Boxers say the funniest things by Ron Jackson

Boxers, when they are not trying to hit their opponents senseless, can be extremely funny.

Harry Greb, after being outsmarted by the fast Mike “the St Paul Phantom” Gibbons in 1919, told his manager: “From now on match me with one fighter at a time.”

And world featherweight champion Willie Pep showed his humorous streak when he said: “My first five wives were all good housekeepers. Each one of them kept the house after she left.”

These quotes come from The Little Book of Boxing, written by Graeme Kent.

It is stated in the book that “boxing has a long and eventful history and its drama, excitement and humour are covered in this fascinating account of the noble – and sometimes ignoble – art all over the world.”

Kent covers almost all facets of boxing, from the Marquess of Queensberry rules, the bareknuckle champions, the booths … right up to Pac-Man, Manny Pacquiao.

Fascinating facts are revealed. One concerns the biggest attendance for a tournament. It was recorded on February 20, 1993 at the Estadio Azteca football stadium in Mexico City. The bill included five world title fights and it was estimated that 136 000 people watched Julio Cesar Chavez fight American Greg Haugen for the WBC title. Chavez won in five rounds.

Among the great champions Kent writes about is world flyweight champion Jimmy Wilde (1892 to 1969), who had a recorded record of 137-5-2, including 99 knockouts. He was known as “The Ghost with a Hammer in his Hand”. Wilde was born in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales, but later moved to Tylorstown. He was regarded as a physical freak, fighting men much heavier than he was. He went through his first 101 fights undefeated.

The book even offers details of the two best-known comic-book heroes, Joe Palooka and Rockfist Rogan, of the best and worst fight films, entrance music and Idi Amin.

Readers learn that many fighters take to religion before and after retiring. One that stands out was the bare-knuckle champion William Thompson (1811 to 80), who was known as Bendigo. He became a travelling evangelist and once drew a crowd estimated at 2 000 people to London’s Whitechapel.

In a chapter about ring nicknames, readers will find curious ones such as Benny “Little Fish” Bass, Harry “the Human Hairpin” Harris, Willie “the Worm” Monroe and Darnell “Ding-a-Ling-Man” Wilson.

Gene “Silent” Harrison, who fought as a middleweight in the 1940s and 50s, was deaf. Lights were shone from the ring corners to indicate the end of a round.

The book, one of those that can be referred to time and again, is published by The History Press, Gloucestershire.