Wednesday, December 22, 2010

George Dixon vs Chester Leon 1906

Biograph Film Company

The Fight
One of the few 19th century boxing champions caught on film, Afro-Canadian George Dixon (1870-1908) was the first black world boxing champion in any weight class, while also being the first ever Canadian-born boxing champion. This is the only surviving footage of Dixon in action, and captures him at the end of his career.

The Movie
This genuine three round fight between Dixon and journeyman Chester Leon was staged by The Biograph film Company. Unlike other staged fight films of the period, the battle appears legit, though the knockdown is not convincing. As fight films became popular at the turn of the century, it was common for boxers, even in genuine fights, to fake knockdowns to boost the film’s appeal. The most famous of these was Jack Johnson’s drop to the canvas as he ducked under Stanley Ketchel’s telegraphed haymaker.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Marciano vs Moore – “Challenger and Champ Tune Up" 1955

16mm Sound, 8 Minutes

The Fight
Archie Moore’s ego was as great as his boxing skills. Moore, who had campaigned for years, finally won the light heavyweight championship in 1952 at age 39. He then set his sights on Rocky Marciano’s heavyweight crown, insisting he could easily outbox the undefeated champion. Moore gave his best in their exciting bout of September 1955, but Moore took a beating from Marciano and was knocked out in the 9th round.

The Movie
This buildup film shows Marciano and Moore in training for their fight, along with interviews. The presentation is typical of the day, low key as compared to today’s media hypes. And, it’s refreshing to see the calm confidence of both fighters.

The Video
This is an excellent 16mm print. I did some minor restoration to enhance the audio, but otherwise the film is well preserved.

It’s “24/7” circa 1955. Rocky Marciano and Archie Moore contrast their training and personalities in this buildup film.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Rocky Marciano -vs- Harry Mathews 1952

16mm Sound, 11 Minutes

The Fight
In July 1952, two months before Rocky Marciano knocked out Jersey Joe Walcott for the heavyweight boxing championship, Marciano fought a leading contender, Harry Mathews. Mathews was experienced, youthful, fast and boxed Marciano well for nearly two rounds. Suddenly, late in the second, Rocky caught Mathews with two crushing left hooks and Mathews fell to the canvas, hitting his head on a ring strand. The fight was over.

The Movie
Compared to other modern heavyweight champions, only a limited number of Marciano’s fights were filmed – including all his title fights, though just a handful of title contender bouts. All were broadcast at one time or another, and tapes have been circulated among collectors, and uploaded on YouTube. However, the Marciano-Mathews film is among the lesser shown fights, and most copies I’ve seen are poor quality.

The Video
I’m pleased to show this very clean 16mm sound print of the fight from my collection. Not only is the fight complete, but the film includes promotional pre-fight footage of a young Marciano in his training camp.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Gene Tunney -vs- Jack Dempsey 1927 (Rare Long Count film)

Distributor Unknown, circa 1930, 16mm silent 100’

The Fight
The second Tunney-Dempsey fight remains one of the most famous and debated bouts in boxing history. After being outclassed and losing the heavyweight title to Tunney a year earlier, Jack Dempsey faired only slightly better in the return match, but the moment of truth came in the seventh round. In that round, “The Long Count”, as it’s called is an amazing piece of boxing theater, and the drama unfolds like a dream sequence. Dempsey catches Tunney with a combination of punches that sends the champion to the canvas. The referee delays the count for several seconds while directing Dempsey to a neutral corner. Tunney takes the extra time to recover during this Long Count and went on to win the fight.

The Film
The fight was a huge sporting event, and was captured gloriously on film by numerous cameras for theatrical release. Over the decades that followed, 8mm and 16mm editions of the fight were sold for home viewing. I first saw this film around 1970 when I borrowed the film from the local library. Since then I have collected numerous editions of the fight. Many differ in their edits, the rounds shown, and some contain footage that does not appear on the official 30 minute theatrical release. However, in almost all versions of the Long Count, the knockdown and count are shown in slow motion - Except this one.

