Young Griffo

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Young Griffo
Young Griffo NLA.jpg
Statistics
Real name Albert Griffiths
Nickname(s) Australian Will O' The Wisp
Rated at Featherweight
Lightweight
Height 5 ft 4 in (1.63 m)
Reach 68 in (173 cm)
Nationality  Australia
Born (1871-01-01)1 January 1871
Millers Point, Sydney
Died 7 December 1927(1927-12-07) (aged 56)
New York, New York
Boxing record
Total fights 306
Wins 105
Wins by KO 33
Losses 12
Draws 73
No contests 39

Albert Griffiths (1 January 1871 – 10 December 1927), better known as Young Griffo, was a world featherweight boxing champion, and according to many sources, one of the first boxing world champions in any class. The Ring founder Nat Fleischer rated Griffo as the eighth greatest featherweight of all-time.[1] He was inducted into the Ring Magazine Hall of Fame in 1954, the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1991, and the Australian National Boxing Hall of Fame in 2003.[1]

During his career he defeated Abe Willis, champion Ike Weir, Horace Leeds, and Joe Harmon. He won bouts against champion Torpedo Billy Murphy a total of three times, twice in World Featherweight title matches.[2] A prolific boxer of great opponents, after coming to America, he fought champions Solly Smith, "Kid" Lavigne, Joe Gans, Tommy Ryan, George Dixon, Frank Erne, and featherweight contender Joe Bernstein.

Taking and defending the World Featherweight Title[edit]

Albert Griffiths was born at Millers Point, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia on 1 January 1871. He took his ringname "Young Griffo" early in his career.

Griffo turned pro in 1886 and until the age of twenty-two fought in his home land of Australia. He held the Australian featherweight title for several years.

For four of his most successful years as a boxer, Harry Tuthill was his athletic trainer and Hugh Behan and Sam Tuckhorn were managers, though by his mid career Griffo went through a host of trainers and managers who tired of his drinking habits and unwillingness to train.[3][4][5]

Taking the Australian Featherweight Championship in 1889[edit]

On 26 December 1889, he fought Nipper Peakes in Melbourne for the Australian Featherweight Championship winning in an eight round points decision. He held the title for several years defending it against Abe Willis and George McKenzie in Sydney in 1890.[2]

Taking World Featherweight Title against Torpedo Billy Murphy in 1890[edit]

Billy Murphy, World Featherweight Champion

He first took the World Featherweight Title against Torpedo Billy Murphy on 2 September 1890 at the White Horse Hotel in Sydney in a fifteen round decision. It was one of the first World Title matches ever held in Australia. At the time, the United States only recognized bouts that took place in North America, and so did not fully accept Griffo's claim to the World Title, but both Australia and Great Britain did.[6][2] Subsequent to his death, the World Boxing Organization accepted Griffo's claim to the World Featherweight Title.

He defended the British and Australian version of the World Featherweight title again Paddy Moran on 4 November 1890 in a thirteen round decision in Sydney.[2] He defended the World Featherweight Title against George Powell on 12 March 1891 in a twenty round disqualification in Sydney.[2] Griffo defended the World Featherweight Title a third time against Torpedo Billy Murphy again in Sydney, Australia on 22 July 1891, winning in a twenty-second round disqualification.[7]

In his final defense of the World Featherweight Title, he defeated Mick McCarthy on 22 March 1892 in Sydney in a fourth round decision. He eventually vacated the title to fight at a higher weight.

He fought for the Australian Lightweight Title on July 25, 1892 against Jim Barron in Sydney, Australia in a twenty-two round bout that was declared a draw. The referee called the bout when both boxers appeared too battered and exhausted to continue. According to one source, an audience of 2,500 were present. [8]

Boxing in the United States[edit]

In 1893, at the age of 22, he came to America. He boxed in the United States between November 1893, until his retirement from boxing in 1904 and remained there until his death in 1927.[2] He fought a few bouts on the West Coast upon his arrival.[9] One of his first bouts in America was against "Young Scotty" in Chicago on 13 November 1893, where he was reputed to have challenged his opponent to hit him for several minutes while he bobbed his head and managed to avoid nearly every blow. At least one newspaper reported after his death that even in this early stage of his career, he had been pulled from a bar room before the fight with the skilled Black boxer, though his defensive skills in the bout were considered to have been extraordinary with Scotty unable to land a blow.[10]

Bout with future World Featherweight Champion Solly Smith[edit]

On 3 January 1894, he fought future World Featherweight champion Solly Smith at the Tivoli Theatre in Chicago to a six round draw. Smith, who had distinguished himself by the time he met Griffo, would take the World Featherweight Championship the following year.

