“The Old Master” Joe Gans was an extremely skilled box who debuted in 1891. Based on the east coast initially, Gans was a master of using speed, patience, stamina, and distance to target his opponent’s venerable spots.
Joe Gans’ Style
The career of Joe Gans saw the ring master start his career in Baltimore where most of his matches would take place. Fighting as a lightweight, he took the classic approach of using his speed and placing in the ring to defeat opponents who equally matched in skill and approach or attempted to fight power against speed. His boxing style was said to have been so sound that he was able to defeat heavier opponents.
In short, Joe Gans was said to be a fighter who could adapt to his situation instead of being one dimensional in his attack.
World Lightweight Champion
Nine years after his debut, Gans had his first World Lightweight Title match against Frank Erne in March 1900. He would forfeit the match in the twelfth round because of an eye injury. A May 1902 rematch, he would defeat Erne with a first-round knockout to win the title. By winning the World Lightweight Title, Gans became one of the first three Black world champions of any weight class predating Jack Johnson by over a decade.
Joe Gans’ title reign featured several major defenses that showcased his incredible stamina. His trilogy against the powerhouse Mike “Twin” Sullivan where he took the series with two straight wins following a draw in the first 1905 match. He won over $2,400 in the match and bet around $1,700 on himself to win. Another match that stands out was the unfair September 1906 bout against Battling Nelson.
The Original Fight of the Century
According to ‘The Ring’ founder and boxing historian Nat Fleischer, Gans was held to high standards for the bout such as meeting a particular weight and keeping it at fight time. Also, Joe Gans was coming into the fight as World Lightweight Champion but was only earning over $11,000 to Nelson’s $22,000 or $34,000.
The match itself would run 42 rounds in an outdoor Nevada area. Gans was under his usual fighting weight to meet 133lbs and coming in after an extreme diet. He was also fighting an iron horse in Battling Nelson. While Nelson could match stamina with The Old Master, he couldn’t meet his pinpoint accuracy with attacks.
Gans would end up winning the match after a low blow but it wouldn’t be the last match between the two as Gans would lose two straight matches to Nelson in 1908. The first of their matches was when The Old Master contracted tuberculosis. Being in phenomenal athletic shape, he managed to continue fighting with the condition for another three years, defending his belt for some time. He would lose the title in July 1908 to Battle Nelson. Joe Gans would lose the rematch that September.
The Old Master’s final fight was a win against Jabez White in 1909. He would pass away in August 1910 because of complications with tuberculosis at 35 years of age. In his honor, Madison Square Garden has a bronze statue of The Old Master which is looked at as a sign of good luck in their bouts in the arena.
Inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990, Joe Gans’ record stood at 145 wins, 100 knockouts, 10 losses, and 16 draws.
-vs. Battling Nelson I: http://boxrec.com/media/index.php?title=Fight:18204
-vs. Battling Nelson I (video): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OOyEtd4Tg6E