Today’s world of professional boxing is such a stinking cesspool that it’s difficult for me now to recapture the frame of mind I had as a 12-year-old, when I was an avid fight fan. My dad and my grandfather certainly never demonstrated any great personal interest in the ring. Admittedly, my grandmother did. She listened regularly to the Friday night fights on radio. And she had strong opinions on everything that happened at the heavyweight championship level.
Ask her and she could tell you in an instant that in 1930, Max Schmeling of Germany won a hotly-disputed decision over the tough Irish-American, Jack Sharkey, to become the new heavyweight champion of the world. Two years later, in 1932, Sharkey beat Schmeling and regained the title. In 1933, massive Primo Carnero knocked out Sharkey in the sixth, taking the heavyweight crown to Italy. Less than a year later, the Italian giant lost the championship to America’s Max Baer.
Baer was a natural. He could have been one of the all- time great ones, according to sports writers in the know. But he was never a hungry fighter, he was a playboy.
In June 1935, the month that I graduated from Buckman Grammar School, I can remember huddling with my grandmother in front of the radio as we listened, round by round, to a broadcast of the championship bout in which Max Baer lost the title on points to that popular Irish-American family man, James J. Braddock.
The restaurant location turned out to be a good one. Across the street, the civic auditorium drew crowds for all kinds of events, both high and low. During the concert season, for example, the auditorium featured such guest artists as Lily Pons, Paul Robeson, John McCormack and Vladimir Horowitz with the Portland Symphony Orchestra. During the rest of the year, the auditorium featured Friday or Saturday night boxing matches and other special events.