Mistake As a Referee
By the Well-Known Referee, ARTHUR DONOVAN.
I made my worst mistake in the Tommy Farr- Joe Louis championship fight. On this occasion I let my feelings run away with me — and how I regretted it later.
ANYWAY, I'll tell you about the fight in its proper sequence. The fight provides a most inte- resting example of how fight fol- lowers can allow partisanship to over-ride judgment. As Tommy took off his gown embroidered with a Welsh dragon in the ring at Yankee Stadium, he was a professional outsider, but a sentimental favorite. A strange invader, he had shown badly in training, and the experts gave him five rounds at the most. But there was something gritty about the man's attitude. He didn't give a damn for anyone — and said so. He had a chip on his shoul- der and challenged anyone to knock it off. He was good 'copy.' and the New Yorkers liked him. But there was a deeper reason for his popularity, something that is not full- understood in Britain. Tommy Farr was a white man and Joe Louis a Negro. No matter how well behaved a colored
fighter might be, at all his fights the 'color' question is raised by a certain section of the crowd. This feeling ebbs and flows, but when Farr boxed Louis it ran pretty high. The reason was that the heavyweight and the light-heavyweight and the featherweight championships were held by Negroes — Louis, John Henry Lewis, and Henry Armstrong — and cries were going up for "white hopes." Most of the whites in the audience would have dearly loved to see Farr whip Louis, even though he wasn't American, and the fact that Tommy rose to heights beyond anyone's wildest hopes is not the point. Also, I am not discussing the "color bar" question. I'm just giving you the undisputed facts. A Negro boxing champion has to live very carefully in the United States, and would pay dearly for any slip in his public or private life— Jack Johnson knows that. Consequently, every action of Farr's was watched and cheered to the echo, while much of Louis' work passed un- noticed. From the first round I saw that Farr was one of the craftiest ring men ever in tread the canvas.
KNEW EVERY TRICK
THERE wasn't a trick he didn't know, not a bluffing move he didn't make. He carried the fight in a flurry against the champion, and he made it look tremendous! Slipping, swerving, ducking, and rush- ing, he glided round that ring and kept Louis on his toes for the entire 15 rounds. He circled away from Joe's deadly left, made him miss often enough, and as the battle progressed he actually gave his supporters a hope that he might accom- plish theincredible and gain the cham- pionship! But those supporters weren't inside the ring with me. They didn't see that Farr's impressive right hand often arrived no farther than an inch from the champion's chin as the challenger was jerked up by a cutting jab. Those jabs! Tommy stopped scores of them, and was covered in blood by the fifth round. The crowd didn't notice that Louis was counter-hitting at the rate or about five to one. Tommy smiled every time he was shaken, and when they saw that the fans were wild for him. It was one of the easiest battles I've ever handled. Clean and fast, Joe and Tommy had contrasting styles. Farr attacked; Louis defended. There was little holding. It was an open fight. Not that Farr could do much harm. He has a cream-puff punch that is a fatal disability. With his strength, ring generalship,
speed, and craftiness. Farr might have been heavyweight champion of the world —had he the punch of a heavyweight . . . In the third round Joe whipped over a scorching [right]-hander. Tommy saw it and was "going away" ducking when it arrived. Joe's glove smashed down on Farr's head with terrible force, and when the Negro winced with pain I guessed the hand had cracked. That was no alibi. Joe Louis definitely injured his right hand in the third round— I saw it happen . . . This threw most of his work on the other glove, and I wish you could have seen his jab! The tissue of Farr's skin is thin and he was fearfully cut. In the sixth round a cry rose from the arena as Tommy flew in with a high flung right hook that smacked audibly against Joe's chin. Louis appeared to waver, and "You've got him. Tommy!" was the yell from a hundred throats. But Tommy hadn't got him — not by a mile. The punch was a flat-glove effort and landed too high to be effective. It just looked good, whereas Louis' coun- ter-jab, followed by a left hook, stag- gered Farr — yet no one noticed in the excitement. However, as the fight wore on and Farr was still there punching freely and mov- ing fast while he took some savage close- quarter punishment, my admiration for his courage grew. Yet it was obvious to me that the challenger could only knock out Louis if they handed him a hammer!
