Time Magazine

New Champion - Time Magazine - 1935

Jun. 24, 1935

A misty June moon shone down on Madison Square Garden's Long Island City Bowl one night last week as a solemn prizefighter in a blue bathrobe climbed through the ropes. The plain Irish face of James J. (born Walter) Braddock was puckered with earnest anxiety. Improvident of his earnings when he was a top-flight light heavyweight seven years ago, 29-year-old Jimmy Braddock had, after successive defeats, toppled completely out of the prize ring. He worked briefly as a janitor. He made a pittance as a stevedore on the New Jersey docks opposite Manhattan. Finally he changed his name to No. 2796 on the North Bergen (N. J.) relief rolls last year. By unexpectedly knocking out a respectable opponent in a preliminary to the fight in which Max Baer knocked out ponderous Primo Camera and took the heavyweight championship (TIME, June 25, 1934), Jimmy Braddock managed to get back into his old profession. And by an equally unforeseen victory over Art Lasky, in whom the Garden management hoped to find a suitable match for Champion Baer. Jimmy Braddock himself was now about to have a crack at the heavyweight championship of the world. As he slipped the blue bathrobe from his pink back, he was the sentimental favorite of a Bowl crowd of 30,000, most of whom had bet their money 8-to-1 against him.

No sympathy, no best wishes rose to greet brown, broad-shouldered Champion Max Baer as that prime poseur, playboy and punchinello of the U. S. prize ring parted the ropes. The customers could not help resenting the fact that Baer's night club escapades, his cinema career (The Prizefighter and the Lady), his reluctance to train properly, amounted to a refusal to take seriously the sport of fisticuffing and, by inference, its patrons. The fact that he had won his title in the same ring where he was now about to risk it. and where no championship had ever been competed for without changing hands, did not appear to worry happy-go-lucky Baer. Over Braddock he had the advantages of weight (18 lb.), reach (3 in.) and a fabulous right-hand punch which had once killed a man. In all earnestness he had told reporters: "I'm scared stiff I'll kill Braddock. I dreamed last night I hurt the boy. I woke up in a cold sweat." Most sportswriters had branded the contest a gross mismatch, had almost unanimously picked Baer to win in the first few rounds. In the first three rounds the fun-loving Californian justified his reputation for high jinks. Dancing about in his black trunks adorned with a six-pointed Star of David, Baer feinted ferociously with his right, then danced away again smirking at Braddock as if he were some huge private joke. Irritated at the champion's clowning, the crowd shouted encouragement, warnings, admonitions to the challenger.

Box him, Jimmy! Stay away from him! Wipe dat smile offen his face!

When the referee warned Baer for hitting low, he made a ludicrous bow. When the champion noticed an acquaintance at the ringside, he waved a friendly greeting. When Braddock reached his face with stinging but unimportant jabs, Baer sounded a jolly ''Ho, ho!" But solemn, plodding Jimmy Braddock took the first three rounds.

You got him, Jimmy! He didn't like dat! Take him, Jimmy!

In the fourth round Baer seemed suddenly to settle down to business. Striking an antique posture with his long left arm extended, Baer measured his opponent, cocked his deadly right, sent in three uppercuts. Braddock staggered as the round ended.

Look out for him, Jimmy! Watch dat right! Look out for dat right, Jimmy! Stay away from him!

Baer lost the fifth round on a foul, the sixth on points. With a rare flash of his old savage form he rocked Braddock with a right to the jaw in the seventh. Then in the eighth round Braddock sent a harmless blow to Baer's chin. And, again going comic, Baer electrified the crowd by staggering about in a circle, then straightening up with a great laugh and repulsing the hopeful challenger.

He's a bum, Jimmy! Send dat bum back to California!

At that point the champion's comedy ceased. With "the wife and kiddies" heavy on his mind, earnest Jimmy Braddock met Baer's sporadic, inconclusive assaults, kept brushing aside his extended left, boring in, plodding on, piling up points. As an exhibition of good boxing, the match lacked intrinsic excitement. But the crowd was on its toes right up to the final bell on the chance that Baer might somehow suddenly land the dread blow which would cut down the striving underdog. But Max Baer, having frittered away his early chances, never did. When the referee and judges compared scorecards, consensus was that Baer had taken six rounds, Braddock eight.

Stepping up to the loudspeaker in the middle of the ring, the announcer began: "The winnah and new champion—" The rest was extinguished in a mighty shout.

In his dressing room, new Champion Jimmy Braddock, whom 22 men have previously defeated, explained his part in what was essentially the most colorless championship match in a decade: "I knew in the seventh that I had him. ... I took his Sunday punch and it didn't hurt me. Say, I guess that Bowl jinx still holds good." His night-watchman father, his mother, his four brothers had witnessed his victory. His wife, onetime telephone operator and mother of three, stayed fearfully at home, listening to the radio account of the fight. Champion Braddock dashed off to a Manhattan hotel to meet her, plan what to do with his $31,000 purse. Little Joe Gould. Braddock's manager, fairly beside himself with happy amazement, squealed: "What'd I tell you mugs? Jim would win! That's it! I have no plans. Hell, I'm gonna be drunk for a week! Maybe longer!"

In his own dressing room mentally counting the $88,000 which was his share of the proceeds, urbane Ex-Champion Baer sipped a bottle of beer, displayed a broken right hand, a left hand with a badly swollen knuckle. ''No alibi," said he cheerfully. "Jim fought a good fight and I hope he's more appreciative of the title than I was. ... I really think I ought to quit. . . ."

Sport - Horseshoe Man

Jan. 31, 1938

In Manhattan's Madison Square Garden one night last week 18,000 fight fans witnessed one of the most exciting stretch finishes they could remember. Onetime World Heavyweight Champion Jim Braddock had entered the ring an 8-to-5 underdog in a ten-round bout with Welshman Tommy Farr, British heavyweight champion. For eight rounds Jim Braddock did nothing to belie the betting public's estimation of him. Then suddenly, in the ninth round, the 32-year-old "Cinderella Man," who came off Relief three years ago to win the world championship from Max Baer and then lost it to Joe Louis last June, pranced out of his corner, began slugging rights & lefts at his opponent. Before Welshman Farr knew what it was all about, the tenth round was over and Jim Braddock was the winner.

Whether seasoned Jim Braddock had deliberately conserved himself during the early rounds, saving his energy and his aging legs for a smash-bang windup, or whether he had been momentarily rejuvenated by a desperate will-to-win, aided & abetted by the exhilarating encouragement from the galleries, no two fans seemed to agree. But in his dressing room after the fight, Jim Braddock probably had the answer: a rabbit's-foot charm and a painted horseshoe. To his merry, milling admirers he explained that the horseshoe had been presented to him just before the fight by John F. ("Jafsie") Condon, onetime intermediary in the Lindbergh kidnapping case, who had received it from onetime World Champion Bob Fitzsimmons, who had fashioned it with his own hands in 1896. "And," added Braddock, "it's been lucky ever since."