Three Tales from Joe “Shannon” Schabacker!
By: Ken Hissner
This former Olympic alternate back in the early 20’s had more than half a dozen tales but let’s hear about three of them.
Shannon had a professional trainer named Jack Blackburn. Yes, the trainer of Joe “The Brown Bomber” Louis. Shannon had him first. On a train to Baltimore where Shannon was to fight a “Billy Goat” of a boxer Blackburn pulled out a small bottle and put it under the nose of Shannon. He took one stiff and his vision went blurry. Blackburn wanted to put it under Shannon’s chin so that when the “Billy Goat” came up with his head the liquid from the bottle under Shannon’s chin would run down into his opponent’s eyes and guess what? Shannon won by technical knockout due to his opponent who couldn’t continue at the end of the round.
Shannon fought an opponent named Eddie Fisher. No not the singer. Shannon as an amateur had fought for the Catholic club called Shannahan. He went to get his trophies back after turning professional and the priest in charge refused to give them up. Seems Shannon being a Lutheran may have had something to do with it. The night of his next fight against Fisher Shannon was told the same priest who refused to return the trophies had bet against Shannon.
The fight was at the Cambria in Philadelphia that they called “the blood pit” due to the many wars held there. The boxers would walk down steps to get to the ring. Shannon entered the ring and soon was on the canvas. His wife was at ringside and yelled out “get up you bum you had your nap this afternoon!” Shannon not only got up but would eventually stop Fisher. On the way back up the stairs Shannon noticed the priest sitting there with his head down and went over to him and whispered “thanks for the prayers father.” Shannon would eventually go to Fisher who owned a diner in Jersey and asked Fisher to sign a contract so Shannon who was retiring could train and manage him. Fisher said “if I can’t beat a bum like you I don’t belong in the ring.” That was the last time the two met.
Shannon was a sign painter and that is how he paid for his gym dues at former light heavyweight champion Philadelphia Jack O’Brien’s gym. O’Brien had two rings in his gym. One day a boxer was shadow boxing in one while the other had a mouthy boxer from New England who was beating up each sparring partner put in front of him. He asked O’Brien “is that all you got?” As O’Brien started to take off his suit jacket Shannon volunteered to get into the ring with the bully. Shannon was a lightweight and entered the ring against a middleweight. The latter could not catch Shannon who was doing his “road work” circling the bigger man in the ring before exiting.
The boxer in the other ring asked the bully “do you need some work?” The response from the bully who was scheduled to fight several days later was “yeah, I need some work.” The “other boxer” came into the ring with the bully and proceeded to rip him apart to the point he cut his ear (no head gear) and put him out of the scheduled fight. As he left the ring Shannon followed him to the dressing room and said “thanks a lot buddy for sticking up for me.” The response from the other boxer was “I didn’t do it for you kid. A guy like that doesn’t belong in the ring. By the way (held his hand out) my name is Harry Greb.” Yes the former two-division world champion known as the Pittsburgh Windmill and who was the only boxer to defeat heavyweight champion Gene Tunney was that “other boxer!”