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Thread: Forgotten Champions: Johnny Coulon by Marty Mulcahey

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    Forgotten Champions: Johnny Coulon by Marty Mulcahey

    Forgotten Champions: Johnny Coulon
    By Marty Mulcahey from Max Boxing

    To say Johnny Coulon was full of tricks, both in and out of the ring, would be a grievous understatement. The cunning Canadian had to use every resource at his disposal. After all, the pint-sized Coulon won the world bantamweight title despite never reaching the 118 pound weight limit. Yet, he managed to retain the world title for nearly half a decade, and remained a force in boxing more than fifty years after his title reign. Coulon lived for boxing without being consumed by it, from his pro debut at age 15 until his death seventy years later. While researching Coulon, one word sprang to mind over and over again...vibrant.

    The diminutive Coulon ranks among the giants in the minds of some of boxing’s most respected chroniclers. Legendary Ring magazine founder Nat Fleischer, a foremost historian who saw every champion of worth from 1905 to 1972, rated Coulon as his sixth best bantamweight ever. Charley Rose, another well respected historian, ranked him at number seven all-time. Historians of more recent vintage concur, such as Herb Goldman, who put Coulon as his eighth all-time bantamweight, while Tracy Callis ranks Coulon at number 10. The International Boxing Research Organization has Coulon evaluated as their 12th greatest bantamweight ever. A sizable feat for a fighter who retired nearly ninety years ago.

    Johnny Coulon was born in Canada, of two American parents, Emile and Sarah Coulon, on February 12th,1889 in Toronto. Even by early 20th century standards little Johnny was small, never scaling more than 118 pounds his entire life, and he stopped growing at the five foot mark. Despite his short stature, Coulon was a natural athlete, and he grew up in a boxing family. His father was known as Pop Coulon and he managed boxers. He started to teach Johnny how to box at age eight. He did not begin to train in earnest until age fourteen, when his cousins (one was George “Elbows” McFadden, who lost a title fight against the great Joe Gans) turned pro and began to teach him more than the basics. A year later Coulon was swapping punches for pay in the tough Chicago circuit.

    Despite being born in Canada, Johnny grew up as a quintessential Chicagoan, adopting the city which nurtured him into a world champion. His parents moved to Chicago a couple of years after Johnny was born, and he grew up in the Logan Square area of the Windy City. Coulon's pro debut was unplanned, as he was plucked from the crowd by the promoter, who asked his father if Johnny could step in for a boxer who had not shown up. Reluctantly, Coulon stepped into the White City Arena ring, but six rounds later he had his first professional kayo at age 15. That was in January of 1905, and two years later, after 24 wins without a loss, Coulon was fighting for the American portion of the bantamweight title.

    It was a meteoric rise for Coulon, and he had gained a reputation as a crowd pleasing battler, knocking out 14 of his 25 opponents. While his official record displays 95 professional bouts, Coulon estimated that he took part in over 200 contests, from which he gained a wealth of experience, and about as many tricks as Harry Houdini. He credited some wins to great conditioning, “Statistics show boxers live longer than any other athletes. The worst thing I ever did to my health was smoke some corn silk as a boy.” The longer boxers allowed Coulon to find the holes in their game, the easier it was for him to employ his skills to pick them apart as the rounds wore on. Hall of Fame trainer Charlie Goldman remembers fighting Coulon. “I was in a trance. He kept hitting me on top of the head and I couldn't put my derby on for a week, until my lumps went down.”

    Two years into his pro career, Coulon was still undefeated. There were a couple no decisions mixed in, and he picked up the nickname of 'The Chicago Spider” for an ability to seemingly hit opponents with eight arms instead of two. Coulon and his father, who managed him, then took a risk and traveled to Milwaukee. There they engaged fellow undefeated prospect Young Fitzgerald, and Coulon was able to outwit Fitzgerald over ten rounds (in Fitzgerald's hometown). The win advanced Coulon into a fight against Kid Murphy, for the vacant American bantamweight title. Murphy was three years older than Coulon, and he used that physicality to push and maul his way to a ten round decision over the still maturing Coulon. Unable to make space for precise punches, Coulon worked the body on the inside but was not able to separate himself from Murphy or on the scorecards.

    The Murphy loss was the first setback of Coulon's career, but one which he would have the opportunity to avenge three times over. The duo met again a year later, after Coulon had beaten Young Fitzgerald twice more, in Peoria Illinois. They met twice in a three week span, January 8th to the 29th, with Coulon winning both bouts by ten round decisions.

    This time he was able to fend off Murphy on the inside, thrusting his shoulder into Murphy's jaw to gain enough separation to launch a quick flurry. Coulon had faster hands, and when given space it showed. With the first win over Murphy, Coulon gained recognition as American bantamweight champion. He was reportedly the youngest man to ever win an American title, still eleven months shy of his nineteenth birthday. The rubber match with Murphy was equally one sided, and became Coulon's first defense of the title.

