Sunday, August 31, 2008

Courtesy of Rick Farris

Dear Rick,

I very much appreciated the recounting of your boxing experiences during your days in the sun and particularly when you fought at the Olympic. It brought back so many memories to myself, not as a prize fighter, but as a devoted fan and budding historian, watching televised fights with Dad, many of which took place at the Olympic Auditorium. Invariably, he would say, upon hearing that the fight was taking place at the Olympic in Los Angeles, he would tell my brother and myself, "I remember fighting at the Olympic." We have a taped conversation of him describing some wars that took place during his fights at the Olympic, the impression it made upon him, and a description of sparing with heavyweight Dynamite Jackson.

I've taken the liberty to follow-up on your recollections to provide you with the following newspaper account of a fight which took place in January of 1929 between Young Firpo and Marvin Rife. To set the stage somewhat, Young Firpo began his career in 1924 up to the Los Angeles venture he had fought the vast majority of his fights in the Coeur d'Alene Mining District, the Spokane area, Montana, Seattle and Tacoma. He knew the importance of fighting in the Olympic and the need to make an impression upon the Californian crowd. Going into the Rife fight, Firpo had engage in 44 fights and recorded 24 knockouts. And did he ever! Rife became KO victory No. 25. Here's the fight coverage:

Young Firpo Makes a Hit With California Ring Fans

Young Firpo, the Wild Bull of Burke and idol of the Coeur d'Alene district's ring fans has won favor in southern California as a result of his two round knockout of Marvin Rife, Los Angeles light-heavyweight in a bout last Tuesday at the Olympic auditorium, Los Angeles. California sport writers who saw the fracas have nothing but praise for the squat Italian boy from the Burke canyon.

There facts are show in four newspaper clippings received from Los Angeles today by Wallace friends of Young Firpo.

Stub Nelson, writing in the Los Angeles Record, compares the Firpo-Rife bout to the historic Luis Angel Firpo-Jack Dempsey bout of several years ago, and praises the Burke battler as follows in a story headed "Firpo Scores Hit a la Dempsey:

"The thrill is the thing --- especially in boxing. The story of why Dempsey has always had such a hold on the public was pictured --- in a smaller way --- at the Olympic auditorium last night.

"It happened in the special. Young firpo, a squat-built powerful Italian, with barrel chest and bowed legs, started out fast in his bout with Marvin Rife.

"Just when he looked a sure winner, he ran into a right hand and was flattened out in the slag. He barely got up at nine.

"The young Italian --- with his pawing gorilla-like arms, got off the canvas and floored Rife --- knocked him staff as the bell rang.

"Firpo staggered toward the wrong corner and Rife was carried to his.

"There you had a replica of the Dempsey-Firpo fight.

"The crowd didn't care about classy boxers then. Men stood on their seats and yelled --- throwing programs and hats in the air. That action is a fight always grips a human being.

"The world remembers how Dempsey bounced Willard down seven times in one round at Toledo. And they also know that Jack climbed back into a New York ring and felled the huge ox, Firpo.

"Such stuff made Dempsey a million dollar attraction.

"There was more yelling after one round of the Firpo-Rife preliminary bout than there has been in dozen of classy main events.

Young Firpo means something here now. He can come back as soon as he chooses."

In another section of the Record, Stub Nelson also wrote on the Firpo-Rife bout as follows:

"Young Firpo and Marvin rife, light heavies, put on the big thrill of the night. They met in the six-round special. Firpo was out cold near the end of the first session but got up and floored rife. The bell saved the latter.

"He didn't recover and Firpo floored him three times in the second round."

Another Los Angeles sport writer saw the Firpo-Rife bout as follows, and headed his write up with the heading above: Rip-Snorting Bout ---

"Young Firpo and Marvin Rife put on a rip-snorter. Both were down in the first round. Firpo was flat on his back and looked dead as a pickled mackerel. At nine he was up and planted Rife just as the bell rang. In the second round he had Rife on the floor twice for nine counts and the referee halted the battle."

Still another writer saw the bout this way:

"The main event was all but over shadowed by the special event involving a couple of sluggers known to the annals of the racket as Young Firpo and Marvin Rife. Firpo was forcing the issue and pummeling Rife all over the ring when suddenly a right hand shot to the chin and down went Firpo, stretched flat on his back. Up at nine, Firpo went after his man in the second and finally got him, knocking him through the ropes for count of eight, and finally slapping Rife silly --- so silly that the engagement was stopped. The customers stood on the hind legs and howled. You'd have thought it was a football game."

And finally, yet another writer captured the excitement in this manner:

"In a knockdown drag-out affair, Young Firpo managed to score a technical kayo over Marvin Rife after a short period of the second round had witnessed plenty of action. In the first canto, Rife landed a hard right to the chin that sent Firpo to the floor for a nine count.

"The fallen fighter arose, shook his head and tossed his fists into the face of Rife, who got in the way of a heavy right hand --- Marvin fell like a log and only the round bell saved him.

"Coming out for the second canto, Firpo piled in again and soon had his opponent down on the floor, where the fight was stopped. Marvin was in no shape to continue.

For the record, Firpo did return for other engagements in California. Shortly after the slugfest with Rife, Young Firpo decisioned Jimmy Barry at the Hollywood American Legion, and then beat Joe Woods at the Olympic Auditorium. The fights were broadcast over KFWB, Los Angeles. The announcer in the Barry fight, as heard in the greater Spokane and Wallace, Idaho, area yelled to an excited group of listeners within the Coeur d'Alene Mining District: "Whoever named Young Firpo the Wild Bull of Burke was way off. The way that boy punched could not be called wild in any sense of the word!"

Firpo then went on to fight at the Olympic Auditorium again garnering a decision over Tom Patrick. Despite countless invitations to move to the Los Angeles area to pursue his career, Firpo was a product of the rugged mountains of Burke, Idaho and his temperament would not allow him to move away from the environment that gave him strength and solitude and he would be on the road back to his northern Idaho haunts immediately following any out of the area encounter ... be it Los Angeles, San Francisco, Denver, Portland, or Seattle.

Sincerely yours,John A. BardelliAttorney at Law606 North Pines Road, Suite 201Spokane, WA 99206(509)926-9566(509)926-1564 faxJABARDELLI@AOl.COM

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