FAILED TO CONNECT
HE wasn't anywhere near out- pointing him, as his punches were simply not landing. The arc of his spectacular right swing was too wide, and Joe was able to drive through it with a gun-barrel left. In fact, Louis did to Farr with his eft jab — almost— what Schmeling did to him with a straight right . . . For heavyweights, the battle was fast, and, as Farr was making the pace, he was a pretty weary man by the thir- teenth round, during which he ran into the heavy weather of the champion's best punching. But Farr's spirit was as unbreakable as his boxing was brilliant. He was ably supported by his cor ner, also. There's little Ted Broad- ribb doesn't know of the game, and half-way through the bout I looked up from writing on my card and caught Ted in the act of smearing lumps of vaseline under Tommy's arm pits. This is an old fighter's trick. It makes the gloves slippery, and a solid punch difficult to land. You have to watch these British! I made them wipe away the vaseline, and Tommy danced into the fray again. Both Tommy and Joe staged a grand-
stand finish, and they both earned the earthquaking cheers that greeted the final bell. It had been a grand fight from every point of view, and so overcome was I with admiration for Tommy Farr that I committed one of the worst blunders ever seen in the ring. It's something I'll never do again . . . As Tommy walked back to his corner after shaking Louis' hand, I followed him and seized his glove. 'Tommy, a wonderful perform—" I began . . . Then I dropped his hand like a red-hot coal! He had started to raise his arm. He thought I had given him the fight and the world championship! I literally ran away, shaking my head and shouting. 'No! No! No!' realising how I had raised his hopes for a few seconds only to dash them to the ground . . . That's the last time my emotions will get the better of me in a prize fight! There was much booing at the an- nounced result, but, as I say it, it was all emotional. I gave Tommy two rounds and one even— and both his win- ning rounds were close. One judge gave Louis 10 rounds and the other nine. That's as it should be. The judges see a fight from different angles, and there is no need for them to coincide with the referee. They are there to balance the verdict.
THE radio caused more criticism, and here is something worse than biased fans. The commen- tator is usually good at his job in the ordinary way, but ignorant of boxing. He has to tell a colorful story, and selects the man who catches his eye. Consequently, he mentions this fighter's name constantly, and the listeners get a lopsided idea of the fight. This hap pened with Farr, and, as the broadcast was relayed to Britain, it was very un- fortunate. Tommy was naturally the "human in- terest" in the contest. He was sup- posed to have been flattened within 15 minutes, yet there he was. punching heroically at the final bell. Naturally, his name was on the com- mentator's lips all the time. Certainly it was magnificent . . . but it did not make him the winner. . . . I refereed the Schmeling-Louis return fight for the heavyweight championship of the world. It took months of ballyhoo and argu- ment to get the men in the ring again, and, as you know, it ended in the first round when I stepped forward and pushed the Dark Angel back from the Black Uhlan as he sagged on the ropes, out to the world. There was terrific drama in these few minutes of fighting — but it all occurred before the actual contest. From my point of view, the story is
brief, although its implications were great. It will be argued for ever more whether or not Max Schmeling could have mown down Louis as before had the Negro not got him with the first blow. But the German was knocked out fairly and squarely, so such an argu- ment is useless. Max looked the same as when he upset the apple-cart in 1936. Cool and confident — and in great con- dition. He came out slowly and with his hands held high, just as he did before. But he was beaten 20 seconds after the gong sounded! It was Joe Louis who had changed. For the first time he surged to the attack at once, and he dug home a wicked jab that smashed on the bridge of the German's nose. That punch won the fight — a straight, simple jab. A brawny affair of piston directness, It knocked Max off his balance and dazed him. Whatever plans he had were frus- trated because Joe hounded him to the ropes, gave him no chance to recover, and hammered him with punches that would have dropped a horse. Louis landed two kidney punches but they didn't lose the fight for Scbmeling. He was half-way to dream- land when Joe unleashed them. Neither were they fouls. A kidney punch is only a foul when a fighter holds and batters the kidneys repeatedly. Straight shots that drop in that region are fair. Anyway, in less than one round's box- ing Louis settled the Schmeling argu- ment and proved himself undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. He's a clean fighter and deservedly champion. (CONCLUDEDl