    The bantamweight title of the 1910's era was fragmented, with America and Europe both sporting claimants to the title. Wins over Kid Murphy and Young Fitzgerald had propelled Coulon to the forefront in America, and a third win over Murphy in 1909 (this time by fifth round kayo) cemented his claim to champion status. From 1908, after his win over Kid Murphy, to 1914, Coulon was recognized as the best fighter below 118 pounds. In 1910, most bestowed recognition upon Coulon as the world bantamweight champion when he outpointed England's Jim Kendrick. In that fight, Coulon knocked Kendrick down in the 4th and 8th round, and never lost control of the ten round bout. A month later, Coulon knocked Kendrick out in the 19th round, to remove any lingering doubt to his dominance.

    In that era it was tough to unseat a champion, and in many of the bouts the title would only change hands if the champion lost via stoppage. This was because no decisions were often rendered on the evening of the fight, and the following days newspapers would render a decision that was accepted by most bettors. Coulon benefited in one such bout, in October 1912, where the N.Y Times reported that Kid Williams was “Too clever for Coulon, Bantamweight champion is defeated by slight margin.” Meanwhile, the Chicago Tribune favored Coulon, who saw him do more work in the last two rounds to edge out a decision. A majority of the papers had Coulon winning the fight, but it does show why most titles were only ceded by the certainty of a kayo. During his reign, Coulon was estimated to have lost only three times, by newspaper accounts, between early 1907 and mid 1914, the period that encapsulated his title reign as American and World Bantamweight champion.

    Standing out in that title reign were two twenty round defenses that came only fifteen days apart. In those fights, Coulon defeated Frankie Conley and Frankie Burns, traveling from New Orleans to California to do so. First Coulon won a twenty round decision over Conley in Vernon, California, who looked to stand a full head taller than Coulon in pictures. The NY Times ran the headline, “Conley gets a severe beating,” which seems about right if the five blows to one ratio was accurate, and a picture of Conley after the fight showing both eyes nearly swollen shut suggest it is true.

    Two weeks later Coulon arrived in New Orleans and similarly dispatched of Frankie Burns, weighing five pounds more, who could not match his pace in the latter half of the fight. As the rounds wore on, the bigger Burns slowed, and Coulon began to time and counterpunch an oft off balance foe.

    The title was taken from Coulon by the previously mentioned “Kid” Williams, who stopped Coulon in the third round. The champ was never in the fight, and he did not connect with a combination in the three rounds. The Vernon newspaper reported, “Johnny Coulon, bantamweight champion of the world, lost his title tonight to "Kid" Williams of Baltimore who knocked him out with a stiff right-hand punch to the chin in the third round of their twenty-round contest. The fighting was all William's own from the start.” The fight could have ended in the second round, but Coulon was saved by the bell. The fight was shockingly one-sided, and Coulon accepted that his skills had left him, so he retired from the ring. Of course, most boxing retirements are short lived, and so was Coulon's.

    After a two year absence, Coulon returned, and lost three of his first four fights against solid fighters. Always smart, Coulon downgraded the level of opposition and picked up some wins before running into future champion Pete Herman. Again, Coulon was stopped in the third round; this time his father threw in the towel. A New Orleans paper reported, “Coulon had regained his feet, but seemingly was unable to continue the fight. He was assisted to his corner, and his manager asserted that he had suffered a fractured kneecap in the fall. Later he was carried from the ring." Again Coulon took a couple years off, but returned in 1920 by the lure of good money fights in Paris. European champion Charles Ledoux knocked him out in the sixth round, as “The spectators howled with glee. Coulon, a shadow of his former self, was completely outclassed by the Frenchman. ”

    This time Coulon was done for good. After an easy kayo win to end his fighting days on a high note, he remained loyal to boxing. For a time, Coulon became more known for his vaudeville act then his boxing. The 100 pound Coulon was able to stop any man from lifting him off his feet, by simply applying his finger to a nerve behind the ear that runs along the neck. Paris doctors were mystified by the trick, and the King and Queen of Belgium were among those unable to budge Coulon. No shame in that since world heavyweight champions Jack Dempsey, Primo Carnera, Sonny Liston, Max Baer, Gene Tunney, Rocky Marciano, Muhammad Ali, and innumerable other boxers were similarly frustrated by their inability to lift the aging man. Coulon was smart outside the ring, and had invested his money (reportedly seventy-five thousand dollars) from boxing well.

