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One Boxer That Should Have Watched What He Asked For: A Story About Harry Greb


By: Ken Hissner

This writer had an old friend named Joe “Shannon” Schabacker who fought in the 1920’s and was trained by Jack Blackburn. Shannon bought Blackburn a new suit when he was ready to go to Detroit to meet the great heavyweight champion Joe “The Brown Bomber” Louis and his co-managers. He was well accepted and became the trainer of Louis.

Shannon had many tales to tell including when one of the all-time great if not the greatest lightweight of all-time Benny “The Ghetto Wizard” Leonard walked into a banquet of boxers dressed to the hilt with his hands in his pockets. There was Frankie Callahan the former featherweight champion drunk as a skunk yelling over at Leonard. When Leonard finally got within arms-length of the loud mouth drunk with hands still in his pockets he simply said “what do you want some more of what I have you in the ring?” The drunk didn’t say a word.

The best story Shannon told me was when he was still boxing and in the former world light heavyweight champion Philadelphia Jack O’Brien’s Gym in Philadelphia. The former champ and gym owner was well past his prime and in a suit.

In one of the two rings O’Brien had in his gym was a boxer from New England who was in Philadelphia for a bout and working over one sparring partner after another one. “Don’t you have anyone here that can fight,” said the boxer. So O’Brien started to take off his jacket to get in the ring with him when Shannon who was only a lightweight and would be giving away about twenty-five pounds volunteered to get in the ring. He kept moving and the big mouth couldn’t catch him. Shannon jumped out of the ring.
In the other ring was a boxer shadow boxing who yelled over to this big mouth “hey buddy, you need some sparring?” At first with a surprise look on his face the big mouth replied “yeah I need some sparring why don’t you come over here?”

Well, the other boxer came over and got into the ring with the big mouth and went on to beat him so bad that one of his ear’s had a cut on it. He never said a word just got out of the ring knowing his bout would be postponed.

Shannon followed the other boxer into the dressing room and said “hey thanks buddy for doing that for me.” The boxer said “I didn’t do that for you for guys like that don’t belong in the fight game. By the way my name is HARRY GREB. Yes, none other than the “Pittsburgh Windmill” and former middleweight champion who was the only boxer to defeat heavyweight champion to be Gene Tunney whose record was 79-1-4.

It depends on where you look but Greb’s record has been known as 262-17-18, 260-21-17 and 107-8-3. The moral of the story is “watch what you ask for” because you might be getting more than you bargained for.

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