From A far Off
He landed frequently on Jimmy as Taylor had done in their re match and the anvil choiresters of California made the ring and ring again they sounded "taps" for the "Belfast Spider" and suddenly discovered that we was really from a city in Canada and they made that sound as though Vancouver was somewhere off in the ice floes above Ketchikan, Alaska, U.S.A. The campaign of 1927 was better, .but still the hammer throwers were after Jimmy and Foster. When Jimmy drew in ten with Tommy Cello his wins over Tenario Pelky, Johnny La. Mar and Tommy Cello in a second engagement were forgotten.
So much for expert opinion. McLarnin continued onward and upward and the others are the forgotten men. That season of 1926 Jimmy had what he has repeatedly assured his friends was his hardest ring battle. He boxed Louis "Kid" Kaplan and knocked him out in the eighth round.
McLarnin smashed both hands on Kaplan and twisted a thumb badly. "I felt my hands going like you'd snap bits of chalk. I knocked him out with a right hand into which I Put everything. The pain was awful. If that blow didn't do the trick I was beaten," he said long afterward. At Foster's urging, Jimmy perfected a hand spring and back flip which he made a practice, and still does, of performing after each ring triumph.
That night he did his circus stunt and came erect again gasping from the excruciating agony in his hands. It had been a profitable season however, and home went the adventurers with their bank accounts fattened.
Jimmy, that fall, secured himself a heavy insurance policy, subscribed delicately to several charities and became a Rotarian as well as a student of his sister's cult, she. a deeply religious girl, who professed abhorrence of Jimmy's lucrative trade.
Foster Held A loof
The tear 1928 was a memorable one for McLarnin. Early in the year he made his first fight in Madison Square Garden and. khocked out the sensational young Hebrew, Sid Terris, pride of the Ghetto, in the first round. Again McLarnin was heralded as the boy with the devastating punch. His fight with Terris had drawn close to capacity. Tex Rickard was now interested in him.
He found Pop Foster hard to do business with. Pop suspected every Broadwayite on sight, His mail came to him in care of Rickard at the Garden. The boys tried to put the lug on Foster. If he was "regular," they told him, nothing was impossible. Jimmy could have lucrative matches. Money would roll In. Foster sniffed, grabbed his mail and walked swingingly away. "They'll come to me." he would say to his cronies: "they can't do without the boy.' 'E packs them in. They'll get no piece of us!"
And nobody ever has. Meantime Jimmy had gone, home aarain .as be did after all of his big matches. McLarnin became the "Irish Harp" and the "Hammering Hibernian" in New York papers. One or two of them panned him mercilessly.
"Cos we wouldn't give 'em money," Pop would snarl.
Eddie Kane was handling Sammy Mandell, the lightweight champion Rickard secured Kane's consent to a match with.. McLarnin and went after Foster. Jimmy agreed to a weight limit of 135 pounds and the match was made as an outdoor attraction at the Polo grounds on a date fairly late in May. Mandel went to Gus Wilson’s training camp at Orangeburg and Foster picked out quarters for McLarnin at Pompton lakes, about 30 miles south of Wilson's, but farther back in the beautiful New Jersey hills.
In the Camp
Jimmy’s elder brother, Sammy, I looked upon as a promising welterweight and who had spent Some months with him in the east, was to be chief sparring partner. Three weeks before the date of the fight Sammy went mysteriously home. Several sparring partners were engaged for McLarnin. They didn't like The going, the surroundings or the terrific punching of Jimmy. At any rate the sparring mates petered down to one about a week before the original fight date. Jimmy could belt this fellow at will and actually made a chopping block of him when the crowds came from New York to see the challenger at work.
I arrived at Jimmy's camp one Sunday In early afternoon. The fight was four days distant. In a dingy room off the training camp I found Pop Foster. The old man seemed confused. Told him he was waiting for Baron somebody , or other from. New York," and that I'd find "the boy" up at the house. 'Jimmy welcomed me with a boyish bound that brought him out of bed and almost into my arms. "I thought dad was coming down with you," he said. "I guess he didn't feel like making such a long trip. I'm disappointed."
"Wanted him here to see you win your first title, eh?"
"That's what I hope. Gee, I'm sorry dad didn't make it."
