Bud Gorman: A Decent Heavyweight

By Clarence George on July 22, 2017
Bud Gorman: A Decent Heavyweight
The only championship Bud Gorman won was the American Legion heavyweight crown.

“A ring great of the ‘20s,” according to the Asbury Park Press, Bud was ranked fifth by The Ring in 1925, the only year he made the Top 10…

“Bud Gorman was a capable but undramatic tradesman.”—Randy Roberts

It’s Gene Pantalone who called Bud Gorman “a decent heavyweight,” which I think is a fairer, certainly a more charitable, assessment than that of Randy Roberts. Indeed, as yet another boxing historian, Bert Sugar, writes, Gorman “had acquired considerable fame as the sparring partner who had made Tunney look bad whilst training for his rematch with Dempsey.” If he hadn’t been so effective, Bud always insisted, “they wouldn’t have cheated me out of a shot at his title.”

(The only championship he wound up winning was the American Legion heavyweight crown, which he scored by beating unheralded Harry Swanson via disqualification in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, on June 28, 1921.)

The heavyweight was born in Chicago on May 20, 1897, but fought out of Kenosha, Wisconsin (also living at one point in Summit, New Jersey), from 1915 to 1931 (though out of the ring in ‘18 and ‘19 when he was a top sergeant in the Army), winding up with an official record of 35 wins, 14 by knockout, 15 losses, seven by knockout, four draws, and one no contest. There were also 24 newspaper bouts (14-3-7).

Gorman lost to such names as Young Stribling, “King of the Canebrakes,” who won by majority decision at the Arena Gardens in Detroit, Michigan, on June 29, 1925; Larry Gains, “The Toronto Terror,” who won on points in a hard-fought battle at the Arena Gardens in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on May 14, 1926; Jack Sharkey, the “Boston Gob,” who won by disqualification at Braves Field in Boston that June 25; Jack Delaney, aka Bright Eyes, who won by second-round KO at the 4th Regiment Armory in Jersey City, New Jersey, that December 20 (although “Gorman has a good left hand” and “tears into an opponent,” reported the Chicago Tribune the day of the fight, “the light heavyweight champion enjoys advantages in speed, boxing skill and hitting strength over the Wisconsin heavyweight which justify installing him a decided choice”); the fish peddler, Jim Maloney, who won by disqualification at Chicago’s Comiskey Park on June 30, 1927; Tom Heeney, “The Hard Rock from Down Under,” who won by disqualification at Madison Square Garden that August 4; the Swede, Harry Persson, who won by fourth-round TKO at the Velodromen in Stockholm, Sweden, that September 18 (“when a cabaret owner paid him [Gorman] $200 a week [about $2,700 today] just to eat dinner nightly at the restaurant and then mingle with the guests,” according to the Asbury Park Press of January 17, 1941); Sailor Byrne, who won by newspaper decision in Green Bay, Wisconsin, on April 16, 1928; Belgian Pierre Charles, who won on points at the Velodrome in Newark, New Jersey, that June 12; George Godfrey, “The Leiperville Shadow,” who won by third-round TKO at the Arena in Philly that November 12; Ernie Schaaf, who won on points in a “bout of high caliber” in Newark that December 12 (despite the Bridgewater, New Jersey, Courier-News of that December 7 praising “nationally known heavyweight” Gorman “as one of the fastest big men extant,” noting his “exceptional punching prowess,” and commending him as “a performer who has ever been willing to stand toe to toe and trade blows with an opponent”); hard-punching and never-stopped Cuban Bobby Brown, aka the Cuban Wonder (though he was born in Philly and fought out of Atlantic City), who won by seventh-round KO at the Municipal Stadium in Long Branch, New Jersey, on August 23, 1929; and Arthur De Kuh, who won by fourth-round TKO at the Velodrome on August 11, 1930.

