DF: Fascinating HI History

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Sep 11, 2006
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Fascinating HI History
By Crafty Dog - 12-09-2009 07:24 AM
Originally Posted at: Deluxe Forums


Big hat tip to Chaz Siangco, who brought this wonderful piece to my
attention. Note the reference to "the Battling Bolo" Elias Cantere in the
closing paragraphs. Cantere was Chaz's "lolo".

Journal of Combative Sport, Mar 2003
Western Boxing in Hawaii: The Bootleg Era, 1893-1929

By Joseph R. Svinth, with Curtis Narimatsu, Paul Lou, and Charles Johnston

Copyright © EJMAS 2003. All rights reserved.

On January 17, 1893, American settlers led by Sanford B. Dole overthrew the
Hawaiian monarchy. Dole and his friends then offered the Hawaiian Islands to
the United States. The US Congress wanted to accept Dole's offer, but
President, Grover Cleveland was an isolationist who disliked filibustering,
as causing insurrection for purposes of advancing American economic
interests was then known. Consequently, the US government rejected Dole's
offer. Nonplused, on July 4, 1894, Dole and his friends established the
Republic of Hawaii, with Dole as its president.

Three years later, William McKinley became President of the United States.
McKinley. McKinley was an expansionist, as imperialism was then known, and
so, in June 1898, the US government voted to annex Hawaii. The US Navy
landed troops at Honolulu in August 1898, and Hawaiian sovereignty
transferred to the United States.

Message from William McKinley nominating Sanford B. Dole as governor of
Hawaii. Note the letterhead, "Executive Mansion," rather than "White House."
Courtesy the Center for Legislative Archives, National Archives and Record
Administration, Anson McCook Collection of Presidential Signatures,

From August 1898 until December 1941, the Territory of Hawaii was under
joint military and civilian administration. However, following the Japanese
attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the US Army put the Territory of
Hawaii under martial law. Because the Army's leadership did not trust people
of Japanese ancestry, martial law did not end until October 24, 1944. To
reduce the risk of undergoing extended martial law in future, Hawaii's
civilian leaders, many of whom were of Japanese ancestry, began pushing hard
for statehood, which was achieved on August 20, 1959.

Because of the confluence of social and political factors, the history of
Western boxing in Hawaii has three separate eras.

a.. The first is the Bootleg Era. From 1893-1929, boxing was legal in
Hawaii only if sponsored by the military. In town, the police rarely tried
to enforce anti-boxing legislation, but the threat was always there. This
severely restricted civilian boxing.
b.. The second is the Territorial Era. From 1929 to 1959, boxing was legal
throughout the Territory of Hawaii. A territorial commission supervised
bouts in town, but the US military continued to exert considerable control
over life in and around Honolulu. The YMCA, the Catholic Youth Organization,
and the Honolulu newspapers all supported boxing, and through their
patronage, the Territorial Era became the Golden Age of Hawaiian boxing.
c.. The third is the Statehood Era. From 1959 to the present, boxing has
been legal in the State of Hawaii. The state boxing commission continued to
supervise bouts in town, but the military, church groups, and newspapers
gradually withdrew their patronage. Meanwhile, jet planes made it
unnecessary for boxers heading for Australia or Asia to spend a few days in
Honolulu en route, and network television broadcasts hurt local fight clubs
by introducing televised boxing from the Mainland. The professional market
withered, and so, since statehood, most Hawaiian boxers either have been
amateurs or made their reputations outside the state.
The following discusses the bootleg era, 1893-1929.

Military Boxing

In 1893, the US Navy began stationing warships at Honolulu, where their
sailors and Marines were used to prop up the Dole administration. There were
boxers aboard these warships. For example, during the winter of 1893-1894,
the future heavyweight champion Tom Sharkey, then serving aboard USS
Philadelphia, fought at least 14 bouts in Honolulu.

Boxing aboard USS New York, July 3, 1899. Photographer: Edward H. Hart.
Courtesy the Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Detroit
Publishing Company Collection, LC-D4-32317.

