• When asked how he twice managed to last twenty rounds with Les Darcy, he replied that he wasn’t stupid enough to hurt him.

1. This is at variance with the meticulous boxing historian Bert Cox, in his account of George Chip and Cyclone Johnny Thompson

Article from publication. Title and date unknown (approx 1934)

JIMMY CLABBY Knew His Gloves

With the exception of Mike Gibbons Jimmy Clabby was about the fastest and smoothest worker in the middleweight division in the days of not so long ago.

Gibbons was always a thorn in Clabby’s side and one niche in the pugilistic Hall of Fame that Clabby just couldn’t squeeze into.

But that doesn’t mean that Clabby wasn’t a good boy. He was, and a very good boy at that.

And Clabby, himself said and knew that he was good - so good, in fact, that following the death of Stanley Ketchell, Jimmy ballyhooed himself as the logical successor to the crown. But he was not alone in this respect. No indeed, for no less than four or five other middleweight performers thought themselves of championship caliber and forthwith began to tell the world about it.

So Clabby had to join Klaus, Gibbons, McGoorty, Darcy and Chip, in the elimination contests to see who should justly wear the crown that was taken from the great Ketchell by death.

Clabby soon found that reaching the coveted goal was no easy matter. It was a tough grind and one filled with ups and downs for Clabby - mostly downs, as this little narrative will show.

Through a long and tedious process of elimination, which lasted until the spring of 1914, the boxers see-sawed up and down on the records of various clubs throughout America and Australia. Chip cleaned up Klaus twice, and won over Papke and Jimmy Gardiner.

Clabby had won over McGoorty and then went to the West Coast. While there the fast travelling Al McCoy broke right out in front with his sensational victories over such notable fighters as Noah Brusso (Tommy Burns), Willie Lewis etc., and it was McCoy who was matched with Chip for an alleged middleweight championship title. His knock out of Chip in one round in Brooklyn, April 7, 1914, remains vivid in the memories of thousands of fans today.

The most popular Mike Gibbons was a stumbling block in the path of Clabby. In their bout on January 21, 1915, in Milwaukee, upon Jimmy’s return from the coast, the older of the two famous Gibbons boys, then in his prime, tied Clabby into seventeen kinds of knots with the thirty minutes of electrical speed that the St. Paul boxer turned on.

Following this bout with Gibbons, the records of Clabby show that none other than Young Ahearn was the next boy to slip him the rollers. In six rounds in Philadelphia the same year Ahearn battered Jimmy to a happy day.

Having been made the subject of considerable discussion over his apparently poor showing in numerous bouts at that time, Jimmy protested through the columns of the press. In his opinion Mike Gibbons was the obstacle he was forced to overcome and towards this end he offered to place a side bet of anywhere from $5000 to $25,000 that he could defeat Mike over the long route - from twenty to forty-five rounds. No championship battle should be decided in a short distance bout was Clabby’s contention.

This bout however, was never arranged for one reason or another, and the next time we hear of Clabby he had been easily outpointed in a terrible encounter with his former rival, George Chip. This was of course, after Chip had lost to McCoy.

But there was no discouraging Clabby. A match between him and Al McCoy was finally consummated. It was at the Broadway Sporting Club in Brooklyn on May 4, 1915. It was a ten round affair, and for nine rounds McCoy stood like a hitching post and kept Jimmy on the hop as he jabbed him freely. In the closing round both of them mixed it hotly with everything but the kitchen stove, and when the fracas was over and the smoke of battle and cheap cigars had cleared away, the best that Clabby pulled down for his bother was an even break.

There is an oft repeated and now ancient adage which says that “A stitch in time saves nine.” If Jimmy had minded this in 1914, about the time he defeated McGoorty, Chip and Dave Smith, he might have been a champion. He was slipping that is sure, and he must have known it too. That was the time for him to take a rest and brush up a bit. That was the time for him to take the stitch in time. Be he didn’t.