Bud—who “needs little ballyhoo to acclaim his fistic prowess,” as the Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, Evening News of August 2, 1928, put it—also beat his share of names and toughies, including Young Mahoney, who lost by newspaper decision at the Auditorium in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on March 2, 1917 (following a “rattling” draw in Appleton, Wisconsin, on May 6, 1915); “Caveman” Bob Moha (built like a miniature Steve Reeves), who lost by newspaper decision in Kenosha on March 8, 1921 (their bout of April 21, 1922, also in Kenosha, ended in a draw); Eddie McGoorty, who lost by newspaper decision at Armory B in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, that March 9 (their bout of April 14, 1921, at Armory G in Appleton, Wisconsin, resulted in a draw); Captain Bob Roper, who lost on points in Kalamazoo, Michigan, on April 4, 1924; Jack DeMave, the original “Golden Boy,” who lost on points at Columbus Hall in Stamford, Connecticut, on February 27, 1925, and again at New York’s Polo Grounds that June 5 (their bout of April 1, 1929, in Newark, ended in a draw); never-stopped Young Bob Fitzsimmons (yes, son of the legend), who lost by newspaper decision in Newark on December 14, 1925 (their bout of February 1, 1924, in Kalamazoo, resulted in a draw); German Franz Diener, who was outpointed at Queensboro Stadium in Long Island City, Queens, on September 14, 1926; Harry Persson, who lost by disqualification at the Garden that November 1 (though, as noted, he’d later avenge the iffy loss—according to Ingemar Johansson biographer Ken Brooks, referee Jim Crowley, one of Notre Dame’s legendary Four Horsemen, ignored “the fact that Gorman had pulled up his trunks until they were practically under his armpits.” That said, the Swede “was better known for his tattoos than for his fighting ability,” according to the merciless Randy Roberts, who’s the milk of human kindness when compared to the ungallant boxing writer who referred to Mrs. Persson as a “toothless, bearded hag”); K.O. Christner, who lost by newspaper decision at Central League Ball Park in Akron, Ohio, on July 23, 1928; Ike McFowler, outpointed in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, on July 22, 1929, and again at Palisades Rink in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, on January 16, 1930 (their bout of September 27, 1928, in Johnstown, ended in a draw); and Walter Cobb, who lost by disqualification at Carlin’s Park in Baltimore, Maryland, on September 16, 1929, and by first-round KO at the same venue that October 21 (his first losses after six straight wins, five by KO or TKO).

One of Gorman’s most significant wins was over Tony Galento, aka the Jersey Nightstick, at Newark’s Laurel Garden on April 21, 1930, Bud winning on points. “A ten round lacing at the hands of crafty, clever Bud Gorman,” writes Galento biographer Joseph G. Donovan. “Galento trained hard for this match and weighed in at 198 pounds but he couldn’t hit Gorman with buck shot.” The Kenosha fighter was just “too clever and elusive.” Tony went on to win his next 14 bouts (all but two by KO or TKO) before losing again, this time to Paul Cavalier, another “crafty” fighter, who won on points at the Garden on May 15, 1931, in a bout that “was none too exciting or impressive.” Prior to Gorman, the Nightstick had last lost to Al Friedman, “a good Boston plugger,” who “easily” won on points at Laurel Garden on February 3, 1930, in what was generally considered “a foul fight.”

Gorman held Galento in high regard. When Tommy Farr, the “Tonypandy Terror,” was training for his bout with James J. Braddock (“The Cinderella Man” winning his last fight by split decision at the Garden on January 21, 1938), Bud thought that “Schmeling or Galento would kick the hell out of him,” reports Gene Pantalone.

