Tiger Jack Fox
Name: Tiger Jack Fox
Birth Name: John Linwood Fox
Died: 1954-04-06 (Age:47)
Hometown: Spokane, Washington, USA
Height: 5′ 11½″ / 182cm
Reach: 75″ / 191cm
Boxing Record: click
Managers: Jack Dempsey (1933), Sam Webb (as of July 20, 1934), ( Billy Nelson and Al Morse (1934-39), Frank Smithers (1940-41?), Al Sommers (1944?-47), Jack Powers (1948-50)
Trainers: Billy Nelson (1934-39), Al Sommers (1944?-47)
(Dick Sadler claimed to have trained Fox, but this can't be confirmed in a Spokane newspaper.)
Unresolved issues concerning early life and career
Tiger Jack Fox is alleged to have been born on April 2, 1907, at Indianapolis, Indiana. Many boxing people of the Pacific Northwest, during the late 1940s, when Fox was boxing there, felt that he may have been born much earlier, perhaps as early as 1900 or 1901. One Associated Press article prior to his title shot in February 1939 against Melio Bettina said he was "between the ages of 35 and 43." There is evidence in the 1940s from Fox's manager, Al Sommers, that he may have been born in Minnesota.
As far as when he began his career, evidence points to a start in 1925, in North Carolina. A man from Raleigh, North Carolina, traveling through Portland, Oregon in July 1934, claimed that he remembered seeing Fox fighting prisoners in North Carolina in 1925. An even earlier start may be indicated by the January 5 1920 Miami Metropolis, which reported that one 'Tiger Fox of New York' was to fight on January 20 at the local Odd Fellows' Hall against the winner of next week's bout between Rufus Cameron and Young Sam Langford. Whether this fighter was the same as Tiger Jack Fox, however, is uncertain.
At the time of his earliest confirmed bout at this time in Salt Lake City in 1928, he was reported in the Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret News with a hometown of Omaha, Nebraska; having reportedly been boxing in nearby Colorado. Between late 1928 and 1931, he was based out of Springfield, Missouri. During his time in Springfield, he may have been influenced by Bearcat Wright, who fought in the area. Based on newspaper accounts of Wright's fights, it appears that Fox's peculiar boxing style may have been influenced by Wright.
Until coming to Spokane in July 1934, Fox's career could be described as that of a barnstormer.
Fox fought with his hands down at his knees, frequently boxing out of a crouch with his feet spread wide and his chin sticking out, often with his mouth wide open making faces. Fox would then use a weave in his crouch to confuse his opponents. Fox who was inclined to fight as a counterpuncher, hoped that his open defense would get his opponent to open up on him. Once his opponent opened up on him and Fox had used his defensive skills to make them miss, he would counterpunch them with wild haymakers. Fox boxed in spurts, and usually took rounds off which caused him to be booed frequently, and probably led to him getting thrown out of several towns, who would not let him box there again. Like many counterpunchers, Fox had difficulty with good boxers.
Later in his career, during the 1940s, Fox used more of a crab defense in the center of the ring, and tried to lure his opponents into the ropes for counterpunching opportunities. Fox would often grab the ropes with one hand and stick his chin out, and then smack his opponent with a left hook or bolo punch when they took the bait. Fox was frequently out of condition during his bouts in the 1940s, and often fought with a spare tire around his waist, depending on the level of the opposition.
Circumstances surrounding the Bettina fight
In the early hours of December 6, 1938, Fox was stabbed below the heart by a ten-inch razor blade by Edna Boyd after returning from a party. Fox was told initially that he would never fight again, however he returned two months later to face Melio Bettina in his unsuccessful bid for the title. According to the Chicago Defender, neither Fox or Boyd, would reveal to police what transpired prior to the stabbing incident.
Fox would allege to his death that he was a victim of the "evil eye," courtesy of Bettina's manager James V. Grippo, a well known magician and hypnotist. Fox, who believed in black magic, went as far as hiring Benjamin "Evil Eye" Finkle to perform a hex on Bettina, to counter the hypnotic powers of Grippo. Finkel refused to help Fox, claiming that he would never work against a fellow craftsman.
