Fatty Langtry: First of the Fat Fighters

By Clarence George on January 26, 2015
Fatty Langtry: First of the Fat Fighters
Philadelphia's Tommy "Fatty" Langtry was described as "the granddaddy of all fat fighters."

According to Lawrence Yearsley, every cent of Fatty’s prize money went into “the deep dirty pockets of his boss…”

“Outside every thin woman is a fat man trying to get in.”—Katharine Whitehorn

In commenting on my article, “In Praise of Portly Pugilists,” fellow boxing scribe, Peter Wood, took the time and trouble to put together a list of top 10 pudgy pugs. The champ, according to Peter, is Buster Mathis, followed by Tony Galento, Tony Tubbs, Willie Meehan, Ewart Potgieter, Leroy Jones, James Broad, Roosevelt Eddie, Eric Esch, Claude “Humphrey” McBride, and Gabe Brown, with Richard Carmack and Porky Speakman getting honorable mention.

While a couple of other names came to mind, such as Andy Ruiz Jr. and Stephane Tessier, I was hard-pressed to improve on Peter’s effort. Until, that is, I came across Robert Carson’s “Fatty Langtry: Pudgy Pugilist of the Past,” all about a beefy boyo I’d never heard of, Philadelphia’s Tommy “Fatty” Langtry, “the granddaddy of all fat fighters.”

According to the official record, Langtry only fought in 1886, winding up with a record of three wins, two by knockout, five losses, two by knockout, and one draw. But, says Carson, Fatty’s first fight took place in 1884, when he knocked out Charley Norton.

Langtry then knocked out George W. Dixon, Pennsylvania’s heavyweight champ, followed by a decision over Bill Gobig. Fatty also decisioned Denny Kelliher, their return match resulting in a draw. In Philly on March 20, 1886, Langtry stopped Henry Anders by second-round KO. Eleven days later, also in the City of Brotherly Love, Langtry again stopped Anders, this time in the first.

The fat man lost two fights to Mike Boden, aka The Canuck. He was a “real toughie,” writes Carson, who beat Pete McCoy, John L. Sullivan’s sparring partner. Following a win over John Spencer, Fatty drew against the “toughest of the lot,” Mike Conley, aka The Ithaca Giant. He also fought Bob Coffee, who broke both hands “on Fatty’s thick head.” According to Carson, Langtry’s last major bout took place in Philly on January 7, 1887, against “Clipper” Donahue. “In the third round,” writes Carson, “Fatty uncorked a shot that not only put Clipper down, but out of the ring into a water trough.”

For whatever it’s worth, the official record has Langtry’s last fight taking place at Arthur Chambers’ Saloon in Philly on December 3, 1886, outpointed by Bill Gobig in a bout reffed by the fantastically named Sparrow Golden.

Carson hopes that Fatty eventually wearied of the ring, and went back to waiting tables at former bare-knuckle fighter Owney Geoghegan’s New York eatery and sporting house, The Bastille of the Bowery, living out his days at his home at 281 Bowery. Perhaps he did. But according to Lawrence Yearsley in Boxing Bonanza, every cent of Fatty’s prize money went into “the deep dirty pockets of his boss.” In addition, Geoghegan demanded that Fatty get back to work as a waiter straight after a fight. “It must have been frustrating for a man with championship blood coursing through his veins,” writes Yearsley. Perhaps more than frustrating. The restaurateur, according to Yearsley, left for Hot Springs, Arkansas, with $100,000 (about 2.5 million in today’s money), “leaving the penniless Fatty to fend for himself,” where he soon died under mysterious circumstances. Murder or suicide? Nobody knows, but a man of Fatty’s description was seen loitering about the house shortly before Geoghegan’s body was discovered. The police found the loot, but Fatty “was never seen or heard from again; it seems he just disappeared.” Well, he did appear in a 1903 film, Prof. Langtry’s Boxing School. Besides, Geoghegan died in 1885. Good story, though.