It is seldom that a boxer of any real prominence is ordered out of the ring for a stalling. Seldom have they been brought before boxing boards for obtaining money under false pretenses, which is only a direct way of stating the fact. But this happened to Jimmy Clabby and George Chip.

In the eighth round of this bout, at the St. Nicholas Athletic Club in New York, May 12, 1915, Referee Billy Roche a veteran of the ring, virtually threw Clabby and Chip out of the ring after having warned them for stalling twice. The sensation this created in boxing circles was a lasting one. The New York State Boxing Commission sat on the case, with the result that both Clabby and Chip were suspended for one month.

Not that this interfered with Clabby’s progress in the ring. Suspending his boxing for one month in New York State meant nothing. His next match was in Oshkosh with Frank Framer. His reputation had been dealt a lasting blow from which no reputation can quickly recover, even in the prize ring. Whether or not Clabby was guilty of stalling will never be known. It would be strange if a boxer would admit a charge like that. But the confidence of promoters is shaken and other boxers have reputations to maintain.

We in Australia took kindly enough to Jimmy and he again became a busy middleweight boxer. Among the boys he met here were Fritz Holland, Tommy Uren, Les Darcy, Dave Smith, Albert Lloyd, Fred Kay. Darcy was his first opponent. In twenty rounds Les, who was then heavyweight champion of the Antipodes, handed James a nifty trimming, but did not stop him.

In 1916 Clabby defeated Fritz Holland and Dave Smith each in twenty rounds in Sydney, after which he knocked out Holland in six rounds in Melbourne. This elevated him a notch or two in the estimation of the fans, so that a bout was arranged for December with Fred Kay, one of the best men we had. Kay won over Clabby in twenty spaces, drawing the draw curtain over his record for that year.

It was against Tommy Uren that Clabby fought his first battle in 1917. Twenty rounds they boxed and Uren won the decision. Then in April all of Australia was aroused over the widely exploited and loudly heralded contest which was to bring together Uren and Clabby. Jimmy was advertised here as the American champion, and when the gates were closed there were many folk present in the role of witnesses. Clabby won in twenty rounds.

With his victory he went out and knocked out Dave Smith in ten rounds, met Uren again for twenty and won again, and foolishly made the mistake of taking him on again too soon. This was the same policy he had followed in the United States and was sure to spell ruin for him. It did. Uren defeated him in their last battle of twenty rounds. Subsequently, though unimportant by this time, Clabby met Lloyd twice to a draw and a win, and then knocked out Fred Kay, who had beaten him in twenty rounds a year before.

Shortly after this engagement, in 1921, he was defeated by Billy Shade in twenty rounds. From then on he was on the down grade. In the same year he was knocked out by Frankie Burns in fifteen rounds. During 1922 he failed to chalk up a win, his best showing that year being a draw with Joe Egan in ten rounds. In 1923 he staged his last battle of any importance and for his efforts in this tussle he was rewarded by being knocked out in two rounds at the hands of Morrie Schafler in Chicago.

That was about the last act in the drama of fisticuffs in which Jimmy played an important role.

It was only recently that poor Jimmy Clabby was reported dead. It is said that he died of starvation.

Article From Unknown Publication.

Jimmy Clabby A Fast Worker!




The “Connecticut Yankee” did not cause half as much disturbance at the Court of King Arthur as did Jimmy Clabby, a genuine Connecticut Yankee, when he betook himself to the King’s Domains in Australia on a far more modern date.

This calls to attention a peculiar fact regarding Jimmy’s record: while in this country he established himself as a leading figure in the most elite middleweight orders, but always something would happen at the psychological moment to check his progress toward a really outstanding position.

Yet, as soon as he arrived in the Antipodes he embarked upon a busy career which carried him onward and upward to the championship of the lands down under. True enough he did not hold the diadem very long, but one thing must be said in his favour - he was a real fighting champion while he lasted, giving the former title holder two return bouts in short order, the latter of which saw the title return to the ex-champion from whom Jimmy had taken it.

