"Panama" Joe Gans
(Cyril Quinton Jr.)
BORN November 14 1896; Barbadoes, British West Indies HEIGHT 5-7 WEIGHT 147-160 lbs MANAGER Leo. P. Flynn
Gans was an outstanding talent; Like many great fighters of the past, he was dodged when it came to the major world title fights
; Of course, he did fight for the black titles and South American titles
While fighting out of Panama (prior to 1917), Gans won the Lightweight Championship of Panama, the Middleweight Championship of South America, the Middleweight Championship of Central America; He later won the Colored Middleweight Championship
During his career, he defeated such men as George Robinson, Joe Borrell, "Allentown" Joe Gans, Tiger Flowers, Jack Blackburn, Marty Cross, Andy "Kid" Palmer, Jimmy O'Gatty, Willie Walker and "Italian" Joe Gans
Lifting his hands wearily, Panama Joe Gans raised his diamond studded belt high above his head. Tucked beneath a white quilt and a thick green blanket, he lay in his bed surrounded by doctors and newspapermen. "I don't draw the color line," the fighter told the eager reporters, "I'll fight anyone near one hundred and sixty pounds, white or black." His thick accent cut his words short, drowning them in thick tones and causing them to tail off in his deep chest. His eyes were sunken and yellow, his motions visibly weakened by his illness. His mustard, brown skin shone lightly with a hint of sweat, living for a moment on his brow before disappearing in a small river down his cheek. He was then motionless as the doctors poked and prodded him. "Pneumonia," wrote Daymon Runyon, "seems to be the only thing that can lick this Carmel -Colored King of the middleweights".
-- From The Caramel Covered Kings, unpublished
Panama Joe Gans was perhaps one of the finest pugilists of boxing's Golden Age. But his name is not one that will be forever linked with Dempsey, Greb, Walker, Villa or Leonard. His is a name that has fallen into an abyss, lost in the obscurity of old record books and dusty magazines, buried amongst the mounds of forgotten fighters of the past. Damon Runyon said that it was pneumonia that kept Gans from reaching the top. A more discerning eye would surely note that it was simply the color of his skin. He was a black fighter at a time in America when black fighters received few breaks.
Panama Joe Gans was born Cyril Quinton Jr. in 1896 on the small tropical Island of Barbados. At a young age he and his family moved to Colon, Panama. His father died when he was very young and after being picked up by the local authorities for stealing fish he spent the next five years of his life in a detention center. Here he learned the rudimentary aspects of boxing participating in impromptu bouts organized by his classmates.
Once released from the detention center, Quinton, needing money desperately, began taking part in saloon smokers in Colon against a motley mixture of sailors, servicemen and ruffians. It was not until he hooked up with a local businessman and real estate magnate named HR Cambridge that Quinton, fighting under the assumed name of Panama Joe Gans, began his official career as a prizefighter.
Gans fought his first 30 bouts in Panama -- winning the Lightweight Championship of Panama and the Middleweight Championship of South and Central America -- before signing with Leo P. Flynn and coming to the US in 1917. Panama Joe settled in Harlem where he soon became a crowd favorite, fighting mainly in Boston and New York. Some of his early victims included Jamaica Kid, Cleve Hawkins and Battling Thomas. In 1919 Gans burst into the upper echelon of fighters by knocking out Young Fischer, lacing former Jack Dempsey opponent Wild Burt Kenny, and gaining a "newspaper" decision over Jeff Smith in Atlantic City. Unfortunately for Gans his sudden success would prove to be a hindrance. His winning streak which should have moved him closer toward a title bout actually pushed him further away. He would immediately receive the label of a fighter "too good for his own good". Panama Joe Gans long frustrating journey into the realm of a black contender had begun.
The year 1920 saw Gans appearing in occasional charity bout and fighting in virtual obscurity in the small clubs around Harlem. His luck would change when he was called upon to serve as a sparring partner for then Heavyweight Champion Jack Dempsey who was preparing for a title defense against Billy Miske in Benton Harbor, Michigan. Gans, who was outweighed by close to 40 pounds, gave Dempsey a series of furious sparring sessions and gained the interest and accolades of the press and general public alike. Unfortunately the only thing Gans would gain from his experience at Dempsey's camp was a shot at the newly created World's Colored Middleweight Championship.
Gans won the "Colored Championship" by defeating George Robinson in 15 rounds at Madison Square Garden on October 9, 1920. He would defend his mock title with regularity but found it increasingly difficult to find bouts against top quality white opponents. Panama Joe fought a total of 15 bouts in 1920 winning them all. But any momentum that he had built up along the way was quickly curbed in January 1921 when he contracted pneumonia.
