“Scrap Iron” Johnny was more statuesque

By Pete Ehrmann on January 30, 2018
“Scrap Iron” Johnny was more statuesque
The 145-pound Hungarian was “one of those chunks of granite which come along rarely.”

In a real fight I know which South Milwaukeean I’d want on my side…

At the risk of being drop-kicked, eye-gouged, choked and body-slammed by wrestling fans trying to raise $40,000 on GoFundMe for a statue of Reggie “Da Crusher” Lisowski in South Milwaukee, Wisconsin, let me suggest that if they really wanted to immortalize a homegrown athlete who epitomized gritty toughness and indomitable valor—in legitimate, unscripted competition, to boot—they’d put up a bronze likeness of Johnny “Scrap Iron” Roszina instead.

A life-size statue of the South Milwaukee boxer would have the added advantage of costing just half as much as one of Da Crusher, as Scrap Iron Johnny was half the size of the blustering, musclebound rassler.

In 51 professional fights from 1941-’46 the 145-pound Roszina made a name for himself as a durable, hell-for-leather scrapper. “The South Milwaukee Hungarian is one of those chunks of granite which come along rarely in the ring,” wrote sports editor R.G. Lynch of Roszina in the October 15, 1942 Milwaukee Journal. “He has remarkable stamina. He can go as fast and as far as Henry Armstrong could in Henry’s heyday, and little more than that ability won Armstrong three titles.”

Scrap Iron Johnny was no Armstrong, and never even cracked the Top 10 of his division. In the biggest fight of his career Roszina came up short, but even then displayed uncommon guts after getting knocked out by former welterweight champion Fritzie Zivic by fighting Zivic again—on the same night.

The April 30, 1943 bout at the Milwaukee Auditorium was the 179th of Zivic’s Hall of Fame career, and Roszina’s 31st. In the first round, a left-right combination by Zivic knocked Johnny down. He was on his knees when referee Ted Jamieson counted to 10, ending the match. Roszina insisted he wasn’t hurt, and when the crowd of 2,500 started to boo Zivic quieted them down by agreeing to resume the bout if Roszina was willing. He was, and at the end of the eighth round of the recapitulated fight the Wisconsin tough guy, his swollen-shut eyes rendering him unfit to continue, lost for the second time that night.

The Crusher may have achieved greater fame, but in a real fight I know which South Milwaukeean I’d want on my side.

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  1. Eric Roszina 02:17pm, 06/26/2018

    Hi, If the gentleman that wrote this article could contact me at the email listed that would be amazing. Johnny is my Grandpa…

  2. Pete 06:39am, 02/03/2018

    Ed “Human Freight Car” Dunkhorst.

  3. Bob 05:25am, 02/03/2018

    And, of course, Gunboat. How could I have forgotten that one?

  4. Pete 11:05am, 02/02/2018

    Mine, too, Bob! Also right up there: Charley “Tombstone” Smith and Jesus “Little Poison” Pimental.

  5. Bob 03:49am, 02/02/2018

    Another good one, Pete. My two favorite boxing nicknames have always been Scrap Iron and Big Train.

  6. Lucas McCain 02:35pm, 01/31/2018

    Chief Wahoo––in terms of showmanship and personality, I’d agree.  After all, David Letterman’s band named themselves the world’s most dangerous band after Afflis’s nickname, the world’s most dangerous wrestler.  That for me puts the Big Dick in the lofty realm of Buddy Rogers and Killer Kowalski, leaving the Crusher, Freddie Blassie in positions of some honor, but not up among the Olympians of kayfabe.

  7. Chief Wahoo 08:28pm, 01/30/2018

    The Crusher was a poor man’s Dick The Bruiser.

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