PUNCH-UPS between motorists are not a modern phenomenon. They’ve been breaking out since, well, pretty much ever since mechanised vehicles took to the highways in large numbers.
The problem with getting embroiled in a spot of fisticuffs with another driver is that the opponent tends to be an unknown quantity. Appearances may be misleading. Size, for example, can be a deceptive indicator of fighting prowess.
One lumbering bully painfully discovered this to his cost way back in the 1920s when he let his hands go in the direction of a much smaller man following a crash in the US state of New Jersey.
His intended victim, as chance would have it, turned out to be more than a bit tasty with his fists. Despite being substantially shorter and outweighed by more than 50lbs he transformed the big oaf into something akin to a human yo-yo, administering a clinical roadside beatdown before knocking him out.
Later, upon regaining consciousness, the larger man discovered who he had messed with when the formidable mystery slugger produced his driving licence. It bore the name Edward Walker, but he was more commonly known as Mickey.
Yes, he was THAT Mickey Walker – the “Toy Bulldog” himself, the 5ft 7ins reigning World Welterweight Champion who would later add the middleweight crown to his palmarès and even tangle with heavyweights in a storied ring career which earned him a place among history’s pound for pound legends.
According to the Asbury Park Press newspaper, which claimed to have spoken to an eyewitness, the impromptu battle occurred on the afternoon of July 22 1925 when Walker’s car collided with a truck at the northern end of the Perth Amboy bridge across the Raritan River.
Under a headline of ‘Mickey Walker Is David In Shore Bout With Truck Driver Goliath’, the paper, relishing a tale of come-uppance, regaled readers with details of the ensuing fracas.
“Both drivers leaped from the cars,” the paper reported. “Mickey’s was a brand new machine and he was anxious to learn the damage. The truck driver, a big hulking brute of over six feet and easily a match for Jack Dempsey, the non-fighting heavyweight, approached Walker and proceeded to ‘bawl’ him out and demand why he had run into the truck.
“Walker, who is a retiring and unassuming lad, to be never taken for a ‘pug’, remarked quietly that he had not run into the truck and that it had been the truckman’s fault. The truck driver, however, was inclined to argue and words followed, apparently because he had more than 50 pounds in weight and nearly a foot in height over Mickey.
“The truck driver finally uttered an oath and made a swing at Mickey. The Kilkenny cat, ever ready for combat but never searching for it, dodged the blow and, like little David, the giant killer, let his larger opponent have one on the chin.
“The big fellow flopped to the ground, stunned momentarily. He rose, only to be met with a right cross to the jaw before he could start swinging his beefy arms. Again he went down.
“He rose … and plunging wildly at his quarry, received a third wallop on the jaw. This time Mickey put all he had behind the blow, and the big boy went down and stayed down. It was several minutes before he was able to rise.”
As the dust settled two passing police officers were said to have rushed over, lifted the semi-conscious man to his feet and, when he fully came to, castigated him for “picking on a little fellow”. They also demanded to see the pair’s driving licences.
The paper continued: “The big fellow exhibited his and Walker slowly pulled his card from his pocket… the shock nearly caused the truck driver to pass out again.
“Are you really Mickey Walker?” he asked, and when Mickey nodded he said, “I want to shake hands with you. I never thought I would ever have a fight with you, the champ.”
Other newspapers picked up the story in the following days, albeit with some variation in the details.
The New York Daily News, for example, branded the set-to ‘A tilt of fists with a comedy twist’ and said it involved a “burly but unwise” bus driver, rather than a trucker. It identified the aggressor as a man known locally as “Bruiser Bill” and reported how he “undertook to discipline a nattily dressed youth” after “the latter’s carmine-hued sport roadster had locked wheels with the bus in a traffic pinch”.
The Los Angeles Times titled its coverage, ‘Walker Scores Knockout – Mickey Lands on Jaw of Bus Driver Who Collides With His Roadster’. It said violence flared after “a heavily laden bus and a highly tinted sport roadster came together” on the main street of the Keyport shore resort, east of the bridge.
“Both drivers lost no time in getting out of their machines,” said the report. “The bus driver, a husky of more than 200 pounds, with a local reputation as a fighter, without any words, shot a right to the jaw of the roadster’s owner.
“Then something happened but the bus driver is not sure just what. He remembers getting up on his feet on four occasions. A crowd had gathered by this time and through the kidding of bystanders the bus driver feebly asked his antagonist ‘Where’s your licence?’ ‘Here it is,’ said the other, and through a haze the bus driver read ‘Edward Walker, Rumson, NJ.’
‘Gee, I didn’t know you, Mickey,’ whispered the bus driver and as the welterweight champion helped in making the other look presentable, the latter said to the onlookers ‘Well, that was pretty good anyway. I stayed three minutes with the champion.’”
Walker doesn’t appear to have commented publicly on the incident, which occurred just a few weeks after he famously swapped blows with a more worthy adversary, the great Harry Greb, losing via a 15-round unanimous decision at the Polo Grounds in New York.
It wouldn’t be the last time he made headlines because of a newsworthy motoring mishap.
In 1929, to give just one example, he posed for press photos next to a mangled car and with his mother treating his minor facial wounds after he was injured while travelling in a vehicle driven by his brother Joe which ploughed into a grocery store window in Red Bank, New Jersey.
But that’s another story…