The First New York Volunteer Infantry established the first Army camps in
Honolulu during the summer of 1898, and the Regular Army established its
first permanent post, Fort Shafter, in 1907. In January 1913, the War
Department transferred a black regiment, the 25th Infantry, to Fort Shafter.
Some of these soldiers were boxers. Thus, the Honolulu Advertiser wrote,
"The Twenty-fifth is proud of its colored ringmasters and particularly of
Hollie Giles, a welterweight of 155 pounds, who is described by the men as a
'whirlwind' fighter; Morgan, a heavyweight at 190 pounds; Carson, a light
heavyweight, and Ananias Harris, a light heavyweight."

In those days, military boxing was subject to Sections 320 and 321 of the US
Code. These statutes stated that exchanging blows for money or a thing of
any value, or for a championship, or for which admission was charged, or for
which money was wagered, was illegal. In 1915, the Army circumvented these
laws by ruling that soldiers could box in garrison if there were no
admission charges, no challenges from the ring, no decisions announced at
the end of fights, and no obvious gambling. The first smoker following this
decision took place at Schofield Barracks on October 9, 1915, and
subsequently, boxing exhibitions were common on holidays such as
Thanksgiving, New Year's, and the Fourth of July.

Early boxing promoters at Schofield Barracks included Major Edmund Butts,
whose publications included books and magazine articles touting the benefits
of boxing as a pastime for soldiers, and the regimental chaplain. During the
early 1920s, local promoters included Tommy Marlowe and Lieutenant Barnard
of the 5th US Cavalry, and Sergeant John Stone of the Ordnance Department.
At Fort_Derussy, promoters included Sergeant Anthony Biddle of the 17th US
Cavalry. Boxers assigned to Army units in Hawaii during the late 1910s
included the 25th Infantry's Henry Polk ("Rufus Williams") and Private
Settles ("the Kentucky Chap"), and the Signal Corps' Joseph Podimik ("Joe

According to the Advertiser (November 27, 1915), the Schofield ring was "set
up on the cavalry parade and an abundance of chairs at the ringside, an
amphitheatre of bleachers, and seats on the adjoining troop quarters [gave]
better accommodations than [did] the seating arrangement of any hall on
post." Unfortunately, the Schofield bleachers provided no protection from
the afternoon rains, and without electric lights to illuminate the twilight,
the audience had a hard time seeing the last rounds of the main event.

During the 1910s, Pearl Harbor became a major US naval base, and in 1921,
Sub Base Pearl Harbor's Sharkey Theater became the first covered boxing
arena in Hawaii. [EN1] From 1918-1924, civilians often attended Pearl Harbor
bouts. However, this ended in 1924, when Rear Admiral John McDonald decided
to close Pearl Harbor boxing matches to civilians and soldiers. The reason
was that McDonald felt that it was ungentlemanly for the audience to boo and
make disparaging remarks about the contestants and referees.

Once Pearl Harbor closed to civilians, the Hawaii National Guard began
patronizing boxing. Guard boxing coaches included Jim Hoao and Bill Huihui,
both of whom had boxed professionally in Hawaii during the early 1900s.
Boxers trained by these men included Patsy Fukuda, Hiram Naipo, and Gus
Sproat. The Honolulu Armory was the usual venue for these fights.

Patsy Fukuda, circa 1930. Courtesy Patrick Fukuda.

Hawaii's most acclaimed military boxer of the bootleg era was probably
Sergeant Peniel R. "Sammy" Baker. Baker began his amateur career at
Schofield Barracks in 1922. At the time, he was 20 years old, and serving in
the 21st Infantry. Baker was the Hawaiian military welterweight champion in
1923 and 1924, and a runner-up in the selection for the US Olympic team in
May 1924. Following the Olympic tryouts, Baker transferred to Mitchel Field,
on Long Island. Baker obtained his discharge in September 1924, and by 1928,
he was ranked the fifth best welterweight in the world.

