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Saturday, 11th October 2008


Churchmans, Boxing Personalities [1938]

The price movement typifies the ever growing interest in cigarette cards and particularly the US influence on pricing. The set contains a number of US boxers and because of a different collecting culture over the pond the price was moved upwards strongly.

It really does make you wonder what the price is going to be in a few years time, although the price rises have levelled off in recent years thank goodness. It does not stop some sites advertise these cards for $400 each though.

The 1930's are considered by many to be a golden age of sporting cards. Boxing personalities was issued in 1938. It was a sequel to the set Boxing [1922] which was more of a do-it-yourself guide to hitting people.

Did you know Al Delaney's real name was Alexander Borchuk? Well if you did not then it is because you failed to read the back of card 11 in this series.

Put simply the British collect sets (Boxing Personalities being a set of 50) whereas the US tend to collect single cards of sporting heroes rather than the set. Still while I am selling the set for less than a price of a single card on some sites there is no excuse.

The cards themselves are black and white posed, fighting stances of the boxing greats past and present as viewed from 1938.

Clearly some of the boxers are better remembered than others but all of them deserve their place in the set. Each card having a description of the fighter and his fights which makes fascinating reading. It is amusing to note how often these fifty fighters actually fought each other.

Perhaps my favorite card of the set is of Jack Johnson. Shown in proud fighter pose, shaven headed and stripped down for business in a manner Mike Tyson can only try to emulate. The description on the back is as follows:

Jack Johnson, beat that.

He was the first of a long line of Black World Champions in the Heavyweight division. Indeed any white opponent for the title was called 'The Great White Hope' during this period, the first time the phrase was used.

Now that is a fighter, the description brings the man back to life. Police stopping the fight. 26 rounds of boxing. 8 years after retirement a failed comeback. Well somethings do not change at least

This is a typical description on the backs of the cards and is a great part of the fascination of card collecting and enjoyment.

Boxing is one of those sports you either love or hate. I watched Bugner being beaten by Bruno and I loved boxing. However when I watched Tyson beat Bruno I hated boxing.

Despite the medical profession demanding the banning of boxing it seems unlikely in the near future.

Details from Card
Described by many as the greatest boxer of all time. Jack Johnson was born at Galverston, Texas on March 31st, 1878, and held the world's heavy-weight championship from 1908 to 1915. On December 26th, 1908, Johnson defeated Tommy Burns, the Candian in Sydney, N.S.W., the police stopping the fight in the 14th round to save Burns further punishment. Johnson defended his title against James J Jeffries at Reno in 1910, knocking out his opponent in 15 rounds, but on April 5th, 1915, Jess Willard knocked out Johnson in 26 rounds in Havana, Cuba. Johnson retired in 1920, and failed in an attempted come-back in 1928, when he was knocked out by Jim Wright.

It all started as a sport in the 18th century when it was bare-knuckle fighting of unlimited time periods which ended in one of the fighters being unable to continue. This all came to an end in 1899 with the last bare-knuckle championship. Although if you have ever gone into the beer tent in Ardingly there are some hopefuls there after a days antique trading.

Something seems to have gone out of the boxing game in the last few years, or at least a lot of money has come in. Turn the clock back and you find fighters meeting each other again and again as they fight for the one world championship. Now there are so many championships it seems at times anyone who wants one can have one. Even Brits have a couple of Heavyweight champions of the World floating about.

There is something about the human condition which always demands we forever compare. At the height of his fighting abilities it was always asked 'Is Tyson as good as Ali?' It is difficult to ever answer such questions. A the height of Ali's fame people wondered if he was as good as Joe Louis or Jack Dempsey (The Manassa Mauler if you will)

Boxing Personalities notes that Dempsey was reputed to have the heaviest punch in heavyweight history.

Rather like Ali, Dempsey had decided that he would do his fighting inside the ring and not out of it. Failing to enlist in World War One did not endear him to the fight fans, although he did play a role in World War Two.

Dempsey was to win the World Championship in 1919 by beating the popular Jess Willard. Willard was a naval veteran which made the experience for the paying public that much more unpalatable.

In the early twenties Georges Carpentier (#8) was something of a darling of the boxing fraternity. He was a good looking French war hero with superior speed to Dempsey.

Many thought this superior speed would be the undoing of Dempsey but it was not to be and Dempsey won with some ease.

The French man's good looks were to get him a number of film roles in the silent movies, indeed he gets his face on cigarette cards in the 1923 set Cinema Stars produced by Ringers. Apt manufacturer that one.

Georgeous Georges was to take another beating from Tunney a little later in 1924

In 1927 one of the most contentious moments in boxing occurred, now known as the 'bout of the long count' it was between Jack Dempsey (#12) and Gene Tunney (#35). Tunney taking the title from Dempsey despite having been knocked down at one stage of the fight and would have been counted out if all had been fair. It was not just an extension of the count either, it was more like twenty seconds rather than ten.

That was the secod time they had met. In 1926 Dempsey had lost his title to Tunney, in a classic of slugger vs boxer battle. It was also the higest grossing match to date at nearly $2 million dollars.

Dempsey had won the title in bizarre circumstance over Jess Willard when Dempsey believing himself to have knocked Willard out in the first round had left the ring victorious before being called back due to the fact the bell had saved Willard being counted out. 70,000 watched the open air spectacle as Willard hardly threw a punch for three rounds. Nose and cheek fractured, ribs broken and half a dozen teeth out Willard failed to get off his stool for the fourth round, having been knocked down 7 times in the first round.

As is often the case the new champion, Tunney was not considered the 'right stuff' for some time and had to prove himself a worthy champion.

Tunney beat the odds, in another manner. He retired undefeated in 1928 and became a successful businessman.