Big Boy and the Bomber: Fightin’ Cousins

By Clarence George on November 28, 2014
Big Boy and the Bomber: Fightin’ Cousins
"Louis is not expected to toy with Brown, but put the giant away as soon as possible."

Maybe he wasn’t badder than old King Kong or meaner than a junkyard dog. But, however you define it, Big Boy Brown was bad…

“The baddest man in the whole damn town.”—Bad, Bad Leroy Brown, by Jim Croce

Perhaps not, but he may well have been cousin to the man who was: “The Brown Bomber” himself, Joe Louis.

Not Leroy, but Big Boy. Brown, that is, whose chest was even bigger than that of hard-hitting Turkey Thompson. “He always had a huge chest,” said boxing historian Herb Goldman of Thompson. “His schoolmates called him ‘Turkey Chest,’ and the nickname was eventually shortened to ‘Turkey.’” But Big Boy’s was as wide across as a beer barrel.

Born in 1922, heavyweight Big Boy Brown fought from 1942 to 1950, winding up with a record of 14 wins, nine by knockout, 22 losses, six by knockout, and two draws.

He beat some toughies, including Clarence Burman and Lee Oma, both by stoppage, and Pat Comiskey, twice. He also stopped the unheralded Tony Cira, who had the gross impertinence to adopt “Two-Ton” as his ring moniker, that hyphen fooling absolutely no one. But he also twice lost to Comiskey, and twice to Harry Bobo and Curtis Sheppard. The alliterative Big Boy Brown also came up short against Lee Q. Murray, Johnny Shkor, Pat Valentino, Oakland Billy Smith, Roscoe Toles, the remarkable Alabama Kid, who fought 261 times over the course of 22 years at weight levels ranging from fly to heavy, Vern Mitchell, and Joey Maxim, in his last fight.

One of only two men to draw against tough guys Elza Thompson and Larrupin’ Lou Brooks, Big Boy won a version of the heavyweight title by beating Brooks for the Maryland Commission Heavyweight Championship (Duration) while Joe Louis was serving in the Army. He lost the title, as well as his shot at the Ohio version, to Harry Bobo.

Brown lost his last eight fights, four by stoppage, winning his last bout four years before quitting the ring.

Assuming Louis and Brown were in fact blood, they weren’t nearly as delicate about it as were the Klitschko brothers, fighting five exhibition matches in November and December 1945. It was at their second meeting, on November 29, in Sacramento, California, that Big Boy well and truly lived up to his moniker, coming in at 256 pounds. Prior to their December 12 “mitt-mat” show in Eugene, Oregon, the Eugene Register-Guard reported that “Louis is not expected to toy with Brown, but put the fistic giant away as soon as possible.” Their last bout, on December 13, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, was the Bomber’s final ring appearance before his rematch with Billy Conn, a championship bout that took place on June 19, 1946, at Yankee Stadium. Louis stopped “The Pittsburgh Kid” by eighth-round KO, Conn not at all living up to the promise of their first encounter five years before almost to the day. The fight garnered the Associated Press’ “Flop of the Year” award. As for Brown, his next fight took place on February 1, 1946, at National Hall in San Francisco, where he stopped Leroy Evans by sixth-round KO. He never won again.

Another case of amnesia pugilistica. Nobody remembers Joe Louis’ maybe cousin. But that ain’t hardly fair. Maybe he wasn’t badder than old King Kong or meaner than a junkyard dog. But, however you define it, he was bad.

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  1. Clarence George 11:50am, 03/01/2015

    Delighted by your visit and kind comments, sir, and I envy you your memorabilia.

