BOOK REVIEWTracy CallisCHICAGO'S GREATEST SPORTSMAN by Mark T. Dunn
Mark Dunn, a Notre Dame graduate, a boxing historian and a practicing attorney of 40 years has published a well-researched, well-written, scholarly book on the life and career of the famous "Parson" Davies of the last century. As many students of boxing history are aware, Davies was a "maker and shaper" of boxing during those early years. This book contains great detail of bouts and surrounding events in the boxing careers of his (and other) fighters. It has eighteen chapters of wonderful information with photos and sketches, an appendix of athletes managed by Davies and an extensive index.
This book is the only known biography of Charles E. “Parson” Davies, the leading entertainment and athletic promoter in the United States from the late 1870’s until 1897. A pivotal figure in international boxing history, Davies brought boxing from the shadows and made it possible for fighters to become wealthy men. The Parson played a central role in John L. Sullivan’s championship fights with Paddy Ryan and in arranging the Jake Kilrain-Sullivan 1889 bare-knuckle fight.
An immigrant at twelve and an orphan at seventeen, Davies later managed Sullivan, James J. Corbett, and the great Peter Jackson at different times in their careers. Other fighters he handled included Joe Choynski, Tommy Ryan, Jim Hall, Jimmy Barry and dozens of others. He brought Evan “the Strangler” Lewis from the shadows of Wisconsin to the world stage and represented world champion athletes in three sports and every weight class in boxing.
Davies was a gregarious man who made friends easily. He was a Grand Exalted Ruler of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks in 1879 and enjoyed close relationships with such diverse men as Teddy Roosevelt, Bat Masterson, Bill Muldoon, Billy Pinkerton, Otto Floto and Mike McDonald. Beginning in 1889 Davies represented Peter Jackson - the greatest heavyweight of his time. Together they traveled to Ireland, England, France and Germany and then spent two years on the road with Choynski in a modified version of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
The Parson’s brother Henry was an undercover agent for the Pinkerton detective agency and helped uncover the Baltimore Plot to assassinate Abraham Lincoln. Although he never married, Parson Davies supported six of his brothers’ children to their adulthoods. One of his nieces became a Catholic nun who played several important roles helping the homeless after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.
If you are interested in the history of boxing, you have to read this book. You will come away with a broader and deeper understanding of the activities taking place during those early years of boxing.
The book is published by CreateSpace (an amazon company) and can be ordered from the website www.amazon.com.
710 pages, $35.95, softcover
Numerous photos, sketches, appendix, endnotes, index
ISBN: 1453691588 ISBN-13: 9781453691588 2011
Chicago's Greatest Sportsman