Do you old timers remember when the little fellows dominated the fight game in this city as far as box office attractions were concerned, at the many clubs which made Philadelphia the boxing center of the country? – It was during the first decade of the present century that Philadelphia could boast of more good little glove slingers than any other city in the world. The Philadelphia “woods” were full of midgets who could, would and did furnish the cash customers, the “Annie Oakleys” and the hard-boiled press boys with countless thrills.
Some of these boys battled their way almost to the peak of the game, but most of them were able only to give the recognized champions and other outstanding fighters, when they came here, close fights.
However, during that time there were other diminutive fighters who were holding their own in this city. Most of them were natives, but early in 1907 a clever youth named Charley Harvey dropped in from Chicago, adopted this city as his home, and immediately took his place as a defender of the Quaker City’s fistic prestige – a job which he credibly upheld until he laid away the gloves in 1914.
Charley Harvey was born February 1, 1885 in a section of Chicago where the scrappy Irish predominated. Of course, there was a “bully” among the boys in the neighborhood and for no particular reason at all, this particular “bully” picked on Harvey, who at best was an undersized kid. He rode Harvey for a long time until Charley determined to do something about it. Patience had ceased to be a virtue. He was pretty agile on his feet, but he didn’t know how to use his hands to advantage, so he determined to learn.
There was no public boxing in Chicago at the time, due to the ban put out on the sport after the infamous fake fight between Joe Gans and Terry McGovern in 1900, but the old veteran, Harry Gilmore, once light-weight bare-knuckle champion, was running a gymnasium, and there young Harvey went for instructions.
At Gilmore’s gym he found training such stars as Martin Duffy, Benny Yanger, Harry Forbes, “Packey” McFarland, Joe Choynski, Charlie White, and Johnny Coulon, and it was through boxing with these masters that Harvey soon acquired a very good knowledge of the fine points of the game. Both Coulon and Forbes afterwards became bantamweight champions of the world.
Out of the 162 fights Harvey had, Coulon was the only one to gain a decision over him. But that’s ahead of the story. I should make it a Dick Merriwell finish by having Harvey go back to the lots and lick the stuffing out of the bully, but he didn’t. Not then.
Charly entered and won the 105lb. tournament which bore with it the synthetic title of bantamweight champion of the Middle West. Then Harvey’s services were in demand at the various smokers – the only places where boxing was winked at by the authorities. He boxed at a smoker held at Elgin, Illinois, and made such a hit that he was appointed matchmaker with the proviso that he appear in one of the bouts; and here is where he got even with his school day “bully” friend.
Charley offered the bully (his name was Gus Meyer) $500 and carfare to box him at the smoker in Elgin. Meyer accepted and, although he weighed 20 pounds more than Harvey, begged the latter to go easy with him. Then in the first round Meyer tried to doublecross Harvey and came after him like a bull in a china shop. Harvey escaped the rushes in the first round then, in the second, landed a haymaker on the point of the chin – and the erstwhile “bully” knew no more for many minutes. So it really was a sort of Merriwell finish, after all.
When Harvey came to this city, he made a beeline for that Mecca of all boxers: Lew Bailey’s Broadway Club. Lew matched him with Jimmy Livingston. They went the six rounds although Harvey sustained a broken nose in the third. He appeared then in six bouts in as many weeks. Then he returned to Chicago to give his nose a chance to heal. Upon his return Bob Deady matched him with Eddie Doyle at the old Washington Sporting Club at 15th and Wood Streets. Doyle lasted three rounds when the contest was stopped. From then on Harvey was a very busy boxer and among the boys with whom he crossed gloves, (with the number of times they met in brackets) were: Jim Livingston (4), Kid Stagg (1), Ike Conway (1), Hughey McCann (1), Frank Barch (7), Jim Flynn (1), Eddie Doyle (8), Handsome Charley (2), Tommy Stone (1), Yankee Schwartz (8), Rox Maguire (1), Terry Fox (4), Battling Flink (1), Joe Smith (2), Johnny Kelly (1), Bobby Williams (2), Willie Jones (2), Young Clifford (1), Young McGovern (6), George Kitson (1), Barney Sunshine (1), Phil McGovern (2), Willie Houck (2), Kid Smith (1), Young Houck (2), Young Sammy Smith (1), Joe Coster (2), Young O’Leary (1), Jerry Sullivan (1), Patsy Brannigan (3), Knockout Brown (1), Harry Tracey (3), Happy Davis (3), Frank McCloskey (3), Jim Brennan (1), Young Schluth (4), Lew Baker (1), Jack Dougherty (3), Willie Dittles (1), Eddie McKeown (1), Willie Russell (1), Louisiana (4), Marty Herman (1), Tommy Houck (3), Eddie Forrest (1), Willie Smith (1), Johnny Phillips (4), Tommy Rowan (1), Ty Cobb (2), Eddie O’Keefe (2), Jimmy Toland (4), Danny McCabe (1), Charley Goldman (3), Kid Murphy, former 105lb. champion of the world from Trenton (2), Jimmy Carroll, bantamweight champion of the Pacific coast (2), Bobby Reynolds (1), Kid Williams, who afterward became champion (2), Sammy Keller (1), Eddie Sherman (1), Frankie Burns (1), and many other top notchers. But his supreme contest was with the then champion, Johnny Coulon. That was the only adverse decision Harvey ever had.
Charley Harvey married the daughter of Charles F. Gallen, well known sportsman and trainer of boxers, who guided Harvey through most of his tempestuous career. The Harvey’s have three children: Dolores, Berenice and Charles, Jr.
Charley Harvey is one of the earliest V.B.A. members, a member of the 1941 Board of Directors, and one of our most respected and admired brothers.
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