Beau Jack: The Garden’s Favorite

By Norman Marcus on July 9, 2012
Beau Jack: The Garden’s Favorite
He was ferocious, punched nonstop, and used his strength to become a real brawler.

“Don’t give a man a chance to do nothing. Just rip him all the time you’re in there and you’ll come out all right…”

“I’ve been to the top of the mountain. I was champion of the world. I’ve worked hard all my life, and I’m happy doing what I’m doing.”—Beau Jack

Beau started out his life as a bootblack in Augusta, Georgia. He never thought of being a fighter but he was kind of pushed into it. It was the usual story. One day when he was a kid a group of bullies surrounded him and demanded his shoeshine box and polish. He got scared and ran home to his grandmother, Evie Mixom. Grandma was as tough as nails and told him never to back down or run away. The following week it happened again but this time he attacked the gang leader and bloodied his face. Now it was the other boys who ran away. His reputation in the town was now made and he had no more trouble on the street. As a matter of fact, he rather enjoyed the rush he felt while watching the bullies flee!

Beau Jack was a nickname given to him by his tough old granny. He was born with the name Sidney Walker on April 1, 1921. He grew into a tough kid and with no formal training knew how to handle himself. It happens that way sometimes, half the secret of winning a fight is having no fear, the other half is knowing what to do.

As a young man he got involved in an illegal sport called the “Battle Royal.” Beau was a big winner in this bloody sport. It was a hold over from the days of slavery in Georgia. Plantation owners would gather their biggest, strongest male slaves. They would blindfold them and put half a dozen together in a boxing ring. These now sightless men would have to fight each other, until only one man from the group was left standing. Bets by owners would of course be made on the various fighters. The winning slave himself received nothing. After the Civil War, the now illegal sport continued in secret for another century, similar to dog fighting today. The only difference was that now, the winning fighter would get fifty or a hundred dollars for his effort.

Beau finally fought a Battle Royal at the Augusta National Golf Club. From that, he was able to secure a job as a caddy for some of the rich white men who had paid to see this seedy kind of fight. Beau finally got up the nerve to ask the legendary golfer Bobby Jones if he would take him up North, where he could learn to be a professional boxer. Jones listened to his story and arranged for him to go up to Springfield, Massachusetts. He wound up at the Long Meadow Country Club where he trained hard everyday. He got a trainer named Sid Behr, who showed him the finer points of boxing. He was tough with Beau, he’d say “You bum, you’re nothing, you’ll never be nothing. Don’t give a man a chance to do nothing. Just rip him all the time you’re in there and you’ll come out all right.”

Beau listened to his trainer. He developed a swarming style with a high volume of punches. He was ferocious and punched nonstop. He used his great upper body strength to become a real brawler in the ring. Henry Armstrong was Beau’s hero and he fought a lot like him. They called Armstrong “The Human Windmill” because he threw so many punches. Beau tried to emulate Armstrong’s fighting style. He did so well that he eventually met and beat Henry on April 2, 1943, at Madison Square Garden. Beau won the UD that night against his idol. Henry had told him, “Beau, our friendship ceases when we go into the ring. We’re friends on the outside but when we go in the ring we’re no more friends.” Armstrong didn’t have to tell Beau Jack twice.

Beau used to say, “I tell all the young fellows if they want to be a fighter, make sure you’re in good shape. The number one thing is eating and running. Eat the right foods and get the right rest and nobody is going to beat you, not easy.” Most importantly is the trainer. “Listen to him, pay attention to him…” That is how Beau fought all his fights.

He turned pro in 1940 and won some fights in Massachusetts, but the money was always in New York. So he hooked up with a manager named Chick Wergeles. Chick brought him to New York to hopefully get him on the fast track to fame and fortune. That’s when his career began heating up. Beau was in his prime and went on a real tear. He ran up fifteen straight wins, beating the likes of Fritzie Zivic twice, once on February 5, 1943 and a month later on March 5, as well as his hero Henry Armstrong on April 2. All three fights were at Madison Square Garden in New York. Beau Jack was now an attraction.

