JIMMY BIVINS 1919-2012


“The fight game is a monstrous thing…They just froze me out….They told me I’d get this, I’d get that, if I played ball. I told them, ‘I’m a fighter, not a ballplayer.’”

Jimmy Bivins to The Plain Dealer Magazine, 1992

Tags: HEAVYWEIGHTS Jimmy Bivins

  • Andrew Fruman

    Hi CA,
    I’ve been going through the Plain Dealer archives, reading about Bivins today.  There’s some good stuff in there.  It’s too bad that the timing wasn’t quite right for him.  It seems like he just kind of fell off after his great run from 42 to 45 – which isn’t really surprising given the impossibly rough schedule he fought.  Before his career was 2 1/2 years old, he’d already been in with Burley, Christoforidis, Yarosz, Sheppard, Franklin, Bettina, Soose, Lesnevich, Pastor and Maxim.  Even considering the era, that’s still kind of mind boggling for a youngster.
    From what I read, it sounds like he was quite brash in the ring, especially in his younger days – though modest in retirement.  When fans asked him why his name wasn’t listed with Louis and Charles, he would say that he was “just another fighter.” 
    A line from a 1974 article on Bivins by Allen Wiggins…
    “He is a man prepared to live with his own pain as part of his character, his fate, and it is not to share.”

  • thenonpareil

    Hi Andrew, 
    Yes, that run in the early 40s was preposterous.  And even the guys who some may not consider topnotch–Lesnevich, Mauriello–were tough.  And it went on–for years!!!  Moore, Lloyd Marshall, Jersey Joe, Pat Valentino,  Lee Q. Murray.  Really, it’s surprising Bivins lasted as long as he did as a solid headliner.  But back then, of course, to get paid you had to fight solid competition.  It’s incredible to think that a guy like Bivins fought better competition in six months than guys today do in their entire fraudulent careers–10 years 26 bogus fights, or what have you.  It really is mind boggling.  But, it’s true, he was caught in a Twilight Zone with two titles frozen and his peak ending just when Louis was ready to be taken.   I don’t think he could have beaten a prime Joe Louis and when they did fight–when both men were past it–Louis won a decision, but it would have been something for the history books.
    It’s funny that you call him brash, because I remember what Archie More said about Bivins in Peter Heller’s In This Corner: “I despised Bivins.”  I guess you had to be some edgy character to get Archie to feel that way.   
    That’s a great quote on Bivins from Wiggins.  Especially considering what Bivins went through later on in his life….
    What I remember most about Bivins in my lifetime is that there used to be a Bivins impersonator running around in New York about 25 years ago.  It’s odd, because around that time, people were running around impersonating Johnny Bratton and Georgie Small, too.  What a strange mania to have….

  • Andrew Fruman

     @thenonpareil Hi CA,
    There’s quite a bit of extra drama to the Bivins-Moore feud.
    Publicly, their dislike was said to stem from Moore’s knockout of Lloyd Marshall, a buddy of Bivins.  But, I’d guess that was just an easy way for both guys to explain it without getting into the real issue…
    The book Cleveland’s Greatest Fighters mentions that Moore was dating Bivins soon to be ex-wife, Dollree Map, at the time, and she was ringside that night cheering for Moore. Only two weeks before their fight, Bivins and his wife were in court, having just filed for divorce.  During the proceedings, she managed to get his purse for the Moore fight tied up.
    Bivins wasn’t a playboy, didn’t drink, and saved his money… and she took him for a large chunk of it in their divorce settlement.  She would eventually sue Moore for $750,000, after he broke off their engagement.  Part of her suit alleged that Moore had beat her, which was a claim she made against Bivins too.  The suit was dismissed.
    After her involvement with Bivins and Moore, she got into a bit of trouble with the law and was the defendant in a 1961 court case over illegal seized evidence that went all the way to the US Supreme Court.  She won that one.  But in 1973, she was sentenced to 20 years for running a heroine factory out of her apartment.
    Anyway, Bivins ended up losing his cool when he fought Moore and the Cleveland crowd really turned on him.  His next fight in Cleveland wasn’t for another 8 months, when he fought Walcott… and the crowd rooted for Walcott that night.  Next up for Bivins was Lee Q. Murray, and the Plain Dealer described his performance that night as “Spiritless and Stale”.  And of course, next up was Charles… and he knocked Bivins flat for a 10 count.
    I wonder how much of his fall had to do with not just being burnt out, but perhaps disillusioned with life in general.  All his money going to a woman, who by the sounds of it, was nothing but trouble.  Having Moore kind of rub his face in it, and then his hometown crowd turning on him too.  It couldn’t have been a very happy time for him… and perhaps his training slacked, etc.