That afternoon I met the "Baron of Broadway," a portly man with Highly Inflamed visage, who was the confidential crony, it seemed, of Jimmy's manager. Pop had sort of gone high hat. Had engaged, an old
Welshman of nearly 70, whom he had known across the sea, named Dia Dolling, to train Jimmy, and had also engaged Larry McGrath, a little known San Franciscan, to be Jimmy's chief. second.
I thought this strange and mentioned the matter to McLarnin. "Foster," he quickly flashed, "is all right. "somehow you've never liked him. I'm sorry about that. But don't make any mistake about Pop. He's 100 per cent." Pop and the rubicund baron disappeared before Jimmy's afternoon show began. I asked Dolling who this baron with the heavy Jowls, the imposing front and the massive gold and silver headed cane was. "He's a millionaire or a bootlegger," said the old trainer sagely. "Leastways he must be. Look at the palace on wheels he rolls upin."
Foster's New Role.
Later I saw Foster in a .brand new role. He acted as master of, ceremonies and Introduced McLarnin as the "Fighting Irish Champion to be" amid a ring of stilted applause from the crowd of one hundred or more.
Foster's voice is very high-pitched and smacks decidedly of the Londoner born. Pop was enjoying every moment of his speech making and I thought I discerned the cause when he and the baron Immediately
disappeared after Fosters opening speech which was, in its way, a wow, with the strange old man already twisted by rheumatic pains hanging to the ring rope with one hand, waving his hat eloquently toward his subject as lie spoke. And swaying lightly as he invariably did when under excitement or when filled with spirituous pride as he permitted his eyes to fall on the sleek, perfect body of his young protégé.
The ballyhoo for this fight was terrific. It was turned on as only Rickard knew how to inspire it. McLarnin was rated the killing Puncher , Mandell the master boxer. Odds were quoted favoring McLarnin at 7.to 5. The Irish cops 'of New York were with McLarnin to a man. The Latins swung solidly behind Mandell.
Rain caused two postponements. The afternoon of the fight, when the hands gathered in the boxing commission offices to weigh in, Jimmy nudged the beam at 135 exactly. Mandel couldn't lift It. He was obliged to go out and run for half an hour, then barely made it. Lou Magnolia was the third man In the ring and when Joe Humphries "the voice of the peepul", spun characteristically on his heels and announced the principals, the big enclosure was slightly better than three-quarters filled. McLarnin was still 7 to 5 in the odds, fictitious, as always.
A few of the usual celebrities, past and present, were Introduced. At least one challenged the winner and had his little moment In the ring shaking hands with two utterly indifferent men.
Jimmy McLarnin, five years away from the nights when as a beardless boy he fought for $2.50, was on the threshold of realizing his most cherished dream, seeking the championship he had always insisted he
some day bring back to his people.
The bell ran: They were to come out fighting.
Mandcll Beat Jimmy Badly.
I looked for Pop Foster in Jimmy's corner, but. there was no sign of him. I located the old boy well back, in a ringside seat, stolid and cool. McGrath and Dolling stood on either. side of the challenger's stool on. which Jimmy, sat with a grave look on his face , staring across the ring at the sleek, black-haired Mandell, as handsome a boy as ever defended his laurels in any company.
There was a concerted roar as the pair .advanced, Jimmy white bodied, muscular, lips curled, back in , the McLarnin snarl; Mandel swarthy, lean as whipcord, blackbrowed, smiling. In fifteen rounds Mandell never lost that smile, In fact, from the thirteenth on he frequently laughed at his puzzled, antagonist.
Both boxed with singular caution in the opening rounds, McLarnin Ineffectually trying to draw the champion to him, Mandell stabbing at Jimmy's face with a long rapier left and darting, him off-balance
whenever Jimmy tried to get set. It ' is a not worthy commentary upon sportorial accuracy, if I may so term it, that in each of these rounds, innumerable blows were described that somehow your reporter
was unable to see and that, too, seemed to have escaped the motion picture cameras.
After all, the typewriter, in the hands of an Imaginative key pounder, has only the limits of the thumper's vocabulary to exercise any measure of productive restraint. The hand, indeed, may be quicker than the eye at a boxing match, but the hand of the reporter on the typewriter is an uncertainty that we accept as a part, of the human equation that is uncontrollable.