The quick passage of the title from the hands of the Connecticut man bespeaks his greatest falling. Jimmy - oh that the gods would give us a few like him these days - liked to fight too much. He burned himself out by working too hard in his too frequent matches, and just at the times he should have taken vacations to rest and recuperate from the strenuous exertion of his many battles, he would foolishly dig up a bout with some dangerous battler, and trouble aplenty would be forthcoming immediately for Mr. James Clabby

It was his utter disregard of common-sense procedure which prevented him from winning the world’s championship. In 1914, after he had beaten McGoorty, Chip and Dave Smith, he should have rested a bit before attempting further progress. Instead, however, he tackled Mike Gibbons early in 1915, and the things Mike did to him did not help his mental or physical condition at all.

Young Ahearn next gave him the rollers and a bit later George Chip handed him another like dose. Not at all discouraged, Clabby met Al McCoy, recognised title holder, for the championship, May 4, 1915. Had Jimmy been in the condition he knew at the time of his victories in the previous year he doubtless would have won the title, but as it turned out, the best he could earn was a draw. That fight was his noblest effort against the world’s middleweight crown.

Eight days after drawing with the champion, Jimmy took on his old rival, George Chip in New York, but the fight was not so hot. The referee threw the men out of the ring in the eighth round for stalling, and the commission suspended them for a month. Clabby headed west and met Frank Farmer at Oshkosh, Wis., but his reputation had been greatly lowered by the New York incident.

Jimmy then sailed for Australia and once there became the busy boy of old. His first battle was with Les Darcy, and James came out an indisputable second. That was a poor start, but the following year, 1916, Clabby beat Fritz Holland and Dave Smith each in twenty rounds, and later knocked out the former in six.

These victories increased his stock a few points and he was matched with Fred Kay, one of Aussie’s best. Kay won in twenty rounds. The year 1917 saw Darcy forsake his native shore and Australian title in favor of the States, leaving Tommy Uren as his logical successor. Tommy took a twenty round decision from Clabby early

that year, but in April they were rematched “for the Australian title.” The public seemed to like the idea all right, for they turned out nicely to see the American win the battle.

Clabby, fighting man that he was, went out in short order and knocked out Dave Smith in ten, beat Uren again in twenty, and - foolishly - gave the former title holder an immediate second return bout. This time Tommy took him for a ride over the twenty round decision route, and the defeat spelled curtains for the American.

Of course, Clabby later fought - and defeated - some other men, but his sun had set with Uren’s final victory, and such other showings as the Connecticut Yankee made were but faint reflections of the once considerable glory and brilliance with which he had shone.

Clabby, born in Norwich, Conn., July 14, 1890, had begun fighting at the age of sixteen, and at the time Stanley Ketchell passed from the picture in 1910, leaving the middleweight crown vacant. Jimmy was one of the leading contenders for it. But there were other claimants Klaus, Gibbons, McGoorty, Chip being the leading ones - and Clabby lacked just a little in the final analysis of being the best of the bunch. But he was a good man, a fighter and a credit to the sport.

Only one cloud remained in the sky after Clabby’s active career finally came to a close in Australia, and that was the charge of stalling with Chip in their New York bout. That one blemish is well nigh hidden from sight by the brilliance of his active, fighting record of some fourteen years

Extract From “Tommy Uren’s Life Story” (Bert Cox Collection, book 39)

· “Clabby never fought with “devil”. He was not the killer type. After a hectic rally he would pass some remark, generally paying his opponent a compliment for a good punch or cleverness.”

· “He could take an adverse decision as well as anyone I know.”

· “He was a likable fellow out of the ring. I consider he was responsible for the big boom in boxing more than any other. Not only was he the complete artist in the ring, he imparted his knowledge to many young fellows in the gymnasium.”

· “He assured every boy who sparred with him that he would not hurt. And he went to a lot of trouble to teach local sparring partners moves they had never dreamt off.”