    Growing tired of touring with vaudeville acts, he opened a gym in 1923 at 63rd street on Chicago's famed South Side. It quickly became the best in Chicago, and every heavyweight champion from Jack Dempsey on trained there when in Chicago. For the next 50 years, Coulon could be found there every day, where he trained, mentored, and even managed Eddie Perkins to a world title. With that, Coulon became the first former champion to manage another man to the world title, and he became friends with many of the greatest boxers. Coulon was a pallbearer for heavyweight legend Jack Johnson, and often retold stories of his times with champions like Ali, Dempsey, Liston, Ray Robinson, or even Ernest Hemingway to reporters who visited the gym.

    Coulon was distinguished in many ways. During World War I he served in the U.S Army, and traveled to Europe where he trained servicemen in self defense and boxing. He even taught boxing to German POW's. They heard of his presence, and asked if Coulon could spare some of his time when not training English, French, and American men.

    Most of all he cared for kids, and he appeared in Chicago courts to speak out for or take custody of children through programs at his gym. His gym hosted Catholic Youth Organization and Police Athletic League boxing events. He married Marie in 1921, and the pair operated the gym, side by side, where Johnny reportedly bounced over the top rope well into his sixties. The long, happy, and vibrant life of Johnny Coulon came to an end on October 29th, 1973, when he died at a nursing home at age 84.

    Recognition of Coulon's achievements was given by Canada in 1955 when he was inducted into their Sports Hall of Fame, and in 1999 the International Boxing Hall of Fame followed suit. Buried in St. Mary's Cemetery, the champ was finally lifted off his feet, by a phalanx of champions, to rest in eternal peace.

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    Re: ForGotten Champions: Johnny Coulon by Marty Mulcahey

    Johnny Coulon
    (John F. Coulon)
    (the "Chicago Spider")

    BORN February 12 1889; Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    DIED.. October 29 1973; Chicago, Illinois
    HEIGHT 5-0
    WEIGHT 102-117 lbs
    MANAGERS E.E. "Pop" Coulon, Emil Thierry
    Coulon was very short but he was also very clever and quick and possessed fast hands; In nearly 95 bouts, he lost but 5 official contests; During his career, Johnny won the Bantamweight Championship of the World, the Flyweight Championship of the World, the 115 Pound Championship of the World and the Paperweight Championship of the World

    After retiring from the ring, John toured in vaudeville and displayed a trick where no one could lift him from the floor; Later, he ran a gym in Chicago for almost 50 years; In addition, he managed the boxer, Eddie Perkins, who became Junior Welterweight Champion of the World

    Among those he defeated were Harry Forbes, Frankie Conley, "Jersey" Frankie Burns, Kid Murphy and Jim Kenrick

    Nat Fleischer ranked Coulon as the #6 All-Time Bantamweight; Charley Rose ranked him as the #7 All-Time Bantamweight; Herb Goldman ranked him as the #8 All-Time Bantamweight; Coulon was elected to the Ring Boxing Hall of Fame in 1965 and the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1999
    Johnny Coulon
    The Great Little Champion From Logan Square
    By Enrique Encinosa


    I met Johnny Coulon in early 1965. I was fifteen and Coulon was seventy-six. At first glance he did not impress. The Johnny Coulon that shook my hand that cold day in Chicago, was a milk-white little man who wore a white shirt, dark pants and a bowtie. He had eyes like berries on a bush and his voice was soft and friendly.

    I was a young kid in love with boxing and Johnny Coulon fit me like an old shoe. The little guy was not only a topnotch trainer, but living boxing history. He had known every heavyweight champion since the Great John L. Sullivan, had been bantamweight champion of the world, had trained hundreds of fighters and was a revered celebrity in Chicago during the sixties. At seventy-six he could leave a ring by jumping over a top rope, landing softly on his feet. He celebrated a birthday by walking the length of the gym on his hands.

    He was born in Canada in 1889, but grew up in turn of the century Chicago, where as a prelim fighter he became known as "The Cherry Picker from Logan Square." He turned pro at sixteen and was champion at twenty-one. His career, managed by his father, Pop Coulon, stretched from 1905 to 1920. The hall-of-famer is listed as losing only four times in ninety-seven fights, but he claimed to have fought over three hundred pro fights.

    "A lot of my fights never made the record books," he told me, as I began pumping him for information on boxing lore, " I fought in small shows all over Illinois and Indiana. I fought in Terre Haute four or five times and not one of those fights made the record books. I also fought in Gary, South Bend, Streator and other places, like county fairs. Not even half of my fights are listed. There was a tavern near Logan Square that had a ballroom in the back and they used to run weekly shows. I think they charged twenty cents at the door and the place held maybe three hundred. My average purse for those fights was four dollars, but back then you could live on ten dollars a month. I fought at least twenty times in that ballroom, in 1905 and 1906, and not one of those fights ever made the books. During those two years I also toured eight weeks with a circus, fighting all comers for four rounds. I was paid eight dollars a fight. I had maybe twenty five fights in those eight weeks. Not one made the record books. "

    Johnny Coulon fought all the top little men of his time. He traded leather with Pete Herman, Jim Kendrick, Frankie Burns, Kid Williams, Frankie Conley, Harry Forbes and Kid Murphy. A good fighter he beat was Charlie Goldman, a tough bantam who went on to become Rocky Marciano's trainer. Coulon won the crown from Jim Kendrick in nineteen rounds . A fighting champion, the record books tell that in 1912 Johnny Coulon beat two top contenders, Frankie Conley and Frankie Burns, in two twenty rounders that both went the distance. The Cherry Picker packed forty rounds of fighting in fifteen days.

