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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • FLY TO THE CARIBBEAN BY CLIPPER, c. 1950s

Sluggo: 1911

Sluggo: 1911

New York, 1911. Battling "Bat" Nelson (left) and sparring partner, our fourth look at the scrappy lightweight boxing champ. Bain News Service. View full size.

 

A tougher name than "Oscar"

Born in Denmark in 1882 as Oscar Nielsen, Battling Nelson grew up in Chicago and began his professional career at the age of 14 with a first round knockout of Wallace Kid. It was Kid's professional debut too, and for that matter his only professional fight.

He won the lightweight title in 1905, defeating champion Jimmy Britt by knockout in the 18th round of a scheduled 20-round fight. A year later, however, in an outdoor fight held before a huge crowd in Nevada, Nelson lost the title to Joe Gans by disqualification. Far behind on the scorecards, a desperate Nelson landed a very hard blow in the 42nd round, unfortunately for him it was below the belt. Boxers in those days routinely spent round after round maneuvering for position while throwing very few punches, so the idea of a fight going 40 or more rounds is not as absurd as it may seem.

Nelson got a second chance against Gans, and regained the title in 1908 by knockout in the 17th round of a fight scheduled for 45. He defended the title several times, including yet another rematch with Gans, before losing it to Ad Wolgast in 1910. Nelson's defeat came via TKO in the 40th round of a scheduled 45-rounder. Some boxing historians say it was one of the most brutal title fights of all time.

Nelson retired from boxing in 1917, after losing by decision in an attempt to regain the lightweight championship from Freddie Welsh. He went on to work for the post office in Chicago. Nelson died at the age of 71 in 1954, according to some reports after suffering a head injury in a street attack.

Nelson's record as a professional was 59 wins (40 by knockout), 19 losses (three by KO), and 22 draws. He also had a record of 10-14-5 in so-called "newspaper decisions." These are fights for which there are no reliable records, official recordkeeping having been rather haphazard in those days, and therefore are known only from contemporary news reports. One record of Nelson's that is known, and which has been tied but never beaten, occurred when he knocked out William Rossler 12 seconds into a 1902 fight. As the 12 seconds include the referee's 10-count, Nelson landed the knockout punch a mere two seconds after the bell starting the fight.

Layered look

A grateful nation notes that should Bat's trunks head south, public decency will remain unoffended.

[Also a good example of what happens when you let the gardener cut your hair. - Dave]

 
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Shorpy.com | History in HD is a vintage photo blog featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1950s. The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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