Impressive match with Ike Weir, former World Featherweight Champion[edit]

On 17 March 1894, Griffo defeated Ike Weir at the Second Regiment Armory in Chicago. Griffo, as a lightweight, outweighed Weir considerably and dominated the bout, which was stopped by the police in the third round when Weir was down. Weir announced retirement after the bout but returned to the ring for a few more professional bouts and exhibitions.[11] Although the bout was officially called a draw by the referee, Griffo knocked Weir down twice in the third round, with Weir taking a while to get to his feet. Many in the crowd were displeased with the official Draw decision.[12] According to the Inter Ocean, as many as five thousand were in attendance to watch "three of the fastest, fiercest and most brutal rounds ever fought in an American prize ring". Young Griffo made a veritable chopping block of Ike O'Neil Weir, the "Befast Spider".[13] It is important to note that according to one source, Griffo may have outweighed Wier by as much as thirty pounds during the bout, though discrepancies in the weights of opponents was more common in this era of boxing.[14] Several newspaper accounts of the fight, written after Griffo's death, wrote that he had been drinking prior to the bout, though by most accounts he had the edge during most of the fighting, and Weir was a worthy opponent.[15]

On 27 August 1894, he lost to the famed seven year undefeated World Lightweight Champion Jack McAuliffe in Brooklyn, New York, in a ten round points decision. McAuliffe had lost his World Lightweight Championship only the year before. Griffo had lost few of his fights by referee decision prior to his bout with the legendary McAuliffe.

Meeting champions Kid Lavigne, George Dixon, and Joe Gans[edit]

Griffo fought an assortment of opponents who would at one time hold world championships.

Bouts with Lightweight Champion "Kid" Lavigne[edit]

On 10 February 1894, he fought future World Lightweight Champion George "Kid" Lavigne for the first time in an eight round draw in Chicago. On 12 October 1895, he fought Lavigne in a twenty round draw by points decision in Queens, New York. Lavigne would take the World Lightweight Championship only the following year.[2]

He subsequently fought an eight round draw with the hard hitting red head boxer Johnny Griffin at the Casino in Boston on 23 April 1894.

On 17 September 1894, he knocked out Eddie Loeber in only 2 minutes 36 seconds of the first round at the Seaside Athletic Club in Brooklyn. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, wrote that the two men were very "poorly matched", and that it was a relief when the referee Dominick McAffrey stopped the bout. Hundreds of spectators struggled to shake hands with Griffo after the fight's conclusion.[16]

On 4 March 1895, he defeated Horace Leeds at the Seaside Athletic Club in Coney Island in a twelve round bout in front of a sizable crowd of 4000 spectators. One reporter believed Griffo to be over the 133 pound weight limit, and fighting at a weight of as much as 140. The fighting was fierce, and both men were described as being "badly pummeled" in a close bout that had the betting about even. [17][18] He lost to Leeds on August 7, 1897, in a four round newspaper decision in Atlantic City, New Jersey. [2] During this period, he was managed by Hugh Behan, though Griffo had an assortment of trainers in his career. [19]

Three bouts with World Feather and Bantamweight Champion George Dixon[edit]

On 28 October 1895, he fought the great Black Canadian champion George Dixon in a ten round draw by points decision in Manhattan.[2] Dixon had taken the World Featherweight Championship in 1891, and was one of the first recognized world champions. Griffo would fight Dixon two additional times in well attended matches. One source described their twenty round draw as a "battle that bristled throughout with glittering skill and generalship."[20] On 19 January 1895, they would fight a twenty-five round draw in New York's Coney Island. His manager Hughey Behan had him jailed briefly before the Coney Island bout with Dixon so he could train in a sober state.

