1936: It Was a Very Good Year

By Clarence George on November 27, 2015
1936: It Was a Very Good Year
I never heard of any of Ostall's opponents (except for Irving Ashkenazy, aka Izzy Ashcan).

In 1936, according to The Ring, Schmeling’s kayo of “The Chocolate Cobra” made him top pretender to Braddock’s throne…

“Now, not only did I have to beat a man, but I had to beat him for a cause.”—Joe Louis

In 1936, the Heavyweight Champion of the World was James J. Braddock, who’d won the crown by beating Max Baer via unanimous decision at the Madison Square Garden Bowl in Long Island City, Queens, on June 13, 1935. The aptly monikered “Cinderella Man” lost his title to the great Joe Louis on June 22, 1937, “The Brown Bomber” knocking him out in the eighth at Chicago’s Comiskey Park.

An eventful year, 1936, what with Albert Fish and Bruno Richard Hauptmann each getting the chair, the former at Sing Sing, the latter at the New Jersey State Prison, while Rainey Bethea got himself hanged in Owensboro, Kentucky, in what turned out to be the last public execution in the United States. Overseas, Hitler defied the Treaty of Versailles by reoccupying the Rhineland, Mussolini annexed Ethiopia, and the Spanish Civil War began. Last but anything but least, Max Schmeling handed Joe Louis his first defeat after 24 straight victories, 20 by KO or TKO, knocking him out in the 12th at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx on June 19 in The Ring‘s Fight of the Year. “The African Armadillo” (as one sportswriter would have it) wouldn’t lose again until September 27, 1950, when Ezzard Charles beat him by unanimous decision at the same venue. The third and final defeat came in his last fight, stopped by Rocky Marciano via eighth-round TKO at Madison Square Garden on October 26, 1951.

All interconnected, of course. For instance, when “The Oscillating Ocelot” (my personal favorite) was slated to face Primo Carnera—“Mussolini’s muscle man,” as Jack Dempsey once described him to sportswriter Harry Grayson—at Yankee Stadium on June 25, 1935, tensions over water rights were growing between Italy and Abyssinia (Ethiopia). “The stories practically wrote themselves,” observes Randy Roberts in his biography of “The Harlem Hippopotamus.” And, indeed, wrote sportswriter Edward J. Neil, “Little Abyssinia and big Italy—war in the prize ring instead of Africa—is the lure of Yankee Stadium.” Of no importance, of course, that “The G-nawing Gnu” wasn’t Ethiopian and, writes Roberts, was thoroughly “mystified by questions that touched on Mussolini’s foreign policy, Haile Selassie’s predicament, or the fate of black Africa.” Nor was he alone in his ignorance and indifference. As one Harlem resident put it, “Personally, I never heard of Abyssinia until here lately, except for the Abyssinian Baptist Church over on 138th St.”

Regardless, a win for Ethiopia in the form of “The Ebony Elephant” crossing “The Ambling Alp” by sixth-round TKO.

But that was the year before. In 1936, according to The Ring, Schmeling’s kayo of “The Chocolate Cobra” made him top pretender to Braddock’s throne, closely followed by, yes, “The Panting Panther,” then Gunnar Barlund, Jack Trammell, Maxie Rosenbloom, Ray Impellittiere, Leroy Haynes, Sonny Boy Walker, Al Ettore, and Arturo Godoy.

What’s this, no mention of Jimmy Ostall?

Born sometime in 1915 in Montreal, Ostall fought out of Boston from February to July 1936. He had 11 fights, winning five, two by knockout, losing three, none by knockout, and drawing three. I never heard of him or any of his opponents (except for Irving Ashkenazy, aka Izzy Ashcan, who Ostall outpointed at Brooklyn’s Ridgewood Grove on March 7 on a card billed as “Jack Dempsey’s Heavyweight Boxing Tournament”), and have no idea what happened to him. Never mind forgotten, the guy’s totally unknown, and therefore worthy of mention. According to a minuscule biographical blurb, “While training at Stillman’s Gym in New York City favorably impressed experts whose judgment was that Ostall looked like the most promising of the many young heavyweights seen in that city in years.” Really? Well, the blurb also says that he won all his fights by knockout, so… My guess is that someone, probably manager Richard Tille, liked to have his vintage wine pour sweet and clear. And why not? After all, it was a very good year.

