Battling, Fighting, Young, Lefty, Gunboat, Kid, Cyclone…

Why don’t modern fighters’ names have the same kind of panache of yesteryear?

I spend a lot of time looking at the records of old time fighters, reading about their exploits, and writing about them.  I’m also a fan of modern fighters, and I recognize that in terms of athleticism and effort, they’re absolutely the equals of their counterparts from times past.  I realize, too, that their personal stories are just as compelling.

But their nicknames…oh, the nicknames are not good.

Back in the day, a guy could hardly fight without a great nickname.  In the days before television, when a guy’s name and reputation were all he could sell, he had to have a great name.  And some great ones there were.

  • Redtop Davis’s real name was Teddy Davis, but he also fought under the name Murray Sugar Cane.
  • Paddy DeMarco went by the name Billygoat.  What did it mean?  I don’t know, but it’s distinctive.
  • Jackie Graves, of Austin, Minnesota, was a featherweight who went by the name The Austin Atom.
  • Jack Dempsey, one of the all-time greats, had an all-time great handle, too: The Manassa Mauler.
  • Edward J. Smyth of Philadelphia, a busy heavyweight from 1909 to 1921, was one of dozens to use the moniker Gunboat – Gunboat Smith.  In June of 1909 Smyth fought Sailor Matt Turner and Soldier Kearns in Seattle.
  • When Ed Wright of Omaha fought Daniel Francis Flynn of Boston in July of 1923, the fight was billed as Bearcat Wright versus Porky Dan Flynn.

Now, is it my imagination, or do today’s fighters have less interesting aliases?


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