Arrest on assault charges[edit]

On 11 April 1896, he was arrested at a Casino he frequented in College Point, Long Island, on charges of assault against William Connors, a town trustee. He was discharged shortly after to attend a scheduled bout against boxer Charles McKeever.[21] On 13 April, the day he would have faced trial on the assault charge, he lost the twenty round bout at the Empire Athletic Club with McKeever in Queens, New York, on a points decision of the referee.[2] He was arrested on suspicion of armed robbery against James H. Wilkerson on September 9, 1901, but only one source mentions this arrest. [22]

Three bouts with future World Light and Welterweight Champion Joe Gans[edit]

Champion Joe Gans

He fought the legendary World Light and Welterweight Champion Joe Gans three times, though never winning a bout. Griffo's 18 November 1895 bout with Gans in Gan's home of Baltimore, Maryland, appeared to some to be only an exhibition, with which many in the crowd were disappointed. A few even considered the bout a "fix", as Griffo told the audience, he had agreed not to "put out" Gans during the bout.[23] [24] Griffo considered his fifteen round draw in Athens, Pennsylvania at the Olympic Athletic Club on 21 September 1897 one of his best, as well as one of Gan's most skilled displays.[25] Of his 10 July 1900 bout with Gans, an eighth round loss by technical knockout at the Seaside Athletic Club, one source wrote, the referee stopped the bout one minute and thirty seconds into the eighth round when "Griffo was so far gone that another punch from Gans would have put him out." Griffo was reported to have shown some of his early form, but was no match for the blows and conditioning of the "old master" Joe Gans, and was believed by one reporter to have had less stamina as the fight wound on.[26] Griffo was down in both the first and seventh rounds, and he took off nearly a year from his boxing after this last fight with Gans.[2]

Bouts with champions Frank Erne, and Billy Murphy[edit]

He met one time World Featherweight and Lightweight champion Frank Erne on 20 December 1895 in a four round non-title fight that resulted in a draw in Buffalo, New York.[2]

He defeated Torpedo Billy Murphy in a non-tile match ending in an eight round points decision at the Casino in Boston on 7 May 1894. His twenty round draw bout with Jack Everhardt on 10 July 1896 in Buffalo, New York, was billed as a World 135 pound title. He had previously met Everhardt in a pre-arranged six round draw in Brooklyn on 25 May, at which the crowd would have preferred a decision by the referee. He lost to World Welter and Middleweight Champion Tommy Ryan on 21 June 1897 in a non-title match in a third round technical knockout in Brooklyn, New York.[2]

Late boxing career[edit]

On 12 July 1897, he fought well known lightweight Owen Ziegler, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in a six round bout, which he won by newspaper decision. He considered Ziegler one of his more important opponents.[2]

He fought a close bout with Horace Leeds on 7 August 1897 in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in which the Philadelphia Enquirer felt Leeds had received more points. [2]

On 18 November 1897, Griffo was believed to have been drunk in a contest with Tom Tracey at the Colliseum in St. Louis. He was reported to have rolled out of the boxing ring in the first round, and referee George Siler declared a No Contest.[2][27] One source confirmed his story that he had been in a car accident prior to the fight which was the cause of his inability to complete the first round. The San Francisco Call wrote that Griffo's vehicle had been struck by a street car on the way to the bout, and that he had suffered a sprained shoulder as a result. He and two of his seconds were treated for injuries received as a result of the accident. [28]

He was defeated in an upset by Frank McConnell before three thousand spectators on 3 February 1898 in a fifteen rounds points decision in San Francisco, California. McConnell had only recently emerged from the amateur ranks, and had relatively little experience as a professional. Griffo showed great defensive skills in several rounds, but McConnell won the bout by taking the offensive throughout most of the fight.[29]

On 26 March 1898, he won a bout with the well known Black boxer, Young Peter Jackson in Red Bluff, California on a fourth round disqualification. A few at ringside claimed that Jackson was actually Joe Gans, but this was found to be untrue.[30]

Tragic bout with Joseph Devitt aka Bull McCarthy[edit]

On the evening of 27 April 1898, he fought Joseph Devitt, who gave the name of the boxer "Bull" McCarthy, in Sacramento, California. Griffo won the twenty round bout by knockout, but Devitt died the following evening of his injuries at Sister's Hospital. Devitt was diagnosed with a brain concussion, likely caused by a rain of blows to his head during the bout. Griffo was briefly taken into custody on charges of manslaughter as a result of the fight. The tragic result was a source of strong remorse for Griffo but it did not deter him from continuing his profession.[2][31]

Late career decline[edit]

On 22 August 1902, he lost to three-time World Featherweight Title contender Joe Bernstein in Baltimore, Maryland in a twenty round points decision.[2]

He lost to lightweight boxer Joe Tipman in a fifth-round knockout on 29 September 1902 in Baltimore.[2]

In December 1902, after defeating Jack Bain in a ninth round knockout in Baltimore, he took off at least a year from boxing before his fight with George Memsic around December 1903, also in Baltimore. In this stage of his career he was managed by Sam Tuckhorn, who was hoping to revive his career and convince the public of his fighting skills, but Griffo was nearing the end of his career. [32]

