JUNE 2005


Poem of the Month
By Tom Smario

Cinderella Man
Book Excerpt by Mike DeLisa

Entertaining Fighters and Prospects
By Adam Pollack

Fatty Langtry: Pudgy
Pugilist of the Past

By Robert Carson

John Klein: 19th-Century
Trainer Extraordinaire

By Pete Ehrmann

Ring Leader
By Ron Lipton

Incentives in Professional
Boxing Contracts

By Rafael Tenorio

Fight Town
Book Excerpt by Tim Dahlberg

The Regulation of Boxing
on Tribal Lands:
Towards a Pan-Indian
Boxing Commission

By James Alexander

Spotlight on Cut Man Lenny DeJesus
By Sam Gregory

Dick Wipperman
by Pete Ehrmann

Jack Johnson: The Dates,
the Events, the Sources

by Stuart Templeton

Touching Gloves with...
"Irish" Art Hafey

by Dan Hanley

JOHN KLINE:
19TH-CENTURY
TRAINER EXTRAORDINAIRE


By Pete Ehrmann


If all of the best professional boxers in the world walked through downtown Beloit, Wisconsin, at high noon tomorrow, they'd attract as much attention as a parade of notary publics.

For one thing, not many people today know or care who the best boxers are, so far has boxing fallen off the public's radar. Besides, there would be no reason for them to congregate in this blue-collar city of about 38,000 residents located in the middle of the state just north of the Wisconsin-Illinois border. The big attraction in local pro sports is the Beloit Snappers, the city's minor-league baseball team.

It was different 120 years ago, when pugilists named Charley Mitchell, Jim Hall, Jack McAuliffe, and Patsy Cardiff were as famous and admired throughout the land as Brett Farve and Barry Bonds are now.

And they were familiar faces in Beloit thanks to a local man named John Kline, and his "Manly Art Institute."

There was no more famous training center in all the world than that established by Kline, a fine athlete himself who ran a mile in just under five minutes in 1884, and who once won $150 betting on himself to run from Beloit to Janesville, about 12 miles up the pike, inside of one-and-a-half hours.

Kline was also an accomplished skater, swimmer, and wrestler, and he could perform a double forward flip from a standing position. A member of the Fourth Wisconsin Battery in the Civil War, Kline had signed up when he was just 16. Boxing was one of the diversions available in camp, and Kline was a standout with the mitts.

One day after the war, Kline appeared in an impromptu public sparring match in Chicago and was spotted by Charles "Parson" Davis, who managed many of that era's top boxers. Davis was so impressed with Kline that he sent one of his charges, heavyweight Patsy Cardiff, to Beloit to train under him. That was in 1885, and before long, the world's top fighters were beating a path to Kline's "Manly Art Institute."

Today's boxers would probably beat a path out of town after sampling Kline's regimen. Training methods have changed plenty since a story in the Milwaukee Sentinel of July 12, 1891, described Kline's system as a "style of martyrdom [that] in the matter of horrors to the physical system is almost a parallel with execution by electricity."

At Kline's 40-acre farm on the city's western outskirts, and his downtown gym on Sixth St., Kline's clients were pummeled, wrestled, run, and sweated into a state of hardness designed to help them endure the rigors of prizefights that, in those days, could go on for three to four hours.

Kline believed that a good, bullish neck helped a fighter withstand blows to the head. To achieve that result, the trainer would take a heavy rope and loop it around the trainee's neck in the middle. Then Klein and a helper would grab the ends and drag the resisting man around the room like a lassoed steer.

Step two in achieving a trunk-like neck was for the boxer to perform a wrestler's bridge, lying on his back and then supporting his upraised torso on his feet and rolled-back head. Then the 190-pound Kline would stand on his stomach and chest and bounce up and down.

Under the circumstances, a fellow might be forgiven an occasional outburst of expletives aimed at his tormenters and the fates. But not at the Manly Art Institute, whose proprietor posted signs proclaiming: "Farmyard slang or profanity will not be tolerated in this gymnasium, by order of John Kline."

Neither was booze, except when applied to the exterior and not the interior of the athlete. Charlie Mitchell was the British heavyweight champion who came to Kline's to prepare for several big contests, and each day after his workout, he was hosed down with saltwater, rubbed vigorously, and then, according to contemporary press accounts, washed from head to foot with whiskey and lemon.

Such a waste of his favorite beverage must've tortured Jim Hall more than any of Kline's exercises. A brilliant middleweight from Australia who liked his hooch so much that sometimes he entered the ring snockered, Hall resorted to faking stomach cramps to get a medicinal shot or two when he was at the Institute, until Kline got wise to him.

Fighters who trained in Beloit had a psychological as well as physical edge over their opponents. One named Billy Bradburn had lost twice to Frank Glover when the latter had Kline as his conditioner. Before their third match, Bradburn trained at the Manly Art Institute and Glover didn't. As they mixed it up in the ring, a rejuvenated Bradburn snarled, "You can't beat me tonight. I've been out to Johnny Kline's this time!" He won, too.

Kline wasn't just an innovator in the gym. In 1890, he was awarded a patent for a cork extractor.

He abruptly got out of the training business in 1893, after the bibulous Hall ditched him for another trainer just hours before his world middleweight title match in New Orleans, and then got knocked out in three rounds by champion Bob Fitzsimmons.

"Don't mention the name Hall in some localities about Beloit," warned the local Daily Free Press the day after the fight. When Kline returned home, his friends threw him a surprise party. Chances are, none of the booze on hand was used for rubbing.

After that the man the New York Recorder called "as careful of his charge[s] as a mother of her firstborn and as patient as Job was reported to have been," ran a tavern in Beloit.

Kline died September 14, 1930, at age 83.

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