The article is from the Adelaide Mail, dated May 15, 1937 and is written by Sam Gray, one of the great names of Australian boxing
Fifty years' active participation in the sport of boxing as fighter, instructor, promoter, manager, and second, with scarcely a day in that span passing without donning the gloves, is the record of Sam Gray, who claims it as a world's record. An ex-champion featherweight, he is one of the few fighting men who have been able to impart his knowledge to pupils, and many of his boys have won fistic honors, while he himself has been one of the mainstays of the sport through its years of depression and riches. It was Sam Gray who launched 'Kid' McCoy, former lightweight champion of Australia, on the road to fame and fortune. He piloted the destinies of McCoy from his first fight up to his last ring appearance 13 years later. McCoy met the world's best, and his 103 fights include some of the most stirring battles seen in Australia.
BOXING has enjoyed many bursts of popularity in Australia in the last half -century,but none to equal the boom that began about 1908, and; fizzled out during the years when the world was at war. Jack Johnson, Sam McVea, and Sam Langford came to these shores, chasing the golden rainbow of boxing, and Tommy Burns. Burns and Johnson focused the eyes of the world on Australia when they fought for the world's heavyweight title at Sydney. Men of smaller stature had to play a part in keeping a fight-crazed public interested, and Billy Papke, Jimmy Clabby, Eddie McGoorty, and a host of other middleweights invaded the Commonwealth to find the weight of the late Les Darcy's punch. But the Stadium coffers bulged through the agency of the galaxy of world-famed lightweights, who in that decade clashed in a series of clever, fierce, and inspiring battles. They came from America, England, France, Holland, and Africa, and all had to meet the Stadium drawcard, McCoy, before they won the approbation or disapproval of the fight fans of the Commonwealth. Win, lose, or draw, all knew they had been fighting before getting through an engagement with the per fectly moulded fighting machine that was McCoy. Had Meteoric Rise So meteoric was McCoy's rise to the highest rung of the fistic ladder that the story of his entry into the ranks of professional pugilists is worth telling.
In June, 1908, a bright-faced, stocky little fellow came to me and told me that he wanted to take boxing lessons. I asked his age, and when he told me he was 15 I said,' 'You're too small, sonny; come and see me in a year's time" I never gave the youngster another thought until he turned up 12 months later. Opening- a book, he said, 'Here I am, Mr. Gray, the 12 months are up today; I've got the date marked here.' What could I do, but take him? When I asked hirn his name, he told me it was Herb Wilson, but he stipulated there and then that when he fought it would be under the name of 'Kid McCoy.' The world-famous fighter of that name was a hero in the eyes of the bright, strong little fellow who marked me down as the man to put him in the game- of hard knocks. First let me say that the pupil must be made of the right stuff if he wants to get anywhere in the sport of boxing — amateur or professional. He must have confidence in himself, and above all, confidence in his manager-trainer, together with a respect for him. A boxer without a pal and adviser in his corner is like a rudderless ship. Many fights have been won and lost by the man behind the fighter.
I'll Do the Fighting, You Do the Thinking'
McCoy was the perfect pupil. 'I'll do the fighting, and you' do the thinking,' he said to me more than once.
I became attached to him as though he were my son, and I saw unlimited possibilities in him. Quick to learn, eager to train, and a nipper with stamina out of the ordinary, I was afraid at first that he would overtax his strength, but he proved to be made of the stuff of which champions are' made. I knew in the first three months be was in my care that he was a coming Australian, if not world's, champion lightweight. Within eight months of the day he came to me, he had three victories ? points decisions over Bull Williams, Soldier Rogers, and Tommy Jones, and a glorious defeat at the hands of Frank Thorn, a champion who at different times held the feather, light, and welter championships of Australia. Fight promoters realised the merit of the performance for a lad 16 years old, and Frank Thorn told me that I had the best boy he had ever seen. Frank was sincere, too, and when McCoy defeated him three times the following year. Thorn generously shook hands and told me that my kid was too vigorous and clever.
Close Contest With Hock Keys
When only a lad of 17, I had no alternative but to allow McCoy to go into the ring against Hock Keys, one of the really clever men we have seen in this country. Hock won a close decision at the end of 20 torrid rounds. The hallmark of boxing was now stamped on McCoy. He was in the forefront of Australian lightweights, and the day was near at hand when Hughie Mehegan would have to guard his lightweight crown. - Still, there were tons of fighting for both of them, and I was not in a desperate hurry to pit my charge against Mehegan, who was a hard man to get a decision over. , McCoy resisted invasions from West Australians in Alf Morey and Dick: Cullen in 1912, and then strung together four knock-outs at the expense! of Frank O'Grady, Rod Standon, Les! Gleeson, and Alf. Goodwin. He then had to meet the Frenchmen, Paul Til and Jean Poesy. I told him not to take risks with either of them, as we did not know much about overseas form/
Paul Til could not go any further than nine rounds, while his compatriot went 15 rounds before crying enough. In between those two triumphs, McCoy had two fights with Hock Keys, one ending in a draw, and the other going to McCoy after 20 rounds. As one of those fights was an epic of Australian boxing, I will deal with it in a later story.