    "There were a lot of tough fighters in my time," he once told me, "when I fought Kendrick I was sick, weak with a stomach ailment. When Conley fought me, he sprained his wrist real bad, but kept fighting even though he grunted in pain every time he hit me. Conley was tough but he was made to order for my style. I would jab him to the body, jab him to the head and use the jab to set up the right hand. And Conley was a sucker for the right hand. I was not a great puncher, but I would time him coming in and shoot the right hand down the middle and I would score every time."

    The gym was located at 1154 E. 63rd Street, on the South Side of Chicago. The L Train rumbled past the third floor windows. There was a single ring, a half dozen bags of different types, a locker room and clean showers. Johnny and his wife, Marie, ran a clean pugilistic emporium. Mrs.Coulon did not allow cursing or smoking . Visitors were allowed as long as they behaved themselves in a proper manner. Sonny Liston was expelled on his first day at the gym, then apologized and became a very good friend of Johnny and Marie.

    The gym, which opened during the twenties, had been host to boxing legends. Dempsey, Louis and Marciano had sparred within these walls. Ali would often used the gym to keep himself toned during his exile years. I found myself sparring in a ring where Sugar Ray Robinson had once trod.

    At the time I embarked on a modest amateur career, the well known fighters at Coulon's included former junior welterweight champion Eddie Perkins (74-20-4) who was managed by Coulon, and Light-heavyweight contender Allen Thomas. Perkins, a steelworker, was a clever little boxer with a good chin. Thomas was a southpaw who fought Mauro Mina, Bob Foster and several other topnotchers. Other pro leather slingers included Ben Black, who lost to Cleveland Williams, and Fred Askew, who was one of George Foreman's early victims.

    At one end of the gym, in the southern side of the room, where long windows faced the elevated tracks of the L Train, Johnny Coulon had his personal office. In Christmas, holiday postcards framed the doorway. Among the cards there were best wishes from European royalty, senators, movie producers, actors and writers. Coulon knew everyone. Ernest Hemingway had visited Coulon's and insisted on sparring with the local pugs. LeRoy Neiman had sketched boxers working out. A cult movie of the sixties, "Medium Cool," filmed scenes at the gym, where Coulon briefly appeared, a tiny old man captured forever on celluloid.

    Johnny Coulon was a special man not only for his fame as a former champion and first rate trainer. In a brutal trade he was a man of ethics. When a local community center was about to close up for lack of funds, the one man who stood to benefit from such a closure was Johnny Coulon. He knew that a dozen fighters, seeking a new gym would increase his monthly revenue of dues. Instead of ignoring the situation and waiting for new clients, Johnny Coulon sat in his office for hours, calling members of the chamber of commerce, aldermen, reporters. Within hours, Johnny had politicians and blue blood socialites donating money to the center. Coulon even wrote a personal check and helped promote an amateur boxing show and a benefit dinner to raise funds for the competition. The community center stayed open. Such a gesture was not unusual for the Cherry Picker. The night he won the crown from Kendrick, Johnny donated a thousand dollars, a large sum of money in those days of nickel beer, to the Working Boys Home of Chicago.

    When Johnny Coulon opened his gym, in the early twenties, the neighborhood had been blue collar Irish and Polish. By the time I joined the gym, the area was pure black ghetto. The four or five of us from other ethnic backgrounds commuted from the suburbs, a concept that never thrilled our parents. To Coulon, ethnic or racial background did not matter. He treated everyone the same, with a Victorian courtesy dating back to the turn of the century. As a result, when the Chicago race riots of the sixties burned down and looted whole city blocks of the South Side, Coulon's gym was neither burned nor ransacked, a true symbol of respect. Johnny was not only "color blind," he could boast of having been a close friend of Jack Johnson., had frequented Johnson's inter-racial restaurant the "Café De Champion," and had even been a pallbearer at the great champion's funeral.

    " Johnson," he once told me, "was a very smart man. The papers said some horrible things about him, and he was very hurt by the whole situation, although he put on this public display of not caring., but he did. His first wife was pretty and a real nice lady. She killed herself. The second wife was a working girl from a bordello. I liked him but I did not approve of his lifestyle. He smoked cigars and drank wine and champagne. An athlete should not do those things."