  2. ALFRED BROWN 10:43am, 03/01/2015

    I REALLY ENJOYED READING THE PIECE YOU WROTE ON MY FATHER, “BIG BOY BROWN”. IT WAS NICE TO SEE THE OLD POSTER YOU SHOW WHICH, I HAVE, ALONG WITH MANY MORE PICTURES OF JOE AND MY FATHER. THANKS

  3. Clarence George 09:38am, 12/01/2014

    Eric:  An ugly side, to be sure, but I suppose that’s true of just about everything.  One of the things I love about pro wrestling is its all-American hucksterism—Barnum taken to the nth degree.  It’s been thus since Gorgeous George, and it will only become more delightfully outrageous as time goes by.  Still, the WWE hasn’t had a good year; anyway, its stock hasn’t.  The launch of the WWE Network ($9.99 a month), of questionable wisdom to begin with, hasn’t been a success.  No matter…I’ll be watching all three hours of Monday Night Raw tonight on the USA Network.

  4. Eric 09:04am, 12/01/2014

    Clarence…Seems like it is a very clannish business for sure. And a very cut-throat, backstabbing one also. Have watched several of those “shoot” type of interviews on Youtube, and they are nothing but grown men & women spreading rumors, trying to defame or discredit another wrestler or “diva.” Probably a very terrible line of work to be in. No wonder a lot of those women & men have problems with alcohol & drug abuse. Definitely not much love for each other among the employees. Human nature at its worst.

  5. Clarence George 06:04pm, 11/30/2014

    Eric:  The Superstars and Divas tend to marry each other.  Daniel Bryan, for instance, is married to Brie Bella.  And CM Punk and AJ Lee are married.  The WWE fired Punk on his wedding day.

  6. Eric 03:05pm, 11/30/2014

    Haven’t watched rasslin’ lately but I remember the divas from the 90’s & early 00’s (whatever the hell the previous decade was called.) Tree of my favorites from that era were Terri Runnels, Trish Stratus, and Sable. They’ve definitely improved since back in Andre’s day, but I remember maybe one or two that weren’t that bad. “Sunny,” I believe that was her name, was pretty hot, looks like crap now though, but she was smokin’ back then.

  7. Clarence George 02:56pm, 11/30/2014

    My understanding, Eric, is that The Fabulous Moolah’s interests were…different.  Today’s Divas, incidentally, are a great improvement (at least in terms of appearance) over what was presented back in the day.

  8. Eric 02:46pm, 11/30/2014

    Clarence… It would take a helluva woman, man, or beast to tackle a sexually charged Andre. Don’t know if Graham, as much of a beast as he was in his prime, would be up for the challenge. Might take someone like the Fabulous Moolah or a bull elephant to handle Andre in the sack. Wonder if any of those old school wrestling divas ever took Andre on? That would have been a very brave woman.

  9. Clarence George 02:09pm, 11/30/2014

    Sammartino turned 79 last month, Irish.  That’s pretty good.

    Never cared for Graham, Eric.  But his health is so-so, and I wish him well.  When you say he could put two fingers through Andre’s ring…this is a finger ring, and not a fingering, we’re talking about, right?  I most fervently hope so.

    You know,  I could never warm up to Hulk Hogan, who came across as more ridiculous than charismatic.  And still does.  Rob Bartlett does a very funny impression of the Hulkster, brother, complete with alliterations delivered at a manic and rapid-fire pace, culminating in a body-shaking, “Bruuutherrrrrr!”

  10. Eric 12:21pm, 11/30/2014

    Bruno was a powerhouse for sure. Superstar Billy Graham was another very strong wrestler from back in the day. Graham stated he could put two of his fingers through Andre the Giant’s ring. At 6’4” and 275lbs it wasn’t as if Graham was a small man himself.

  11. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 11:42am, 11/30/2014

    Clarence George-Sammartino was unGodly strong and it doesn’t surprise me that he is still above ground….probably something to do with a life long Mediterranean diet because when you’re 5’10’ and 280 lbs solid muscle you’re just not supposed to live that long.

  12. Clarence George 11:02am, 11/30/2014

    Well I remember the great Haystacks Calhoun, Eric.  He was only 55 when he died.  Yikes!  But he outweighed me by some 400 pounds, so…

    Bruno Sammartino was the only man who could lift him.  But “The Living Legend,” who’s still with us, was almost superhuman in strength.