That first bid of McLarnin's for a title was a pitiful exhibition. Mandell did not lose a single round of the fifteen. He was not, at any a time, in distress. He hit Jimmy at will, and once or twice rocked him to his heels. Jimmy fought doggedly, flatfooted and with less and less certainty as the one-sided battle progressed. He never changed his losing style of battle.
Jimmy and Foster had rooms .near Colunibus Circle to which they had moved several days before the fight: There, In cramped quarters, they prepared their simple fare and there it was I found Jimmy a few hours after the fight. Mandell had a big suite downstairs.
'What shall I say to the folks back home about your, battle for the title?" I asked, perhaps cruelly. Jimmy sat on a chair In the corner of the dimly-lit, badly ventilated room. "I just couldn't get at him, Mr Lytle," he said, tears of chagrin filling his usually laughing eyes. "He was too smart for me, wasn't he?"
Foster shoved me gruffly, away, probably to conceal his own feelings of disquiet. "Leave the boy be," said he. "The fight's over. The boy fought well. It was close." "Close, hell!" 'I exploded. "Why weren't you in his corner? It's the first time you've, missed. What's the Idea?".
Foster practically glared me but. I have no wish to Impute motive. The fight is history. Jimmy met Mandell twice not long afterwards and each time beat him decisively. The last meeting .he cut Sammy to ribbons.
Fought Way Back
Pop foster has never missed seconding Jimmy since that fateful night in the grim shadows Of Coogan's Bluffs up beyond the reek of Harlem. I wonder why he kept out of it when "the boy" made his first title bid.
My own share in the encounter was memorable: Sent east by my paper to cover the fight and to expert the training activities, I first sold myself confidently, and in turn, sold Jimmy's home city that McLarnin would take Mandell like the stock market took, the boys barely nine months later.
Quite a number of my friends accepted these expert findings and went down the line with the boy before Mandell smacked Jimmy as expertly as a schoolmarm addicted to the use of the switch as a morning corrective. It took me five years and another night in May five years later to live that down.
Jimmy's comeback was much quicker. Later in 1928 McLarnin knocked out. Phil McGraw in the Garden in one round;. Stanislaus Loayaza, the rugged .Chilean, in four And than, ran into another disaster when he fought Ray Miller in: Chicago and was stopped for the first and only time in his long career.
That went Into the records, as a Technical kayo for Miller. McLarnin did not take a count. Miller opened a cutover one eye and it bled so profusely as the young Hebrew thudded home his blows that it half blinded Jimmy and Foster heaved In the towel shortly after the seventh round began.
McLarnin was well beaten but took a decision from Miller next year in New York with no great damage being done by either boy. Jimmy doesn't admit it openly, but I fancy Miller was as hard a fistic-nut as he ever attempted to crack, possibly excepting Bud Taylor.
In New York that year. Jimmy gained a valuable newspaper friend .In Ed. Frayne, former San Franciscan, and then, as now, attached to the Hearst papers in a sports writing capacity. Frayne knew Jimmy, as a kid
phenomenon of. the west coast, and stories of. Jimmy, since going to York have always been tempered With fine understanding of the Single purpose of Jimmy's fighting life."
Frayne also seemed to grasp the inner significance of the strong, bond uniting McLarnin with his crotchety but intensely loyal, though at times vituperative manager. Jimmy was astonished at the reception given him in Vancouver on his return that autumn when again he had shown that he was vulnerable if the bidder could spot his weaknesses.
He filled out more that winter and When he and Foster headed for New York and the lucrative wars again in 1929 he was no longer a legitimate lightweight. His frame had filled out. His shoulders bulged slightly
despite expensively, tailored material of quiet patterns that he now preferred.
Jimmy McLarnin, wealthy almost beyond his hopes, and still titular head of the family he had brought up with him .through the slums, was assuming man's estate physically, where before, as a boy, he was carrying the paternal burden silently yet. with no small degree of efficiency with which he had been able to bring to his fighting for five fruitful years. The battle between Jimmy McLarnin, at last the fighting idol of the fistic world, and Benny Leonard, the past master of the boxing art who had arisen from. Retirement to force himself into the public gaze will be told In tomorrow's installment of this true life story of the present welterweight champion