Earlier in my Newark Memories, I recalled
my pre-World War II experience reporting the wrestling matches at
Laurel Garden on Springfield Avenue for the Star-Ledger.
In that memory, I also recalled the life of Laurel Garden as a
boxing and wrestling arena. Laurel Garden had been a popular Newark
site for the staging of professional boxing and wrestling matches
since the 1920s.
My earlier Laurel Garden "Memory" went back to the 1920s
and ended with the final Laurel Garden boxing match on May 30, 1953,
when Brooklyn-born Joey Giardello outboxed middleweight Hurley Sandler
in a nationally-televised event.
Earlier Boxing in Newark
But Newark was a locale for boxing activity long before the Laurel
Garden era that began in the 1920s. I was made aware of this when
my Laurel Garden 'Memory' brought a response from Mary Ellen Sobule.
She followed up by providing a page from the New York Times of January
8, 1886 which contained an account of a Newark boxing match that
mentioned her uncle, Charlie Norton, a prominent fighter of that
On that New York Times page from 1886, there was an account of
a two-round hard-glove fight in the back room of a Newark saloon1.
I am guessing that boxing was then illegal in Newark, but that
word had gotten to the prestigious New York paper of an impending
fight in Newark, and The Times had had a reporter on the scene to
witness and report on the event.
The Times reporter, unnamed, gave the following report, published
in the following day's issue of The Times:
NEWARK, Jan 7 -- A two-round hard glove fight took place in the
back room of a saloon in this city at an early hour this morning
between two local light-weights, Frank Kavanagh and James Nagie.
About 60 persons witnessed the fight. Joe Wooley acted as Kavanagh's
second, and Charles Norton occupied the same position for Nagie.
Don Jones acted as referee. The stakes were $50 a side and gate
money. In the first round, it was evident that Kavanagh was the
better man, and in the round, he knocked Nagie down with a blow
in the nose. As the latter was rising Kavanagh struck him again.
A foul was claimed and allowed, when a general row ensued and the
fight was broken up.
(End of Times Report)
Actual NYT Article
About the Second for Nagie
Charles Norton, who was the second for fighter James Nagie, was
a Newarker who two years earlier in 1884, had retired from boxing
as "lightweight champion of the world."
He made his home at 17 New Jersey Railroad Avenue, with his wife
and three daughters, and lived there until his death.
After his retirement from boxing, he had opened a saloon in Newark.
It is likely that the fight described in the 1886 Times report took
place in Norton's drinking establishment. He owned and operated
the saloon up until the time of his death.
1880s Boxing Regulations
The 1880s were the first years in which regulations were applied
to the boxing sport.
Previously, when there were no regulations, fights sometimes involved
feet and knee kicking to all parts of the body, as well as mauling,
scratching, and throwing...often resulting in serious injury for
one or both boxers.
Introduction of Queensbury
In 1886, the Marques of Queensbury gave his support to a new set
of rules, which were named in his honor. These rules limited the
number of three minute rounds, eliminated gouging and wrestling,
and made the use of gloves mandatory2.