    "His restaurant, " Coulon described, "was known as the "Café Du Champion, " and it was located on thirty-first street. It was not open for long, because Johnson had all the legal problems and his first wife, Etta, killed herself on an upstairs apartment. The Café was impressive. It had several rooms, expensive gold plated cuspidors, burgundy wallpaper and green silk curtains. The food was very good, mostly steak and chicken dishes served on good china. He had entertainment, from local talent and early jazz bands to violin players. The Cafe was like Johnson, gaudy and fun. You know, back in those days almost everyone dressed in dark suits, but Johnson would have tailors make him suits in bright colors, like mustard or mint green. They were expensive suits and they looked sharp on him. He was a dandy, but I felt sorry for him. He had demons."

    Coulon was also known for a trick he performed for celebrities. Tacked on the gym walls were several portraits of heavyweights like Primo Carnera and Sonny Liston attempting to lift the 110 pound former champion. It was a clever trick, for as a giant would attempt to lift him, little Johnny would place a hand on the man's neck and press gently. Whatever nerve he touched was enough to incapacitate the lifter. Men twice Johnny's size attempted to lift him, but always failed. Although I asked him where he had learned this unusual skill, he never said, but did tell me that he had toured with a vaudeville group, where he made a profitable living giving boxing exhibitions and daring members of the audience to lift him on the stage.

    Nothing good lasts forever. The little Cherry Picker from Logan Square died on October 29, 1973. I was just married and living on the East Coast, so I missed the funeral. An old pug told me that Johnny was buried with honors, at a funeral attended by writers, senators, society people and a lot of men with broken noses and mashed up ears. The pallbearers did not strain much lifting the coffin with the remains of the little champion, but as the box disappeared into the snow, tears ran down scarred faces.

    1905
    Jan 18 Young Bennie Chicago, Il KO 6
    Jan 24 Kid Burns Chicago, Il W 6
    Feb 15 Frankle Nee Chicago, Il W 6
    Mar 3 Kid Irwin Chicago, Il KO 2
    Mar 14 George Fox Chicago, Il KO 4
    Apr 12 Kid Carpenter New York, NY KO 3
    May 18 Young Kelly College Point, NY KO 3
    Nov 13 Danny Goodman Chicago, Il W 3
    Nov 17 Jack Ryan Chicago, Il KO 3
    Nov 24 Jimmy Dunn Chicago, Il KO 1
    Dec 8 Bob Prosser Chicago, Il KO 2
    Dec 9 Frank Moran Chicago, Il W 3
    -Some sources report 12/09/06

    1906
    Jan 13 Eddie Greenwald Chicago, Il W 3
    Jan 21 Jack Francis Chicago, Il TK 2
    Feb 3 Eddie Berndt Chicago, Il W 3
    Mar 2 Eddie Berndt Chicago, Il TK 2
    Mar 20 Johnny "Kid" Egan Chicago, Il TK 2
    Aug 6 Fred Gaylor Fox Lake, Il KO 2
    Sep 3 Danny Goodman Davenport, Ia W 8
    Oct 14 Fred Gaylor Fox Lake, Il KO 1
    Oct 15 Ralph Grant Davenport, Ia KO 4
    -Some sources report 10/11/06
    Oct 24 Kid Bruno Fox Lake, Il W 3
    Nov 15 Charlie Kriegel Davenport, Ia W 8

    1907
    Feb 12 Young Fitzgerald Milwaukee, Wi W 10
    Mar 1 Kid Murphy Milwaukee, Wi L 10
    -Paperweight Championship of the World
    Mar 12 Young Fitzgerald Milwaukee, Wi TK 6
    Nov 1 Young Fitzgerald Milwaukee, Wi W 10
    -Some sources report "L 10"

    1908
    Jan 8 Kid Murphy Peoria, Il W 10
    -Paperweight Championship of the World
    Jan 29 Kid Murphy Peoria, Il W 10
    -Paperweight Championship of the World
    Feb 20 Cooney Kelley Peoria, Il KO 9
    -Paperweight Championship of the World
    Mar 13 Young McGovern Los Angeles, Ca W 10
    -Paperweight Championship of the World
    Apr 29 Tommy Scully Waukegan, Il TK 9
    Aug 6 "Young" Joe Gans Waukegan, Il TK 5
    Sep 24 Terry Edwards Milwaukee, Wi KO 4
    Oct 5 Yankee Schwartz Philadelphia, Pa ND 6
    Oct 13 Eddie Doyle Philadelphia, Pa ND 3
    Oct 13 Young McGovern Philadelphia, Pa ND 3
    -The previous 2 bouts were held the same date
    Nov 2 Young O'Leary New York, NY ND 6

