Name: Gunboat Jack
Birth Name: James Wilson Colzie
Birthplace: Montezuma, Georgia, USA
Died: 1967-09-18 (Age:67)
Hometown: Bangalore, India
Boxing Record: click
Gunboat Jack became very famous in India when fighting there from the late 1920s through the 1940s. He is featured as a major character in Timeri Murari's 1970 novel Field of Honor.
Gunboat Jack filled out a WWI Registration card. In he gives his name as Wilson James Colzie. Born 1 feb 1900. He is living in East Hartford, CT at the time but lists his nearest relative as Mrs. Julia Gilbert of Montezuma, GA. He was working as a truck driver. This is 12 Sep 1918. He also filled out a variation of a draft card for Connecticut on 3 Mar 1917. In this one he lists his size as 5 tall and 130 pounds. But this feels wrong to me as in his WWI draft card he is listed of medium height and medium build.
The following story about him is from The Bangalore Mirror
Bangalore’s Rocky Balboa
Gentleman Gunboat Jack was the triple belt — welterweight, middleweight and light heavyweight — champion of India and the original Rocky Balboa of Bangalore.
GBJ came to India as part of a carnival in 1923. His real name was James Colzie. He learnt boxing along the way by being a boot boxer. Boot boxing is something that happens when one of the group challenges anybody from a crowd without being a professional. “This was a thing natural to Jack and he gradually became a professional in India,” says Maurice Thomas, GBJ’s manager for 15 years, in a 1984 interview to the now-defunct tabloid The City Tab. Other reports suggest GBJ was in the US Navy before he quit to come to India for better boxing opportunities.
Thomas says GBJ got the name Gunboat because he knocked out the captain while on board a ship as he couldn’t bear his harassment. He got the name Gentleman because he often showed mercy to opponents who were way too easy to beat. Thomas also said, “It was to keep show business going that Jack fought inferiors, holding himself in check for eight of the 10 rounds.”
With his long reach and tactics, he knocked out the best of the best. Some of his famous victims include Arthur Dimler, the Golden Glove champion of America, Nobby Hall, the British lightweight champion, and Frank Malinao, the welterweight champion of India. He would never score a point in the first round but instead study the opponent. For eight years, he boxed with an injured right shoulder. Brand GBJ was so strong that he endorsed sauces and jewellery in ads.
He was the star attraction at the Carnival in Pariston Park, opposite the present Golden Palm Military Canteen. He was also a daredevil bike rider who performed the Well of Death stunt at the carnival. His skill sets included expert knife-thrower, accurate marksman in rifle shooting, and talented saxophone player. No wonder this multi-talented boxer was a ladies man. GBJ reportedly confessed, “I like three things too much. I like drinking, I like women, and I like music” (Award-winning US writer Brandilyn Collins’s blog Forensics & Faith). According to the Pakistani newspaper Daily Times, GBJ fathered a girl named Bobbie Berry with an Anglo-Indian widow in Karachi in 1941. Bobbie later went on to become a belly dancer. He is also said to have had a son in another relationship in Bangalore.
He was also a gentleman when it came to women. A noted social worker named Winfred Joseph recounts, in a newspaper article of yesteryears, how GBJ saved her from eve teasers. As she was walking home alone one night, three to four soldiers surrounded her and started making passes at her. GBJ happened to pass that way and overheard their remarks. He immediately gave the eve-teasers a sound pasting. As they ran for their lives, he saluted the woman and walked away. It is stories like these that made him a legend among Bangaloreans.
As he grew older, his alcoholic and womanising past caught up with him. In his later years, people remember him surviving on handouts on Brigade Road. He became a born-again Christian, and a street-preacher.
His sister Gladys heard about his troubled life and asked the US embassy in India to look for him. The US envoy traced him and arranged for his repatriation. In 1966, he reluctantly left India, where he had spent 40 years. A few months later he passed away in an old age home in the US