The greatest sparring partner story ever told

By Pete Ehrmann on August 28, 2018
The greatest sparring partner story ever told
The Saginaw native did win a decision over Tony Zale early in the “Man of Steel’s” career.

In a 61-fight career during the Great Depression, the only title Mickey Misko won was the light-heavyweight championship of Michigan…

Old-time boxing fictioneers like Robert Howard and Jim Tully cottoned to thunderous tales of sparring partners who endured beatings and abuse from the champions they served as training fodder, and later gained glory and sweet revenge by whipping their tormentors in real fights. Jim Jeffries smoldered as a sparring partner for James J. Corbett and later had the pleasure of knocking him out twice, but in the real world it usually doesn’t go that way.

It sure didn’t for Joe Jablonski.

In a 61-fight career during the Great Depression, the only title Mickey Misko won was the light-heavyweight championship of Michigan. The Saginaw native did win a decision over Tony Zale early in the “Man of Steel’s” career, but Zale knocked him out in a rematch. Other big names on Misko’s 39-17-5 record include Jack Gibbons (son of “St. Paul Phantom” Mike) and Frankie Battaglia, both of whom beat him.

Misko’s brother Frankie (46-27-9) was Michigan state middleweight champion in the ‘30s. Zale knocked him out, too. A third boxing Misko brother, Joe, at least escaped that fate in his 4-7 career.

Mickey retired from the ring in 1938. What was probably the most-publicized fight he ever had occurred 11 years later, on April 1, 1949. Misko was a member of the Dearborn, Michigan police department then, and was patrolling city streets in his squad car when he spotted an automobile reported to have been stolen. A chase ensued. Finally Misko forced the other car to the curb.

When car thief Joe Jablonski got out of the vehicle he recognized 38-year-old Misko. He had been one of Misko’s regular sparring partners in the mid-‘30s.

“Give me a chance,” pleaded Jablonski. “I was a better man than you back in the old days, but you got the big fights. Let me show you now. I could lick you then and I can lick you now.”

Misko handed his gun and his coat over to his partner, Patrolman Frank Mycek.

“The two men circled in the street for a minute,” says a newspaper account of what followed. “Jablonski started a left for Misko’s head. Misko came in under the punch and landed a right and a left. Jablonski fell, knocked out by two punches.”

At the Dearborn police station the wobbly Jablonski was booked for car theft, reckless driving and resisting arrest.

Explained Patrolman Misko to Police Chief Ralph Guy: “It was a fair fight. Joe just got a little too ambitious, that’s all.

“Sparring partners frequently get that way.”

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  1. Bruce Kielty 04:38pm, 09/02/2018

    Another first-rate tale from the Midwest Master,  Brother Ehrmann…

  2. peter 06:31am, 08/29/2018

    Nice! Only wish it were longer!

  3. Bob 05:50pm, 08/28/2018

    Another gem from the Ehrmann archives. Great read.

  4. marvin moskowitz 06:43am, 08/28/2018

    Nice read.. Enjoyed the article..

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