REH was obsessed with boxing while still a kid and stayed that way until his death. "Obsession" might not be quite accurate because, if so, then a major percentage of American males were "obsessed" as well. Boxing in the early decades of the 20th century enjoyed a popularity far beyond what boxing and MMA combined have now. Boxing was more popular than football, which was just beginning its rise. Chris Gruber is one of the top scholars out there when it comes to Howard and boxing. Here is an excellent audio recording of a presentation he gave on the topic last year:
This is one of those topics that I find interesting, even though I have little interest in boxing. I have read a few of REH's stories and I like them a lot more than actual boxing, which seems a little odd somehow, but I think it's clear that he had a huge passion for the sport and society at large seemed to be a lot more interested in boxing than it is today. As best as I can tell, boxing in the 20's and 30's had a stature a lot like the NFL has today.
Anyway, not much to contribute but I'm enjoying this thread.
Marv / Finarvyn Dark Paladin of REH (a la Solomon Kane) OD&D Player since 1975
Lovecraft's response to REH telling him about losing a boyhood fight...
"The incident of your boyhood fight is extremely interesting psychologically. There would seem to be but little doubt that your anomalous and unexpected defeat was due wholly to the divided state of your mind—your acute consciousness of the audience and your deep subconscious desire to make a good impression upon it. This distracting element unquestionably sapped away something of the complete single-minded devotion to the immediate fight issue which generally brings victory to a combatant. All of you was not in the fight. But it must have been an exasperating event for you, none the less. Sorry the other boy met such an untimely end."
-- H. P. Lovecraft to Robert E. Howard, 8 Jun 1932
Life reminds me of a fight I had, when a kid, with a heavyweight prize fighter. Round after round I rushed savagely and futilely, mad to come to grips and smash his ribs in, but hitting only the naked air. It was like fighting a shadow that wielded clubs; at the end of the fight I was swaying on the ropes groggy and dizzy, with my nose broken and my face cut and bruised, sick with a feeling of utterly helpless futility.
That’s Life— it’s full of things that punish you fiercely and that you can’t come to grips with. Punishment isn’t so bad if you’re handing it out at the same time. The other fellow may be strangling the life out of you, or ripping your ear off with his teeth, but if you’re driving your knee to his groin, sinking your fists in his belly or have your thumb in his eye, you can stand the punishment. The hell of it comes when you’re up against a battler you can’t hit, or are licked and down in the muck with the other fellow stamping your guts out or grinding your face in with his hob-nails. That’s Life — fighting shadows; taking lickings that you can’t return.
-- Robert E. Howard to H. P. Lovecraft, December 1930
"A sissy, Howard was not. Like Conan, he was combative and sometimes aggressive. He loved to box and loved boxing. He mentions watching a Brownwood boxing match between Jack Goss (Jack Doss) and Roughhouse Williams (Soldier Boy "Tuffy" Wright), Williams being from nearby Coalton (Coleman)."
-- Roxy Gordon, "Robert E. Howard" in Cross Plains Review 26 Jan, 1995
"Yes, my eyes are poor; started when I was a kid, sitting out on the woodpile and reading until after dark. The condition hasn’t been improved by getting a large number of boxing gloves stuck in my eyes and bounced off my temples."
"That reminded him of something he had done almost like that. He was particularly impressed with a fighter we had in Brownwood, Kid Dula. One day as he went home from the post office, Bob was thinking about Kid Dula, and, all of a sudden, he got an idea for a whopping fight yarn and began shadow boxing as he walked down the street, and even accompanied the shadow boxing with words! While we laughed at what we'd done, our reactions to the situations had been different. When I saw that somebody was watching me, I stopped rehearsing immediately and turned my car in the opposite direction. Bob kept on shadow boxing, telling himself that he didn't care what people thought of him. I knew he did care, very much, but was just too stubborn to admit it."
Novalyne's mention of Kid Dula reminded me of this piece with extensive quotes from REH published in The Brownwood Bulletin, 18 July 1928. Arthur "Kid" Dula went on to box most of his later career under the moniker of "Cowboy" Dula.
Kid Dula Due To Be Champion
Arthur “Kid” Dula is due to be the middleweight champion of the world, in the opinion of Robert E. Howard of Cross Plains, who witnessed the Dula-Tramel battle in Fort Worth last week.
Howard is a close student of the boxing game, and is thoroughly posted on current boxing as well as on the history of the fight game. Writing to The Bulletin today from his home in Cross Plains, Howard says:
“Last Friday night a boy went through his baptism of blood and fire and emerged victorious. The decision went against him but the moral victory was his.
“Arthur Dula of Brownwood, in his slashing desperate battle against Duke Tramel proved that he was of the stuff of which champions are built. I have seen challengers, champions and near champions perform but that moment in the fourth round, when Dula, his back against the ropes, pinned there by Tramel’s murderous attack, and dazed from a terrific right to the temple—made a desperate rally and outslugged the most dangerous slugger the South has ever produced. Outslugged, outfought and battered him back across the ring.
“Again in the eighth, when dizzy and bloody the Kid reeled about the ring, out on his feet but with superhuman courage refusing to go down—again in the last desperate round when the Kid, weakened by cruel punishment and low blows charged recklessly across the ring, met Tramel in his own corner. And fighting like an uncaged tiger, smashed the weakening slugger from one side of the ring to the other.
“All this leads to the main point; that which came into my mind as I watched that bloody eighth round. Kid Dula is the next Middleweight Champion of the World.
“The Kid has much to learn of the finer points of boxing; but he is a natural hitter, a clever boxer, tough and courageous. More, he is aggressive to an extent reminiscent of Dempsey. And like all really great sluggers, like Sullivan Ketchel, Terry McGovern, Bob Fitzsimmons and Jack Dempsey, Dula never loses his punch and is most dangerous when apparently out. This quality alone is the greatest gift a fighter can have and one which has sustained Duke Tramel also, through many grim battles and made him for a time, champion of the Southwest. And Dula besides this has other qualities which Trammel lacks, mainly boxing skill and speed. His main handicap is lack of sufficient experience.
“The fight Friday night, boiled down, comes to this: a desperate battle between two iron men, the experience and sledge hammer power of one being offset by the speed and aggressiveness of the other. A draw would have been fair to both. One of the greatest fights the South has ever seen.
“And Dula is the next middleweight champion. All he needs is proper handling. He has everything else.”
"A small thing, trivial in itself but significant — I put on the gloves the other day for the first time in months, and, for the first time in my life, found myself staggering and holding on to avoid being knocked out, and unable to inflict any punishment on my opponent. My legs never failed me before, but this time — well, I’ve slipped a long way, in every way. I’m just a shell of a man."
I have been looking at researching some of the 19th century fighting styles, particularly the bare knuckle boxing stance favoured by many fighters in the early 1900’s and throughout the 1800’s. Kind of Gangs of New York movies type of thing.
For me boxing is a workout and keeping fit. I favoured long reach punches and jabs/mixed brawler method, got in hard and fast. Not that I got into many fights, and mostly as a kid. I’m not going to crap you, this city is not that rough. Most times if you are not looking for trouble, you will not find it.
Anyway, I was not familiar with all the old style techniques frequently seen in the very old photos and pictures. Interesting video.