Panama Joe was out of action for close to five months and did not make his return to the ring until fighting to a no decision with Jackie Clark in May 1921. Title talk began to surface when Gans again went on a winning streak that included victories over future Lightheavyweight Champion of the World Mike McTigue for the American Lightheavywieght title and two of the better black middles of the time -- George Robinson and Sailor Darden. However, an October 12th loss to Jock Malone (his first in over three years) in Boston would again kill his momentum and force Gans and his handlers to regroup.
Panama Joe rebounded nicely from his loss to Malone by posting 9 straight victories (6 by kayo) to round out his year. Among his victims were a young Tiger Flowers who Gans starched in 6 rounds and an aged George Gunther whom he knocked out in one. At this point in his career Panama Joe Gans was considered one of the best in the business. He fought a total of 14 bouts in 1922 and lost only twice (being disqualified in a bout with Andy Palmer for hitting after the bell and losing a dubious decision to Young Fischer in the latter's hometown of Syracuse). But the fact that Panama Joe was one of the most feared and respected fighters in the game did nothing to bolster his chances at a title shot. The dreaded color line had been drawn and Gans would need to be content with simply fighting on.
1923 was another banner year for Gans. He fought two sensational battles with Italian Joe Gans, losing the first bout and winning in a heroic struggle in the second. He would also revenge defeats to both Andy Palmer and Jock Malone. He defended his "colored" title three times knocking out Whitey Black in eight rounds, Willie Walker in nine and fighting a no-decision with Tiger Flowers over 12. Panama Joe was again riding on the crest of a tremendous wave when his career again came to screeching halt. Soon after fighting a draw with Morrie Schaffer in Omaha, Nebraska, Gans again contracted pneumonia.
Doctors told Panama Joe Gans that he would never fight again. They said he'd be lucky if he ever ran again. But after spending more than two months bed-ridden, Gans, against the wishes of his doctors, made a miraculous return to the ring kayoing a serviceable Jack Palmer. Joe followed his return victory over Palmer with consecutive defeats of George West (W8) and Ted Kid Herman (W10) respectively, but he was by no means the same fighter who had battered Jock Malone around a St. Paul ring less than eight months prior. The tell-tale sign that Gans' bouts with pneumonia had taken a serious toll was in his title defense against former amateur champion, and fellow Harlemite, Larry Estridge.
Gans and Estridge met at Madison Square Garden on a Milk Fund benefit card in a bout for Panama Joe's Colored Middleweight Championship. The first round was an even affair with both men probing with their jabs and measuring each other cautiously. But when Estridge pressed his attack in the second it spelled certain doom for Gans. A right-left combination dropped the champion to his fingertips and when he rose without a count Estridge moved in for the finish. Panama Joe hung on but was groggy and cut by the end of the round. The rest of the bout was called an "unexcelled exhibition of gameness" by one New York Times reporter, Gans fighting on "instinct and courage alone," taking a battering and losing his coveted title. He would get another crack at Estridge when the latter agreed to a return bout but the result was the same with Gans taking a lacing for twelve bloody rounds. Estridge became the new darling of Harlem, and word began to circulate that Panama Joe Gans was through.
Panama Joe Gans was not through but his days as a world-beater certainly were; he was never again considered a title threat. Gans finally retired in 1928 after a career that spanned over 131 bouts and fourteen years. Gans scored 58 knockouts in his 93 career wins, (an incredible percentage considering that he was often outweighed by seven pounds or more), and although he was knocked down in more than one of his bouts, he never failed to hear the final gong.
During his prime Gans was a machine. Consider that from April 26, 1918 -- when Gans was defeated by Joe Rivers of Gloucester, Ma in eight rounds [a defeat he avenged a month later] -- until October 21, 1922, Joe's record was 52-1-1 with 8 no decisions and 32 knockouts: true championship numbers.
Unfortunately for Panama Joe Gans he fought at a time when race was more important than character and those men who ran boxing could not see the component and character of a man like Joe. To add to this injustice he has been forgotten by boxing, his name one that we really read, his story one that we rarely hear.
Now, nearly seventy years after Panama Joe Gans fought his last bout, we must set the record straight -- Panama Joe Gans was one of the best of his era, white or black.