  13. Eric 08:33am, 11/30/2014

    Clarence…Looked up Big Boy Brown the rassler. He was a big ‘un fo sho. Billed at 6’8” and tree-fittylbs, probably equates to 6’6” and tree hundred to tree-twenty in real life, either way that was a big country boy. Big Boy was another rassler that didn’t make it to the promised three score and ten, falling short at 62 years of age. Read that Big Boy teamed with Haystacks Calhoun in his first Madison Square Garden appearance. Talk about a lot of beef in the ring.

  14. Clarence George 06:48pm, 11/29/2014

    HAHAHA!  Thank you, Irish.  And I appreciate your UFC story, though I’m glad I’d finished eating prior to reading it.

  15. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Saijo 05:39pm, 11/29/2014

    Clarence George-Another prattling article all about you and I loved it! Prattle on! Another time and place….who knows….things might have been different if he was a fighter who was “taken care of”.....which reminds me…..just watched a UFC fight where a fighter sustained a cut from a fungus ridden toe nail…..WTF!!!! they need some foot wraps over….or something.

  16. Clarence George 10:29am, 11/29/2014

    Eric:  I never cared for Jake the Snake either.  I know that he had a very strained relationship with his father.

    Very hard life for many of them.  There’s good reason to think that the WWE is anything but overly concerned about their health and well-being.  For instance, there articles all over the Web right now about CM Punk’s situation.

    I got a good laugh picturing Gene Hackman/Lex Luthor hanging up his tights.

  17. Eric 09:36am, 11/29/2014

    Oops. Meant to say Lex Luger and not Lex Luthor.

  18. Eric 09:32am, 11/29/2014

    Was never really a big fan of Jake’s gimmick or character, but then again, I hate snakes. Read that he chose the nickname because he idolized Ken Stabler. Seems like a decent guy though, hope he got back on the right track. I know Roberts and Scott Hall were going through some rough times. Hall was one of my favorites, excellent on the mic. Lex Luthor had his share of problems since hanging up his tights, much worse than even Hall or Roberts. Googled Bad News Brown and found out he’s passed on. Had no idea that Brown won an Olympic medal in judo. Wrestlers sure have a short shelf life it seems. Must be a hard life.

  19. Clarence George 09:03am, 11/29/2014

    Eric:  There was a pro wrestler who also went by Big Boy Brown.  He often teamed up with Grizzly Smith, the father of Jake “The Snake” Roberts.

  20. Eric 08:46am, 11/29/2014

    Is that Buster Mathis in that photo? Big Boy Brown looks like he would he have been right at home sharing a ring with Bad News Brown or a bar stool with Leroy. I could easily see him taking on Leapin’ Lanny Poffo instead of trowin’ punches at Larrupin’ Lou Brooks. Jim Croce, kind of looks like a very thin version of our buddy, Al Lettieri. Or perhaps a mixture of Gregory Sierra & Al thrown together. Of course, Lettieri, didn’t possess a stache quite as impressive as the one Jim sported. Croce’s moustache is right up there with the Rollie Fingers, the Tom Sellecks and a few others from that ‘70’s & 80’s golden era of the moustache.

  21. Clarence George 06:50am, 11/29/2014

    Thank you, NYI, and always glad when you visit.  Gratifying that you find the article bad…I think.

    Love the photo Robert selected, which really fits perfectly.  Here’s one that shows how Big Boy’s chest dwarfed that of even the formidable Turkey Thompson:

    http://boxrec.com/media/images/thumb/f/f4/BrownBB.jpeg/325px-BrownBB.jpeg

    I have a press photo of Turkey, a favorite fighter of mine, in my personal collection, but not yet one of Big Boy.  Here’s hoping.

  22. NYIrish 06:28am, 11/29/2014

    Interesting piece of fistiana. BAAAAAD article!

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