Spark Plug Boyd

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Spark Plug Boyd

Name: Spark Plug Boyd
Alias: Joseph Boyd
Birth Name: Woodward W. Tending
Born: 1906-06-19
Birthplace: Hardin, Missouri, USA
Died: 1961-06-12 (Age:54)
Hometown: Aberdeen, Washington, USA
Stance: Orthodox
Boxing Record: click

Division: Heavyweight


Born Woodward W. Tending, Spark Plug Boyd originally was from Joplin, Missouri--according to some sources (others say Kansas)--before he came to the Pacific Northwest area of the United States to become a logger. His death certificate states he was born in Hardin, Missouri, to Frank and Sarah Tending. According to the United States Federal Census records, he was living in Carroll MO in 1910, and in Cooper MO in 1920. He married and divorced, and later served in the United States Army during World War II (in the 857th ORD HEAVY MAINTENANCE CO ORD DEPT).

The June 13, 1961 (p. 9) Seattle Daily Times reported that he had been discovered dead the day before in his hotel room at 219-1st Avenue, Seattle. He had been a logger in his later years, before becoming a member of Seattle's skid road. His death certificate states that he died of confluent broncho pneumonia, due to chronic alcoholism, with bilateral pulmonary tuberculosis as a contributing condition. His cremated ashes are interred in the Willamette National Cemetery (Plot B 987) in Portland, Oregon. [1]

From the June 21, 1961 Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper:

Good-bye, Good-bye, Woodward Tending. And may you be remembered for what you said so well--"When you're through you're through."
Woodward Tending was born in Kansas, he told us once, and as we sat in a Skidroad tavern. He was a wild kid, all right. Got into a couple jams in his youth and they put him in a reform school. A short hitch there and they kind of paroled him to a farmer.
"Let's say I was 12 at the time though I ain't sure," Tending said. "I know I was big for my age and strong and that I could do a man's work and that's what the farmer expected."
Tending admitted he wasn't one of the smartest kids who ever lived. He worked in the corn under the hot Kansas sun for poor room and board and with nary a complaint or thought of the future.
Then he heard he could make as much as $2 a day for similar work in the blue world beyond.
He fled the farm. Joined up with a gang of harvest stiffs heading west. He never saw or heard of the farmer again--nor of his father, mother, sisters or brothers.
Tending hit these parts in the mid-20s. A big kid, and strong, and handy with the dukes.
There was Dempsey and Tunney and million-dollar gates and $2 a day didn't seem quite the sum it did in Kansas. He decided to try boxing.
Boyd in his later years
His first workout was, well, impressive enough. "What's the handle?" one of the men in the gym asked him when it was over. Woodward Tending? That would make them laugh, all right. "How's for a name to remember? Boyd? Spark Plug Boyd--that's a dandy."
Spark Plug Boyd was a club fighter. A crowd pleaser. He started punching at the first bell and he figured a punch for a punch was a fair exchange.
The fans at the old Crystal Pool loved him. "Oh you Sparkle," they shouted, and they slapped him on the back when he left the ring, unmarked or bloody and bruised, win, lose or draw.
On a night of 1930 Spark Plug Boyd appeared against Frank Farmer. Farmer was over the hill, out of shape and ill. Like as not he would have departed this earth at the given instant if he had been walking down the street, or sitting in a rocker. He died under the bright lights of the ring. The hulk of his opponent standing over him.
Spark Plug Boyd wasn't such-a-much after that. He went from mains to semi-windups--to preliminary bouts in the sticks.
Once toward the last of it we saw him at a carnival--taking on all comers. He was standing on a platform in a cool rain--a well-worn suit coat draped over his shoulders. "These rubes don't know no boxing but they hit like they had baseball bats," he told us lately.
Then he hit the Skidroad.
Sometimes--and perhaps because he had a measure of pride--he'd tell us he began to slip because of and after the Farmer thing. At other times he was more honest.
"I was wore out," he said. "I didn't have it. When you're through you're through."
The man was a celebrity on the Skidroad until--maybe until the last six months, come to think of it. When he was a celebrity he took the bows with modesty. When he was not he acted as all forgotten heroes.
He developed a little act--harmless enough, surely. He'd rub his right thumb against his nose, in the manner of all boxers everywhere. He'd extend his hands, then, and jab with the left, and cross the right, and fan the air with lefts and rights and make with fancy footwork.
"I'm Spark Plug Boyd," he'd say after. "Spark Plug Boyd, the fighter. Ever heard of me?" So very few had the right answer.
Woodward Tending-Spark Plug Boyd died in a First Avenue S. hotel room. Alone.
And we should like to tell the powers that be wherever he is that the man did the best he could with what they gave him to work with.