© 1998 Kevin Smith1914 Young Steadman KO 1 Kid Murray KO 6 Mike O'Connor KO 4 Kid Graves KO 6 Slammer Jordan KO 3 Battling Terry KO 9 Kid Bailey W 15 1915 Feb 15 Billy Shea Colon, Pan W 15 Feb 20 Kid Coldhurst Colon, Pan KO 6 Mar 15 Kid Bain Colon, Pan D 15 Jun 6 Sailor Richards Colon, Pan LF 1 Jul 3 Sam Rufus Panama City, Pan D 6 Sep 11 Young Johnson Panama City, Pan NC 8 Oct 10 "Young" Sam Langford Panama City, Pan W 15 Oct 17 Sam Rufus Panama City, Pan W 15 Nov 14 Mickey Harrison Colon, Pan KO 18 Nov 25 "Young" Sam McVea Panama City, Pan KO 10 1916 Jan 11 "Young" Sam Langford Panama City, Pan W 20 Feb 12 "Young" Sam Langford Panama City, Pan KO 12 Apr 15 Jerry Parquet Panama City, Pan TK 5 May 17 Willie Rothwell Panama City, Pan TK 4 Jun 11 Mickey Harrison Panama City, Pan TK 4 Jul 16 Kid Bain Panama City, Pan LF 12 Oct 15 "Young" Sam Langford Colon, Pan W 20 Nov 11 Jim Briggs Panama City, Pan W 15 -Middleweight Championship of Panama Nov 30 Benny McGovern Panama City, Pan KO 3 Dec 12 Abe, the Newsboy Panama City, Pan W 20 1917 Jan 12 Jim Briggs Panama City, Pan W 15 -Middleweight Championship of Panama Mar 12 Benny McGovern Panama City, Pan LF 6 Mar 17 "Young" Sam Langford Panama City, Pan KO 5 Jun 25 Tommy Madden New York, NY ND 10 Willie Davis New York, NY ND 10 Jul 31 Zulu Kid New York, NY ND 10 Aug 20 "Young" Battling Nelson New York, NY ND 10 Aug 24 Walter Mohr Brooklyn, NY ND 10 Johnny "Kid" Allen Brooklyn, NY ND 10 Sep 4 George "Kid" Alberts Bethlehem, Pa KO 6 Sep 7 George Ashe New York, NY ND 10 Sep 17 Lew "K.O." Williams Brooklyn, NY WF 8 Oct 19 Walter Mohr Brooklyn, NY ND 10 Oct 26 "Young" Battling Nelson Harlem, NY ND 10 Oct 29 Walter Mohr Brooklyn, NY ND 10 Nov 3 Fred Dyer Brooklyn, NY ND 10 1918 Kid Wiley W 12 Mar 12 George Robinson Boston, Ma L 12 -Some sources report "L 10"; Some sources report 3/15/18 Apr 2 Kid Green Boston, Ma W 6 Apr 23 Battling Thomas Boston, Ma D 6 Apr 29 Battling Thomas Boston, Ma W 8 Apr 30 Joe Rivers Boston, Ma L 8 May 21 Joe Rivers Boston, Ma W 8 Jun 7 Battling Thomas Boston, Ma W 10 Jun 11 Joe Rivers Boston, Ma L 8 Cleve Hawkins W 12 1919 Jan 27 Bobby Gleason Atlantic City, NJ ND 8 Mar 3 Jamaica Kid Philadelphia, Pa ND 6 Mar 7 Harry Robinson Baltimore, Md W 10 Jun 21 Britt Simms Baltimore, Md W 10 Jul 8 Jeff Smith Atlantic City, NJ ND 8 Sep 29 Eddie Trembley Bridgeport, Ct W 12 -Some sources report "ND 8" on 9/30/19 Sep 30 Al Wise Syracuse, NY TK 8 -Some sources report 10/07/19 Oct 23 "Wild" Bert Kenny Atlantic City, NJ ND 8 Dec 16 Paul Dixon Syracuse, NY ND 10 1920 Feb 27 Morris Tasco Baltimore, Md KO 5 Mar 1 Eddie Trembley New Bedford, Ma W 12 May 11 Jamaica Kid Norfolk, Va D 10 May 24 Young Fisher Rochester, NY KO 5 May 28 "Young" Sam Langford Detroit, Mi KO 9 Jun 15 Young Fisher Syracuse, NY ND 10 Jul 4 Speedy Miller Detroit, Mi KO 3 Jul 6 Battling Thomas Syracuse, NY ND 10 Jul 10 Frankie Carbone Syracuse, NY ND 10 Jul 26 Frankie Carbone Rochester, NY ND 10 Jul 30 Cliff "Kid" Patillo Philadelphia, Pa TK 4 Oct 8 George Robinson New York, NY W 12 -Colored Middleweight Championship of the World; Some sources report "W 10" on 10/09/20 Oct 19 "Cowboy" Lee Williams New York, NY KO 4 Oct 22 Morris Tasco Detroit, Mi KO 3 Nov 26 George Christian New York, NY KO 3 Dec 3 Jim Hosic Detroit, Mi KO 3 Dec 13 Young Jackson Auburn, NY KO 3 Dec 29 Clarence "Sailor" Darden New York, NY W 10 1921 May 27 Jackie Clark Allentown, Pa ND 10 May 30 Kid Black Memphis, Tn