Lonnie Austin

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Circa 1929

Name: Lonnie Austin
Birth Name: Lonnie Marmaduke Austin
Born: 1878-01-01
Birthplace: Wisconsin, USA
Died: 1950-04-14 (Age:72)
Hometown: Seattle, Washington, USA
Boxing Record: click
Promoting Record: click

Biography

The following is from Boxing: Harold Hoshino, The Japanese Sandman, by Joseph R. Svinth:

Lonnie Austin was born in Wisconsin in 1880 and came to Seattle with his parents in 1887. He started in athletics as a gymnast, and during a meet held as part of the 1905 Lewis and Clark Exposition in Portland, he took second place. About the same time, sportswriter Ed Hughes of the Seattle Times convinced him to take up boxing, a recommendation that panned out, with Austin winning the Northwest amateur welterweight championship in 1906 and 1907. After that he turned pro. He had a total of four professional bouts--two wins by knockout and two draws.
In 1907 Austin took a job as boxing instructor at the Seattle Athletic Club, but two years later he quit that job to become a trainer and promoter of professional boxers. (Although prizefighting was illegal in Washington State, 4-round exhibitions between members of athletic clubs done for the amusement of other club members were not. Furthermore, the promoters didn't pay the fighters, but the fighters' managers, and, as boxing impresario Biddy Bishop told a Seattle judge in January 1930, how managers subsequently distributed the money was none of his business. The reason that such thin fictions worked was that Seattle boxing fans included Seattle Times publisher Alden Blethen and his friends.)
Austin's first card was held at the Pike Street Theatre in 1909, and his best boxers included Pete Muldoon, Steve Reynolds, and Johnny O'Leary. His best-known boxer, though, was probably Nate Druxman, who later became Seattle's leading boxing promoter.
In 1911, Austin went into partnership with Dan Salt. [BoxRec Note: The July 22, 1925 Spokane Spokesman-Review reported that they partnered in 1914.] The way it worked was that Austin did the training while Salt did the promoting. Dode Bercot was the most famous fighter to develop from this relationship. The Salt-Austin partnership ended with the death of Salt in 1925. George W. ("Biddy") Bishop then took over Mrs. Salt's interest in the firm.
In January 1931, Washington State enacted legislation that legalized six and eight-round fights. [BoxRec Note: Actually, professional boxing was legalized in the state March 1933.] Meanwhile, Austin and Bishop weren't getting along well, and in part due to their squabbling, Nate Druxman became Seattle's leading fight promoter. This led to additional problems, and so on January 8, 1933, Austin and Bishop dissolved their partnership. Austin then affiliated with Ed Bremer of Bremerton and Frank Smithers of Yakima, and began staging fights at the Seattle Civic Auditorium on Fridays. The big selling feature of the Austin-Bremer-Smithers fights was that they were cheaper than the fights promoted by Druxman at the Crystal Pool on Tuesdays. However, Seattle wasn't big enough to support two fight cards a week, and eventually Druxman won the promotional war. Therefore, in November 1935, Austin decided to devote his future attention solely to training amateurs.

The Austin and Bishop boxing club/gym was opened in 1906 and located at 1630 Ninth Street, Seattle. Jan. ?, 1930 Bellingham Evening News

The Nov. 30 and Dec. 15, 1910 Tacoma Daily News reported that Austin had just moved to Tacoma, and that his "first smoker" as a (Tacoma?) promoter was at Dreamland, Tacoma, with a show featuring Pete McVeigh for the Pacific Northwest Lightweight Title. (He was also the boxing instructor at the Rainier Valley Athletic Club (south Seattle) at this time. [1])

Austin and Salt opened a gym in the Arlington Hotel (Seattle) Sept. 14, 1914, per the TDN.

The March 26, 1915 Seattle Star reported that his true name actually was Alonzo J. Austin, and that he had filed a suit for divorce from Alma May Austin, whom he alleged had deserted him in June 1912 with their two children and moved to California. [2]. (He later married Mary E. Davis August 17, 1917. Seattle Star [3])

During the summer of 1934, Austin was promoting boxing cards for the workers constructing Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River in Eastern Washington. In January 1935, Austin was hired on as the matchmaker by Spokane promoter Al Morse for his boxing promotional company, the Al Morse Boxing Club. In his role as matchmaker, Austin played a pivotal role in the early part of Tiger Jack Fox's career in Spokane. He left Spokane in November 1935, to open a boxing school for amateurs.

Lonnie Austin died April 14, 1950 at the home of his brother Al in Seattle, with his wife Mary at his side, from complications of a stroke he first sustained in 1945, according to the April 15 Tacoma News Tribune. According to that article, Austin had been in Seattle for more than 40 years. He was the athletic instructor at the old Seattle Athletic Club from 1907-1910. In 1910 he teamed with Dan Salt to create the Austin and Salt promotion team. While he was promoting fights in the old Phoenix Athletic Club in Seattle's Arcade Building in 1910, one of Austin's preliminary boxers was Nate Druxman, who became Austin's chief promotional opponent, while remaining close friends. With Salt's death in 1925, Austin joined forces with Biddy Bishop until 1930. Before his stroke, he was the boxing instructor at Seattle's King County Jail.

Factoids

  • Former Pacific Coast Lightweight Champion
  • He boxed an exhibition in Seattle May 18, 1908. Tacoma Daily News (TDN); also boxed a six-round exhibition 20 July 1911 with Battling Nelson in Aberdeen, WA [4][5]
  • Had an appendix operation June 6, 1920, per the Seattle Daily News
  • Austin buys out Biddy Bishop Jan. 8, 1933. Wenatchee Daily World
  • The May 9, 1945 Seattle Post-Intelligencer published an interview with Austin, who then was celebrating 40 years in the boxing game. He rated his proteges, including Hal Hoshino, Dode Bercot, and Frank Van Hee.