The undefeated Light- Heavyweight Champion before he stepped up in class.
This post from The O’Donnells of Philadelphia, Chapter 5, “A typical Year in the Life of the O’Donnells,” takes the reader back to a time when we listened to sports on the radio and used our imagination. It’s a time to be savored. The following scene takes place in the O’Donnell household.
Two Sundays later upon seeing Tommy Loughran at Mass, Da excitedly asked at the breakfast table, “Did you notice who received Holy Communion today? Tommy Loughran, Philadelphia’s best fighter, that’s who,” answering his own question before anyone else.
“Paddy, do you know why he is the best fighter?”
“Because he thinks, that’s why. He uses his head,” Da said. “When he broke his right hand, years ago, he taught himself how to use his left hand. Now he can lead with either one. Furthermore at the end of every round, he maneuvers the other fighter into his corner. That way, Tommy just sits down while the other fellow has to walk across the ring. Eight or nine rounds of walk can tire a fighter out. That’s how Tommy beat Tony Marullo last Monday night. The exhausted Marullo could hardly stand on his feet at the end of the fight. I know because some fellows who saw the fight told me,” Da said.
“He’s a model Catholic as well, did you see how proud he looked receiving Holy Communion? Whenever he intends to receive Holy Communion the next morning, Loughran refuses to take a drink of water following a fight. That’s a fact. He said so himself. Let that be a lesson on being a good Catholic.”
“Why does he go to our church?’ Paddy asked. “Does he live around here?”
“No, he owns in a big house in Chestnut Hill where the rich people live. When he comes to our church, he always receives Holy Communion from Father Smith. Do you know why? Because Father Smith’s the son of Tommy’s trainer, that’s why! I predict that some day, Tommy will be the heavyweight champion of the world.”
Da proved to be partially right in his prediction. In October, Tommy Loughran defeated Mike McTigue to win the light heavyweight championship. However, there were some who disputed his claim to the title. Shortly after being crowned champion, Loughran came home to Philadelphia to defend his title against Pat McCarthy, a fight that Da attended. “Loughran’s a true champion,” Da proclaimed when he got home that night. “He always led with a series of left jabs, then followed up with a combination of lefts and rights. McCarthy had no skin on his face by the end of the eighth round because he got hit that often.”
Da, along with the entire sporting world, eagerly awaited the return match between Dempsey and Tunney. The challenger, Jack Dempsey, planned to enter the ring in the best shape of his life after preparing for his opponent’s style by training with Philadelphia’s Tommy Loughran. Originally a Tunney supporter, Dempsey‘s association with Loughran gave Da second thoughts. He didn’t know who to root for, so he planned to settle in his easy chair and listen to the bout on the radio along with sixty million fight fans. “I intend to hear the fight Thursday night, and I don’t want to come home to a broken radio,” Da said, commanding his flock to take care of his prized possession.
Although disappointed that I would never be able to hear properly, Da diverted himself by following Tommy Loughran’s career. Successful in defending his Light Heavyweight title against Mickey Walker and Jim Braddock, Tommy faced a formidable opponent as he attempted to move up in class. Loughran believed that his sparring experience with Jack Dempsey prepared him for heavyweight opponents, but he soon learned otherwise. His first bout against Jack Sharkey ended in a knockout. Tommy was the one knocked out. He kept his heavier opponent off balance with left jabs; however, Sharkey hit Loughran with a solid right hand in the fourth round which stunned the Light Heavy Weight Champ. The referee declared Tommy out on his feet and awarded the bout to Sharkey.
“He’ll be back, just you wait,” Da proclaimed whenever anyone asked him about Loughran’s ability to fight the “big boys.”
Fighting once again became the dominant conversation in the O’Donnell household. This time it concerned a professional bout between Philadelphia’s Tommy Loughran and the Italian giant Primo Carnera. Da opposed the fight, not because of the size of the Italian, but because it was rumored that he had mob connections, and Da thought the fight might have been fixed.
Overheard at the Bar, by T.J.P. Barr, The Philadelphia Evening Bulletin
I shuddered as I sat at ringside and watched the Alpine Mountain Man lumber across the ring to touch gloves with the polished boxer, Philadelphia-born Tommy Loughran. “There is no possible way the 184-pound Irishman could get near the Italian’s chin,” I said to myself and to anyone near me who would listen. Loughran fought a valiant fight, but he couldn’t lay a glove on any vital part of the 6 foot 5 inch, 270-pound monstrosity.
To add to the insult, early in the fight Carnera stepped on Tommy’s foot and broke one of his toes, whether accidentally or on purpose, I will leave to the reader’s imagination.
Tommy plastered his hair with a foul smelling additive to prevent the Italian giant from leaning on him during the clinches. He pushed his head under Carnera’s nose every time the Italian tried to wrestle rather than fight. I salute you, Tommy, for lasting the full 15 rounds. I never thought you would make it past the first.
You learn something new every day.