Thursday, April 24, 2014

Jack "Chappie" Blackburn Remembered

By Peter Silkov

Jack ‘Chappie’ Blackburn (Charles Henry Blackburn) is remembered mainly today as the trainer who moulded Joe Louis into ‘The Brown Bomber’ and one of the greatest heavyweight champions of all time. Before he was a trainer, Blackburn was an outstanding boxer in his own right who had he been given the chance, may have won a world title also. Born in Versailles, Kentucky in 1883, Blackburn moved to Terre Haute, Indiana some years later, and it was here that he began his boxing career in 1901 at the age of eighteen years old.  Blackburn was a lightweight for much of his career and would never weigh more than a middleweight, yet, as his career progressed, he would often fight men larger than himself, including full-fledged heavyweights.
Blackburn was a lean five feet and ten inches tall, and fought in the style of a boxer-puncher. He had fast hands and a sharp and damaging left jab; he also had a good knockout punch.  During his career, Blackburn fought many of the top fighters from lightweight to heavyweight, many of them more than once, including Joe Gans (3 times), Sam Langford (6 times),  Dave Holly (5 times), George Cole (3 times), and George Gunther  (10 times).  Blackburn also tangled with Philadelphia Jack O’Brien, Gunboat Smith, Kid Norfolk, Jack Bonner, Panama Joe Gan’s and Harry Greb, amongst many others.

In 1909, Blackburn was involed in a shooting, which left one man dead, Blackburn was found guilty of manslaughter and jailed for 15 to 20 years. Blackburn was released after 4 and a half years, for good behaviour and resumed his fighting career.  Blackburn continued to be a formidable fighter for the remainder of his career, finally retiring in 1923. Despite his success, Blackburn was unable to secure a world title shot.

Blackburn’s final boxing record is officially 45(32koes)-9-12, although he stated that he had taken part in as many as 400 contests during his career, with many not having been recorded. 

After he retired from boxing, Blackburn became a trainer, and with his experience and astute mind, he soon became an expert trainer.  Despite being frustrated in his own world title aspirations, Blackburn guided Sammy Mandell (Featherweight), Bud Taylor (Bantamweight), and of course most-famously, Joe Louis.

Blackburn was more than just a trainer to Louis. He was also a friend and father figure, who coached Louis in how to behave in public when he became champion, so that he would avoid the kind of controversies and notoriety that afflicted the world title reign of Jack Johnson.

Copyright © 2014 The Boxing Glove, Inc. Peter Silkov Art. All Rights Reserved. Peter Silkov contributes to and

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