Name: Harry Poulton
Birthplace: Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada
Died: 2007-03-29 (Age:81)
Hometown: Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada
Boxing Record: click
Allison Lawlor May 29, 2007
HALIFAX -- Known in his heyday as "the fighting ghost" for his ability to feint opponents, Prince Edward Island boxer Harry Poulton overcame a childhood disability to fight more than 120 recorded professional bouts during his 12-year career.
Also dubbed "Harry the Kid," Mr. Poulton began his ring career in Charlottetown in 1943 at the age of 18. He went on to capture the Maritime Welterweight boxing Championship in the early 1950s and later had two shots at the Canadian Middleweight Title, losing a close decision on both occasions. In total, he fought at least half a dozen Canadian champions and a handful of Maritime title holders.
"He was one of the finest boxers this island has produced," said Clair Sudsbury, chairman of the Prince Edward Island Sports Hall of Fame and Museum.
After moving into the middleweight ranks, Mr. Poulton first went after the Canadian Middleweight Championship in Stellarton, N.S., on June 19, 1953, against Yvon Durelle, New Brunswick's famous "fighting fisherman." Mr. Poulton "fought his heart out in an effort to win the title only to find himself on the losing end of a hotly disputed 12-round split decision," Wilf McCluskey wrote in a column in PEI's The Guardian. Over the course of his career, Mr. Poulton fought Mr. Durelle four times, but never managed to beat him.
"Harry the Kid possessed many tricks, most of them of his own invention, and he pulled them when they were least expected," Mr. McCluskey wrote.
"His elusive and crouching bob-and-weave style was mighty baffling to his foes. Everybody who has watched Poulton in the ring knows the meaning of the word 'feinting.' You can always spot a good fighter by his feinting. He is a cool, collected type. The fellow who doesn't rush in pell-mell, blindfolded, with arms swinging like a gate, eager to finish his man off in a jiffy."
Mr. Poulton attempted to win the Canadian Middleweight Championship again on June 29, 1954, in Saint John. The spot had been left vacant by Mr. Durelle, who had moved up to fight in the light heavyweight division. This time, Mr. Poulton lost in a 12-round decision to Charlie Chase, a Canadian Olympian. Not winning the Canadian championship was the greatest disappointment in Mr. Poulton's fighting career, according to Mr. McCluskey.
Mr. Poulton's greatest fight came in 1953. His opponent was a fighter from Brooklyn, N.Y., named Gil Edwards. Held at the Charlottetown Forum before an audience of at least 2,000, Mr. Edwards arrived confident he would win. Underestimating his opponent, he turned to the boxing organizers and asked whether they wanted the match to go in the first or the 10th round.
"Harry Poulton won in the 10th round," Mr. McCluskey said. "That was one of the best that was every fought on the island."
Raised in Charlottetown's poor east end, Mr. Poulton was one of six children of a local bootlegger. He was stricken with polio and spent the first nine years of his life in a cast. The experience left him with a shrunken right foot, his son Gary said.
Later in life, he learned to use his disability to his advantage in the boxing ring. "He'd swivel on the foot that had polio," said Mr. McCluskey, who knew Mr. Poulton as a child. Mr. McCluskey and his three brothers, who all went on to boxing careers, grew up in the same neighbourhood in Charlottetown and liked to set up makeshift boxing rings in their backyards. "We were always fighting."
The Poulton house was a source of illicit beer and moonshine that was busily produced by "Ma Poulton," as young Harry's mother was known. Her kitchen offered half a dozen chairs, where customers could come and sit to have a hot toddy and catch up with neighbours and friends.
By Grade 9, he had dropped out of school, never to return and ended up in the boxing ring where, eventually, he trained under one of the best handlers of professional boxers in Eastern Canada. Mr. Poulton soon found he excelled as a pugilist. During the war years, he fought almost every week against the servicemen at the nearby air force base, or wherever they could find a good place to fight. "He was a terrific fighter," Mr. McCluskey said. "He was so clever."
To see Mr. Poulton on the street in his fighting days, you wouldn't think he was a boxer, Mr. McCluskey said. Standing about 5-foot-11 and never weighing more than 160 pounds, he lacked big arms and shoulders and appeared rather frail. However, his strength lay in his quickness. "It was just unreal," Mr. McCluskey added.
Mr. Poulton was in the ring until June, 1955, when he retired after a bout against Eloi Durelle of New Brunswick. After hanging up his gloves, Mr. Poulton turned to horse racing. His mother owned some harness racing horses, which Mr. Poulton drove and trained in Charlottetown.
"He was a heck of a harness-racing driver," Gary Poulton said. By all accounts, the sport runs in the family - Mr. Poulton's nephew, also named Harry, was a famed horseman who trained champion harness racer Matts Scooter, recognized in 1989 as the world's fastest standardbred.
Aside from driving and training the horses, Mr. Poulton also loved to gamble on them. He eventually went to work for PEI's Department of Transportation and Public Works, where he spent 25 years as a plow dispatcher, among other jobs. But he never gave up his passion for horse-racing and gambling, owning some horses of his own for a time and often frequenting the Charlottetown Driving Park. In recent years, he loved to call Gary, also a horse owner, to find out how his horses did.
Described as a quiet, modest man who raised nine children, Mr. Poulton rarely spoke about his boxing days. While he didn't brag, he did keep a scrapbook of all the newspaper clippings of his fights. "Through scrapbooks, I learnt most of the stuff about his boxing," Gary Poulton said.
While he never pushed his children to fight, his son Billy, who died of cancer at age 38, boxed and won the New York Golden Gloves amateur boxing tournament.
In 1976, Mr. Poulton became the first professional boxer from PEI to be inducted into the Canadian Boxing Hall of Fame. That same year, he joined the PEI Sports Hall of Fame. He was an inspiration to his fellow boxers and was one of the smartest fighters ever to perform in this province, Mr. Sudsbury said.
"He was so proud to know that people recognized what he had accomplished," Gary Poulton said.
Harry Poulton was born in Charlottetown on Aug. 10, 1925. He died of heart failure at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown on March 29, 2007. He was 81. He leaves partner Evelyn Gaudet and children Carolyn, Linda, Faye, Vince, Gail, Gary, Allan and Darlene. He also leaves sisters Renee and Ruby, plus 20 grandchildren and numerous great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by his wife, Doris, who died of cancer in 2000.
A webpage for Prince Edward Islands Sports Hall of Fame, claims Poulton had a total of 127 fights.