Battling Nelson

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Battling Nelson
Battling Nelson.jpg
Nelson c. 1900s
Real nameOscar Mathæus Nielsen
Nickname(s)The Durable Dane
Born(1882-06-05)5 June 1882
Copenhagen, Denmark
Died7 February 1954(1954-02-07) (aged 71)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Boxing record
Total fights135
Wins by KO40
1911 cartoon of Nelson and his future wife Fay King, drawn by herself for his guide The wonders of the Yellowstone National Park.
Marker commemorating the 1906 Gans-Nelson fight.

Oscar Matthew "Battling" Nelson ( June 5, 1882 – February 7, 1954), was a Danish-American professional boxer who held the World Lightweight championship. He was also nicknamed "the Durable Dane".

Personal history[edit]

Nelson was born Oscar Mathæus Nielsen in Copenhagen, Denmark, on June 5, 1882. He emigrated to the United States the following year and was raised in Hegewisch, a neighborhood on he Southeast side of Chicago.

In 1913, he married Fay King, a cartoonist who did his portrait for Nelson's 1911 guide The wonders of the Yellowstone National Park.[1] In 1916, they had a very public divorce.[2][3]

Nelson died February 7, 1954 in Chicago, Illinois from lung cancer.[4]

Boxing career[edit]

Nelson began boxing professionally at fourteen in 1896. He fought for the vacant lightweight title against Jimmy Britt on December 20, 1904, but lost a twenty-round decision. He lost to Abe Attell in 1905 but beat Jack O'Neill to secure another shot at the title on September 9, 1905, finally beating Britt by an 18 round knockout.

He defended the title against Terry McGovern but then faced a greater challenge against former champion Joe Gans on September 3, 1906, in Goldfield, Nevada. Gans dropped Nelson repeatedly during the bout, but could not knock him out. Finally, in the forty-second round, Nelson hit Gans below the belt, receiving a disqualification, and lost his title.

In 1907 and 1908, Nelson split a pair of bouts with Britt and fought Attell to a draw. He then challenged Gans for the title on July 4, 1908. This time he knocked Gans out in the seventeenth round. Two months later, Nelson knocked out Gans in the twenty-first round.

In 1909 Nelson fought Ad Wolgast in a fight held over the lightweight limit. Wolgast beat him and Nelson gave Wolgast a chance at his title on February 22, 1910. Eventually unable to see due to the accumulation of punches, Nelson lost the title when the referee stopped the fight in either the fortieth or the forty-second round.[5]

Nelson continued to fight and in 1917 challenged Freddie Welsh for the lightweight title. He lost a twelve-round decision and retired from fighting in 1920.

He was elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1992.

In 2016 award-winning biographer Mark Allen Baker published the first comprehensive biography on Battling Nelson with McFarland, a leading independent publisher of academic & nonfiction books.

Motion pictures of Nelson's fights[edit]

A motion picture of the second Gans-Nelson fight in Colma, California, was shown in theaters across the country. Above, reporter-artist Marguerite Martyn sketched her impression of women watching the fight in St. Louis, Missouri, in October 1908.

The second Gans-Nelson battle in Colma was the subject of a four-reel motion picture that played in major cities around the country.

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ Roberts, James and Alexander Skutt (1997). The Boxing Register, 1st ed. Ithaca, New York: McBooks Press. p. 128. ISBN 0-935526-23-4.
  5. ^ Roberts, James and Alexander Skutt (1997). The Boxing Register, 1st ed. Ithaca, New York: McBooks Press. p. 129. ISBN 0-935526-23-4.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Joe Gans
World Lightweight Champion
August 4, 1908 – February 22, 1910
Succeeded by
Ad Wolgast
Titles in pretence
Preceded by
Jimmy Britt
World White Lightweight Champion
September 9, 1905 – July 31, 1907
Succeeded by
Jimmy Britt