You da Mann!
The New York Daily Mirror, grande dame of the yellow press, was around when boxing was in its glory and Joe Louis was its king…
“Galento floors Mann for the second and last time in the second round.”—New York Daily Mirror
Any day is a good day to bring to mind one of Joe Louis’ so-called bums. And with Christmas fast approaching, Santa delivered an early present in the form of a photo of Tony Galento vs. Nathan Mann, courtesy of photographer Tom Governale of the Daily Mirror, a grand old New York morning tabloid, home of famed Walter Winchell.
This delightful scandal sheet, which focused far more on entertainment than news, covered such stories as the 1927 divorce between “Daddy” Browning and “Peaches” Heenan. The brief marriage between the 52-year-old real estate mogul and his 16-year-old peach of a gal had been problematic from the get-go. “Her mother lived with us and, many time, slept in the same room,” complained Daddykins. “I couldn’t even whisper sweet nothings to my darling without waking her mother.” But wait, there’s more. “My innocent sensibilities were astonished when he came lumbering into our bedroom dressed as a sheik and growling ‘woof woof’ at me like a bear,” said the self-described bird in a gilded cage. “Naturally, I went into a swoon. Besides, I feel that if he got to bring his pet duck along on our honeymoon, I should have been able to take my mother. The nasty thing has free reign of the house, just honk, honk, honking all day long.”
The paper first appeared in 1924 and closed its doors 39 years later, following the devastating New York City newspaper strike of 1962-1963. But this grande dame of the yellow press was around when boxing was in its glory and Joe Louis was its king.
If you want to get technical about it, Nathan Mann wasn’t one of Louis’ “bums.” They fought in 1938 and the “Bum of the Month Club” is generally considered to have run from January 1939 to May 1941, and included such members as John Henry Lewis, Johnny Paychek, Clarence Burman, Gus Dorazio, Abe Simon, and Tony Musto. But an appreciation for the Daily Mirror has taught me that inconvenient facts are nothing more than tut-tutting hall monitors, to be brushed aside with a breezy disdain, sort of like what the bearded guy in the Dos Equis commercials would do. If you know, as does the Most Interesting Man in the World, that “If the only thing that comes off at the unmasking hour is the mask, you’ve done something wrong,” then you surely won’t be dissuaded by something as trifling as a “fact.” So, with that disclaimer in mind…
Born Natale Menchetti on May 3, 1915, in New Haven, Connecticut, the future heavyweight contender was 15 and working the heavy bag in his parents’ garage when discovered by truck driver Bill Reynolds, who was making a delivery from the local bakery. A former boxer and sometime trainer, Reynolds saw a “power puncher with a world of potential,” writes Chip Malafronte of the New Haven Register.
Mann fought from 1934 to 1948, scored 74 wins, 45 by KO, and beat the likes of Abe Feldman, Arturo Godoy, Bob Pastor, Art Lasky, Freddie Schott, and Johnny Shkor. He lost 12, to Eddie Coderre (twice), Steve Carr, Steve Dudas, Joe Louis, Tony Galento, Al McCoy, Buddy Baer, Gus Lesnevich, Eddie Blunt, Teddy Randolph, and Bernie Reynolds. Mann was only stopped five times, by Louis, Galento, McCoy, Baer, and Reynolds. He drew against Frank LoBianco, Eddie Mader, Maurice Strickland, and Eddie Blunt.
It was during the bout with McCoy that Mann’s manager, Marty Krompier, struck the time-keeper’s bell with 50 seconds still to go in the second round. Krompier was suspended and the referee, the great Benny Leonard, permanently banned from reffing fights in the Nutmeg State. If the “Ghetto Wizard” could be banned for “laxity,” then surely Laurence Cole…?
And the title bout? Nate faced the “Brown Bomber” at Madison Square Garden on February 23, 1938, knocked down three times before losing by third-round KO.
“Louis sure can punch,” Mann said after the fight. “I must have run into a good left in the second round. I don’t remember a thing from then until I heard them counting me out. I didn’t even see the punch that did it.”
His bout with Galento, which took place at the Garden on May 13, 1938, was even briefer, “Two Ton” Tony winning by second-round KO, as the photo accompanying this article makes abundantly clear.
After leaving the ring, Mann lived in Hamden, Connecticut, before retiring to Florida, where he died at age 84 on October 26, 1999. New England heavyweight champ from 1940 to 1948, he was inducted into the Connecticut Boxing Hall of Fame in 2006, along with fellow fighters Chico Vejar, Gaspar Ortega, and Lou Bogash, as well as John Burns, the state’s boxing director from 1987 to 2000, and boxing manager Manny Leibert.
As for today’s heavyweight fans (all eight of them), they can look forward to Deontay Wilder and his…well, they’re not bums. Corpses, yes, but not bums. Or am I being too cynical? David Greisman predicts in the most recent issue of the Ring that 2014 will see Wilder “in a bout against someone toward the top of his division’s rankings.” The top of the current heavyweight division’s rankings, is it?
Ho Ho Ho.