On 7 December 1903 in Peoria, Illinois, he defeated Jim Kenney in a four round decision. Griffo showed great speed and cleverness according to the referee, Tom Dunn.[33]

One of his last well publicized bouts was a loss by first round knockout against Tommy White on 10 February 1904 in Chicago, Illinois.[2]

In a tribute to Griffo, boxer Tommy Sullivan wrote in the 6 March 1916 Tacoma Daily News:

Not known as much of a puncher, but his skill was uncanny. He had wonderful head work, almost inpenetrable defense, dazzling feints, and rapid two-handed methods of attack. The cleverest boxers and hardest punchers were made to look ridiculous when exchanging swats with him. He had a dislike of training and was deemed lazy. There were times he got drunk before a match [such as the Ike Weir and Tommy Tracy bouts].[1]

Brief film career[edit]

He appeared as himself in the 1895 lost short Young Griffo vs. Battling Charles Barnett, which at least one source claims is the first film shown for profit.[34] He appeared in at least two other films.

Apparently, two of his film roles were released near or after his death. Released in 1927, he had a minor role in Frank Capra's comedy Long Pants, and the following year in Harry Edwards' 1928 comedy, The Best Man.[35]

Tragic life after boxing[edit]

In March 1912, Griffo requested to be sent to the New York workhouse, partly a victim of alcoholism, which had affected him intermittently throughout his career.[36]

For the last fifteen years of his life he took donations and met friends at the entrance to New York's Rialto Theatre on Broadway and 42nd Street, becoming increasingly destitute by 1925. He spent some of his later years in asylums, and received a portion of his income from benefits staged by his friends.[37] He had gained over fifty pounds by the time of his death. He died in New York of heart disease, initially diagnosed as indigestion, on 7 December 1927 at the age of only fifty-six. He received medical aid too late after dragging himself into a hall from his small rent free room in a West side New York boarding house paid for by Jane F. Fish, an author of children's books.[38] Many American newspapers ran stories on his life as a tragic tale of the effects of alcohol.

Friends of his from the boxing and theatrical community provided for a burial.[39][40] Several newspaper accounts after his death attributed his financial plight in part to his illiteracy, and a poor understanding of numbers and currency, which made him an easy victim of unscrupulous handlers.[41]

He was laid to rest at Woodlawn Cemetery after a service at the Madison Avenue Baptist Church. Ring notables in attendance included Jack McAuliffe, Kid McPartland, Tommy Burns, James J. Corbett, and wealthy boxing promoter Tex Rickard, who provided funding for the burial plot and casket.[42] Interestingly, Rickard was later repaid $500 of the $885 of funeral expenses he had donated out of a $3800 estate found to be attributed to Griffo after the funeral.[43]

Boxing achievements[edit]

Achievements
Preceded by
Torpedo Billy Murphy
World Featherweight Champion
2 September 1890 – 1892
Vacated
Vacant
Title next held by
George Dixon

