When Les Darcy was a babysitter

When I was researching the history of the old Sydney Stadium, I was introduced to a lady named Cathy. Cathy's father had been a well known senior government official and advisor, who used to put on benefits at the Stadium.

She told me how Les Darcy and fellow boxer Les O’Donnell, would sometimes be enlisted to nurse her.

Les O’Donnell was a regular fighter at the stadium, and she described how he became ill and his spine shrank making him shorter than the six footer she remembered.

Sydney Morning Herald. July 1931 Click to enlarge

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

Hughie Dwyer - 'You don't fight your man in America — you fight the whole family'

Hughie Dwyer
Place Of Birth Gunnedah, NSW
Date Of Birth June 05,1898
Date Deceased 28-08-1975
Height 5′ 7½″ / 171cm
Divisions Middle, Welter and Lightweight
Titles Middle, Welter and Lightweight
Record won 37 (KO 12) + lost 13 (KO 4) + drawn 8 = 59 Newspaper Decisions won 1

Stadium Span 1922-1924

The following information is an extract from an undated copy of Becketts Budget Weekly (circa 30s)

From his very start in boxing he showed science in attack and particularly in defense, though he had difficulty with the more powerful and heavier opponents he had to meet in his early efforts, as the result of his better speed against those of his own poundage.

This somewhat marred his early record. Owing to the lack of knowledge of promoters, Dwyer did not get the chance his ability deserved, especially after spending quite a long time as assistant instructor to Dave Smith. Because of this he went to New Zealand. Returned to Australia, defeating such people as, Frank O’Connor, Herb McCoy, Harry Stone, Harry Collins, Sid Godfrey and Billy Grime.

He then went to America. Damaged his hand. When he returned to Australia his hand was still “on the blink”.

As is the case with most boxers who do likewise, Dwyers periodical lay offs and comebacks put him well out of his stride.

The West Australian March 1924 (transcript of article to the left)
Click for larger view
With a. suggestion of. disapppintment -colouring his statements, Hughie Dwyer told a representative of the 'West Austrailan' facts concerning his trip abroad

Dwyer left Australia about twelve months ago for America, and England, and he returned yesterday on the Orsova.

Booked up with a number of .fights ahead, both in America and England, and buoyant with his recent -wins in Australasia, by which he had attained the title of light-weight champion of Australia, and feather, light,welter, and middle weights championships of New Zealand, Dwyer sailed for America.

In his first fight be received an injury to his hand, which eventually caused the cancellation of his engagements. In that fight with Jole McCabe he obtained the decision, but was not successful against another opponent a week later. Commenting on boxing in America, Dwyer said it had become commercialised to such a degree that the only persons who obtained any benefit were the promoters, managers, and newspaper men who lived on the game. 'Foreigners have no chance in the States,' said Dwyer, 'and the only fighters that come forward are those that carry around with them their own referees and large entourage.

You don't 'fight your man in America — you fight the whole family.' While in America Dwyer saw the Dempsey-Firpo bout He said that the statements that Dempsey is a slogger are incorrect as the world's champion is a fast big man, capable of giving and receiving terrific punishment and a clever fighter.

While abroad he did not see any heavyweight that could hope to live in the ring with Dempsey with the possible exception of Harry Wills, who appeared to be a formidable opponent.

From America Dwyer journeyed to England, -where he 'was matched to meet Ernie Bice, but acting under medical instructions, he bad to cancel the fight, owing to his hand injuries. He thought it probable that Rice' might come to Australia during this year.

In England he found the game clean, but run under old-fashioned rules. Upon an inquiry being made as to why Australian fighters did not succeed in England, Dwyer said that the greatest difficulty appeared to be the matter of acclimatisation. 'You can't breathe in those terrible English fogs, and when you go into even light training your chest simply cries out for some good Australian air,' Dwyer said.

It is his wish to get his hand in pro per fighting trim, and to meet anybody of his weight in Australia. 'I ask one thing more,' Dwyer concluded, 'and that is to be given the first fight with any American that comes to Australia, or any imported boxer that lands in the Commonwealth.'