His other impressive win came against Jack Sharkey, who lost on points at the Arena in Boston on August 17, 1925. This was the Gob’s only loss over the course of 18 fights (five of which he won by KO or TKO). He had previously lost to Hungarian-born Charley Weinert (“Never before had Sharkey been against so clever a big man as Weinert,” wrote a boxing scribe after the “Newark Adonis” first beat Sharkey by newspaper decision at Newark’s 113th Regiment Armory on December 15, 1924, in “as fast and rough milling as two heavyweights have put up in a long time,” one “worthy of the biggest crowd that could have been packed into the building,” adding that he “proceeded to show Jack all the varied uses to which a left hand can be put in a boxing bout. Sharkey must have thought that Weinert had more left hands than a centipede has feet”), who won their second bout on points at the Mechanics Building in Boston on February 10, 1925. Sharkey wouldn’t lose again until July 21, 1927, when Jack Dempsey knocked him out in the seventh in a title-elimination bout (the winner to face Gene Tunney) at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.

“One of the outstanding heavyweights in the country,” as the Garden State press was wont to call him, Gorman last won on June 30, 1930, stopping Herman Heller by seventh-round TKO at the Velodrome. He retired from the ring one year later to the day, following a second-round KO loss at the massive hands of Primo Carnera at the Arena Gardens in Toronto. “Gorman was down for two counts of nine and one of six before the finish came after two minutes and thirty-five seconds of the second round,” reported The New York Times. “A crowd of 5,000 gave Carnera an ovation after the battle.”

“A ring great of the ‘20s,” according to the Asbury Park Press, Bud was ranked fifth by The Ring in 1925, the only year he made the Top 10.

Not to be confused with welterweight Buddy Gorman (who almost handed Gorilla Jones “an embarrassing defeat,” as boxing writer Andrew Fruman reports, at the Auditorium in Oakland, California, on March 11, 1931, though Jones won on points) or actor Buddy Gorman (of Bowery Boys fame), the versatile Bud Gorman played pro football, as a guard, for two NFL teams—the Racine Legion in 1922 and ‘23 and the Kenosha Maroons in ‘24 (considered at that time to be “one of the country’s best heavyweight boxers,” at least according to the Badger State press, he had 13 fights over the same period, none of which he lost) —before becoming head boxing coach at Rutgers University in the 1930s (he resigned at the start of World War II to work in the defense industry, though he originally thought of re-upping). He also, according to the Asbury Park Press, “ran a reducing salon for women and a boxing school for young boys.”

This “decent heavyweight” died age 72 on August 7, 1969, in Plainfield, New Jersey.

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  1. Clarence George 12:45pm, 07/23/2017

    I can only contribute, Lucas, that the song came out some 30 years after the marriage.  Not sure, though, when Mrs. Persson was first described so inelegantly (if accurately).

  2. Lucas McCain 11:33am, 07/23/2017

    “Toothless, bearded hag.”  That’s also a line from Jagger/Richards’ “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”—“I was raised by a, etc.”  Coincidence!!?

  3. Clarence George 03:00pm, 07/22/2017

    Thanks very much, DKTGTB.

    Impossible to defend the lack of chivalry.  That said, if I remember my research correctly, Mrs. Persson was not only unattractive, but left her husband with all his money.  Why he married this harpy (which he did after leaving the ring) is a mystery.  Hugely popular in his native Sweden (perhaps second only to Johansson), there actually was an opera written on his life, one commissioned by London’s Royal Opera House.

  4. Does Kaufmanns tell Gimbels their business? 02:13pm, 07/22/2017

    Clarence George-Mrs.Persson more than likely was a devil between the sheets otherwise Harry probably would have left the little lady back home in Sweden.

  5. Does Kaufmanns tell Gimbels their business? 02:06pm, 07/22/2017

    Clarence George-The research and writing are really outstanding in this article which should be titled “If you could see her through my eyes” in honor of Mr.and Mrs Harry Persson. Looks like the boxing writers in those days of yore were more than likely three sheets to the wind most of the time and did more trash talking than the fighters! In order to write about another man’s wife that she was a “toothless, bearded hag” one would have to be batshit crazy or drunk or both even if she was a toothless, bearded hag!

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