March 23rd, 2017 this week marks the 100 year anniversary of Battling Levinsky vs Tommy Gibbons. A tale in boxing history that will never be forgotten.
The evolution of boxing has taken numerous paths, encountering various styles, aliases, as well as leaving trail marks on history over the years.
Bouts have taken place between legends who’ve entered the square circle from eras where rules applied in the beginning which were minimal, to fights in today’s modern era where rules are plentiful.
Decisions were contrived through the newspapers back in the day, equipment was primitive, but never the less, the boxers still remain iconic and memorable to all critical fight fans.
Those who find the historic sporting events among pugilism intriguing may recall a bout between the defensive Battling Levinsky and the more decisive legend of Tommy Gibbons.
Philadelphia man, Barney Lebrowitz was more known for his nickname – “Battling Levinsky”, as his manager Dan Morgan utilized this alias to draw in fans at the time.
When we talk about the art of defense, as many today would define boxing as “hit and don’t get hit” – Levinsky may well be the first defensive master of the sport.
Considering he rarely left the ring with any damage. Levinsky utilized ring work, head movement and blocking ability to win fights.
Having only been knocked out five times out of hundreds of bouts, this safety first type of gameplan helped prove the legitimacy of his “rumored record” (consisting of over 500 bouts).
Officially, he had 287 matches. In just 1914 alone, Levinsky fought a confirmed and impressive 36 bouts. Modern boxing is lucky for when a fighter is to exceed more than 4 fights in a single year.
Experience was on Levinsky’s side, when undefeated Gibbons stepped up to the challenge for the light-heavyweight crown.
Tommy Gibbons, fighting out of Saint Paul, Minnesota, would find himself with home turf advantage when taking on the elusive Light-Heavyweight Levinsky in a bout scheduled for ten rounds.
Battling Levinsky vs Tommy Gibbons Will Never Be Forgotten
Gibbons, an entertaining boxer-puncher was known for beating boxer Harry Greb in their first meeting and would later be known for going the distance with the ruthless slugger – Jack Dempsey.
Highlights of the Dempsey fight:
In a era where most boxers only wanted to fight the best, Gibbons found the middleweight division at a decline – proceeding into moving up in weight.
The world light-heavyweight championship match with Barney “Battling” Levinsky was to take place one day after Gibbons’ 26th birthday on March 23rd at the St. Paul Auditorium.
Numerous fans showed up from all over the Northeast to support the champion Levinsky and of course, the locals backing up Gibbons in Minnesota.
They had a real fight in the works.
The bout was adequate in terms of spectators and business as a whole, generating a rough estimate of $8,000 at the time.
Embarked after the sound of the bell, the more decisive left jab, timing, and determination from the challenger Gibbons was apparent early on.
Maintaining the balance between engaging the champion and controlling the ring was more than what some had expected.
Especially in the occupied mind of Levinsky.
It was no surprise that Battling Levinsky would be back pedalling, trying to work his defenses to his full ability while doing his best to execute the reputation he had built upon his defensive style.
The aggressor Tommy Gibbons was taking the fight to Barney, which may have caused some frustration in the later rounds.
Gibbons, roughly won eight of the ten rounds, with rounds one and seven having appeared to be even (at best for Levinsky).
There were times of displeasure from the fans going in on the champion for not engaging enough – trying to alter his choice of style that had been doing little favors against the hungry challenger.
It was the eighth round where Levinsky made slight changes, possibly aware he needed something big.
He came forward and played the aggressive role (which Tommy took advantage of), causing a big left hand from Gibbons, putting Battling Levinsky back into his normal game-plan.
This fight was over then going the full ten rounds, with Gibbons receiving a newspaper decision over Levinsky.
Levinsky had recognized Tommy Gibbons as the most clever boxer he had ever faced in his dozens of fights (at the time) and would praise him afterwards as Gibbons continued to remain undefeated for many years.
He would go on to fight great champions like Levinaky in this highly active era among the history of boxing.
Gibbons’ first loss would come from the rematch with the Pittsburgh Windmill, Harry Greb, as well as only facing losses to Greb, Billy Miske, Jack Dempsey and his only knockout loss to Gene Tunney.
(Image source and credit: Fighttoys.com)