    1909
    Jan 1 Mike Orrison Kansas City, Mo W 6
    Feb 11 Kid Murphy New York, NY TK 5
    Feb 18 Johnny Daly New York, NY ND 10
    Mar 1 Joe "Kid" Coster Brooklyn, NY ND 10
    Mar 4 Eddie Doyle Brooklyn, NY ND 10
    Mar 20 Jack Phenecie Johnstown, Pa ND 6
    May 28 Cecil "Tibby" Watson Dayton, Oh KO 10
    Oct 22 Young Ziringer Pittsburgh, Pa ND 6
    Nov 22 Patsy Brannigan Johnstown, Pa ND 6
    Dec 20 Earl Denning Gary, In NC 3

    1910
    Jan 15 George Kitson New Orleans, La W 10
    -Flyweight Championship of the World
    Jan 29 Earl Denning New Orleans, La KO 9
    -Flyweight Championship of the World
    Feb 18 Jim Kenrick New Orleans, La W 10
    -Flyweight Championship of the World;
    Some sources report 2/19/10
    Mar 6 Jim Kenrick New Orleans, La TK 19
    -115 Pound Championship of the World
    Apr 11 Young O'Leary New York, NY ND 10
    Apr 25 "Jersey" Frankie Burns Brooklyn, NY ND 10
    May 12 Phil McGovern New York, NY ND 10
    Jun 8 "Jersey" Frankie Burns New York, NY ND 10
    Dec 3 Charley Harvey New Orleans, La W 10
    -115 Pound Championship of the World
    Dec 19 Earl Denning Memphis, Tn KO 5

    1911
    Jan 18 Terry Moran Memphis, Tn KO 2
    -Some sources report 1/19/11
    Feb 26 Frankie Conley New Orleans, La W 20
    -Bantamweight Championship of the World
    Mar 22 George Kitson Akron, Oh TK 5
    Mar 28 Harry Forbes Kenosha, Wi ND 10
    Apr 20 Phil McGovern Kenosha, Wi ND 10
    Apr 25 Eddie O'Keefe Kansas City, Mo D 10
    May 25 Johnny Daly Fort Wayne, In ND 10

    1912
    Jan 11 George Kitson South Bend, In KO 3
    Jan 22 Harry Forbes Kenosha, Wi KO 3
    Feb 3 Frankie Conley Vernon, Ca W 20
    -Bantamweight Championship of the World
    Feb 18 "Jersey" Frankie Burns New Orleans, La W 20
    -Bantamweight Championship of the World
    May 8 Johnny "Young" Solzberg Brooklyn, NY ND 10
    Jun ll Frankie Hayes New Haven, Ct KO 4
    Jul 2 Joe Wagner New York, NY ND 10
    Oct 18 Kid Williams New York, NY ND 10
    Nov 20 Charley Goldman Brooklyn, NY ND 10

    1913
    Apr 30 Tommy Hudson Windsor, Ont, Can KO 4
    May 12 Frankie Bradley Philadelphia, Pa ND 6
    Jun 23 "Jersey" Frankie Burns Kenosha, Wi ND 10

    1914
    Jan 21 Frankie Sinnett Racine, Wi ND 10
    Jun 3 Kid Williams Vernon, Ca LK 3
    -Bantamweight Championship of the World;
    Some sources report 6/09/14

    1916
    Apr 25 Johnny Ritchie Kenosha, Wi ND 10
    Jul 3 Billy Mascott Portland, Or ND 6
    -Some sources report 7/04/16;
    Some sources report "L 6"
    Jul 2l Billy Mascott Portland, Or ND 6
    Jul 28 Eddie Campi San Francisco, Ca L 4
    Aug 8 George Thompson San Diego, Ca D 4
    Aug 11 Kid Julian San Diego, Ca W 4
    Sep 9 George Thompson San Diego, Ca D 4

    1917
    Jan 1 Joe Wagner New York, NY ND 10
    Feb 5 "Little" Jackie Sharkey New York, NY ND 10
    Feb 26 Steve Flessner Baltimore, Md D 10
    Mar 30 Frankie Mason Fort Wayne, In ND 10
    Apr 9 Bobby Hughes New Orleans, La W 10
    May 14 Pete "Kid" Herman Racine, Wi LT 3

    1920
    Mar 16 Charles Ledoux Paris, Fr LK 6
    Apr 28 Emile Juliard Paris, Fr KO 2

    -Coulon retired from boxing and opened a gymnasium and
    fight club for amateurs in Chicago; He also refereed
    bouts and did a specialty act in vaudeville


    *** Assistance Was Provided By Sergei Yurchenko ***
    Record courtesy of Tracy Callis, Historian, International Boxing Research Organization

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    Re: ForGotten Champions: Johnny Coulon by Marty Mulcahey

    Johnny Coulon

    From The August 1998 Issue Of Wail!, The Cyberboxing Zone Journal

    The Great Little Champion From Logan Square
    By Enrique Encinosa

    I met Johnny Coulon in early 1965. I was fifteen and Coulon was seventy-six. At first glance he did not impress. The Johnny Coulon that shook my hand that cold day in Chicago, was a milk-white little man who wore a white shirt, dark pants and a bowtie. He had eyes like berries on a bush and his voice was soft and friendly.

