The Brooklyn Kid vs. The Marsupial Mauler

By Mike Silver on February 18, 2014
The Brooklyn Kid vs. The Marsupial Mauler
I think there is genuine potential on display. The kangaroo doesn't look too bad either.

It seems that boxing and kangaroos have had a long association. Not surprisingly, the tradition began in Australia…

Young Allen Konigsberg, a resident of Brooklyn, New York, was always among the first chosen when sides were taken for the after school games of stickball, basketball or baseball. The 125-pound teenager was wiry, fast and clever—a natural athlete. The year was 1951. The Dodgers were still playing in Ebbets Field, Truman was President, and every kid knew that Jersey Joe Walcott was heavyweight champion of the world. The proliferation of boxing over the new medium of television guaranteed the sport’s continued popularity throughout the 1950s. Training in a neighborhood gym, or putting on the gloves and sparring with friends was still a rite of passage for many boys, even those raised in middle-class homes. But for some that wasn’t enough. They wanted to test their fighting skills by entering the New York City Golden Gloves boxing tournament. The annual tournament, sponsored by the Daily News, had been an institution in the city since 1927. It was open to amateur boxers from ages 16 to 25. The finals at Madison Square Garden always sold out.

So, like thousands of other young men, 16-year-old Allen Konigsberg began training in anticipation of entering the famous boxing tournament. He joined a local gym and trained for several months. Allen liked boxing, but not fighting, preferring a jab and move style where his speed and natural athleticism would give him an edge. He was serious in his ambition to win a Golden Gloves title. But there was a problem. All boxers under the age of 18 had to have their parents sign a consent form. When the time came to submit the application Allen’s parents refused to give permission, abruptly terminating his nascent boxing ambitions. It’s probably just as well. The young man’s brains were better suited for his future career as a stand-up comic and filmmaker known to the world as Woody Allen.

If Allen had been born a generation earlier he might well have become a boxer. In those days a boy didn’t need a parent’s consent because of the proliferation of “bootleg” amateur bouts. The professional side of the sport was even more lax in its restrictions. Boxers as young as 14 were turning pro and earning more money in one four-round preliminary bout than a sweatshop worker earned for an entire week. Of course how far “Kid” Konigsberg would have gone as a boxer is anyone’s guess. His athletic skills combined with superior intelligence might have translated successfully to boxing. And, for what it’s worth, there was a resemblance, physically and facially, to the great featherweight champion Abe Attell. The only inkling we have to assess the quality of his boxing skill comes from a 1966 video of Allen boxing a kangaroo.

Okay, I know it sounds crazy, but before you dismiss this ridiculous notion out of hand I urge you to take a look at the video. Yes, it’s a comic routine (and a very funny one at that) but Allen does appear to know how to hold his hands and, most notably, demonstrates balanced and agile footwork. Maybe it’s just that I’m so fed up with the limited defensive skills and lack of basic fundamentals exhibited by most of today’s boxers that Allen’s moves actually look good by comparison. But so help me, I think there is genuine potential on display. The kangaroo doesn’t look too bad either.

It seems that boxing and kangaroos have had a long association. Not surprisingly, the tradition began in Australia. The country’s national symbol is a kangaroo wearing boxing gloves. The image is frequently seen on flags at Australian sporting events. The boxing kangaroo made its first appearance as a cartoon in a Sydney newspaper in 1891. The idea was inspired by 19th century outback carnival shows that featured kangaroos wearing boxing gloves fighting against men, or other kangaroos.

The novelty spread to other countries and persisted into the 20th century, most often as circus acts. At least two famous boxers, Primo Carnera (who was discovered in a circus) and “Two Ton” Tony Galento (who would have been at home in one), took part in such exhibitions. The colorful Galento also boxed a 550-pound bear and wrestled an octopus in a tank of saltwater.

During his tussle with the octopus the creature squirted the contents of its ink sack into Tony’s face. Shouting “I’ll moida da bum” Galento, amidst much flailing and splashing, finally subdued his fishy opponent. Sadly, the octopus, perhaps out of stress or simply embarrassment, died shortly after the contest. 

Boxing historian Mike Silver is the author of The Arc of Boxing: The Rise and Decline of the Sweet Science” (McFarland Publishing Co.)

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

Circus Boxing Kangaroo



Boxing Kangaroo Vs World Heavyweight Champion



Stati Uniti. Atlantic City



Discuss this in our forums

Related Articles

Comments

This is a place to express and/or debate your boxing views. It is not a place to offend anyone. If we feel comments are offensive, the post will be deleted and continuing offenders will be blocked from the site. Please keep it clean and civil! We want to have fun. We want some salty language and good-natured exchanges. But let's keep our punches above the belt...
  1. Tex Hassler 05:23pm, 04/26/2014

    I guess that is why my boxing career did not end with me becoming a contender. You see we are short on Kangaroos down here in Texas. We have lots of Roadrunners but their foot work is too ticky for me.

  2. Ted 07:54pm, 02/18/2014

    I won’t watch them I can’t watch anything where an animal suffers. It’s just me. I love them.

  3. Clarence George 07:51pm, 02/18/2014

    Mmm…Barbara Eden.  Anyway, Nicolas, improbable though it is that Mayweather and Pacquiao will one day do the tango, it’s still likelier than a fight.