· Clabby could grip the imagination of young fighters. He was the idol of hundreds. He did not worry about decisions or money. I have seen him giving away his money with a freedom that he showed he never thought that there was a tomorrow.

· Wherever he went, he radiated happiness and lifted the tone of boxing. He was never known to run anyone down in the game. He could say nice things about people when they were saying nasty things about him.

· Although Will Lawless, (“Solar Plexus”), trounced Clabby for some of his tricks in the ring, Clabby always declared that Mr. Lawless was a fine old gentleman who knew boxing.

· It was useless to argue with him on decisions. All Clabby would say would be, “Sonny, if you don’t think the referee an honest man, object to him before the fight.”

Extracts of Letter From Jimmy Clabby To Jim McDonald “The Referee” app. 1933

It’s freezing here and there’s a blizzard blowing…What would I give to be on Bondi Beach today with the sun shining and the warm sand and blue sky, and the boys shooting the waves…I’m coming back.

Article date 21 Jan, 1934, from the “New York Times” by Nathan Simms.

Fought Here, in London and in
Australia -
Earnings of $500,000
HAMMOND, Ind., Jan 19 (AP)-

The body of Jimmy Clabby, a quarter of a century ago recognised as the uncrowned welterweight champion of the world, and later one of the greatest middleweights, was found dead in a dilapidated hovel on the edge of Calumet City, near Hammond his home town. He died of starvation and exposure. He was 43 years old.

He had lived in this shack since his complete downfall two years ago, after the death of his father, a former saloonkeeper here.

Clabby had dissipated the fortune estimated at $500,000 earned in the ring. He fought from New York to Sydney, Australia, and in London. He made a trip around the world in 1910.

He achieved fame in Australia, returning there again in 1914 and winning several twenty round engagements. He won the Australian middleweight championship in 1917 by defeating Tommy Uren in twenty rounds and fought the same opponent three other twenty rounders that year.

In this country he fought middleweights and light heavyweights alike. Among his opponents were Mike Gibbons, Eddie McGoorty, George Chip, Dixie Kid, Paddy Lavin, Jimmy Gardner, Dave Barry, the Chicago referee who decided the Dempsey-Tunney fight at Chicago; Mike (Twin) Sullivan and all comers regardless of weight.

Clabby proudly boasted that he had never been knocked down or out. He violated all rules of training and his usual preparations for a fight was “A shave and a drink,”.

He is survived by his mother and three brothers, also his widow and three children, whose whereabouts are not known.

The following article is taken from The Hammond Times Jan 19, 1934 and obtained from the Indiana State Library, Indianappolis, USA.


However, Death Found Him Today In Pennilless Circumstances

James “Jimmy” Clabby, welterweight boxing champion of the world about twenty years ago, died suddenly at 10.15 o’clock this morning in a squalid, ill-furnished buildingat 217 Plummer Avenue, Calumet City.

He passed away in the arms Dr. Alva A. Young, of Hammond, one of Jimmy’s early backers.

Broken in health, dependent for a livelihood on the charityfriends and suffering from the ravages of disease caused by under-nourishment and liquor, Jimmy was only a ghost of the young man who took the world by storm with his consummate mastery at boxing more than two decades ago.


It was a sad ending for a man who had won thousands of dollars in the prize ring - a man who had once owned a string of thoroughbread racing horses and who was the toast of a doting nation.

Jimmy was unconscious when Dr. Young arrived at the place in response to a call from other “down-and-outers” living in the building.

He died without recognizing Dr. Young or any of his old pals surrounding him.

Jimmy was born in Norwich Conn., 42 years ago. His father, well-known in Hammond as “Pop” Clabby, was an iron worker and came to Moline Ill. In 1898 on a job. The family followed him. Shortly thereafter, they moved to Minneapolis.

The family finally settled in Est Chicago in 1901 where “Pop” Clabby, went to work for the Republic Iron and Steel company. A few years later they took up their residence in Hammond.


About that time, Jimmy began to show considerable proficiency as a boxer. He was encouraged by Dr. Young and other sportsmen of the city.

