On the ropes
Oct. 31, 1950: Bernard “Big Duke” Docusen hangs on to the ropes at end of the second round after taking several hard punches from John L. Davis. The referee halted the bout on a technical knockout immediately after third round started.
Times sports writer Cal Whorton reported on the fight:
John L. Davis, the cold, cruel fistic assassin out of Oakland, successfully defended his State welterweight championship last night by scoring a third-round t.k.o. over Bernard Docusen of New Orleans in the scheduled 12-round main go at the Olympic…
Docusen, throwing fast left jabs while scooting in reverse, had an edge in the opening heat when Davis had trouble locating his target.
Midway through the second, though, Davis got inside Docusen’s rangy arms and brought up a right which caught the handsome Filipino challenger on the chin. This so infuriated Big Duke that he started swapping with the champion, which was a mistake on Bernie’s part. There’s nothing Davis likes more than a foe who’ll stand up and trade with him.
For nearly a minute the two whaled away with fiery leather to each other’s head. Neither seemed willing to give ground and the crowd of 4,900 patrons cheered both on with uncontrolled shouts.
Then suddenly the slugging stopped and Docusen, who hardly knows the feel of canvas on his back, bounced on the deck after having caught a wicked right on the chin. He was down for a count of four.
Davis, relentless as an enraged tiger, moved in again. He landed a left hook to the jaw and Docusen stumbled into the ropes, from where he took a two-count from Referee Johnny Indrisano. When action resumed, Davis continued the brutal attack a few more seconds until the bell mercifully saved the wavy-haired challenger.
But by this time it was obvious that Big Duke’s tour of duty was limited. En route to his corner he once fell through the ropes. He was out but didn’t know enough to admit it….
When the third round started, Indrisano stopped the fight after eight seconds and awarded Davis the victory.
This photo led the next day’s Times Sports section front. The image won several awards for staff photographer Larry Sharkey, including best sports photo in the Associated Press statewide contest and first prize in an annual nationwide sports photo contest conducted by E.P. Dutton Co.
In 1948 Docusen lost a close world welterweight title fight to Sugar Ray Robinson. He passed away in 2009, but his website is still active.