  4. nicolas 06:42pm, 02/18/2014

    TED; Before I read the article, I was not sure how I would feel about this, because it does look cruel. Like Peter, I wonder about the picture, and wondered if I would get into a tirade. I don’t think that a person has to be an activist to get angry about this. Certainly the videos all look tame, though it probably would still be looked today as exploitation of animals, and would not be tolerated. I did not mean to imply that you or most people who love animals would make death threats against any one, or were extremists. What by the way are your feelings about some of the videos?

  5. Eric 06:34pm, 02/18/2014

    Ted, Agree with you 100%. I despise anyone who is cruel to children, the elderly, the disabled, or animals. Even though the human would be in more danger of being hurt by the kangaroo, I’m sure the kangaroo isn’t too comfortable being surrounded by a bunch of laughing humans while another human pokes at it. Reminds me of a group of cruel kids taunting a dog through a fence by poking sticks at it or throwing rocks at the poor animal.

  6. Ted 06:14pm, 02/18/2014

    nicolas, with humble respect, a person who loves animals does not have to be an activist. I love animal fiercely and own a 100 acre preserve where all kinds of animals are protected and where they thrive. That has been a lifelong goal of mine. I walk the walk when it comes to my love for animals. That doesn’t mean I don’t eat steak or that I picket fur shops. What it does mean in my opinion is that any cruelty to an animal says more about the human perpetrating (or enjoying) the cruelty than it does the animal. That said,  I find the photograph troubling.

  7. nicolas 06:13pm, 02/18/2014

    I saw the bout with Rocky Marciano on DAILY MOTION. That was 20 years after his demolition of Dempsey, but still what a great boxing master Packy East was, his defense was really clever, ringing that bell at the best time. Lucky for Marciano, the fight did not go on, because he would have probably been like Sonny LIston and claimed a shoulder injury. Seeing these guys though dancing together in the ring really threw me for a loop, the only one I would have wanted to dance with was Barbara Eden. Could you imagine some of the fighters of the past 50 years having the courage doing what Dempsey, Tunney, and Marciano did? Ali-Frazier doing that. Clarence, do you thing that maybe one day will see Floyd Mayweather in the ring with Pacquiao, not fighting but dancing together like Marciano and Dempsey.

  8. nicolas 06:05pm, 02/18/2014

    Peter, I wondered about the same thing as you did, though not of the footage shown here seems to say the kangaroos got hurt, though some of the kangaroos did not look legit.  Today, you would most certainly get animal rights activists in an uproar. Probably also death threats against any of those who were involved in such an extravaganza.

  9. peter 05:44pm, 02/18/2014

    The photo is of interest to me for, primarily, one good reason—.the transfixed expression on the pretty woman’s face as she leans forward with utter fascination. This is certainly a bizarre spectacle to see in a posh dance hall. She has never seen anything like this before. Neither has the band conductor who stands stiffly watching in the background. What’s not cool is that the kangaroo is actually getting punched.

  10. Eric 01:44pm, 02/18/2014

    Kangaroos are more kickboxer than boxer. The hindlegs and huge feet are their main weapon. They can do some serious damage with those strong hind legs and huge feet.

  11. kid vegas 12:08pm, 02/18/2014

    Not particularly crazy about the photo.

  12. Clarence George 12:08pm, 02/18/2014

    Good one, Nicolas, but you forgot to mention Hope’s bout with Marciano.

  13. peter 11:39am, 02/18/2014

    Thank you for this story on Young Allen Konigsberg. He looked in pretty good shape and knew how to hold his hands. I would have paid to see him knock out “Bombastic” Norman Mailer.

  14. nicolas 10:41am, 02/18/2014

    Many people early in their careers did some boxing back then. I think that possibly what changed that was the death in College boxing in the late 50’s or early 60’s, which may have really cut into boxing, though ironically of all places UC Berkeley did have a boxing program even going into the 70’s. Bob Hope did box, as Packy East, he was so good, he knocked out Jack Dempsey in 1948 in just 14 seconds.  See Clarence and Mike, I told you Jack Dempsey was really no good.. Though he like Dempsey, also drew the color line, though he did fight a way past his best years Sugar Ray Robinson in 1972.

  15. Clarence George 08:49am, 02/18/2014

    Nothing short of excellent.

    I didn’t know of Woody Allen’s boxing prowess, which reminds me somewhat of Jerry Lewis’.

    Speaking of kangaroos, there’ve long been unexplained and mysterious sightings of and scary encounters with an unusually aggressive variety throughout the U.S. (and other countries where they have no business).  A photo of what appears to be a kangaroo taken in Wisconsin some 40 years ago:

    http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-WTLhFbMmf_A/T10gtTF7CAI/AAAAAAAAOqk/1KX4dpbbcNk/s400/kangourou.jpg

  16. Mike Casey 08:22am, 02/18/2014

    Good fun, Mike! Too bad there isn’t more film of the kangaroos from the golden age when trainers like Arcel, Goldman and Bimstein were still around. Today’s kangaroos, for my money, are little more than glorified amateurs!

Leave a comment