Glove and marriage

By Pete Ehrmann on May 6, 2016
Glove and marriage
“Sonny Liston hit me so hard,” lamented Scrapiron later, “I married the wrong woman.”

Chojnacki was not the only boxer, nor even the only one from Milwaukee, to put up his dukes on his wedding day…

If they’re still alive and together, Mr. and Mrs. Michael Chojnacki recently celebrated their 61st wedding anniversary. February 19, 1955 was a memorable day in their lives not only for the fact that they were hitched on that date, but also because mere hours after the wedding ceremony the groom climbed into a boxing ring to fight for the Wisconsin Golden Gloves novice heavyweight championship.

Chojnacki beat three opponents to advance to the finals on his wedding night against Larry Jones of Fond du Lac.

Jones won the decision and title in front of 7,655 fans at the Milwaukee Arena. The story in The Milwaukee Journal the following day reported, probably facetiously, that “in his haste to finish this unromantic business (Chojnacki) failed to block Jones’ hard rights.”

Chojnacki was not the only boxer, nor even the only one from Milwaukee, to put up his dukes on his wedding day.

The most prominent case is that of Joe Louis, who married Marva Trotter in a friend’s New York City apartment on September 24, 1935, and then caught a cab for Yankee Stadium to fight former heavyweight champion Max Baer. Baer went out in the fourth, perhaps because the Brown Bomber actually was in a hurry to get the unromantic part of the night over with. “When Marva came out,” Joe later said, harkening back to their hasty wedding ceremony, “my blood started throbbing.”

In Drumright, Oklahoma on April 14, 1916, immediately following the ringside marriage of lightweight (and Milwaukee native) Otto Wallace to silent film actress Lottie de Farrar, Wallace stripped down to his boxing duds and beat Al Baldwin in 15 rounds. (They had intended to tie the knot in a more traditional setting, but succumbed to the brainstorm of Wallace’s manager, Tommy Dixon, to make fight night “an occasion ITALICde luxe.”)

Cowboy Eddie Anderson was a noted lightweight in the late 1920s and early ‘30s and lived in Milwaukee briefly. After popping the question to fiancée Babe Mathews, Anderson lined up a fight in Omaha on January 23, 1931, to pay for the honeymoon. Matchmaker Pat Boyle convinced them to exchange vows in the ring just before Anderson’s fight with Billy Vaughn, instead. After the nuptials, Cowboy Eddie won an eight-round decision over Vaughn, who may have not recovered from his embarrassment at having been kissed by the bride.

Great heavyweight trial horse George “Scrapiron” Johnson scheduled a midnight wedding ceremony in Las Vegas after his fight with former heavyweight champion Sonny Liston on May 12, 1969. But Liston “hit Johnson with more punches than ringsiders could count,” according to the Associated Press, and stopped him in the seventh round, and the woozy Scrapiron postponed the nuptials until the next day.

Evidently, they should have been put off longer. “Liston hit me so hard,” lamented Scrapiron later, “I married the wrong woman.”

It was divorce that sent Omaha boxer Morrie Schlaifer into the ring on April 30, 1926. Three weeks earlier Mrs. Hazel, Schlaifer petitioned to end her marriage to the veteran lightweight known as “The Fighting Fool.” Judge L.B. Day granted the divorce and awarded her alimony of $25 a week, but Schlaifer said he didn’t have a dime to his name. So Judge Day ordered him to get a fight within 60 days and turn his purse over to the ex-Mrs. Schlaifer. Morrie and George Russell fought 10 rounds to a draw in Omaha.

As for Michael Chojnacki, though he lost his Golden Gloves fight he did not enter the bridal chamber afterwards empty-handed. Tournament officials voted him the “Sportsmanship” trophy.

I’d have voted to give it to Mrs. Chojnacki.

Image courtesy of Gemma Robertshaw of www.totallytoppers.com.

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  1. Bob 03:37pm, 05/09/2016

    Another gem. I never would have guessed this occurred this happened as often as it did. Leave it to the whimsical Mr. Ehrmann to bring it to the public fore. What a delightful read.

  2. Jeff Weston 04:44pm, 05/07/2016

    Great little story. You could turn such anecdotes into a book.

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