100 Years Ago: Fred Storbeck's Greatest Fight - taken from March 1947 Fight magazine.
Fred Storbeck, one-time South African heavy-weight champion, became close to world title honours, when he visited England in 1912 and was matched with the famous American, Frank Moran, at the Blackfriars Ring in London.
Moran, an ex-dentist from Pittsburgh, U.S.A., who had given up his first profession because he said, “It’s easier to knock; teeth out than pull them out,” was a very popular figure in English fistic circles. He can be included among the boxers who got one foot on the topmost pinnacle of their calling and then seemed unable to make the last remaining step. There are many such, and often they put up better displays than the handful of men who are right at the summit.
HIS “MARY ANN’’
Outside the ring the blond Moran was genial and amusing; inside, he adopted a menacing - scowl and managed to look remarkably dangerous as well as remarkably strong. He was not a stylish boxer, though’ he had more skill than the superficial observer noticed. Chiefly, he relied on his great strength and stamina, and upon that terrific right hand-punch which he christened the “Mary Ann”. Usually these were enough to persuade his opponents into slumber, but if they failed he was able to fall back on yet another advantage, which is more-rare in the ring than might be supposed;
He chose his seconds wisely and they gave him good advice at dangerous moments, as the following tale will show.
In size, strength and toughness there was little between the Boer blacksmith, Fred Storbeck, and Frank Moran, and this equality was further manifested in the first few rounds.
They battered away at each other with a determination which delighted the crowd, and occasionally missed each other with punches that were, so vicious and so wide of the mark that great bursts of laughter went up.
BOTH HAD SKILL
For the most part, the two men just moved around each other and slogged. If however I gave impression that they were merely crude fighters, I shall be exaggerating, for both had skill though their method of using it was not classic.
As round followed round Storbeck began to establish a lead on points - and the fight grew strenuous for both boxers. The methods of both Moran and Storbeck, though rugged, were clean.
In the fifth round the men were still battering away at each other.
So they were in the sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth. How they found sufficient strength to keep at it so wholeheartedly and for so long, will always amaze those who witnessed the fight. Gradually their faces became sadly disfi gured and their bodies red from blows. Moran was taking the heavier punishment, with the result that, at the tenth, Storbeck had gained a considerable lead on points.
SIGNS OF COLLAPSE
At last, in the eleventh round, came the signs of collapse which the seconds on both sides must have feared. And it was Moran who showed them. He slowed down and seemed arm-weary. Then, quite suddenly he went completely weak, and used all he knew to avoid a knockout.
When the gong went he scarcely had strength enough to stagger to his corner, and certainly he had difficulty in realising which was his corner. He almost collapsed upon his chair, and fell helplessly sideways. “I’m done!” he muttered to his seconds, “I can’t go on.” Dan McKettrick was his second, one of the wisest the ring has ever known. As he set about the task of reviving his man, he also tried to restore his confidence. “Stick it Frank” he urged. “Storbeck’s more tired than you are. He’ll drop if you carry on.
Storbeck tired! He seemed almost as fresh as he had been at the start. But Moran was too dazed to see for himself and from this encouragement somehow managed to acquire sufficient new strength to get to his feet for the next round. McKettrick’s last words to him were: “Now, walk around, Frank. Keep walking and he’ll drop.” For half that round Moran continued to “walk around,” gathering strength at every moment. At last he again knew fully what he was doing. He stopped in his tracks, and, before the perplexed Storbeck could escape, put his returning vigour behind a “Mary Ann.” It landed full on Storbeck’s jaw. Down, as if shot through the brain, went the man who had been the certain victor a few moments before.
His second, seeing that it was hopeless, threw in the towel, but it was an unnecessary action. Storbeck was out. Moran had won. Or should I say Moran and McKettrick had won?
Certainly, if a less clever second had been in his place that night, the Pittsburgh dentist would never have been able even to embark on that remarkable twelfth round. That, then, is an instance of the way in which seconds can help to win their principal’s fight. Too often, with their mistaken and foolish advice they help their man to lose a fight.
Early in 1910 the Transvaal amateur boxing authorities decided to send three representatives to compete in the British championships.
Heavyweight Fred Storbeck , lightweight Jim Fennessy and featherweight Joe Thomas were chosen, with George Twomey as the manager of the first-ever team of South African amateur boxers to compete overseas.
In the British championships Storbeck won all his fights on knockouts and became the British amateur heavyweight champion.
Fennessy reached the semi-final and Thomas was eliminated in the second round of the competition.
Storbeck made his professional debut on May 29, 1911 and won the vacant South African heavyweight title on My 24, 1917 when he outpointed Johnny Rutherford in Johannesburg over 20 rounds.