October 14, 2016
October 14, 2016
jack britton

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JACK BRITTON was a masterful, stand-up boxer who paced himself carefully and was able to campaign for 25 years before ending his career in 1930 at the age of 44. Billed as “The Boxing Marvel”, Britton is well known for his amazing series of 20 bouts with Britain’s Ted “Kid” Lewis, exchanging the world welterweight title along the way. Most of these matches were officially No Decision bouts but in 1915, in their second meeting, Lewis won the 12-round decision to win the world welterweight title. There was bad blood between the rivals as they exchanged threats and refused the customary handshake before the bout.

For the next six years the two men monopolised the championship. The title passed to Britton in 1916 when he won a 20-round decision in New Orleans. Lewis regained it in 1917 but two years later Britton scored the only inside the distance win between the rivals when he knocked out Lewis in the ninth round to regain the title once more. Lewis later claimed he had climbed out of his sick bed to fight believing that the light-punching Britton would not be able to stop him.

Their final bout ended in a 15-round points win for Britton in 1921. Overall, Britton won the series by four bouts to three with one draw and 12 No Decisions. They were amazing times. In 1917 Britton and Lewis fought four times in a row in a five week period while a year later, between May 2, 1918 and June 25, Britton fought seven times which included two of his fights with Lewis and his first against lightweight legend Benny Leonard.

Read: The 10 greatest welterweights of all time

Britton was born William James Breslin in Clinton, New York in 1885 of Irish parentage and started his career in the small boxing clubs of Milwaukee and Chicago. He fought a classic three-fight series with the great Packey McFarland. The first was a draw but two ended in No Decisions. Ringsiders were treated to displays of great ring artistry seldom seen by the two fighters. Britton met another master boxer, Benny Leonard, in June 1922 and was clearly winning the fight after 12 rounds according to the gathered ringside writers.

In the 13th round Jack went down on one knee from a borderline body punch. The normally cool Leonard stepped in and cracked him with a left hook as he kneeled on the canvas and was promptly disqualified. Britton’s luck ran out in his next defence when he was floored three times and outpointed by Mickey Walker. Britton was 37, Walker a mere 21, 16 years his junior.

Jack continued to fight until 1930, when he finally retired after losing to one Rudy Marshall. He died in Miami, Florida in 1962 at the age of 76.

‘Fifty grand’

  • Britton failed to go the distance only once in 344 bouts, when knocked out by Steve Kinney in his third fight.
  • Ernest Hemingway’s short story Fifty Grand is based on the Jack Britton-Mickey Walker fight in Madison Square Garden on November 1, 1922. While Hemingway, a great boxing fan, did not attend the fight but he is believed to have gleaned his ideas from the ringside reports of the day.
  • Britton lost all his ring earnings in failed Florida land investments. He became a boxing instructor and mentor to young athletes in New York City after he retired and eventually ran a drugstore with his wife in Miami.

Fast facts

Born October 14, 1885 in Clinton, New York Died March 27, 1962 Wins 104 Knockouts 28 Losses 27 Draws 21 No Decisions 190 No Contests 2 Best win Ted “Kid” Lewis w ko 9 Worst loss Mickey Waker l pts 15 Pros Master boxer, toughness, knew plenty of tricks Cons Did not hit hard