Larry Gains

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Larry Gains
Larry Gains.jpeg
Nickname(s) Larrupin' Larry
Rated at Heavyweight
Height 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)
Reach 77 in (196 cm)
Nationality Canadian
Born (1900-12-12)12 December 1900
Cabbagetown, Toronto
Died 26 July 1983(1983-07-26) (aged 82)
Cologne, Germany
Boxing record
Total fights 143
Wins 115
Wins by KO 61
Losses 22
Draws 5

Lawrence Samuel "Larry" Gains (12 December 1900 – 26 July 1983) was a Black Canadian heavyweight boxer who was champion of the Dominion of Canada and the British Empire. One of the top heavyweights of his era, he was denied the opportunity to become World Champion due to the bar on black boxers competing for the title.


Gains was born on Sumach Street in Cabbagetown, Toronto on December 12, 1900.[1] He took up boxing at around the age of twenty, after being asked to act as a sparring partner by Charlie Clay, and boxed out of Toronto's Praestamus Club, an organization for Black boxers.[2][3][4]

Professional career[edit]

After a successful amateur career, Gains made the decision to go professional, traveling to Britain on a cattle ship and making his professional début in London as "The Toronto Terror" in June 1923.[5][6] Many of his early fights were in France (where he befriended Morley Callahan and Ernest Hemingway who at the time were working as newspaper reporters) and Germany, where he beat Max Schmeling in 1925. On Feb.28, 1927 he became Canadian Heavyweight Champion when he stopped Horace "Soldier" Jones in 5 rounds at Toronto. He later defended it against two of the biggest names in Canadian boxing at the time, Jack Renault and Charlie Belanger.[7][8] He settled in Leicester, England in 1930, where many of his fights over the next few years were held.[9] Noted primarily as a slick boxer he KO'd Phil Scott in front of 30,000 spectators at Leicester Tigers' Welford Road ground in 1931, taking the British Empire title, although the colour bar was still in place.[10] The colour bar was lifted in 1932, and he cemented his hold on the title with a victory over white South African Donald McCorkindale at the Royal Albert Hall (Gains becoming the first black boxer to fight there),[8] the fight ending in an unpopular points decision for Gains, with Gains' trainer Jack Goodwin collapsing and dying during the fight.[11] He went on to beat Primo Carnera in front of 70,000 people at White City, London in May that year (a British record attendance for a boxing match), despite Carnera having an advantage of 60 pounds in weight and a four inches in height.[8][12] He lost the British Empire title in 1934 to Len Harvey, and failed to regain it later that year, defeated by Jack Petersen in front of a crowd of 64,000 at White City.[13]

World colored heavyweight champion[edit]

Gains was considered one of the top heavyweights of his era, but was denied the opportunity to fight for the British Championship and the World Championship due to the rules against black boxers competing for the titles, instead competing for the 'Coloured Heavyweight Championship of the World', a title that he won in 1928 and 1935.[7][14][15] His income from boxing dwindled after 1934 and in 1937 he was declared bankrupt.[16] In December 1938 he defeated Welsh champion George James on points.[17] In 1939, with the advent of World War II, Gains joined the British Army as a physical training instructor.[8] He served as a Sergeant Major in the Pioneer Corps in the Middle East.[18] His last fight was a defeat to Jack London in June 1942, held to raise funds for the RAF Benevolent Fund.[19]

Gains retired from boxing at the age of forty.[9] He had 143 professional fights, winning 115 and drawing 5, most of his defeats coming in the latter years of his career. Gains stated that during his career he won around US$500,000, much of which was lost through gambling.[8][20]

Later life[edit]

After boxing, Gains had a succession of low-paid jobs. In 1950 he was working as a labourer in Shoeburyness, Essex.[21] In 1953 he was jailed for three months for stealing £222 12/5 from a British Legion club where he worked as a steward.[9][22] He pleaded guilty and stated that he would repay the money.[23] He successfully appealed against the sentence and was discharged conditionally after a "well known sporting gentleman" repaid the money along with the court costs.[24] Gains went on to be the singer/drummer in a hotel band.[25] In the early 1960s Gains was living on Tooting Broadway and working as a "salvage collection merchant".[2] Gains later worked in car sales and as a boxing trainer in Morden, near London.[8]