According to the article entitled ?Boxing Playboys? by Ted Carroll, in the September 1950 The Ring magazine:
?Back in 1938 Tiger Jack was an exceptional light-heavyweight. The Tiger?s disdain for all the conventional conditioning a boxer is supposed to undergo was startling. He only went home and to bed when there was no other place to go and there always seemed to be some other place. In spite of this, he was so good that he was named leading aspirant for the 175-pound crown and ordered to meet Melio Bettina to decide the championship.
?This golden opportunity mattered little to Fox. In his ceaseless nocturnal prowling through Harlem, he met up with a recalcitrant lady who punctuated a difference of opinion with a carving job on the Tiger which landed him in the hospital.
?The wound was no mere scratch, but Fox was back in there fighting Bettina before the medicos told him he was ready. He was an easy victim for the Beacon, N.Y., southpaw.
?Here was a case when a fighter?s folly had cost him a championship.?
Later Career and Death
It is believed that Fox was in Portland from 1941 until 1943. During this time he was working at the Shipyards in Portland and was retired from the sport as a boxer. When professional boxing returned to Portland in the fall of 1942, Fox began training fighters. Two of the fighters he is known to have worked with were Young Otto and Speedy Cannon. Cannon even used the moniker "Young Tiger Jack Fox" for one of his bouts.
Eventually though, in the summer of 1943, Fox joined the U.S. Army with some difficulty in Portland. Fox's main problem was his age, and the belief that he was too old to join the army. Fox was able to produce evidence that he was born in 1907 (his listed age), in order to allow himself to get in. Questions about Fox's age would remain until his death.
Based on the length of stay in the Army which was no more than nine months, it is probable that Fox just trained with the Army, and did not see active combat. Whatever the case may be, Fox would later reveal that the Army got him into better shape and convinced him that he could resume his boxing career in the Spring of 1944 when he left the army.
According to reports in the Spokesman-Review, prior to his March 1946 comeback, Fox had been working with the Spokane Police Department during his layoff. The Spokane police used Fox to go out and arrrest the more violent and dangerous criminals in Spokane. This had been Fox's main source of income during his layoff, as he had purportedly not spent much time in the gym.
In a 1949 article found in the Anchorage Daily News, Fox claimed approximately 330 bouts in his career. If that figure is correct, and his record was fully researched, it is likely based on his knockout percentage, that Fox scored more knockouts than any other boxer who ever fought.
Reports in the Spokesman-Review in 1950, indicated that Fox had several offers for bouts that summer in Montana. Another would-be promoter had offered him a bout in Moses Lake, before he realized that Fox was banned in the State of Washington. He had also been given, but presumably declined, an offer to work with then rising prospect Rex Layne.
Fox suffered a stroke on June 6, 1951 in his hotel in Spokane. Fox was only able to use one arm, following the stroke. However, prior to his death, he was able to walk with a cane and had regained his speech. He frequently went to a local theatre, where he liked to watch the triple feature. Fox died of a heart attack outside this theater on April 6, 1954.
Fox's early record in Spokane (1934-38) as it appears in the Ring Record Book, is filled with errors, and should be disregarded completely. Notably, Fox is listed as fighting in Tacoma, which he never did.
Fox is also listed as knocking out Sonny Orrock in 4 rounds on March 11, 1949, which can not be found in research of the Spokesman-Review. That paper mentions an April 9, 1949 show as being the first boxing show in Wallace in several years; Fox was not reported in this show. Fox did appear in two exhibitions in Wallace, one of them against Orrock on a later show in June, prior to embarking for Anchorage, Alaska.
A October 12, 1933 bout with Jack Casper could not be located in the Salt Lake Tribune. There was a wrestling show on this night in Salt Lake City, but was not a mixed show and had no boxing on it, nor did Fox wrestle on the program.
A December 22, 1933 bout listed with Bill Longson was a mixed match with a wrestler, fought on a wrestling card. Fox won in the 4th round when Longson was disqualified when he "pursued victory with clinched fists". (Source: Odgen (Utah) Standard)
Newspaper research of Spokane papers (Spokesman-Review, Spokane Chronicle, and Spokane Press), Portland Oregonian, New York Times, and others that have been noted above. Information about Fox's style was pieced together from articles and fight reports taken from the sources given.