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Cyber Boxing Encyclopedia - Young Griffo CyberBoxingZone.com
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t "Young Griffo". BoxRec. Retrieved 15 July 2016. 
  3. ^ Tuthill was his trainer in "Who was Greatest Boxer in the Ring", The Daily Republican, Monongahela, Pennsylvania, pg. 2, 10 May 1909
  4. ^ Behan was his manager in, "Fight is Off, Young Griffo", St. Louis Post-Dispatch, St. Louis, Missouri, pg. 16, 9 May 1895
  5. ^ Sam Tuckhorn was manager in 1893 in "Young Griffo is Said to be Well", Butte Daily Post, Butte, Montana, pg. 8, 13 January 1903
  6. ^ "First World Title Fight in Australia", The Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney, Australia, pg. 3, 18 November 1967
  7. ^ "First World Title Fight in Australia", The Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney, Australia, pg. 3, 18 November 1967
  8. ^ Burke, Billy, "Old Timer's Scrapbook", The Wilkes-Barre Evening News", pg. 10, 12 June 1943
  9. ^ "Young Griffo, Marvel of Antipodes, World's Greatest Boxer", Pittsburgh Post, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, pg. 28, 11 March 1923
  10. ^ Newland, Russ, "Young Griffo, The Australian Marvel", Reno Gazette Journal, Reno, Nevada, pg. 12, 25 April 1944
  11. ^ White, Charley, "Inside the Ring with the Great Fighters", New York Evening World, New York, New York, pg. 7, 29 July 1911
  12. ^ "The Ring", Detroit Free Press, Detroit, Michigan, pg. 6, 18 March 1894
  13. ^ Griffo won the bout decisively in "Stopped by Police", The Inter Ocean, Chicago, Illinois, pg. 10, 18 March 1894
  14. ^ "Belfast Spider was Favorite in Duluth", The Labor World, Duluth, Minnesota, p. 5, 30 March 1907
  15. ^ Griffo had been drinking prior to the Weir bout in "Young Griffo", The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Brooklyn, New York, pg. 24, 8 December 1927
  16. ^ "Boxing at the Seaside", The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Brooklyn, New York, pg. 4, 18 September 1894
  17. ^ Badly pummeled in "Victory for Young Griffo", San Francisco Call, San Francisco, California, 5 March 1895
  18. ^ "A Good Fight", The Times Democrat, New Orleans, Louisiana, pg. 8, 5 March 1895
  19. ^ "Fight is Off, Young Griffo", St. Louis Post-Dispatch, St. Louis, Missouri, pg. 16, 9 May 1895
  20. ^ "Young Griffo", The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Brooklyn, New York, pg. 24, 8 December 1927
  21. ^ "Griffo's Arrest at College Point", The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Brooklyn New York, pg. 5, 13 April 1896
  22. ^ Assault against Wilkerson in "Young Griffo Arrested", The Times, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, pg. 10, 10 September 1901
  23. ^ "Crowd Called it a Fake", The Wichita Eagle, Wichita, Kansas, pg 2, 19 November 1895
  24. ^ Gans showed more punching ability and stamina on 10 July than Griffo in "Stopped the Fight", The Wilkes-Barre News, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, pg. 1, 11 July 1900
  25. ^ Griffo said his 21 September 1897 bout with Gans in Athens, Pennsylvannia was his best in "My Hardest Fight As Told by Young Griffo", Shamokin News-Dispatch, Shamokin, Pennsylvania, pg. 8, 25 September 1897
  26. ^ "Close Decision", Decatur Herald, Decatur, Illinois, pg. 1, 11 July 1900
  27. ^ "Young Griffo". Ring History of the Near-Champions: Young Griffo, National Police Gazette, volume CXX,issue 23325, pg. 7, Richard K. Fox Publishing Co., 4 March 1922. Retrieved 24 April 2013. 
  28. ^ "Badly Hurt in a Collision", The San Francisco Call, San Francisco, California, pg. 2, 19 November 1897
  29. ^ "He Met a Surprise", The Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake City, Utah, pg. 2, 4 February 1898
  30. ^ "Young Griffo Wins on a Foul", Pittsburgh Daily Post, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, pg. 6, 28 March 1908
  31. ^ The San Francisco Call, San Francisco, California, pg. 10, 29 April 1898
  32. ^ "Young Griffo is Said to Be Well", The Butte Daily Post, Butte, Montana, pg. 8, 13 January 1903
  33. ^ "Corbett Wants Hamlin to Rush", Indianapolis Star, Indianapolis, Indiana, pg. 7, 13 December 1903
  34. ^ "Young Griffo vs. Battling Charles Barnett". silentera.com. Retrieved 11 March 2013. 
  35. ^ "Young Griffo IMDB". IMDB. Retrieved 17 July 2016. 
  36. ^ "John Barleycorn Once Again King", Oakland Tribune, Oakland, California, pg. 34, 24 March 1912
  37. ^ He spent time in asylums, and gained some income from benefits in "Young Griffo, Marvel of Antipodes, World's Greatest Boxer", Pittsburgh Post, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, pg. 28, 11 March 1923
  38. ^ Jane Fish paid his rent in "Young Griffo, Former Ring Star," The Indianapolis Star, Indianapolis, Indiana, pg. 16, 8 December 1927
  39. ^ "Young Griffo, Famed Boxer, Down and Out", Mount Carmel Item, Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania, pg. 6, 9 December 1925
  40. ^ He died penniless of heart disease in "Young Griffo, Great Fighter, Dies in East" Arizona Republic, Phoenix, Arizona, p. 14, 8 December 1927
  41. ^ Griffo could not handle money in "Young Griffo", The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Brooklyn, New York, pg. 24, 8 December 1927
  42. ^ Reading Times, "Boxing Notables Attend Funeral of Young Griffo", Reading, Pennsylvania, pg. 16, 12 December 1927
  43. ^ "Young Griffo Left Estate of $3800, The Morning News, Wilmington, Delaware, pg. 13, 23 March 1929

External links[edit]