    I was a young kid in love with boxing and Johnny Coulon fit me like an old shoe. The little guy was not only a topnotch trainer, but living boxing history. He had known every heavyweight champion since the Great John L. Sullivan, had been bantamweight champion of the world, had trained hundreds of fighters and was a revered celebrity in Chicago during the sixties. At seventy-six he could leave a ring by jumping over a top rope, landing softly on his feet. He celebrated a birthday by walking the length of the gym on his hands.

    He was born in Canada in 1889, but grew up in turn of the century Chicago, where as a prelim fighter he became known as "The Cherry Picker from Logan Square." He turned pro at sixteen and was champion at twenty-one. His career, managed by his father, Pop Coulon, stretched from 1905 to 1920. The hall-of-famer is listed as losing only four times in ninety-seven fights, but he claimed to have fought over three hundred pro fights.

    "A lot of my fights never made the record books," he told me, as I began pumping him for information on boxing lore, " I fought in small shows all over Illinois and Indiana. I fought in Terre Haute four or five times and not one of those fights made the record books. I also fought in Gary, South Bend, Streator and other places, like county fairs. Not even half of my fights are listed. There was a tavern near Logan Square that had a ballroom in the back and they used to run weekly shows. I think they charged twenty cents at the door and the place held maybe three hundred. My average purse for those fights was four dollars, but back then you could live on ten dollars a month. I fought at least twenty times in that ballroom, in 1905 and 1906, and not one of those fights ever made the books. During those two years I also toured eight weeks with a circus, fighting all comers for four rounds. I was paid eight dollars a fight. I had maybe twenty five fights in those eight weeks. Not one made the record books. "

    Johnny Coulon fought all the top little men of his time. He traded leather with Pete Herman, Jim Kendrick, Frankie Burns, Kid Williams, Frankie Conley, Harry Forbes and Kid Murphy. A good fighter he beat was Charlie Goldman, a tough bantam who went on to become Rocky Marciano's trainer. Coulon won the crown from Jim Kendrick in nineteen rounds . A fighting champion, the record books tell that in 1912 Johnny Coulon beat two top contenders, Frankie Conley and Frankie Burns, in two twenty rounders that both went the distance. The Cherry Picker packed forty rounds of fighting in fifteen days.

    "There were a lot of tough fighters in my time," he once told me, "when I fought Kendrick I was sick, weak with a stomach ailment. When Conley fought me, he sprained his wrist real bad, but kept fighting even though he grunted in pain every time he hit me. Conley was tough but he was made to order for my style. I would jab him to the body, jab him to the head and use the jab to set up the right hand. And Conley was a sucker for the right hand. I was not a great puncher, but I would time him coming in and shoot the right hand down the middle and I would score every time."

    The gym was located at 1154 E. 63rd Street, on the South Side of Chicago. The L Train rumbled past the third floor windows. There was a single ring, a half dozen bags of different types, a locker room and clean showers. Johnny and his wife, Marie, ran a clean pugilistic emporium. Mrs.Coulon did not allow cursing or smoking . Visitors were allowed as long as they behaved themselves in a proper manner. Sonny Liston was expelled on his first day at the gym, then apologized and became a very good friend of Johnny and Marie.

    The gym, which opened during the twenties, had been host to boxing legends. Dempsey, Louis and Marciano had sparred within these walls. Ali would often used the gym to keep himself toned during his exile years. I found myself sparring in a ring where Sugar Ray Robinson had once trod.

    At the time I embarked on a modest amateur career, the well known fighters at Coulon's included former junior welterweight champion Eddie Perkins (74-20-4) who was managed by Coulon, and Light-heavyweight contender Allen Thomas. Perkins, a steelworker, was a clever little boxer with a good chin. Thomas was a southpaw who fought Mauro Mina, Bob Foster and several other topnotchers. Other pro leather slingers included Ben Black, who lost to Cleveland Williams, and Fred Askew, who was one of George Foreman's early victims.

    At one end of the gym, in the southern side of the room, where long windows faced the elevated tracks of the L Train, Johnny Coulon had his personal office. In Christmas, holiday postcards framed the doorway. Among the cards there were best wishes from European royalty, senators, movie producers, actors and writers. Coulon knew everyone. Ernest Hemingway had visited Coulon's and insisted on sparring with the local pugs. LeRoy Neiman had sketched boxers working out. A cult movie of the sixties, "Medium Cool," filmed scenes at the gym, where Coulon briefly appeared, a tiny old man captured forever on celluloid.