Beau fought Allie Stoltz on November 13, 1942. The winner of this bout was to get a shot at New York’s version of the lightweight title. Stoltz was a 3 to 1 favorite in the Garden that night but Beau knocked him down in the seventh round for the KO. Jack was now primed to fight for the vacant NYSAC World Title against Tippy Larkin. The fight took place again at Madison Square Garden on December 18, 1942. He had little trouble with Larkin that night, knocking him down in the first and third rounds. Larkin had to be carried back to his corner at the round. It was a TKO victory for Beau Jack. He finally had a championship belt.

Beau Jack fought many of his fights at Madison Square Garden. As a matter of fact he fought there twenty-one times, still a standing record for appearances at the Garden by any boxer. Beau was aggressive and fearless. He was always a huge favorite with the crowds in New York. He was good for the gate and that was what Madison Square Garden was interested in. They also got some radio and fight film money that was just “icing on the cake” in those days.

Beau only held onto this NYSAC World Lightweight title for six months. He lost it to Bob Montgomery in a UD at Madison Square Garden on May 21, 1943. The referee was our old friend Arthur Donovan. Six months later in a rematch with Bob, Jack won the title back again in a 10-round UD at the Garden. On March 3, 1944, Beau lost the title back to Montgomery yet again, this time in a SD.

On August 4, 1944, Jack faced Bob Montgomery one last time in a non-title match known as “The War Bonds Fight.” WWII was still raging and their meeting was to raise money for war bonds. Neither fighter got any money for this bout. They both donated their purses to Army-Navy Relief. These two boxers always put on a great show. That is the obvious reason that they had fought each other four times. The crowds loved these meetings. Now this fourth and final bout was a sell out in New York, raising over $36 million for the war effort. It went 10 rounds and Jack got the MD that night.

Beau Jack was named “The Ring Magazine Fighter of the Year” for 1944.

Beau only fought once in 1945, against Willie Joyce who he beat by unanimous decision. The next year he fought Johnny Greco twice, to a draw on February 8, 1946 and a UD on May 3 that same year. He also beat Sammy Angott by TKO in the seventh round of their meeting at Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C. In 1947 Beau lost to Tony Janiro by TKO4 in New York City. In this fight Jack had reinjured his kneecap when Tony knocked him down with a left hook to the head in round four. Janiro at twenty was a 2 to 1 underdog in the fight. It was the first time Beau had ever been stopped in his pro career. On May 24, 1948 Beau returned the favor when he met Janiro again, this time at Griffith Stadium, D.C. in a heavy rainstorm and won a UD in front of a few hundred rain soaked people.

That year he also fought Ike Williams, who The Ring later named one of the “100 greatest punchers of all time.” It would be Beau’s last shot at the lightweight title and the first of four fights between the two men. This bout took place in Philadelphia’s Shibe Park on July 12, 1948. It ended with Jack being TKO’d in the sixth round. In his three other fights with Williams, Beau lost a SD, had a draw, and suffered a ninth round TKO, in what would be his final fight,  when the referee wouldn’t let him continue.

Beau Jack retired from the ring and kept busy with the usual business ventures that ex-boxers drift into. He ran a drive-in Bar-B-Q stand, managed a small farm, refereed wrestling and boxing matches, signed memorabilia, and was a boxing trainer. But he was not that good at any of them. He soon ran out of money, having spent it rashly. What he hadn’t thrown away was stolen by “hangers on” in his entourage.

Sadly he went back to what he knew best—being a bootblack, this time at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach, Florida. There you could find him fourteen hours a day, working his old trade. He was a “happy go lucky” figure and people there liked him. One of his regular customers was singer extraordinaire and rabid fight fan Frank Sinatra. It didn’t hurt business that you could get your shoes shined by a two-time lightweight champion of the world.

