By George D. Blair
THE MAN FROM MINNESOTA
It is doubtful if any community of comparable area and population anywhere in the world the size of St. Paul in the late teens and early twenties ever produced so many outstanding fighters as did St. Paul in its fistic heyday. Jock Malone was one of them, and one of the best to boot.
Such names as Mike Gibbons, Mike O’Dowd, Jimmy Delaney, Tommy Gibbons, Billy Miske, Johnny Ertle, and Billy DeFoe, were just some of the local pugilists of the era. Jock Malone started his professional career in 1916, and until 1930 when it ended, Malone missed very few of the world’s best welterweights and middleweights of his time.
Malone, of Irish descent, was born in St. Paul on July 23, 1897. Jock’s first love was baseball and he dearly wanted to be a catcher for a pro team. He had no thought of being a boxer until one day at a ball game Malone and another tough-looking guy got into a heated argument. The other fellow took a swing at Malone which Jock easily avoided, and retaliated with a punch that flattened the other guy. It just so happened that the great Mike Gibbons was in attendance at the game that day and Gibbons saw fistic potential in the fighting catcher. After the game Gibbons talked to Malone. From that day on Malone forgot baseball, and became a boxer.
Boxing came natural to Malone, whose only lessons came from Mike Gibbons, and he was a tough teacher in the ring. During sparring sessions Gibbons gave no quarter to his sparmates, and as time passed Malone developed an excellent self-defense. In 1916 Malone had his first pro fight, knocking out Cuppy Logan in the seventh round.
It was only the beginning of a sterling career in the ring for Jock Malone. His first manager was Mike McNulty, who was succeeded by Mike Collins, Tom Andrews, and finally the combo of Nate Lewis and Tommy Walsh. In a career that lasted fifteen years, Malone engaged in 159 recorded fights. He lost 21 of those contests against some of the sport’s greatest names.
If you are a follower of boxing’s history you will recognize names like Jack Britton, Battling Ortega, Panama Joe Gans, Augie Ratner, Bryan Downey, Mickey Walker, Johnny Wilson, Tiger Flowers, Dave Shade, Maxie Rosenbloom and Gorilla Jones. Malone fought them all, and many of the local greats as well.
Malone ended the career of Minnesota’s only world champion, Mike O’Dowd. The fight took place in St. Paul on March 16, 1923. The two were friends. Malone knew O’Dowd was at the end of the line, so he spared O’Dowd a long evening by knocking Mike out in the first round.
GO JUMP IN THE RIVER
On June 15, 1920, Malone was drawing national attention and was booked into Brooklyn for a 12-rounder against a strong and willing, but slow-moving Jack Stone. What occurred that night endeared Malone to the hearts of fans who were there. Malone was troubled at the time by bruised, hurting hands and knew he wouldn’t be able to punch very hard. He decided that instead of making a dull affair of the fight, that he would turn it into a public boxing lesson, with Malone the teacher and Stone the pupil.
When the fight began Malone started talking to Stone, loud enough for those close to the ring to hear. Jock told Stone he wanted to see his jab, and Stone would throw the punch. Malone slipped it and then told Stone this was how it was done, and then pump three or four jabs into Stone’s face. Then it was the right or left hook; Malone would duck and tell Stone that that wasn’t right, and then hit Stone the way it should be done. This went on for all twelve rounds, and Stone was so befuddled at the end that he didn’t know what had happened. The customers loved it and the fight had turned into a highly entertaining evening. Malone was a very easy winner.
Jock Malone is probably best remembered for an incident that took place in Boston in 1924. Malone was booked to fight Welshman Frank Moody on June 15. Malone was a colorful showman as well as a confident fighter, and told the Boston press that if he didn’t beat this Moody, he would jump into the Charles River. The statement made good copy and was duly reported to Boston’s boxing fans.
A large crowd turned out to see Moody get a ten-round decision over Malone. The next day the disappointed Malone left for St. Paul, without jumping into the river as he had promised he’d do if he lost. On July 29 Malone returned to Boston to meet former middleweight champion Johnny Wilson. Malone predicted victory when he arrived in Boston, but the newspapermen hadn’t forgotten Malone’s promised bridge jump after the Moody fight and asked, in print, if Malone would jump if he lost to Wilson.
Wilson knocked out Malone in the sixth round that night, only one of three times Malone failed to last the limit. Everyone wondered if Malone would jump this time. Malone would talk to no one, and the papers the next morning got him about jumping. Boston’s boxing writers received a message from Malone the next day that he would be at the Charleston Bridge over the Charles River at noon. No one knew if Malone was serious, or if he was just joking.
A few minutes past noon the reporters were there, when Jock Malone, attired in summer dress, including straw hat, walked out on the bridge, climbed the railing and jumped feet first sixty-eight feet into the waters below. When he came up, Jock swam to the shore, came back up to the center of the bridge, and for the second time jumped into the water. When he got to the shore this time the press was there to meet him.
Malone said he wanted to dive head first but that he had a cut over his eye and was told if he went in head first the cut might rip wide open, and since he had a bout scheduled for a few weeks later he decided not to chance it. The fight he spoke of was a ten-round no-decision against Frank Moody in Detroit. Malone got the newspaper decision over Moody. Malone concluded to the newsmen that they could inform their readers that Jock Malone was a man of his word, that twice he lost, and twice he had jumped into their river.
Malone had his last fight, fittingly on March 17, 1930 in St. Paul, when he battled ten rounds to a no-decision against future champion William “Gorilla” Jones. Upon his retirement Malone went to work for the Ford Motor Company in Detroit. After retiring from Ford, Malone moved to Brooklyn, where he lived with his mother and sister.
On July 4, 1964, Malone passed away in Brooklyn. Upon his death St. Paul had lost another member of its illustrious and gifted array of world famous boxers.