Ridley Township boxing leader James F. Dougherty!!
James F. "Baron" Dougherty [1868-1948] was involved in all phases of Leiperville and Ridley Township. He personally started the J. F. Dougherty Fire Co. which later became the Vauclain Fire Co. Dougherty is on the right.
Note: When I first became interested in local history, Ridley Township history especially, several older residents told me Jack Dempsey, 1920's heavyweight champ, trained in Leiperville on his way to the top. He trained with James F. "Baron" Dougherty. Originally I never believed the story, but it is true. Dougherty ran the Colonial Hotel on Chester Pike and Dempsey and other boxers trained there. Below is an interview with Dougherty from 1923
JIMMY DOUGHERTY DESCRIBES CAREER
Has Been in Fight Game for Five Years
CHESTER TIMES – June 27, 1923 – JIMMY DOUGHERTY DESCRIBES CAREER – Has Been in Fight Game for Five Years – Fought as Middleweight
For a man approaching fifty-three years of age, Jimmy Dougherty, Baron of Leiperville, is a remarkably well-preserved man with a family of seven children and does not at all look his age.
Dougherty gives credit for his robust health and youthful appearance to athletics.In his early days Jimmy was a star baseball player who later fought professionally.
But now his activities in ring matters are confined to refereeing, managing and promoting.In refereeing Dougherty has made probably his greatest name.His fame is nationwide.Thus his selection as third man in the ring when Jack Dempsey hauls off to sock Tom Gibbons in their heavyweight championship tilt at Shelby, Mont., July 4th.
For close to thirty-five years Dougherty has been associated with the boxing game.He has seen star mittmen of two generations pass along the beaten trail and believes that the old timers were just as good as any modern boxer and vice versa.
Jimmy doesn’t take the stand that the “good old days” were the best.He thinks the modern heavyweight would be as successful as the old timers and there’s positively no way of comparing them.
But Dougherty does bring out points seldom touched upon.He maintains that while the oldest were great they would no doubt have been greater if they lived during the present generation.
NO $100,000 PURSES YEARS AGO – “In those days glory was the most thing they got,” said Dougherty, “while today the modern preliminary boxer gets what the old timers thought a fortune.Money makes the mare go and were the stars of other days to be battling in these times of big purses look at the incentive they would have to spur them on.
“And again, conditions are different.The old fellows had to ‘sneak’ around and fight in seclusion.They virtually had to go in hiding, the fight game was in such disrepute.They seldom had time to train.
“But the modern boxer has the advantage of public appreciation; official approval in almost every state in the union.It’s a business now with weeks and weeks devoted to training periods for big fights.
“I’ve seen some great fighters pass in review and wouldn’t care to relegate any of them to rear places in a comparison to modern pugilists.Neither would I place Jack Dempsey, Tom and Mike Gibbons, Benny Leonard, Lew Tendler, O’Dowd, Packey McFarland, Leach Cross, Johnny Dundee, Johnny Kilbane, and a host of other more modern fighters behind the old fellows.
WAS A PUPIL OF BILLY MCLEAN – “I was just eighteen years old when I first became mixed up in the fight game.I then lived in Chester where I was born and used to walk to Philadelphia several times a week to take boxing lessons from Professor Billy McLean, one of the greatest ring masters of all time.
“I was fairly husky and fought as a middleweight.Everything I knew was taught by McLean who today well beyond the eighty-year mark is remarkably well preserved.There was a good class of fighters being tutored by McLean who staged the first boxing ever arranged in Delaware County when I was around twenty years of age.
“Because I am called ‘Jimmy the Wrestler’ many people think I was a professional grappler but I earned that title in a baseball game and I still hear it today from the old fellows.We were playing baseball in Chester one day and Jimmy Murray now, an umpire in the Pacific Coast League, was catching for the opposition.
“The squeeze play was given and I came dashing in from third so hard I bowled over Murray and a free for all started between us with me hauling and pulling Murray around more like wrestling than boxing.The name of ‘Jimmy the Wrestler’ was tacked on then.
“My first professional fight was with Andy Black, a former amateur middleweight champion.We fought at Darby in the only fight ever staged there.I didn’t remain in the fight game as a participant very long but turned manager to handle Eddie Lenny whom I think was one of the greatest fighters of any weight ever developed in Philadelphia.
“Lenny was a marvel.He mixed with some of the greatest fighters of the day and fought one twenty-five rounder for Tom O’Rouke in New York against George Dixon which I think Lenny won by a wide margin.
“I also handled Jack Bonner, the Summit Hill fighter.He was a good one and staged his best fight in Louisville, Ky., against Kid Carter, losing in twenty rounds.I was instrumental in bringing Joe Goddard, a powerful black man from South Africa to fight John L. Sullivan, but before Goddard could get a whack at John L. the latter was beaten by Jim Corbett.
GODDARD A POWERFUL FIGHTER – “Goddard’s first fight for me resulted in a knockout victory over Peter Maher in Williamsport.Goddard was fast, strong as a bull and could give and take with the best big men in the land at the time.It was a pity he never got a chance to match his skill, speed and punching power with the old champion, Sullivan.
“While here Goddard offered $50,000 to any man who could knock him out with one punch.By that he meant he would stand perfectly still with his hands hanging at his sides and permit anyone to sock him.No one ever accepted his challenge.Later he became disgusted with conditions here and returned to South America.
“It was in 1890 that I first established training quarters for boxers at Leiperville and became acquainted with Joe Gans.There was a remarkable person.Gans was clean, intelligent and a gentleman all the way through.That’s why he was spoken of so highly by everyone who knew him.
“Gans was a ring master who devoted his entire thought to perfecting himself in his chosen profession.Her studied his opponent’s every characteristic and laid out his plans for a fight like a general does before a battle.Joe always trained at my place and I saw him time after time box as many as twenty rounds a day in preparing for a six or ten round fight.
“I believe his idea of working twenty for a ten or a six round tilt was a mighty good idea.
“Probably the greatest fight ever waged in Pennsylvania was fought in 1905 between Sam Langford and Jack Blackburn.They went fifteen rounds at Leiperville and that contest was a masterpiece of ring work on the part of both, who were skilled ring men.For their terrific fifteen round struggle they split $60.
“From 1905 until 1912 I forgot all about boxing.I wasn’t connected with it in any way, not even attending a contest.However, in 1912 when touring the Eastern Pennsylvania, I met Jack Blackburn then doing time for murder.He begged me to get him released.
“I started a movement which eventually brought his case before the Board of Pardons, but it was refused at the time.This cost me a lot of money, and when Blackburn was eventually released, I decided to return to boxing and by directing Blackburn, regain some of my money.
“Though I was associated with many boxers, I really never managed any but Lenny until during the war, when I was staging boxing shows for the benefit of the Chest fund in Chester.There I became acquainted with Bobby Barrett.
“Barrett impressed me as being one of the greatest hitting boys his weight I ever saw and I took him under my direction.
“I’ve refereed for many years and handled bouts in which some of the country’s stars competed.I refereed several times for Joe Gans, one of which was a title bout in Baltimore against Jack Daly.I counted Daly out.
“Refereeing is a serious proposition and a man must keep his wits about him all the time and know the rules thoroughly.Snap judgment must be used and the proper decision given the instant something happens.It’s like in baseball.Action must be prompt.There is no time to ponder.”