Jack Britton was a masterful boxer whose career spanned 25 years. He was 37 when Mickey Walker took the welterweight title from him, and he continued to fight top contenders until his retirement at age 44. An Irish street scrapper from Clinton, New York, Britton's earliest professional bouts took place in 1904 and1905 at small boxing clubs in Milwaukee and Chicago. Although he was a talented fighter, Britton languished in the lower ranks until he teamed up with manager Dan Morgan, who insisted his boxers live clean and train hard. Under Morgan's guidance, Britton's career took off.
Britton fought three times against Hall of Famer Packey McFarland. Their first match was a draw and the next two were no-decisions, but all were memorable for the ring artistry displayed by the two fighters. In 1915, Britton won a twelve-round decision over Mike Glover to stake a claim as the welterweight champ- ion. After Ted ("Kid") Lewis also defeated Glover, the stage was set for Lewis and Britton to meet, with the winner to be acclaimed as champion. The bout became the first in a twenty-fight rivalry between Britton and the closely matched Lewis. Enemies from the onset, Britton and Lewis exchanged threats and then refused to speak to each other. In the ring, both spurned the customary handshake. In a wild bout, the hard-hitting Lewis won the decision and the championship.
Most of the Britton-Lewis matches were officially no-decision bouts, but in 1916, Britton won a decision over Lewis to take the welterweight title. For the next six years, the two fighters monopolized the championship. Lewis regained it in a twenty-round decision in 1917. In 1919, Britton knocked out Lewis in the ninth round to take it back. Britton remained the champion until 1922. In his last successful title defense, Britton fought lightweight champion Benny Leonard at the New York Velodrome before approximately 18,000 fans. Leonard knocked Britton down in the thirteenth round, then hit him again before he got up, giving Britton the victory on the foul. Some ringside observers believed that Leonard deliberately went for the foul because he didn't want to hold two titles.
Britton lost the welterweight belt in Madison Square Garden later that year to the much younger Mickey Walker, who floored Britton three times. Though he never again contended for the title, Britton continued to fight for seven more years, pushed beyond his prime when he lost his ring earnings in failed Florida land investments. He left the ring to become a boxing instructor and mentor to young athletes in New York City, where he and Morgan continued the close association that had built one of boxing's strongest careers.
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Excerpted with permission from 'The Boxing Register' by James B. Roberts and Alexander G. Skutt, copyright © 1999 by McBooks Press. All rights reserved.
Born: Oct. 14, 1885
Died: March 27, 1962