IF THE 1970s were the Golden Era of the heavyweight division, then the 1940s and early-50s was the finest period for the lightweights. Hall of Famers Bob Montgomery, Ike Williams and Beau Jack were regular headliners at Madison Square Garden.
Jack, whose real name was Sidney Walker, was born in Augusta, Ga. As great as he would become, he would never surpass the notoriety of another Augusta native, golf legend, Bobby Jones. Yet, Jones played a prominent role in Jack's success. As a teenager, Jack was a caddie at Jones' famed Augusta National Golf Club. It was Jones who helped finance Jack's early boxing career and was a regular at his bouts.
With the backing of Jones, Jack relocated to Massachusetts to receive formal boxing training. He turned pro in 1940, with all but two of his first 28 fights taking place in Holyoke, Mass. But after a draw and a win over top-10 contenders, he caught the eye of New York promoters and left New England for the Big Apple in 1941.
He had a perfect 1942 campaign, winning all 13 of his bouts, three against top-10 opposition. And, he stopped Tippy Larkin via third-round kayo in December to capture the New York state version of the lightweight title. He opened the 1943 campaign with wins over former champions Fritzie Zivic and Henry Armstrong.
In May, he lost the title, dropping a 15-round decision to Bob Montgomery, in the first of what would be a thrilling four-fight series. Jack reclaimed the title from the "Philadelphia Bobcat" in November, then handed it back in March 1944. Five months later they met for the fourth and last time at Madison Square Garden in a bout that made history. Jack took a 10-round decision in the non-title fight, but the sellout crowd produced a still record gate of $35,000,000 -- with the proceeds going towards War Bonds.
Jack fought once more for the lightweight title, in 1948, and was stopped by the heavy-handed Williams in the sixth round. He faced Williams three more times, including his last career bout in 1955, but never turned the tables.
By the time he retired, Jack fought in 21 main events at the Garden, more than any other fighter in history.