EDMONTON - Do a Google search of ‘halls of fame in Canada’ and you’ll come up with an eclectic mix of about three dozen repositories for the renowned in everything from aviation and cartooning to acquatics and mining.
But nowhere in this great land is there a brick-and-mortar tribute to the long list of homegrown boxers who have proudly represented Canada in rings around the globe for more than a century — including some of the sport’s true immortals.
There have been sporadic attempts over the years, of course.
In the 1960s, Toronto promoter Tony Unitas founded what he called the Canadian Boxing Hall of Fame, but its tiny collection was housed in a dingy gym and barely acknowledged the pioneers. And since Unitas served as sole arbitrator of who should be ‘inducted’, the venture quickly morphed into just a way for him to sell jackets bearing a snazzy crest.
The torch was later picked up by Florida-born Jack Harrell, who moved to Toronto in the mid-1970s. After working as a subway operator for several years, he opened a downtown gym called Florida Jack’s that housed the second incarnation of the Canadian Boxing Hall of Fame. It was little more than a hodge-podge of faded posters and photos, and after Harrell died and the gym changed ownership, the project was shut down and the modest hoard of memorabilia disappeared.
Nobody asked, but if and when a genuine effort is made to organize a legitimate Canadian Boxing Hall of Fame, here are my nominations for charter inductees:
A compact southpaw with paralyzing power in both fists, the native of St. Eugene, Que., won the world welterweight crown by outpointing Jack Thompson in 1931. After losing the title to Jackie Fields, he moved up to middleweight and won the championship by knocking out Ben Jeby. Brouillard was stopped only once in a career that spanned 13 years and 140 bouts.
An outstanding hockey and lacrosse player in his hometown of Hanover, Ont., Burns started out as a welterweight and despite a diminutive physique (5-foot-7, 170 pounds) he won the world heavyweight championship by outpointing Marvin Hart in 1906. He made 11 successful defences before being KO’d by Jack Johnson in the division’s first inter-racial title fight in 1908.
While universally acclaimed for having the best chin in ring history, the true measure of Chuvalo’s greatness is the quality of his opposition. Never off his feet in 93 bouts (73-18-2), the granite-jawed Toronto native is the only man in history to fight the heavyweight holy trinity of Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier and George Foreman. His biggest wins were KOs of No. 4-ranked Manuel Ramos (1968) and No. 2-ranked Jerry Quarry (1969).
Born in Toronto in 1889, Coulon moved to Chicago as a child and started boxing in his teens. Nicknamed ‘The Chicago Spider,’ he won the world bantamweight title by knocking out Jim Kendrick in 1910.
A true fighting champion, Coulon defended his crown three times in five weeks in 1911 and twice in 15 days in 1912.
Born Olivia Chapdelaine in St. Francis, Que., in 1900, ‘The Rapier of the North’ was part of the golden age of light heavyweights. He scored a pair of quick KOs over the great Tiger Flowers and won three of four from Paul Berlenbach, another all-time great whom he beat for the world title in 1926.
Boxing’s first black world champion is regarded by most historians as one of the two or three greatest featherweights of all time. Nicknamed ‘Little Chocolate,’ he was born in Halifax in 1870 and turned pro at 16. His three reigns as world champ spanned 1890-1900, and during that span he engaged in 31 title bouts.
The barrel-chested ‘Fighting Fisherman’ from Baie Ste. Anne, N.B., nearly pulled off one of the century’s greatest upsets when he floored the legemdary Archie Moore four times in five rounds before being stopped in their 1958 light heavyweight title fight in Montreal.
Durelle reigned as British Empire champion for two years and scored 50 KOs in 105 outings.
Winnipeg’s ‘Golden Boy’ was one of boxing’s brightest stars in the mid-1980s. Blessed with awesome power in his right hand, he won the WBC light heavyweight crown by crushing Eddie Davis in 1987, then successfully defended it against Leslie Stewart.
Lalonde earned an eye-popping $5 million en route to being stopped in nine rounds by Sugar Ray Leonard in 1988 — but not before he put Leonard on the canvas.
Born in Weymouth, N.S., in 1886, Langford ran away to Cambridge, Mass., as a child and turned pro as a lightweight at 16.
The immortal ‘Boston Tar Baby’ stood only 5-foot-8, but grew into the greatest heavyweight never to win the world title. Denied a shot at the championship because of his race, Langford had to settle for a series of brutal bouts against fellow black contenders, including Harry Wills, whom he fought an incredible 16 times. Some estimates peg Langford’s total bouts at more than 500.
MYSTERIOUS BILLY SMITH
Boxing’s first world welterweight champ was born in Little River, N.S., in 1871 and earned his cryptic nickname by wandering the length and breadth of North America, fighting all comers but only staying in one place long enough to pick up his prize money. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, N.Y., in 2009.