Haakon Hansen

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Haakon Hansen.jpg

Name: Haakon Hansen
Alias: Smiling Haakon
Hometown: Chicago, Illinois, USA
Birthplace: Oslo, Norway
Died: 1985-05-28 (Age:78)
Pro Boxer: Record
Amateur Boxer: Record

Division: Middleweight
Manager: Ed Stevenson

Haakon Hansen is one of only four Norwegian boxers to have gained success in America during the 20th Century, along with Terry Martin, Otto von Porat and Pete Sanstol.

He was born in central Oslo into a middle class family. His father was a well-off tailor who also impressed his customers with tearing telephone directories apart and showing acrobatic skills. When Haakon became a local favorite, his father took great care in making fancy suits for his son. Haakon and his brothers were sportsmen who also spent much time in the Oslo woods with the family's five bird dogs. Boxing became a favorite sport after the newspaper reports from the Dempsey- Carpentier fight. At the age of 16, Haakon inherited shoes and shorts from his older brother who had received a bad beating in training.

The Hansen family had an uncle in Chicago and in 1926 Haakon and a friend signed up for a boat trip, saving money during the long months of waiting. In Chicago the uncle lead Haakon to the Debray gym on the second floor over a drug store. Haakon attended the Saturday Night fights. Young boxers with their record lists stood in line for fights and Debray was the promoter. Pay was usually 20$. After a fight the boxers often found other cards in the neighbourhood on the same night. Haakon Hansen's first trainer was Sieg Hart who never wore shorts but instructed in a three piece suit complete with hat and cigar.

from The Ring

In a 1974- interview for the Oslo newspaper " Arbeiderbladet " Hansen gave a colorful account of his career in the US: " I went to the gym where Debray's boxers trained. Debray was in his office, a man with a large belly, diamond rings on his fingers and both legs on the table. On the walls there were photos of Dempsey and Jack Johnson. My eyes nearly popped out of my head. I said I wanted to fight, but Debray gave me a disapproving look and said he had no boxers my size. He only had a heavyweight, he said. I'll take him, I said. I put on gloves and fired away with both hands. Soon the heavyweight was on the floor and I got a contract in Debray's stable. My career started very well. I had 20 straight wins, changed manager and got Otto von Porat as a new stablemate. He had just come over from Norway. More managers got in touch and tried to buy me. Jack Kearns, manager of Jack Dempsey, said he was going to make me a world champion, but my manager wouldn't let me go."

Haakon Hansen usually weighted in a 60-63 kilos. That did not stop him from climbing up weight classes to fight welters, middles and even heavyweights. "It was permitted in those days. I loved the risk involved in fighting much heavier guys, and I wanted to fight the best men, no matter which weightclass. "

Beacuse of his good looks, Hansen was often billed as "The Norwegian Adonis". His other nickname "Smiling Haakon " came from his early amateur days in Oslo as he always entered the ring smiling, eager to have a fight.

After his 6th round TKO win over Art (Cowboy) Duela in Chicago, October 1929, Hansen received a gold watch from the card's promoter, no one other than Jack Dempsey. On the back there was an inscription: " To Haakon Hansen from Jack Dempsey " In the 1974- interview, Hansen displayed this precious item and said: "It's still ticking".

After his pro career, he returned to Norway for good in May 1932, leaving behind a wife in Chicago. He never returned.First years in Oslo were difficult. Hansen now made occational headlines with drunk and disorderly conduct. However friends helped and gave him assignments as trainer for various amateur clubs. He started at life long relation with the club IF Ornulf, Oslo,(1937-1940 and 1949-1970). Hansen taught the boys a classic upright style. In the United States he had learned to talk to everyone about everything and many of his youthful boxers still remember vividly the talk and the discussions in the shower and wardrobe after training.

Asthma and ulcers haunted Hansen throughout his career and life, and he had to retire as a trainer in 1970. A few years later he surprised everyone by marrying a younger woman with whom he lived until he died at the age of 78 in 1985. He showed no signs of injury from his 22-17-7 pro career. "Aftenposten" legendary journalist and fan Leif K. Nilsen summed up Hansen career at 70 in 1977: "Hansen was too much of a bohemian to really suceed as a pro." "He is a nice guy who is loved by everyone he gets in touch with."

  • Amateur career:
  • Oslo Champion 1925 (Welterweight)
  • Norwegian Amateur Champion 1923 (Lightweight) and 1925 (Welterweight).
  • On the Norwegian National team 4 times (Winning 3: Denmark,1924. Sweden,1925,1926)

Partook in the 1924 Olympics, Paris 15-20th of July. Lightweight (61,2 kg)