With his wife Lisa, he had four children, Betty, Harold, Anne and John.[1] Gains' autobiography, The Impossible Dream, was published in 1976, the title a reference to his dream of becoming World Champion. Max Schmeling contributed a foreword. Gains died in July 1983 from a heart attack while visiting relatives in Cologne, Germany.[26]

Notable bouts[edit]

Result Opponent Type Rd., Time Date Location Notes[27]
Loss United Kingdom Jack London KO 2 (10) 1942-06-06 Scotland Caird Hall, Dundee
Loss United Kingdom Jack London KO 3 (10) 1941-05-28 United Kingdom New St James Hall, Newcastle, Tyne and Wear
Loss United Kingdom Jack London KO 4 (10) 1941-01-25 United Kingdom The Stadium, Liverpool, Merseyside
Loss Wales Tommy Farr TKO 6 (10) 1939-05-17 Wales Ninian Park, Cardiff
Loss United Kingdom Len Harvey TKO 13 (15) 1939-03-16 United Kingdom Harringay Arena, Harringay, London For vacant Commonwealth (British Empire) Heavyweight Title.
NC United Kingdom Jack London NC 8 (10) 1936-10-19 United Kingdom Earls Court Exhibition Centre, Kensington, London
Loss South Africa Ben Foord PTS 12 1936-03-09 United Kingdom Granby Halls, Leicester, Leicestershire
Loss South Africa Ben Foord PTS 12 1935-11-25 United Kingdom Granby Halls, Leicester, Leicestershire
Win United States Obie Walker PTS 15 1935-07-20 United Kingdom Welford Road Stadium, Leicester, Leicestershire Won World "Colored" Heavyweight Title.
Loss Wales Jack Petersen TKO 13 (15) 1934-09-10 United Kingdom White City Stadium, White City, London For Commonwealth (British Empire) Heavyweight Title.
Loss United Kingdom Len Harvey PTS 15 1934-02-08 United Kingdom Royal Albert Hall, Kensington, London Lost Commonwealth (British Empire) Heavyweight Title.
Win United Kingdom Jack London KO 2 (12) 1933-12-11 United Kingdom New St James Hall, Newcastle, Tyne and Wear
Loss Germany Walter Neusel UD 10 1932-10-17 France Salle Wagram, Paris
Win Italy Primo Carnera PTS 10 1932-05-30 United Kingdom White City Stadium, White City, London
Win United Kingdom Phil Scott KO 2 (15) 1931-06-13 United Kingdom Tigers Rugby Football Ground, Leicester, Leicestershire Won Commonwealth (British Empire) Heavyweight Title.
Win United States George Godfrey DQ 3 1928-08-15 Canada Maple Leaf Stadium, Toronto, Ontario Won World "Colored" Heavyweight Title.
Draw Republic of Ireland Mike McTigue PTS 10 1928-08-15 Canada CNE Coliseum, Toronto, Ontario
Loss United States George Godfrey TKO 6 1926-11-08 United States Broadway Auditorium, Buffalo, New York For World "Colored" Heavyweight Title.
Win United States Dixie Kid KO 2 1926-04-12 Canada Arena Gardens, Toronto, Ontario
Win Germany Max Schmeling KO 2 (10) 1925-08-28 Germany Kristallpalast, Cologne, Nordrhein-Westfalen
Loss Wales Frank Moody TKO 5 1923-06-23 United Kingdom The Ring, Southwark, London