In this story, the first of a series by Sam Gray, who has been associated with boxing for 50 years, he tells many untold and behind the scenes tales of the fight business, also some of the thrilling experiences he had with the 'apple of his eye,' Kid McCoy. Gray's eyes sparkle with pride when he speaks of his protege. 'McCoy was the greatest lightweight since Griffo,' he declares. Great Invasion Of Lightweights By this time, 1913 and 1914, Australia had some magnetic attraction for the world's greatest lightweights, and the influx included Waldemar Holberg, Pal Brown, Nat Williams, Milburn Saylor, Joe Shugrue, Kid Lewis, Matt Wells, Young Abe Attell, and another French team, comprising Eugene Volaire, Fernand Quendreux, Marcel Denis, and Louis de Ponthier. The doughty McCoy was stacked up against them all. Just as war broke out, McCoy met Hughie Mehegan at Sydney for the lightweight title, and was knocked out in 17 rounds. Undismayed, McCoy took the setback in the right spirit, and his words to me in the dressing room after the bout were prophetic and true. He told me that Mehegan would never defeat him again if be lived to be 100. They met again at Mel bourne, in February, 1915, and McCoy won the lightweight championship of Australia by knocking the ' redoubtable Hughie in 14 rounds
To prove that he was Mehegan's master he repeated the performance in July of the same year, taking 15 rounds to hammer Hughie into submission. Further meetings between them could not be arranged, as Hughie Mehegan enlisted and sailed to the war, never to return. And so passed a gallant little gentleman. McCoy was not a 'glass case' cham pion, and no fighter can say that he side-stepped them if they wefe worthy of a crack at his title. In the year that he won the title of lightweight champion he fought 15 times, having bouts at Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane. The next year, 1916, he fought 16 times, meeting men of mettle in Fred Kay, Tommy Uren, Harry Stone, Eddie Moy, Benny Palmer, Arlos Fanning, and the peerless ,Lew Edwards. Lost title to Edwards To Llew Edwards McCoy lost his crown, and be had nothing but respect for the clever, hard-hitting English man, who was a Lonsdale belt holder. They fought seven times, and two of their fights were ring classics, that the referee had no alternative but to de clare draws, while four other bouts were thrillers that had the crowds on their feet throughout McCoy was a generous winner and loser, and he never growled at a deci sion all the time he was boxing. He enthused about the cleverness of Llew Edwards in a manner that would make anyone listening think that he had been in the Edwards corner, instead of being opposed to him in fights. On the night he lost bis title to Edwards at Sydney in 1917, when he was knocked out in 18 rounds, McCoy told me that he bad met his master, and that Edwards would shade him any time they met in the future.
We both knew that eight years of strenuous battling in the ring against the best men in the world had taken its toll, and that the end was not far off, but we also knew that only topnotchers could push McCoy to his limit, even though a tired man. His knock-out victories over Dave Meakin, * Mattie Smith, Jimmy HilL and Mattie Smith again — four in succes sion, were proof that he was not easy money for anyone. I claim that McCoy was the greatest Australian lightweight since Griffo, and his record will prove it. He fought any time and any where, and always delivered himself at the ringside in fettle good enough to fight for a king dom. As pointed out previously, he foueht whenever a fight offered, sometimes three times a month, and the better the opponent the keener McCoy was to get in the ring with him. As a box office attraction he has had no equal and stadium managers and boxing promoters will remember him for the value he always gave for the money he received. No fighter in Australia was ever called on to meet so many good men from overseas and at borne, and most of bis opponents looked back over their careers and admitted that McCoy was the best man they had met. He heard the gong go for 1,625 rounds, and in each one of them he fought with a clever fury that lasted till the referee called 'corners.' His cleverness, fighting spirit, indifference to punishment, recuperative powers, will to win, and general love of the noble art, made him a great fighter, and in my humble opinion, the best since Griffo, undefeated featherweight champion of the world.
HERB McCOY in bis heyday cheeky little ball of muscle said, 'Don't worry, Sam, I'll have a go at toppling them over.' And over they went.
Copyright Mike Hitchen, Lane Cove, NSW, Australia. All rights reserved