Madame Sidky Bey
Madame Sidky Bey was a rarity: a woman who ran an internationally-known training camp for prizefighters in the 1920s and 1930s. Some of her clients included world heavyweight champions Gene Tunney, Max Schmeling, Primo Carnera and Max Baer; world welterweight and middleweight champion Mickey Walker; Henry Armstrong (world featherweight, lightweight and welterweight titles simultaneously); Freddie Steele (world middleweight champion); Freddie (Red) Cochrane (world welter-weight champion), and Tony Canzoneri, among others.
Madame Bey was born in Turkey in 1881 to French and Armenian parents. In her younger years, she was a singer. It is said that she was standing next to United States President William McKinley when he was assassinated in 1901. She passed away on January 30, 1942, of a heart attack.
According to the Summit Historical Society Web site :
- She ruled with a firm motherly hand, forbade drinks, "guests" were not permitted, and sometimes she had to reprimand one of her boys. She had nicknames for her fighters. Gene Tunney was "my polished emerald", Mickey Walker was "my lion-hearted little Mickey" and Max Schmelimg was simply "my Max".
- Madame Bey never saw one of her boys fight. Why?, she was often asked. "... because it hurts me to watch them getting hurt. I know they are not bruisers, but artists in a sense, who are doing the thing they know best in order to earn a living. I see these boys not only as punishing boxers, but also as human beings with a burden of doubt under their youthful pose of being extremely hard and wise".
- An inscription on a photo from Tony Canzoneri (world lightweight champion 1930-1933) sums up the feeling the fighters had for Madame Bey. It reads, "To Mademe Bey, a mother to boys from one of her boys. Tony Canzoneri".