Jack Delaney was one of the most popular fighters of the 1920s. A French-Canadian born in Quebec, Delaney moved with his parents to Holyoke, Massachusetts and then Bridgeport, Connecticut. He started to fight professionally in 1919. In his first three years, he compiled a record that included a regional title win and only three losses in nearly 30 fights.
In 1924, under the direction of Pete Reilly, Delaney decisioned future light heavyweight champion Tommy Loughran. Less than a month later, in Madison Square Garden, Delaney had his first clash with former AAU wrestling champ- ion Paul Berlenbach. The fight, billed as "The Wrestler versus The Boxer," pulled in $50,000, a new record for the Garden. In the first round, Delaney, who had a smooth, graceful style, eluded Berlenbach's crude rushes and peppered him with punishing left jabs. Berlenbach knocked Delaney down in the second round. When Delaney saw Berlenbach before him, he dropped back to the canvas to get a new count, a move that would disqualify him today. The two fighters traded knockdowns in the third, but then Delaney took control so completely that Berlenbach had difficulty finding his corner. Delaney knocked the wrestler down twice in the fourth round before the referee ended the fight. Berlenbach went on to become light heavyweight champion when he defeated Mike McTigue in 1925.
Delaney scored two knockouts over Tiger Flowers before facing Berlenbach again. He lost to the champ in a fifteen-round decision, but then embarked on an eleven-fight winning streak that led to a rematch. The fight was held in Brooklyn's Ebbets Field and drew a crowd of 41,000 and a gate of $450,000. Delaney was the popular favorite and was loudly cheered by female fans known as "Delaney's screaming mamies." Delaney fought as Reilly had directed, looking to pile up points rather than try for a knockout. He staggered Berlenbach in the first round with a right cross to the jaw. In the fifth, a left hook dropped Berlenbach to one knee. Delaney controlled the remaining rounds and won the light heavyweight title.
Early in 1927, Delaney relinquished his championship in order to pursue the heavyweight crown. He was matched against Jimmy Maloney, as a step to a challenge of then-heavyweight champion Gene Tunney. Delaney lost to Maloney, in part because of an injured hand-reportedly the result of a misplaced punch intended for a porter on a train. The loss sidetracked Delaney's quest. He defeated Paolino Uzcudun on a questionable foul before ending the year with a knockout of Berlenbach in their last meeting.
In his last important fight, Delaney suffered a one-round knockout by future heavyweight champion Jack Sharkey. Delaney never threw a punch and it was speculated that he may have been intoxicated. After one more fight, Delaney retired, although he made a brief three-fight comeback in 1932. Delaney returned to Bridgeport where he operated a number of businesses. He also ran a tavern in New York and refereed. He died of cancer in 1948.
* * *
Excerpted with permission from 'The Boxing Register' by James B. Roberts and Alexander G. Skutt, copyright © 1999 by McBooks Press. All rights reserved.