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Max Schmeling vs Joe Louis, I (All Rounds)

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  1. Clarence George 10:38am, 11/30/2015

    Tough as the docks at midnight, Mike.

  2. Mike Casey 08:12am, 11/30/2015

    Eddie Blunt was a very decent fighter, Clarence. As Peter says, it’s fascinating to look up these guys and their records - which include the records of their opponents at the time of the fight in question. You had to be a tough bastard in the 1930s!

  3. Clarence George 09:01pm, 11/29/2015

    Thanks, Peter, and I didn’t think of doing that.  Following your example, I see that the Jack Dempsey card also featured Eddie Blunt taking out Jose Moniz.  Never in my life have I heard of Moniz, but Blunt was no joke, despite a somewhat mixed record.  Great ring nickname, too—“The Dark Spoiler.”

  4. peter 07:03pm, 11/29/2015

    Jimmy Ostall? After reading a Clarence George article, I always find myself walking on a well-worn path leading me to Boxrec.com. This most recent path led me to Jimmy Ostall. Until Mr. George’s fine article, Ostall was a long forgotten heavyweight. Perhaps he still is, but it was interesting to discover some of the well-known fighters on the cards on which Ostall fought who are still remembered today: Jack Sharkey, Tommy Loughran, Ken Overlin, and Jersey Joe Walcott.

  5. Clarence George 03:35pm, 11/28/2015

    Thanks very much, Sean.  What strikes me the most is how inept they were.  I mean, an armadillo?  Really?  Gotta say, though, that I do indeed have a weakness for “The Oscillating Ocelot.”  Yeah, Fish was pretty much in a class by himself.  I once paid a visit to where Grace Budd lived, to pay my respects, but may have gone to the wrong address.  The Depression, yes, but what a grand year for boxing.

  6. Sean Matheny 02:47pm, 11/28/2015

    Very interesting article as usual, C.G. !  I love all the politically correct and racially sensitive names the sportswriters came up with then.  Also, for my money, Albert Fish was the most disgusting, disturbed and ghastly criminal in American history, which is saying a lot when you take into account the likes of H.H. Holmes, Ed Gein and Jeffrey Dahmer.  It was a good year, except for a little thing calledthe Great Depression!

  7. Eric 08:48am, 11/28/2015

    Wonder if Primo ever used any of the Charles Atlas “Dynamic Tension” courses? Charlie might not have pumped iron but you can bet he trained more than 15 minutes a day.

  8. Clarence George 04:45am, 11/28/2015

    Speaking of which, Mike, your “Welcome to Wonderland” remains an absolute favorite of mine.

  9. Mike Casey 04:30am, 11/28/2015

    Know how you feel. Sadly I gave up buying The Ring a few years back.The Weider/Atlas ads back in the day really made me laugh as a kid - not to mention those X-Ray specs that supposedly allowed you to see under women’s clothes. I never took the chance to buy a pair!

  10. Clarence George 03:51am, 11/28/2015

    Thanks, Mike, very glad you liked it.  While I don’t have that particular issue, I do have a few vintage ones myself, replete with the kind of ads you and I both like—e.g., for Joe Weider’s muscle-building course, “profusely illustrated with photos of the champs!”  Profusely?  A bit too “Hello, sailor” for my tastes, but OK.  Today’s version is a far cry.  I rather reluctantly renewed my subscription, but only for six months.  I haven’t been thrilled of late, and was royally pissed with Ronda Rousey on the cover of the most recent issue.  Good chance I won’t renew again.

  11. Mike Casey 01:56am, 11/28/2015

    Bravo, Clarence! Another very interesting story. Courtesy of my dear old dad, I have that issue of The Ring in my collection.

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