    Johnny Coulon was a special man not only for his fame as a former champion and first rate trainer. In a brutal trade he was a man of ethics. When a local community center was about to close up for lack of funds, the one man who stood to benefit from such a closure was Johnny Coulon. He knew that a dozen fighters, seeking a new gym would increase his monthly revenue of dues. Instead of ignoring the situation and waiting for new clients, Johnny Coulon sat in his office for hours, calling members of the chamber of commerce, aldermen, reporters. Within hours, Johnny had politicians and blue blood socialites donating money to the center. Coulon even wrote a personal check and helped promote an amateur boxing show and a benefit dinner to raise funds for the competition. The community center stayed open. Such a gesture was not unusual for the Cherry Picker. The night he won the crown from Kendrick, Johnny donated a thousand dollars, a large sum of money in those days of nickel beer, to the Working Boys Home of Chicago.

    When Johnny Coulon opened his gym, in the early twenties, the neighborhood had been blue collar Irish and Polish. By the time I joined the gym, the area was pure black ghetto. The four or five of us from other ethnic backgrounds commuted from the suburbs, a concept that never thrilled our parents. To Coulon, ethnic or racial background did not matter. He treated everyone the same, with a Victorian courtesy dating back to the turn of the century. As a result, when the Chicago race riots of the sixties burned down and looted whole city blocks of the South Side, Coulon's gym was neither burned nor ransacked, a true symbol of respect. Johnny was not only "color blind," he could boast of having been a close friend of Jack Johnson., had frequented Johnson's inter-racial restaurant the "Café De Champion," and had even been a pallbearer at the great champion's funeral.

    " Johnson," he once told me, "was a very smart man. The papers said some horrible things about him, and he was very hurt by the whole situation, although he put on this public display of not caring., but he did. His first wife was pretty and a real nice lady. She killed herself. The second wife was a working girl from a bordello. I liked him but I did not approve of his lifestyle. He smoked cigars and drank wine and champagne. An athlete should not do those things."

    "His restaurant, " Coulon described, "was known as the "Café Du Champion, " and it was located on thirty-first street. It was not open for long, because Johnson had all the legal problems and his first wife, Etta, killed herself on an upstairs apartment. The Café was impressive. It had several rooms, expensive gold plated cuspidors, burgundy wallpaper and green silk curtains. The food was very good, mostly steak and chicken dishes served on good china. He had entertainment, from local talent and early jazz bands to violin players. The Cafe was like Johnson, gaudy and fun. You know, back in those days almost everyone dressed in dark suits, but Johnson would have tailors make him suits in bright colors, like mustard or mint green. They were expensive suits and they looked sharp on him. He was a dandy, but I felt sorry for him. He had demons."

    Coulon was also known for a trick he performed for celebrities. Tacked on the gym walls were several portraits of heavyweights like Primo Carnera and Sonny Liston attempting to lift the 110 pound former champion. It was a clever trick, for as a giant would attempt to lift him, little Johnny would place a hand on the man's neck and press gently. Whatever nerve he touched was enough to incapacitate the lifter. Men twice Johnny's size attempted to lift him, but always failed. Although I asked him where he had learned this unusual skill, he never said, but did tell me that he had toured with a vaudeville group, where he made a profitable living giving boxing exhibitions and daring members of the audience to lift him on the stage.

    Nothing good lasts forever. The little Cherry Picker from Logan Square died on October 29, 1973. I was just married and living on the East Coast, so I missed the funeral. An old pug told me that Johnny was buried with honors, at a funeral attended by writers, senators, society people and a lot of men with broken noses and mashed up ears. The pallbearers did not strain much lifting the coffin with the remains of the little champion, but as the box disappeared into the snow, tears ran down scarred faces.

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    Re: Forgotten Champions: Johnny Coulon by Marty Mulcahey

    IBRO's own JJ Johnston worked out at Coulon's as a teen and has a lot of great stories and memories of that place. He told me about how former top middlweight contender Anton Raadik used to do a lot of the carpentry and maintanence around there after he was forced to retire due to eye problems. Sometimes he would spar with the boys and especially a heavyweight prospect he had taken a liking to. You could hear him bellowing in his Estonian accent as it echoed throughout while he let the larger man tee-off on his body "VORK, BOBBY! VORK! VORK HARDER!" (You couldn't hurt Raadik with a lead pipe).

    JJ sparred with Anton too, which he tells me was a gruesome experience- Raadik purposely never washed his gym clothes. He thought asphyxiating the opponent in the ring was a good way to gain an advantage (not joking here!). I wonder if he did that in his pro career as well...*LOL*

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