Civilian Boxing

Bill Huihui was among the earliest Hawaiian-born boxers. Born at Pauoa,
Oahu, in 1875, Huihui went to sea as a young man, and learned to box in San
Francisco. In 1902, he started boxing for Honolulu's Kapiolani Athletic
Club, and his first Hawaiian professional bout took place soon afterwards,
at the Orpheum Theater. This was a 4-round semi-main event, and the opponent
was Jack Latham. Subsequent opponents included Nelson Tavares, Jack Weedy,
Dick Sullivan, Kid De Lyle, and Tim Murphy. Huihui retired from the ring
around 1909, but continued coaching boxers until at least 1924. Because he
worked as a policeman, Huihui's local trainers may have included the
Honolulu Police Department boxing instructor, R.A. Wood, a Scot who settled
in Honolulu in the early 1900s.

Bill Huihui. From the Advertiser, September 10, 1904

Another early Hawaii-born boxer was Nelson Tavares, "the Punchbowl Demon."
Tavares claimed the Territorial lightweight championship from 1905 until
1908, and his opponents included the middleweights Cyclone Kelly, Dick
Sullivan, Tim Murphy, and Mike Patton, and the lightweights Charlie Riley,
Frankie Smith, Frank Rafferty, and Joe Leahy. After retiring from the ring,
Tavares became a garage owner on Bishop Street.

Nelson Tavares. From the Advertiser, June 17, 1908

During the 1910s, a few Hawaii-born boxers began establishing reputations on
the Mainland. For example, in October 1912, the Advertiser mentioned that
Manuel "Battling" Viera of Hilo was boxing in San Francisco. Viera was still
fighting in San Francisco in 1919, when he fought a four-round draw with Joe
"Young" Azevedo. Originally from Honolulu. Azevedo began boxing in Oakland
around January 1913, at which time he was aged 17. Azevedo's wins included
at least two victories over Tommy McFarland and another over former
lightweight champion Ad Wolgast. After a ring injury caused him to go blind
in one eye, Azevedo settled in Sacramento, where he died of a heart attack
on February 19, 1934.

Vaudeville Exhibitions

Until the 1910s, many Honolulu boxing matches took place inside vaudeville
theaters. To circumvent laws prohibiting prizefighting, these matches were
called exhibitions. For example, on May 28, 1904, Paddy Ryan organized a
boxing card at the New Chinese Theater on Hotel Street. The main event
featured Frank Nichols of Honolulu versus USS New York's Sailor Robinson.
Likewise, on June 22, 1911, the Honolulu Eagles hosted a show at the Bijou
Theater that featured "fun in boxing land." The main event featured Mike
Patton, who claimed to be the champion of the Far East. Finally, on June 11,
1913, Jim Hoao lost a 15-round decision to Private Morris Kilsner during a
bout held at Honolulu's Ye Liberty Theater. [EN2]

Famous champions sometimes took part in these exhibitions. For example,
during July 1894, John L. Sullivan was on a trip to Australia, and while in
Honolulu, he gave an exhibition at the Opera House. His opponent was a
sparring partner named Fitzsimmons (not Bob). Similarly, during November
1907, the visiting lightweight champion Jimmy Britt gave a demonstration to
the "sport-loving people of Honolulu." The Advertiser noted that the latter
exhibition was "of such character that women can safely attend." (In those
days, society discouraged women from attending fights, but some went anyway,
usually watching from backstage.)

John L. Sullivan. Lithograph by Scott C. Carbee, sometime between 1880 and
1910. Courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division,

Another way that vaudeville managers circumvented the law was by advertising
the boxing as part of a novelty act. For example, in December 1915, the
Welsh welterweight Fred Dyer, who advertised himself as "the singing boxer,"
appeared at the Popular Theater in Honolulu. Dyer was en route to California
from Australia, where his opponents included Fritz Holland and Les Darcy.

The vaudeville promoters generally arranged these fights without asking the
consent of either boxer. Instead, they simply told the men that they had a
fight lined up. Then the boxers either showed up or they didn't.


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