And Fatty, with “the close-cropped hair of the professional pug,” would be hard not to spot. He was 5’8” and “measured well over five feet in girth,” writes Carson. His “neck was 24 inches in circumference, and he was perched on chunky little legs.” Personally, I think he bears a rather remarkable resemblance to Norman Chaney, “Chubby” of Our Gang.

“Poor old ‘Fatty’ is overlooked when discussing the old timers,” Carson writes, “even though he fought and sometimes beat some of the best and toughest of the day.” His hands ruined by horsehair and skin-tight gloves (Police Gazette Rules, don’t you know), Langtry climbed through the ropes “with little time to heal from the previous battle.” It does indeed say “a lot for the spirit of the man. You just can’t help but admire the guy.”

“Eagles don’t hunt flies,” goes the proverb.

Neither do rhinos.

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

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  1. Clarence George 03:09pm, 02/01/2015

    Delighted by your visit, Aris, and much appreciate the kind words.  Thanks, as well, for introducing me to Jimmy Abbott, whom I didn’t know.

  2. Aris Pina 02:22pm, 02/01/2015

    Great article. Was not familiar with Fatty Langtry and enjoyed reading his story. In terms of big men from the past, there was a rather rotund heavyweight out of South Africa named Jimmy Abbott who made a little noise in the late 70’s and early 80’s with KO wins over Kallie Knoetze, Robbie Williams, and Walter Santemore. He soon faded away after loses to Eddie Lopez and Mike Koranicki. Again, excellent article.

  3. Clarence George 08:44am, 01/27/2015

    Always a privilege when I can cite you, Peter, and very glad you liked the piece.

    Endomorph…what a great word, and not one you hear every day.  Tommy “The Endomorph” Langtry…I rather like it.

    I only had the pleasure of meeting Iran once.  A mutual friend, Pete Pharaoh (who seems to have mysteriously disappeared), introduced us at a press conference.  Anyway, I think your Barkley-Welliver story would make a great article.

  4. peter 08:08am, 01/27/2015

    Clarence, thanks for your new, refreshingly quirky-ish article heralding our talented endomorphs! And thank you for citing me in your opening! I’m honored! Irish Frankie mentioned Chauncy Welliver—definitely a porky. But the name “Chauncy Welliver” has always left a sour taste in my mouth after Iran Barkley told me his Chauncy Welliver story. “He ripped me off!” claims Iran. “He bought me a roundtrip ticket out to Idaho to fight on one of his cards,  but when the fight fell through, he said, ‘Never mind. Order dinner in your room. My friend owns the motel. He’ll comp you.’  So when I finish eating this big meal, there’s a knock on my door, and it’s Chauncy asking me to box an exhibition with him, right then and there. He said, I’d get paid, and we’d go easy. So, I said sure. But when I got in the ring with him, he tried to take my damn head off—right after a ate a full-course meal!  “So, when do I get paid?” I asked. “I’ll mail you the check,” the s.o.b. said. “Well, I’m still waiting for that check”...This is Iran’s side of the story, but I tend to believe him. We were standing on the corner of 8th and 32nd Street, in from of The Garden, and I never saw Iran so jacked.

  5. Eric 06:40am, 01/27/2015

    If you included MMA fighters you could add Tank Abbott and Scott Ferrozzo. That was a helluva scrap with Cagney. All that fighting and so little blood. Like the cage match with Charles Bronson and Robert Tessier in, “Hard Times.” I don’t think either fighter had a mark on them after the fight. Only in the movies.

  6. Clarence George 04:14am, 01/27/2015

    I think, Irish, that Cagney actually learned judo for that role.  My brother and I took judo for many years, both making it to brown belt.  Demanding, but enjoyable.  And it came in useful once or twice.

    Duffy was always going on about standing “shoulder to shoulder with Davy Crockett at the Alamo.”  And there’s an amusing blooper or outtake where Steele and other cast members performed the scene with increasing effeminacy.  But I also remember how vicious and sinister he was in the minor role of Canino in “The Big Sleep.”

  7. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 09:52pm, 01/26/2015

    Clarence George-Heck yea! That’s Bob Steele in F Troop for sure….you nailed it! Between you and guys like Kid Blast who was spot on prescient about the Rios/Alvarado outcome this is some humdinger of a boxing site!