Beau had always been an aggressive fighter and he took a lot of headshots over the years. He suffered from “Pugilistic Parkinson’s Syndrome.” It’s the same disease that Joe Louis, Muhammad Ali, and trainer Freddie Roach were diagnosed with. In our politically correct world, PPS is the term for this disease. To an old head like me, we just called these guys “punchy.” Seems to make more sense, since it was too many punches to the head that made them that way. I think we play too many word games today. No one is blind, deaf or crippled anymore. They all seem to be “challenged” in some way.

Back in the day, when you went down to get your shoes shined at the Fontainebleau Hotel, you often were asked, somewhat too insistently, to buy a silk necktie too. Not from Beau, but from another victim of the sweet science, Harris Krakow, aka Kingfish Levinsky! He was a top contender in the 1930s that wound up on the skids on South Beach. He had fought some of the great heavyweights of that decade—Louis, Baer and Loughran—and he also suffered from “Pugilistic Parkinson’s Syndrome.” He used to hang out at the 5th Street Gym with a battered suitcase full of expensive neckties. Since Levinsky was 6’3’’ tall and made a strong pitch to his customers, very, very strong, he had little trouble selling his ties for forty or fifty dollars each! Hundreds of tourists and fight fans came to meet these famous characters. They could get a shine from Beau Jack and a new tie from Kingfish Levinsky. In the politically incorrect ‘60s, it didn’t get any better than that!

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IKE WILLIAMS VS. BEAU JACK - JULY 12th 1948 (Old Time Radio)

Ike Williams vs Beau Jack Rare version II TKO

Ike Williams Beau Jack LEGENDS almost a death fight TKO

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  1. bikermike 03:07am, 05/14/2014

    thresher…...geez buddy….are you the guy his has nine inches of throbbing gristle ....with a knob on the end like a moose heart ???~?  lol

  2. bikermike 03:03am, 05/14/2014

    Norman Marcus is another reason why is so popular.
    Great read…..thank you

  3. beau jack 11:47am, 05/04/2014

    Beau Jack, my favorite action fighter of alltime. I saw Beau Jack in action
    many ,many times at the old MSG and at St Nicks Arena. Saw him against Armstrong, Montgomery, Stolz, Tippy Larkin, Greco, and many other top
    fighters from that “golden age”, but the one fight I will never forget was
    in Philly in 1948 when the fading Beau Jack was almost killed by the
    murderous punching Ike Williams, reigning powerful punches on the
    helpless Beau , who was trapped against the ropes, while the crowd
    screamed at the referee to halt the slaughter, which he belatedly did, avoiding the tragic fate of Benny Paret….Beau sold out MSG SEVEN time
    in one year, because of his non stop barrage of hooks, crosses, uppercuts, bolo punches…At his best he would overwhelm Mayweather
    for certain…

  4. Barry Deskins 12:26am, 01/27/2014

    Beau Jack got his start fighting on undercards at Paris Island in Aiken, South Carolina.  He had several bouts in Aiken in 1939 and 1940.  He was known then as “Bo Jack” and “Bo Jack Walker!” Ring magazine started spelling his name Beau Jack, but he was already a pretty solid prelim fighter by the time he made his way to Holyoke with 10+ pro bouts at Aiken.  It’s funny how some of the old scribes felt they needed to make up stories when the real stories are so much better…especially in cases like Jack!  Though thoughtful it is a prime example of how inaccurate writing from the past has made it way to somehow be called “fact.”  A friend and boxing writer is tackling Beau Jack and will be writing a book about him, which should be great!

