The Boston Globe Now that boxing has taken its place among world sports and has become of importance in training fighting men in the United States Army, millions of people are taking a new interest in old ring champions and their methods.
19 April 1919
THE LEFT-HAND PUNCHES
By Robert Edgren
For more than twenty-five years I have made a close study of our champions, have watched them in. their greatest battles, and have often put the padded mittens on with some of them myself, to find out through personal experience what traits of character or physical power made them superior to other men.
In the old days of English boxing the English placed great reliance in 'straight left." The Jem Mace School of boxing was of the "hit and get away" order, nearly all of the fighting being done with the left hand, the right reserved for a finishing blow. This is the safest style of boxing, and a skillful fighter with a fast left hand can easily beat down a stronger and clumsier opponent in a long fight.
A curious thing that I have often noticed in left-handed fighters is the peculiar development of the left, arm, Abe Attell had a wonderful left land. When I first saw him fight, at Alex Greggains' old club on Howard St in San Francisco, Abe was a two-handed slugger. His right arm was larger and stronger than his left, as is usually the case with any naturally right-handed person.
After years of boxing Attell's left arm became larger and stronger than his right. I have noticed the same development in Jeffries, Fitzsimmons, Hawkins, McCoy and hundreds of other famous ringsters.
Style All His Own
One of the most remarkable left handed hitters ever known in the American ring was Dal Hawkins. Dal was brought up in Virginia City, Nev, and as a boy did quite a little fighting in
that old mining camp. When he went to San Francisco he had taught himself a style of fighting that was all his own. He had studied out a use of the left hand that no other fighter had at that time.
Dal practiced striking a blow by reaching out slowly to full arm's length and then suddenly twisting his wrist, turning the palm of his clenched hand down and slightly lifting the elbow.
this blow was the shortest left-hand blow ever used by any fighter. It traveled only three or four inches and it knocked a man down as if he had been struck with a baseball bat.
Frank Erne, one of the fastest lightweight champions of his time, was caught and nearly knocked out by that blow. Erne was watching Hawkins left in the first round as the men came
together Hawkins reached out slowly with that left. Erne told me he thought Hawkins intended to pull down his guard, which was held high. Erne saw Hawkins' hand poised motionless in the air just above Erne's own protecting forearm - and then he heard the referee count "seven," realized that he was lying on his back, and managed to get up.
Spectators Could Hardly See It
What happened was just this: Hawkins reached out slowly until his hand was near enough to deliver his peculiar blow. It didn't look like a punch, and Erne didn't move to get out of range
Hawkins gave his wrist and forearm a twist and his clenched clove struck on Erne's cheekbone. But for Erne's high guard the blow would have reached his chin, as Hawkins intended, and
Erne would have been knocked out Hawkins knocked out scores of fighters with that blow. In each of his two fights with the great Joe Gans he dropped Gans for a nine-second count in the first round, with this punch. It was a blow even the spectators could hardly see delivered, and the. Effect of it was as startling to the onlookers as to the recipient.
Another great one-punch left-hand hitter was Eddie McGoorty. I saw him knock out Jack Harrison. English middleweight champion, and Dave Smith. Australian middleweight champion, each with almost the first blow of the battle. McGoorty's blow was longer than Dai's, being more of a left hook. But it was delivered with the same twist of the wrist.
Made McCoy Famous
Kid McCoy become famous through use of his "corkscrew punch." He could knock down a man of twice his strength, with that short blow. I always thought that the crafty Kid borrowed that blow from Dal Hawkins. He used it in much the same way. But McCoy told -me that he studied out the blow himself, his original intention being to cut his opponent's face by twisting his fist as his jab landed.
Later he developed so much power with the twist of the wrist that he turned it into a knockout blow instead of one merely designed to mutilate and dishearten a rival.
A great. left-handed boxer — although never a great fighter in the sense that Sharkey ,Jeffries, Ruhlln. Sullivan and the rest of the big men were great was Jim Corbett. Jim was a beautiful
boxer, fast as a streak and as quick of mind as he was of foot. He was tall and slightly built, and of the "hit and get away" school.
