Were the Old-Time Fighters Tougher?

Jack DempseyBy Robert Jackson: Just Recently in Mytown Texas Hurricane Dolly passed through with it's torrential rain and high wind! Dolly's onslaught lasted for 24 hours leaving many of the areas with waist-high water, power outages, downed trees and major chaos! My house flooded inside with ankle high water, while the water outside was knee high, the open field 2 doors down was a lake.

Many of my furnishings were ruined and the next day reality was icing on the cake that was Hurricane Dolly. As the water inside the house began to subside multitudes of mosquitoes and flies came to life in the water that had become stale. The smell was unbearable.

I decided then it was time for my family and myself to relocate. The process I took to relocate is the stimulus for this article because I did all of the physical labor MYSELF! All of the furniture and appliances were moved by me using of all things a DOLLY. While I agonizingly moved my stuff the answer regarding Americas Obesity problem was right there before me, most people don't do physical labor anymore like was done in the past. I'm willing to bet that more than 1/2 of American citizens work in front of a computer screen. I lift weights and exercise regularly but NOTHING could have prepared me for the physical demand and torment that I experienced while moving refrigerators and furniture on and off my rented moving van. I was sore in all parts of my body during the four-day move and had not worked that hard in many years since I was a shorty.

While I was moving I thought about the many fighters from the past who were not CELEBRITY athletes as they are now and had to work jobs to supplement their ring purses. Several fighters came to mind, Joe Louis Barrow (prior to his championship run) worked in an ice-house as a "chunker," he chunked the ice into blocks that were big enough to fit into the bottom of the old-time "ice boxes" (predecessor to today's refrigerators) and then carried them to the customer who waited for the ice.

Anthony Zaleski worked at the US Steel Gary Works Steel Mill. The "Cinderella Man" was a dock laborer responsible for loading and unloading goods from cargo ships. Jack Johnson was a "stevedor." Modern labor laws didn't exist then as they exist now. A "days work for a days pay" was the mantra, and a day back then was not 8 hours but was from dark to dark or however long the foreman needed you.

The dollars exchanged for labor was much less, it seems like bosses then got their money's worth. Workers had to be tougher to earn their keep day in day out. I can remember as a shorty in the early 60's seeing movers with chairs and appliances strapped to their backs carrying those implements up 3 flights to our apartment on the 3rd floor. I'm willing to bet that some fighters were also movers to supplement their pugilistic prosperity.

The physical strength and conditioning and toughness gained by doing these types of physical labor has no equal in the modern health clubs of today. No amount of squats or leg pressing can equal climbing 3 flights of stairs with a refrigerator or sofa strapped to your back day-in day-out, no amount of arm curling can equal carrying 50 pound chunks of ice to several customers all day everyday, no amount of bench pressing can equivocate to scraping clean slag pits located at the US Steel Mill of old, no amount of weight lifting can equal the unloading and loading of cargo ships everyday week-to-week or working the lumberjack camps of old where lumber jacks cut down trees with axes and were paid according to the trees they felled.

The soreness from my move has since subsided and here I sit in front of my computer screen where the only soreness that remains is in my wrists. When it comes to old-school the first thing people talk about is the "shoulder-roll," but they don't talk much about the 15 round fights or the 20 or more round fights prior, they don't talk about fighters fighting once a month, so as far as I'm concerned the old-time fighters and Americans in-general WERE tougher.

Article posted on 11.08.2008

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