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A Backward Glance: 1931, The Year in Boxing


A week by week look at the boxing world in 1931 by Andrew Fruman.

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Max Schmeling Stripped of Heavyweight Title by NYSAC

January 6… The New York State Athletic Commission announced that it was stripping Max Schmeling of his heavyweight championship. The commission had demanded that Schmeling agree to a June rematch with Jack Sharkey in New York, and post a $10,000 forfeit to guarantee his intentions on following through. Under orders from the fighter, manager Joe Jacobs rejected the ultimatum.

When the Associated Press caught up with Schmeling in Germany, the champion said that that he had no issues with defending the title against Sharkey, but was not interested in fighting in New York.

“It is ridiculous, this talk about me trying to evade a fight with Sharkey. I’ve always said I wanted to meet Sharkey and say so now. I’m prepared to defend my title against all comers – Sharkey, Stribling, anyone else the National Boxing Commission puts up, but not in New York. I’m through with the New York Athletic Commission. If I fight, I’ll fight in Chicago.”

Ill feeling between Schmeling and the NYSAC dates back to the aftermath of the German’s disqualification victory over Sharkey the previous July. It took a full week for the NYSAC to recognize Schmeling as the new champion, and only on a 2-1 vote after an acrimonious hearing at the commission’s offices.

When mentioning Chicago, Schmeling was referring to a $500,000 offer from matchmaker Nate Lewis to stage a title contest against Young Stribling at Soldier Field in June. Several other bidders are reportedly also interested in staging Schmeling’s first title defense, leaving little reason for the champion to limit his options only to New York.

The National Boxing Association announced they would not stand in the way of a Schmeling-Stribling clash. The N.B.A. had been polling its members on whether Schmeling’s title should be vacated, though the organization’s president John V. Clinnin indicated no action would be taken if the champion defended his title in the summer


Benny Bass Retains Junior-Lightweight Crown

January 5… Benny Bass (127 ½) defended his 130lb title with a ten round decision over Lew Massey (128) before a full house of 10,000 spectators at the Arena in Philadelphia.

Massey started out aggressively, though couldn’t put a dent in Bass and after a few rounds was forced into retreat by the champion’s withering body assault. A heavy left hook to the midsection in the sixth round was especially hurtful, and Massey was forced to call on all of his ring smarts to make it to the final bell.

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In Other Boxing News…

(Jan 1) Police were forced to intervene at a New Year’s Day show in San Jose after Babe Anderson was disqualified for “unsportsmanlike” conduct against Johnny Benedetti. The welterweight clash between local rivals was awarded to Benedetti at the end of the eighth round after Anderson retaliated to being hit twice after the bell. Angered by the apparent double standard, angry spectators entered the ring with cries of “fake” ringing out, forcing police to take action.

(Jan 1) In a battle of light-heavyweight contenders, Lou Scozza (170 ½) won a highly controversial ten round decision over Larry Johnson (177 ½) at the Broadway Arena in Buffalo. The verdict in favor of the popular hometown fighter was booed by the fans while the United Press reported Scozza’s win as “probably the most unfair decision handed down in a local ring in years.”

(Jan 2) Veteran heavyweight Jack Renault (213 ½), one of the better big men of the twenties, was defeated by Pierre Charles (213) of Belgium over ten sluggish rounds at Madison Square Garden. After clutching and grabbing on the inside for most of the late sessions, the 35-year-old former Canadian champion came on strong to win the final round but it was not enough the earn the decision over his younger opponent. In summing up Renault’s future prospects, the International News Service reported that “the bout made it certain that Renault had skidded too far away from the golden goal. The old boy has shot his bolt.”

(Jan 7) The new California State Athletic Commission’s announced a number of rules changes after meeting in Sacramento. Topping the guidelines is an edict barring champions from participating in “overweight non-title” matches in the state. The new measure had immediate implications with promoters forced to cancel an appearance by world welterweight champion Tommy Freeman scheduled for later in the month at Dreamland Rink in San Francisco.

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Tags: Benny Bass BOXING HISTORY Jack Renault Jack Sharkey Lew Massey MAX SCHMELING Young Stribling

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