Jimmy finally reached the zenith of his career in 1910 when he was crowned the welterweight champion after defeating Jimmy “Dixie Kid” Gardener.

There followed a triumphal tour through the United States. Clabby soon amassed a fortune. Then he went to Australia where he became the middleweight champion and won another fortune. He purchased a string of race horses at that time and also set up his dad in the famous Hammond saloon which became famous throughout the country as “Pop Clabby’s Place,” Some of the leading sports lights of the United States paid visits to the saloon.

Jimmy finally returned to the United States with a beautiful Australian bride and after a short tour of the principal cities in the west, he came to Hammond where he was acclaimed as Hammond’s own.


Age and the inevitable end of boxers - aging legs - soon forced Jimmy from the ring. He lost considerable money on his race horses. That was the beginning of his adversity. From then on, the once-famous idol of millions of boxing fans began to decline in health. His fortune diminished rapidly.

In recent years, Jimmy finally went broke. His wife left him and he suffered the humiliation of being forced to beg from his friends.

About two years ago “Pop Clabby” was killed in an automobile accident at East Chicago. Jimmy was so affected by the tragic loss of his beloved father that he never was the same.

His last two years were pitiful things for the former boxing king. He scarcely managed to exist, depending on food and liquor on the kindness of his friends. His death today brings to a close a career that covered far-flung wealth and abject poverty.

The following article is taken from The Hammond Times dated Jan 20, 1934, and obtained from the Indiana State Library, Indianappolis, USA.


Death did not rob James “Jimmy” Clabby of the host of friends he made while he was the welterweight and middleweight champion of the world over 20 years ago; for they filed past his bier in Burns’ chapel on South Hohman Avenue, Hammond throughout the day, drying tear-stained eyes.

The Body will lie in state at the chapel until 2 o’clock Monday afternoon when funeral services will be held. Burial will be in Ridgelawn Cemetery. The funeral will be public and is expected to be attended by many of the famous people whom Jimmy knew initmately in his prime.

Surviving are the widow, Phylis; three children, James Patsy, and Phylis; four brothers, John Richard, and Lawrence of Hammond, and William of Chicago, and two sisters, Mrs James Bambrough, of Hobart, and Mrs Herman Homan of Hammond.

Jimmy died yesterday morning in Calumet City at 42 years of age. He was born in Norwich Conn. During his colourful life, he ran the gamut of riches and want.

Many of the persons whom he befriended and aided in his days of prosperity, remembered him in death with touching floral tributes. Others , unable to buy flowers, paid their respects in person. They shed loving tears over his silent form.

Jimmy was one of the greatest welterweight and middleweight boxers of his day. He fought them all and defeated most of them with ease. He appeared in aboxing exhibition before a king, fought in virtually every principal nation in the world, and was primarily responsible for popularising the sport in Australia.
While in the latter country, he won the middleweight championship and amassed a

fortune. He ran astable o thoroughbred horses and entertained lavishly.

Adversity overtook him in later years, until at last he knew want and deprivation. He was found dead yesterday morning by Dr. Alva A. Young, one of his early backers.


Simple funeral services for Jimmy Clabby, Hammond’s bid for fame in the prize fightworld, drew a crowd of about 300 relatives and friends this afternoon at the Burns funeral home.

Organ music and vocal selections by Berger Wedberg, night club and radio entertainer, were followed by the funeral sermon which was delivered by Rev. Frank Watkin, pastor of the Church of the Nazarene.

Recognized in the crowd were: Tom Sheehan, fight promoter; Johnny Coulon, former bantamweight cahmpion and Ollie O’Niell, well known fight fan of South Chicago.

Pall bearers were old friends the dead ring champion, John F. Laws, Walter Green, Tom Croak, Harry Kennedy, Art Kiestler, Joe and Ed Cross. Internment was in Ridgelawn cemetery.

Copyright Mike Hitchen, Lane Cove, NSW, Australia. All rights reserved