  5. robert"beaujack"brown 12:03am, 10/22/2012

    Got my nickname from my dad 1945,the year i was born.My dad love this
    fighter,always for the underdog,since my dad was born in 1902 he knew
    what hardtimes were had alot of respect for a man who work hard and
    wanted to do the right thing.everyone had a nickname when i grew up
    and when i was asked about mine sometime i had to do what i had to do,Defend what my Daddy gave! Kind of like a boy name “sue” if you get my drift.Glad you remembered the Great Ones not my folks know about
    P.S.I didn"t win as many as Mr.Beaujack!

  6. Rand McClain 05:06pm, 09/05/2012

    I used to train with Beau. Fished and played cards with him, too. Eddie Easton and I would buy him breakfast in the morning and he ate it while we warmed up at the Fifth Street Gym across the street. I am a doctor now and I am certain he did not suffer from Parkinson’s disease. He did not speak well because he was missing many of his teeth, but he was not punch drunk and had no tremors, “pill-rolling”, etc. After I left Miami, he was admitted for surgery for what they believed were gallstones, but turned out to be non-existent. It was likely gastroparesis giving him trouble secondary to the diabetes with which he was finally diagnosed and presumably died as a result of complications therefrom.

  7. johnny 01:16pm, 07/16/2012

    Great to see someone writing about the great Beau Jack.

    What a man, what a career !

    One thing, you say, ‘‘Sadly…he returned…to be a bootblack at the Founainbleu Hotel..’‘

    Nothing sad about it. Jack loved the job , no reason to pity the man.

    Also, thanks for posting the Williams fights. I met Ike as a kid, he’s from my home town. Great stuff !

  8. Gordon Marino 11:00am, 07/13/2012

    You are slinging words like Beau Jack slings punches. Wonderful piece. I’ve heard so much about Beau Jack but never something as informative as this!

  9. beau jack 08:06pm, 07/11/2012

    Ah the mention of the name Beau Jack evokes great memory’s to me…My first main event bout my dad took me to was Beau Jack against Tough Terry Young at St. Nicholas Arena, N.Y. After watching the young Beau Jack I became hooked on him and after that saw Beau Jack, against Henry Armstrong, Bob Montgomery, Al Bummy Davis, and other top lightrweights of the 1940s… Beau Jack sold out MSG SEVEN times in one year, so exciting was he…He threw volleys of bolo punches, uppercuts, hooks, crosses, in rapid succession for the full 15 rounds if necessary…The most exciting fighter I ever saw…The last time i saw Beau was in 1948 in Philly when the past peak Beau Jack took a terrible beating from the great Ike Williams, until the ref stopped the slaughter in the 6th round…I, a youngster, screamed for the ref to stop the bout earlier as Beau was helpless against the ropes…Too, too bad there is no film of the prime Beau Jack for today’s fans to see…A treat to watch was Beau Jack…

  10. the thresher 05:53pm, 07/10/2012

    Zena, I’m no wimp! I have lost 53 pounds, can dead lift 200 pounds +, and can make love 24 straight hours. But I am 75…....

  11. Zena Warrior Princess 12:26pm, 07/10/2012

    Mr. Marcus: I have been reading some of your old stories. All these boxers you write about are so interesting and brave.
    My boyfriends are all wimps! What has happened to you guys?

  12. McGrain 01:25pm, 07/09/2012


  13. the thresher 12:35pm, 07/09/2012

    Solid piece of writing. No other site presents these trips back into history. Thanks. This is how younger writers can really learn about how it was.

  14. Norm Marcus 06:14am, 07/09/2012

    Mike: I sure know that—Beau Jack was amazing. No macrobiotic diets for him. Just keep bearing in and throw punches. Have you read about the fancy diet Amir Khan is on for Garcia on Saturday? I would have loved to see Beau in a ring against Khan. It would have been murder by the bootblack!

  15. mikecasey 05:19am, 07/09/2012

    Now this guy could fight, Norm!

  16. JimmyD 05:03am, 07/09/2012

    Great article Mr. Marcus. Thanks for remembering a lesser known fighter with a colorful life story. The illegal fighting down south was very interesting. Excellent read.

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