Boxing

Minnesota's Boxing Hall of Fame

By Paul Strauss: Minnesota fans eagerly await this fall when the first inductees into the newly established MNBHoF will be announced at a banquet held in Oct. at Mancini's Char House, St. Paul.. There are many worthwhile possibilities so anticipation is at a high level. For those of you who think of Minnesota as simply part of fly-over land, you might be surprised to learn that Minneapolis/St. Paul once rivaled such cities as N.Y., Philadephia, and Chicago as a hot spot for boxing. Many great fighters came from the area, and many other great fighters such as Harry Greb, Jack Dempsey, and Gene Tunney all fought here.. Local greats include Middleweight Champ Mike O'Dowd, the Phantom or Uncrowned Champion Mike Gibbons and his brother Tommy, who had the memorable fight with the Manassa Mauler in Shelby, MT. There was Billy Miske, Fred Fulton, Jimmy Delaney, Jackie Fields, Jock Malone, Jackie Graves, and Mike's son Jack Gibbons.

There also was a wonderful man named George A. Barton. He was born in the little town of Northfield, MN made famous by the James Gang bank robbery of Sept 7, 1876. He was involved in sports, and particularly boxing, at just about every level. He boxed and was good enough to win a six round decision over Terrible Terry McGovern. When is the last time you heard of a boxer making money by demonstrating his skill at punching the speed bag? Barton did.it. Barton explains in his book My Lifetime in Sports "I (He) mastered every conceivable trick of punching ........two, three, four and five bags simultaneously......which brought me considerable income. I gave exhibitions at variety theaters (actually beer halls) in St. Paul and Minneapolis, county fairs, street carnivals, lodge smokers and other places." George was Mike Gibbons first coach, which is saying something considering that Mike Gibbons to this day is considered one of the best scientific boxers of all time. Barton also managed and promoted, and was a very good sports writer. He covered everyone from the Babe Ruth to Dan Patch and Patty Berg. He even covered the historical bout between Jack Johnson vs. Jim Jeffries.. His book is a great read.

In more recent years, you will remember the kid from Bowlus, MN, Duane Bobick, who garnered just about every possible amateur championship title in the world, with the exception of Olympic Gold. He had previously beaten Teofilo Stevenson in the Pan Am games, so he was favored to win the Gold. Duane sadly recounts how the murders of the Israeli team members adversely affected him. He just wasn't able to regain his focus after that terrible tragedy, and as a reult suffered an upset loss. Also in 1972, Duane thrilled local fans when he captured the National Golden Gloves heavyweight title in Minneapolis.

Middleweight Pat O'Connor gave fans many thrilling fights in both the amateurs and pros. He captured the National GG middleweight title in 1967, and had two great fights with Denny Moyer that both ended in SD. Another exciting Minnesota fighter was Rafael Rodriquez, who captured four Upper Midwest GG titles at two different weight classes before entering the pros. In the pros, he was good enough to give the great Sugar Ray Leonard a run for his money in a ten round bout. .

The new MNBHoF board is made up of interesting and well qualified men. Two deserve a little bit of special recognition. The new president is a gentleman by the name of Jake Wegner, and the vice president is Jeff Flanagan. Jake has proven to be a nationally known boxing historian. His articles are full of insight and often times newly rediscovered facts and points of interest. He seems to have an endless supply of energy when it comes to putting in the necessary hours researching his subject matter. It's obvious he has a great love for the sport. In addition, Jake is often seen and heard at ringside, helping with the announcing duties. His vast knowledge of boxing history enables him to make comparisons of current fighters with past greats, and he can often fill in dull spots with colorful stories of some of boxing's more striking characters.

His right hand man comes to the board like a thoroughbred enters the racing game. He has great blood lines. His father, Glen Flanagan, and uncle, Del Flanagan, were both Minnesotans and great fighters. Glen had well over 120 fights which included bouts against 3 world champions and 26 ranked opponents. He was never knocked out and was ranked #3 in the world as a featherweight-lightweight. He was inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame in 2005. His brother, Del, had 130 professional fights and battled such greats as Beau Jack, Johnny Bratton, Willie Pastrano, and Gene Fullmer.

Jeff shrugs off any suggestion that he too had promise as a boxer. However, according to long time great trainer, Bill Kaehn, Jeff was a good prospect. Bill should know because he helped his father, Earle, train the Flanagans. According to Bill, Jeff did see success in the amateurs until suffering a serious knee injury while skiing. That proved to be the end of his boxing aspirations

As a build up to the inaugural dinner in Oct., Jake Wegner has been writing feature articles about some of Minnesota's past greats. They are called "History's Mysterys" with Jake Wegner. They are all very entertaining and can be found on the internet site called Minnesotaboxing.com. The site also has lot's of good information about the newly formed organization, as well as short bio's about each of its members. I recommend you check it out.

Article posted on 20.06.2010



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