  8. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 09:38pm, 01/26/2015

    Clarence George-Beautiful! Cagney was really working that jab and actually making contact with his punches though they were well placed in the villain’s chest. Looks like they didn’t use a stunt double for Cagney but I guess they must have when he was getting slammed with those hip tosses. Now imagine that scene with the camera speeded up….that was Cowboy Bob Steele in the thirties….I don’t think he made it to F Troop though….or did he?

  9. Clarence George 08:05pm, 01/26/2015

    That sounds hilarious, Irish.  They should do that with the old Happy Humphrey-Haystacks Calhoun matches.

    Bob Steele…Duffy from “F Troop”?

    Speaking of rapid-fire fights:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WlejMy9zLdI

  10. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 07:42pm, 01/26/2015

    They would speed up the camera…. so as soon as one was knocked down he would bounce back up and knock the other down….at the time I laughed until I had tears in my eyes.I loved it when they would speed up the camera when Cowboy Bob Steele would have his obligatory fist fight with the bad guy too. Bob Steele was a wiry little bugger and I remember one set to where Bob was duking it out with a bigger bad guy….Bob would flail away at hyper speed and the other guy would hit him one shot and knock Bob down…. Bob would bounce back up and flail away then get knocked down again….Bob must have been up and down 3 or 4 times before he finally landed the KO punch during one of his blazing fast onslaughts.

  11. Clarence George 07:27pm, 01/26/2015

    Thanks very much indeed, Irish.  Welliver’s fighting at the end of the month, in Australia.  I don’t know (or at least don’t recall) the beach-ball-belly boxers of yore.  I’ll have to look into it.

  12. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 07:12pm, 01/26/2015

    Clarence George-This article got my synapses firing! Don’t forget Chauncy Welliver who can actually fight….which reminds me….eagles don’t flock and never but never take your sox off in a sporting house! Back in the “Our Gang” days of Hal Roach there were some shorts made featuring as I recall the Tons of Fun, a duo of 400 plus pounders who in one reel engaged in a boxing match where they couldn’t land punches because their arms were too short but took turns knocking each other down by banging into each other with their beach ball sized bellys!

  13. Clarence George 07:10pm, 01/26/2015

    Bob:  Delighted you liked it.

    KB:  Oh, Ruiz is pretty fat, though not as fat as Esch and Siciliano.

    Eric:  The other fat “Rascal” you’re thinking of is Joe Cobb.  Rather surprisingly, he lived to be quite elderly, only dying about 10 or 12 years ago.

  14. Eric 06:44pm, 01/26/2015

    Madalyn Murray O’Hair vs Michael Moore. Old school misanthropic malcontent vs current washed up misanthropic malcontent.

  15. Eric 06:34pm, 01/26/2015

    George Foreman part deux, might be reaching a bit, especially going up against some of those pachyderms, but Big George might have been as fat as Broad Belly James Broad.

  16. Eric 06:29pm, 01/26/2015

    When you mentioned Claude “Humphrey” McBride, I had to look up and see if that was a former “rassler.” I think you mentioned a Happy Humphrey on another thread, but I was really thinking about the McGuire twins. I notice that Claude actually fought a couple of top fighters, he even fought fellow fatty Buster Mathis. Good ole “Chubby” fought another fat kid in an episode of from the, “Little Rascals/Our Gang” series. I think the other fat kid was named, “Joe” and he hated getting his hair “mussed” up. I would have picked William Conrad to take out Orson Welles had it ever came down to no holds brawl of belly bumping.

  17. Kid Blast 05:49pm, 01/26/2015

    Here you go—close to 750 pounds of sloppy slab in this one. The Bean weighed in at 412. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sw3agMcTTdA

    I was there for this freak show in Worcester, MA

  18. Kid Blast 05:43pm, 01/26/2015

    Come on. Andy Ruiz is not that fat.

  19. Bob 05:38pm, 01/26/2015

    Clarence: Thanks for uncovering this great piece of fistic lore.

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