The Video
Last year I discovered yet another version of the fight. On this rare highlight edition, the Long Count sequence appears in real time – not in slow motion as it’s usually shown. What’s amazing is how fast the entire sequence transpires. Dempsey’s attack is ferocious and Tunney is overwhelmed in a flash. But once Tunney is on the canvas, Dempsey pauses for only a moment before referee Dave Barry directs him away. The film cuts to titles as Barry begins his count, which is unfortunate, as we don’t witness Tunney’s recovery on the canvas. But what we do see is telling. The Long Count wasn’t all that long. Dempsey seemed more anxious than defiant, and the referee may simply have been too confused to locate the time keeper for the actual count. Whatever the result would have been, Barry’s (some say deliberate) delay of the count altered the course of the fight.

This film is a great find and I’m happy to share it with you. The footage is in great condition, with few scratches, and the picture is the clearest and sharpest I’ve seen of the fight.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Lost Rocky Marciano TV Tribute w/Kirk Douglas

16mm Sound, Color

The Fight (Excerpt)
Rocky Marciano knocked out Jersey Joe Walcott in 13 rounds to with the heavyweight championship in September 1952.

The Movie
A rare TV tribute to Rocky Marciano’s career as narrated by Marciano and hosted by leading Hollywood personalities.

The Video
In this segment, actor and host Kirk Douglas introduces Marciano’s first title fight with Joe Walcott. Marciano adds his insights to the fight and praises Jersey Joe. Includes an interview with Rocky and his manager.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Max Baer -vs- Tony “Two Ton” Galento 1940

Castle Films, Fight Thrills II, 16mm Sound

The Fight
The Max Baer vs Tony Galento fight is a classic document of pre-war Americana. In 1940, Max Baer and Tony Galento, the two most colorful boxers of their day, met for a title elimination showdown in Jersey City. It was a titanic slugfest. The fight began even before the opening bell as Galento threatened Baer during the referee’s instructions. The two went right to work in the first round, with Galento on the attack. By round 5, Baer is in full showbiz mode - fighting in flurries, while clowning and then trash talking Galento. After 7 rounds of bruising action, Baer is victorious when Galento cannot answer the bell for round 8. This was Max Baer's last victory.

The Movie
The film is noteworthy for several reasons. The fight was among the best filmed fights of the day. It was also among the first fight films produced as the interstate traffic of boxing films was lifted. For the first time since 1910, boxing films could be distributed across state lines and shown across the country. As a result, fight films became feature film productions, rather than simply newsreels.

The Video
This highlight of the Baer-Galento fight is taken from the Castle Films Fight Thrills series, and is a very clean 16mm print.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Joe Louis -vs- Jersey Joe Walcott I 1947

RKO Pictures, 16mm Sound, 9 Minutes

The Fight
Jersey Joe Walcott’s two Heavyweight Championship title fights with champion Joe Louis signaled the end of an era. Joe Louis had reined supreme through the 1930s and 40s, but by 1947 his career was winding down. On December 5, 1947 Louis was challenged by Jersey Joe Walcott, an ex-sparring partner and fellow veteran heavyweight with a mixed record. Louis was the confident favorite, but Walcott was in top form. Jersey Joe’s power and craftsmanship surprised Louis, who was knocked down twice in the fight. Unable to cope with Walcott’s speed and counterpunching, Louis appeared to loose after 15 rounds, but sadly for Walcott, the sentimental judges awarded Louis a controversial split decision.

In a rematch the following year, Walcott was knocked out after leading on points for 11 rounds. However, Jersey Joe won the title in 1951 from Ezzard Charles, before loosing to Rocky Marciano in 1952. Walcott has yet to receive credit for the skills he brought to boxing. I can’t help but be reminded of Jersey Joe when watching contemporary fighters like James Toney or Roy Jones.

The Movie
Louis-Walcott I was captured brilliantly on film and shown in theatres around the world. Because of the disputed decision, and perhaps as an attempt to fit as much of the fight as possible into one reel, parts of almost every round are shown, but the flow of the fight is lost as the film jumps from one brief sequence to the next.