W 8 Jun 6 George "Kid" Alberts Detroit, Mi TK 10 Jun 24 George Robinson Syracuse, NY W 15 -Some sources report "W 10" on 7/01/21 Jul 4 Jack Stone Atlantic City, NJ KO 4 Aug 8 Theodore "Tiger" Flowers Atlanta, Ga KO 6 Aug 15 Carl Hertz Jersey City, NJ KO 6 Aug 27 Alec Gibbons New York, NY W 12 Sep 5 Mike McTigue Jersey City, NJ ND 12 Sep 13 Clarence "Sailor" Darden Rochester, NY W 10 Oct 5 Clarence "Sailor" Darden Syracuse, NY W 15 Oct 12 Jock Malone Boston, Ma L 10 Oct 21 Nero Chink New York, NY W 12 -Some sources report 10/22/21 Oct 24 "Young" Herman Miller Harrisburg, Pa W 10 Nov 28 Joe Borrell Trenton, NJ TK 9 Dec 6 "Allentown" Joe Gans Harrison, NJ KO 6 Dec 12 Cliff "Kid" Patillo Columbus, Oh KO 2 Dec 15 Theodore "Tiger" Flowers Atlanta, Ga KO 5 Dec 26 Jerry Hayes Philadelphia, Pa KO 2 Dec 28 "Young" Sam Langford Detroit, Mi KO 9 1922 Feb 13 Charley "Indian" Rogers Detroit, Mi TK 8 Mar 31 Young Dennis Springfield, Oh KO 4 Apr 7 Indian Horner Lima, Oh W 10 Apr 10 Jamaica Kid Detroit, Mi D 10 May 22 Nero Chink Havana, Cu W 12 Jul 4 Frankie Denny San Francisco, Ca W 4 -Some sources report "Oakland, Ca" Jul 12 Frank Barrieau Oakland, Ca W 4 Jul 24 Jack Blackburn Indianapolis, In TK 4 Oct 27 Andy "Kid" Palmer Brooklyn, NY LF 6 Nov 6 Joe Libby Atlantic City, NJ ND 8 Nov 17 Al Wise Syracuse, NY TK 7 Nov 18 Marty Cross New York, NY W 12 Dec 1 Young Fisher Syracuse, NY D 12 Dec 14 Young Fisher Syracuse, NY L 12 -Some sources report 12/15/221923 Jan 6 Andy "Kid" Palmer New York, NY W 12 Jan 31 Andy "Kid" Palmer New York, NY L 12 Feb 6 "Italian" Joe Gans New York, NY L 12 Feb 17 Jimmy O'Gatty New York, NY KO 5 Mar 19 Mike Dempsey Rochester, NY W 15 Mar 31 "Cowboy" Lee Williams New York, NY KO 9 May 14 Whitey Black Detroit, Mi ND 10 -Colored Middleweight Championship of the World May 25 Theodore "Tiger" Flowers Toledo, Oh ND 12 -Colored Middleweight Championship of the World Jun 30 Willie Walker New York, NY KO 9 -Colored Middleweight Championship of the World Aug 1 Lou Bogash New York, NY L 10 Sep 15 "Italian" Joe Gans New York, NY W 12 Oct 22 Whitey Black Rochester, NY KO 8 Nov 9 Jock Malone St. Paul, Mn ND 10 Dec 12 "Irish" Danny Fagan Manhattan, NY KO 8 Dec 17 Morrie Schlaifer Omaha, Ne ND 10 -Some sources report "L 10" 1924 Apr 26 Jack Palmer New York, NY KO 8 May 9 George West Brooklyn, NY W 10 Jun 16 Tillie "Kid" Herman East Chicago, Il ND 10 Jun 26 Larry Estridge Bronx, NY L 10 -Colored Middleweight Championship of the World Aug 11 Larry Estridge Long Island City, NY L 10 -Colored Middleweight Championship of the World Oct 25 Eliseo Quintana Kingston, Jam LF 2 Nov 30 Lefty Michaels Colon, Pan TK 4 1925 Feb 14 "Young" Harry Wills Panama City, Pan KO 7 Feb 23 Eliseo Cantano Barbados, BWI KO 2 Aug 1 George Levine New York, NY L 12 Oct 12 Harry Martone Jersey City, NJ ND 12 1926 Mar 7 Kid Charol Havana, Cu L 12 -Some sources report 3/06/26 Mar 27 Martin Perez Havana, Cu KO 6 May 22 Willie Ptomey New York, NY D 10 1927 Jan 3 Homer Robertson Lowell, Ma L 12 -Some sources report "L 10" 1928 Feb 10 Frank Baldi San Juan, PR KO 6 Mar 2 Rafael Plata San Juan, PR L 10 Apr 29 Alejandro Villanueva San Juan, PR D 10 Jun 10 Francisco Soler Mayaguez, PR L 10 *** The Following Bout Is Reported But Not Confirmed *** 1921 Sep Battling Gahee Detroit, Mi ND 10
Record courtesy of Tracy Callis and Kevin Smith, Historians,
International Boxing Research Organization
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