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

Bob Fitzsimmons - Ruby Bob

Nickname Ruby Bob
Place Of Birth Helson Cornwall UK
Date Of Birth June 4, 1862
Date Deceased Chicago October 23, 1917 (pneumonia)
Height 5ft 11¾
Weight 11st 6lb
Divisions Heavyweight, Light heavyweight, Middleweight
Titles World Heavyweight, middleweight, light heavyweight

, (1862-1917), British-born prizefighter. He was born Robert Prometheus Fitzsimmons in Cornwall, England, and taken as a child to New Zealand. He first fought in the United States in 1890. In 1891 he won the middleweight boxing championship of the world from the American prizefighter Jack “Nonpareil” Dempsey. In 1897 Fitzsimmons became world heavyweight champion by defeating the American prizefighter James Corbett; he held his title until 1899, when he was himself defeated by another American prizefighter, Jim Jeffries. From 1903 to 1905 he held the world light heavyweight title, and he did not retire from competition until 1914, when he was 52 years old and still capable of a remarkable defensive performance.

His link with Australian boxing is that for the first seven years of his remarkable career he fought here and came back at 46 to fight for the national heavyweight crown.

Fitzsimmons astonished crowds not just by his consummate prowess and fearsome punching power, but his very appearance. He was built along the lines of the modern day Detroit bomber Thomas Hearns. At his peak, Fitzsimmons stood a fraction under 6 feet and weighed just under 12 stone. Yet it was nothing for him to meet and beat men of 15 stone and more.

in 1909 aged 46, he lost in 12 to Bill Lang in Sydney

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

Tommy Burns - And an ex-world champion became a parson

Article dated 16 Mar 1947

And an ex-world champion became a parson.

FACT’S San Francisco Correspondent.

Former world heavyweight champion Tommy Burns is fighting what he calls his greatest fight - against sin. As a pastor of the Church of Brotherhood of Universal Love, the ex-prizefighter has found a new glory, new health, and a new wife.

He told Fact this week that after he lost his title to Negro Jack Johnson on a tumultuous Boxing Night in Sydney in 1908, he felt vaguely dissatisfied with life and his health suffered.
Hunting for something

Said Burns quietly: “I always felt I had been hunting for something, but did not know what. I did not find it in the fame and money in the prizering. I went through my money anyway.”

“Sixteen years ago in New York I was crippled by arthritis and I thought I would never walk again. But when religion found me and I found that when you healed the mind you healed the body - and when you heal the mind, you heal the world.”

With his faith his legs strengthened. He drifted to the West Coast, began preaching in a little Seattle church. Burns came to California last year, met and wooed anew a woman he had first met 43 years ago in Detroit. They married last July.

Now 65 and grey, he is a soft spoken man who lives in California’s sunshine in a little cottage surrounded by flowers at Coalinga near the city of Fresno.

The glories of his fistic past mean little to Burns now. Said he “If I had my life over again, I would not be a boxer.”

A grand people

“Not that I disapprove of boxing or have forgotten my boxing career. When I lost in Sydney in 1908, the Australian people treated me as if I had won. They are grand people.
He intends to renounce his British citizenship and become an American on June 9th (he was born in Hanover, Canada.)

Miscellaneous Notes.

· In his fight with Jack Johnson he was badly marked and suffered a twisted ankle.

· Most experts, and Burns himself agrees, that he never recovered from the uppercut that put him down in the first round.

· He insists that on the morning of the fight he weighed under 12 stone (weights were announced as Johnson 13 st 10 lbs and Burns 12 st 0½ lb. Most accounts say Johnson was much heavier, anything upto 15 stone.

· After the fight, he made a quick recovery and drove to the Blue Mountains the next day.

· Burns thinks that police stopped the fight because a rumor went around the Stadium that he had broken his jaw.

· Opened a string of hotels in the North of England. He had also been an insurance agent, Box Lacrosse promoter, cafĂ© proprietor and hockey player.

· Some reports deny Johnson was in hospital after the fight.

· Eugene Corri, the English boxing referee, described him as unpopular, insolent and arrogant. He claimed he was known as “Emperor Burns.”

· Burns was involved in a brawl with England’s Joe Beckett in an hotel corridor in Leeds (Burns won easily, in what was mostly a wrestle).

· When his prodigy Jack Lester was billed to fight at the Stadium, Burns was in Melbourne. At this time the Stadium was unroofed. Concerned about the size of the gate, he asked Lester to wire him as to how the crowd “rolled up”. Soon after 8 o’clock a message came, “Thousands turned away. Jack.” A delighted Burns retired to dream of happy financial days when his percentage of the Stadium cheque came through. Next morning he read in a newspaper “A terrific last minute thunderstorm caused thousands to be turned away from Sydney Stadium last night when the international fight was postponed.”

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