  1. ^ a b Gains, Larry (1976) The Impossible Dream, Leisure Publications Ltd, 14 Fleet Street, London EC4
  2. ^ a b "One-time Boxing Great Now Just Rag Collector", Leader-Post, 23 March 1963, p. 27, retrieved 2012-03-13
  3. ^ "Amateur Boxing Held at Toronto", Quebec Telegraph, 21 November 1921, p. 3, retrieved 2012-03-13
  4. ^ "Toronto Daily Star", 22 April 1922 "Superb Battling in Ontario Finals"
  5. ^ Page, Joseph S. (2010) Primo Carnera: The Life and Career of the Heavyweight Boxing Champion, McFarland & Co Inc, ISBN 978-0786448104, p. 82
  6. ^ "Larry Gains Won", Montreal Gazette, 13 April 1926, p. 17
  7. ^ a b Andrews, David L. (2001) Michael Jordan, Inc.: Corporate Sport, Media Culture and Late Modern America, State University of New York Press, ISBN 978-0791450253, p. 211
  8. ^ a b c d e f Cope, Michael (1974) "The Man Who Broke Boxing's Color Bar", Vancouver Sun, 2 March 1974, p. 18 (Weekend magazine), retrieved 2012-03-12
  9. ^ a b c "Larry Gains, Old Boxer, Goes to Jail", Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, 15 May 1953, p. 1, retrieved 2012-03-12
  10. ^ Fruman, Andrew "A Backward Glance-1931, The Year in Boxing: Larry Gains Wins Empire Title, Brown & Sanstol in Action",, retrieved 2012-03-12
  11. ^ Cummings, A.C. (1932) "Gains Failed to Hold Early Lead", Calgary Daily Herald, 30 January 1932, p. 7, retrieved 2012-03-12
  12. ^ "Larry Gains Beats Carnera on Points as 70,000 Look On", Montreal Gazette, 31 May 1932, p. p. 11
  13. ^ "Empire Heavyweight Championship: Petersen Beats Gains", Sydney Morning Herald, 12 September 1934, p. 22, retrieved 2012-03-12
  14. ^ Humber, William (2004) A Sporting Chance: Achievements of African-Canadian Athletes, Natural Heritage Books, ISBN 978-1896219998
  15. ^ "Gains, Harvey Battle for Title", The Border Cities Star, 8 February 1934, p. 3, retrieved 2012-03-12
  16. ^ "Court Tribute to Larry Gains: Bankruptcy Examination Closed". Western Daily Press. 17 June 1937. Retrieved 20 September 2014 – via British Newspaper Archive. (subscription required (help)). 
  17. ^ "James Outpointed by Larry Gains", Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, December 13, 1938, p. 11, retrieved 2012-03-12
  18. ^ Nickleson, Allan (1942) "Larry Gains Fighting His Biggest Battle", Calgary Herald, 16 September 1942, p. 15, retrieved 2012-03-13
  19. ^ "Larry Gains Beaten: Knocked Out in Second Round by Jack London", Montreal Gazette, 8 June 1942, p. 17, retrieved 2012-03-12
  20. ^ "Larry Gains, Bankrupt, Faces Inquiry", The Straits Times, 5 June 1937, p. 18
  21. ^ "Larry Gains Just Reflects on Ring Career", Calgary Herald, 16 February 1950, p. 27, retrieved 2012-03-13
  22. ^ "Gains sentenced to term in jail", Leader-Post, 16 May 1953, p. 20, retrieved 2012-03-12
  23. ^ "Ex-Heavyweight Boxer Larry Gains Suffers First 'K.O.' in his Life", Indian Express, 26 May 1953, p. 6, retrieved 2012-03-13
  24. ^ "Larry Gains Wins Sentence Appeal", Edmonton Journal, 16 July 1953, p. 18, retrieved 2012-03-12
  25. ^ "Ex-British Champ Freed", Baltimore Afro-American, 18 July 1953, p. 19, retrieved 2012-03-12
  26. ^ "Boxer Gains Dies at 83", Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 28 July 1983, p. 16-B, retrieved 2012-03-12
  27. ^ Larry Gains' Professional Boxing Record. Retrieved on 2014-05-18.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
George Godfrey
World Colored Heavyweight Champion
August 15, 1928 - Unknown
Title next held by
George Godfrey
Preceded by
Obie Walker
World Colored Heavyweight Champion
July 20, 1935 - Unknown
Title defunct after
Joe Louis
wins World Heavyweight title