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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • THE TOY DEPARTMENT, 1913

Bat Nelson: 1911

Bat Nelson: 1911

Lightweight boxing champ "Bat" Nelson in 1911. After retiring from the ring, Bat (short for Battling; aka the Durable Dane, born Oscar Nielsen) dabbled in fight promotion and vaudeville. In January 1954, "a pathetic little man of 80 pounds, his mind a complete blank," Bat was committed to the Chicago State Hospital; a month later he was dead of lung cancer at age 71. With 68 wins, 19 draws and 19 losses, Bat once said that although he had "lost several fights," he had never been beaten. 8x10 glass negative, George Grantham Bain Collection. View full size.

 

Battling Nelson vs Eddie Lang

My great-uncle Eddie Lang fought Battling Nelson for the title in Nelson's last fight before losing his title to Ad Wolgast in about 40 brutal rounds. My grandfather (father's father) and Eddie's brother was in his corner -- he gave Nelson a scrappy fight and was KO'd in the 8th from body blows. The crowd actually cheered my great-uncle on for mixing it up and the papers called him "The Ghetto Captain." He fought the best around, and his brother Ira Lang (under the name Young Sweeney) did as well -- another great-uncle.

Batty Nelson

It also proves you can only take so many hits before your mind quits. Anyone can brag all they want to about how tough they are but it gets you soon enough. How many of his 71 years were spent in a mindless state? I don't see how anyone could call boxing a sport when the goal was to knock someone senseless. If this Extreme Boxing fad that now exists goes any further we'll see even more of it.

[Bat was put under psychiatric observation in 1927 for stealing a fight film and resisting arrest. He was released after doctors at the Psychopathic Hospital found him to be not insane, just "a trifle eccentric." - Dave]

From the New York Times, 2-26-1927:

CHICAGO, Feb. 25 -- Oscar "Battling" Nelson, the famed "Durable Dane" of Hegewisch, Ill., former world lightweight champion and one of pugilism's outstanding characters, tonight is under psychopathic observation, with a charge of grand larceny hanging over him.

The Dane's greatest ring contest -- his battle seventeen years ago in which he lost the championship to Ad Wolgast -- has risen from fight history to plague him. He faces a charge in Butte, Montana, of stealing the motion pictures of that fight and bringing them here.

Nelson has developed numerous idiosyncrasies since his ring days. He often gesticulates with rights and lefts, his posture while talking often becomes a weaving, swaying motion, like a crafty ringman in battle, and he has eccentricities which, his friends say, may be traced to the terrific punishment he took while battering his way to a world title.

When officers went to Nelson's home to serve the warrant the Dane barricaded himself and surrendered only after some discussion.

When Nelson was taken into court to face extradition proceedings today, his unusual demeanor caught the attention of Judge Max Luster, who ordered him under psychopathic examination.

The Durable Dane

"Bat" was a real brawler, evidently. More here, including great tales and quotes.

 
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