He jabbed old John L. Sullivan until John collapsed in the 21st round. He jabbed Jeffries for 23 rounds before Jeff knocked him out. He jabbed through 61 rounds with the black marvel, Peter
Jackson, and, while he couldn't do much to Peter, Peter couldn't do anything at all to him.
Corbett's jabbing victory over Sullivan, in which he danced away from Sullivan's bull-like rushes and tap-tap tapped his way to victory, changed the style of American coxing for several years, until Fitzsimmons, Jeffries and the heavy hitters demonstrated that the weight behind a blow wins fights.
The Solar Plexus Punch
Bob Fitzsimmons was the most remarkable left-handed hitter of them all. He could hit equally hard with either hand, but usually hit first with the left and that was enough to win. He made
the "solar plexus punch" famous when he knocked out Corbett in 14 rounds at Carson. When Fitzsimmons first toured America as a fighter he knocked out most of his victims by hitting them on the jaw with either right or left. Mike Donovan told Fitz that he'd surely kill some of the big fellows who fought him on the stage when he was meeting all comers, if he continued knocking them out with blows on the chin.- -Many of them were blacksmiths and lumbermen and strong fellows who didn't know how to protect their chins, but thought they
He begged Fitz to hit them in the body, with the left. So Fitz worked out the solar plexus punch, and Mike once told me Bob was as pleased as a child with a new toy as he went on, night after night, knocking out his men with a single hook neatly placed on the soft spot just below the edge of the ribs, usually called the "pit of the stomach."
Fitzsimmons had a trick of shifting his right foot forward and then hooking the left hand just as he would naturally hook a right in the normal left-foot-forward boxing position. This was his famous "shift," and it gave him tremendous leverage for a knockout blow.
He knocked out both Sharkey and Ruhlin with this punch. Both of them told me after the fights that they'd never fight "old Bob" again, for fear of being killed. He hit too hard. Fitzsimmons was the craftiest of all fighters. I asked Kid McCoy — crafty as a fox himself — why he never fought Fitzsimmons. "Because that old guy knows too much." said McCoy. "I can measure any other man's mind and tell what he's likely to do next, but when you think you know every move old Fitz can make he pulls out something new that you never thought of."
Sam Langford has passed his best days, but Sam still has some trace of the wicked lunging left swing for the body that made him a terror among heavyweights. I've seen him beat down
scores of men with that blow. Langford had tremendously wideband powerful shoulders, and he swung his whole body with the blow. Jack Dempsey, who is to fight Willard
July 4. is a heavy body hitter with the left. He doesn't swing, but drives the left straight in or uses It with a lifting hook, according to his opening. He practically knocked Fulton out with that punch, although he hit him twice on the chin before he fell. He has brought down Morris, Gunboat Smith and a lot of other heavyweights by bending them double with a left in the body and then hooking the same hand up to the jaw, sometimes crossing, the right to the jaw as a finishing touch. Johnson has lost all the reputation He ever had, or might have had, and I wouldn't mention him here but for one thing. As a fighting machine he had have a few tricks worthy of a scientific interest.
Johnson's best punch was an uppercut, delivered when too close to his opponent to deliver any other blow. With his elbow close to his body and his forearm straight up he could deliver a jarring uppercut under the chin, even when the other man was trying to clinch. He had a trick of pushing about until his rival was a little off balance, and then shooting in this uppercut, preferably with the left fist. It was a wicked blow, and one against which it was almost impossible to offer a defense. This blow was among the many taught in the army camps, for
use when our soldiers were at grips with the Boche in hand-to-hand fighting.
80 Percent Done by Left
Benny Leonard, present lightweight champion, makes great use of a left hand punch in the body. This blow was the one that led to the knockout of Welsh by Leonard. Former heavyweight champion James J. Jeffries was a great left-handed fighter, being naturally left handed. Unlike some other left-handed fighters, he didn't try to reverse the usual boxing position and hold the left hand back for a finishing punch. He extended his left, and he could hit a terrific straight blow with it. McAuIiffe the original Jack Dempsey, Dixon, McGovern, and all the old time, champions were great users of the left hand. Although many of them used the right for a finishing punch, the real wearing down was done with the left .A summing up of all the blows struck in a fight between skilled boxers shows that the left does at least 80 percent of the work in the ring.