Saturday, April 23, 2016

On This Day: Lou Ambers: The Herkimer Hurricane Remembered

By Peter Silkov

Lou Ambers was born Louis D’Amrosio on November 8, 1913, in Herkimer, New York. Ambers was an extremely tough box-fighter, combining guile and grit, and was a very popular fighter with the fans due to his busy, aggressive style, that earned him the nickname, “The Herkimer Hurricane."

By his own admission, Ambers was a ‘bad boy’ as a youngster, frequently in trouble, usually for fighting, but when he discovered boxing his energies became focused for the first time. In his mid-teens Ambers began spending a number of years fighting ‘bootleg fights.’ These were ‘unofficial’ boxing matches, which took place weekly at little clubs all over the country. Many boxers would start off their fighting careers fighting in these matches. Ambers changed his name from D’Amrosio to prevent his mother from finding out about his choice to box. 

From 1929 Ambers fought in these ’bootleg’ bouts every two to three weeks, earning 10 to 15 dollars per fight. It was a rough introduction to fighting for Ambers, but the money was a small fortune at that time and the fights themselves would prove to be priceless experience for when Ambers began his full fledged official boxing career.

During this time, when he was traveling around America fighting bootleg bouts, Ambers would live like a hobo, riding the trains and living as cheaply as he could between fights, all the while to help support his widowed Mother, and siblings during the Great Depression.

Once he had began his official boxing career in 1932, at the age of18, Ambers soon showed himself to be a tremendous force in the ring, and managed by Al Weill (who would later manage Rocky Marciano) and quickly rose up the lightweight rankings. Ambers was a busy fighter and by the beginning of 1935 Ambers already had a record of 42-1-5. 

On May 10, 1935, he fought the great Tony Canzoneri for the World Lightweight championship, but was beaten on points. Canzoneri was Ambers idol, and Ambers was nervous. Sixteen months later however, on September 3, 1936, Ambers gained a second shot at Canzoneri. This time, a more experienced and confident Ambers came out the winner on points, after a terrific fight, and the new Lightweight Champion of the World.

Over the next two years Ambers fought a number of non-title bouts and defended his world title successfully twice (including a 3rd fight against Canzoneri, which he won again on points.) On August 17, 1938, Ambers defended his title against the great Henry Armstrong. This proved to be a truly savage contest, despite all his toughness and Armstrong, who at this time was one of the greatest and fiercest fighters ever seen in a ring, out-gunned the brave Herkimer Hurricane. Ambers was out-pointed, losing his World Lightweight championship to Armstrong, who already held the Featherweight and Welterweight world titles. Armstrong became the first and only man to hold three world titles simultaneously in three-weight division. 

Despite losing, Ambers had given Armstrong one of his toughest fights, cutting his mouth so bad that Armstrong needed nine stitches after the fight, and had almost collapsed in the later rounds from sickness, due to the blood that he had been swallowing. 

One year later, on August 22, 1939, Ambers and Armstrong fought again, and once more, it was a savage affair, but this time Lou won a controversial point’s decision and regained the World Lightweight championship. Although Ambers regained the title on points, he was helped greatly by the referee Arthur Donovon who took five rounds away from Armstrong for perceived fouling.

After controversially regaining the world title, the wars with Armstrong left their mark on Ambers and after a few non-title fights, he lost his world title on his first defence when he was knocked out by Lew Jenkins in 3 rounds on May 10, 1940. Ambers gained a rematch with Jenkins nine months later, and this time was stopped in the seventh round, of what proved to be his final fight.
After he retired from fighting Ambers joined the Coast Guard during the war, then following the end of WW2 he took a job at Reynolds Metal in Phoenix, Arizona.

Lou Amber's final record official was 88(29koes)-8-6. Although he said himself that, including his bootleg fights, he had 238 fights in all.

Watch Henry Armstrong Vs. Lou Ambers. August 22, 1939, at Yankee Stadium:

Copyright © 2016 The Boxing Glove, Inc. Peter Silkov Art. All Rights Reserved. Peter Silkov contributes to

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