The Video
I first saw this film as a teenager in the 1970s. The father of a friend had an 8mm copy, but refused to sell it. Little did I know that Louis-Walcott I was one of the most widely distributed fight films for home viewing. Used copies are still readily available, but difficult to find in clean condition. The video I’m showing here is from a good 16mm print, which I recently obtained, that shows the complete film. You can see Louis attempt to leave the ring before the decision is announced, and Walcott receiving a consoling ovation from the crowd.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Primo Carnera vs Ernie Schaaf 1932

(1.) Official Films, circa 1940, 16mm silent 100’
(2.) Speed and Picture Restoration

The Fight
On February 10, 1933 at Madison Square Garden in New York, heavyweight boxer Ernie Schaaf fought 13 competitive rounds with contender Primo Carnera. Suddenly, after taking a straight left to the forehead, Schaaf collapsed and never recovered. He died two days later. It’s believed that Schaaf was critically ill when he entered the ring that night. He had been knocked out by Max Baer the year before in a savage fight, and appeared never to recover.

The tragedy played out before the cameras. Schaaf was knocked down by Primo in the 13th round. You can practically see the light going out of Schaaf’s eyes as he sinks to the canvas. Schaaf’s manager, Jack Sharkey (Then reigning heavyweight champion) drags Schaaf back to his corner. Unable to regain consciousness, Schaaf is carried like a fallen solder from the ring. Later the following year, Jack Sharkey went on to fight Carnera in a title match. Sharkey was knocked out in six rounds in what was suspected as a fake, and Carnera became champion. Many believe that Carnera’s mob connections pressured or paid Sharkey to thrown the fight. Sharkey had previously defeated Carnera in 1931.

The Movie
The fight was filmed, but the cameras ran at silent speed (16fps) to conserve film stock. This was common with most fight films made during the Depression and War years. As a result, when projected a standard speed, the action appears so fast it’s hard to view the action in detail. Carnera was a genuine athlete and very agile for a man of his size, which he used to great advantage over his smaller opponents. It’s also clear in the early rounds what a skilled fighter Schaaf was. He had great moves and despite his frustration getting on the inside with Carnera, he tagged Primo with counterpunches and overhands.

The Video
I own three 16mm film versions of this fight – Monarchs of The Ring, Official Film short, and an Extended Edition showing most of the fight with narration. This is the complete Official Films Short subject version. The print was in great condition, with no splices and the sharpest picture I’ve seen. The contrast is high, but there’s still plenty of detail. There are no major scratches and once cleaned, the film transferred with no trouble. In this clip, I’ve adjusted the film speed to show the fight at original time.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Paolino Uzcudun vs Harry Wills 1927

Official Films, circa 1940, 16mm silent 100’

The Fight
One of the last of the great African-American heavyweights of the early 20th century was Harry Wills. Wills was scheduled to fight Jack Dempsey for the heavyweight championship as early as 1922, but though Dempsey and his manager were willing (I have a film of the signing ceremony), the boxing promoters of the day prevented the fight from being held out of bigotry. Whatever the outcome would have been, Wills remained a serious contender until 1926 when he lost to Jack Sharkey in 13 rounds. In his next fight, Wills was matched with Spain’s Paolino Uzcudun, and Harry suffered a ferocious knockout.

The Film
The Uzcudun-Wills film has been circulating for years, most commonly issued as part of the Official Films Monarchs of The Ring Series on 8mm and 16mm dating back to the 1940s. I also have a slightly longer version of the film released on a boxing series called The GI Weekly for the U.S. Military.

The Video
Recently I acquired a more complete version of the film which I’m showing here. Also released by Official Films, but issued as a solo short subject which may predate the later MOTR versions. Little more of the actual fight is shown, but the post fight celebration is great footage. Uzcudun throws hats to the crowd and does gymnastic moves. Wills is also seen sitting, dejected and recovering is his corner. The print is in excellent condition with no scratches or wear. I did further restoration slowing the film speed to more accurate real time. Since the film was shot at 16fps or less, it still plays slightly jerky. A film of Wills vs Luis Firpo in 1924 would no doubt be a revelation.