Tuesday, May 3, 2016

On This Day: Walter Edgerton: De Kentucky Rosebud

By Peter Silkov

Walter Edgerton was one of the most notable and notorious coloured boxers of his time, fighting under the name of ‘Kentucky Rosebud’, Edgerton was a featherweight, who often fought men considerably bigger than himself.  Edgerton was a colourful boxer, who was strong for his size, and also fast and clever.  The Kentucky Rosebud started his professional fighting career in 1886, at the advanced age of 32 years old, after building up a formidable reputation as a street fighter.  He grew up in an area of Philadelphia near Lombard Street. The rough and tumble kid soon earned a reputation, with his winning battles, and became known as the ‘Champion of Lombard Street.

At times he would play the clown in the ring, but when he was in the mood, the Kentucky Rosebud was a formidable opponent for anyone.  Much of Edgerton’s life is shrouded in mystery, such as his birth and death dates, and his late start to the professional ranks.  The origin of Edgerton’s nickname is also shrouded in mystery.  However, what is beyond dispute, is that Edgerton fought many of the outstanding boxers of his era, in a career that lasted until 1916.  The outstanding fighters that The Kentucky Rosebud faced, included, John Henry Johnson, Ike Weir, George Dixon, Johnny Van Heest, Martin Flaherty, Young Starlight, Young Griffo, Torpedo Billy Murphy, Joe Gans, Frank Childs, Young Starr, Solly Stroup, and Frank Bradley.

Since boxing was illegal in Philadelphia, boxing exhibitions were organized and allowed, and the funds would go towards ‘charitable’ causes. The city of Philadelphia was suffering an economic downturn and this event was named “The Bread Fund Carnival” to raise money for the poor and unemployed of the city. On March 22, 1894, not many boxers came out to help, but one of them was a sickly George Dixon.
Rosebud was teamed up with Dixon in a 3-round bout that was supposed to be an exhibition, but Edgerton took this opportunity to turn the match into a serious fight.
He knocked out George Dixon in the second round, and with one lucky blow, and Rosebud won the bout when Dixon went past the resting period. In all, Rosebud had 6 official fights with Dixon and came away with 3 point’s defeats and 3 draws, yet his unofficial knockout win over Dixon (who at that time had never hit the canvas) gave the Rosebud a considerable amount of fame, and notoriety.

Edgerton had a few rivals and one of them was Philadelphian, John Henry Johnson, who claimed to be the new ‘Champion of Lombard Street.’ This rivalry turned violent on the evening of June 10th 1994, in Philadelphia, when the two men met in Weaver’s Cigar Store, in Rosebud’s old neighborhood. In his book “Jolly Fellows: Male Milieus in Nineteenth-Century America” author Richard Stott said of their rivalry:

“The Kentucky Rosebud and John Henry Johnson bumped into each other in a poolroom. When Edgerton put up his fists, Johnson grabbed a pool cue and Edgerton shot him in the face. Johnson was not seriously hurt. “

The bullet only grazed Johnson’s face, but Edgerton fled to Atlantic City until the heat was off, thinking he had killed his archrival.

As his boxing career wound down in the early 1900s Edgerton opened a cigar store on Locust Street in Philadelphia, which he ran for 10 years.  The store was a front for a gambling den, which Edgerton ran.  He made a very profitable living from this illegal business until 1912 when he split from his wife and sued for custody of their daughter, Hattie (although Edgeton was not her biological father.) During the acrimonious court case to decide custody, Edgerton’s gambling business was exposed and in the end, he not only lost custody of his daughter, but also ended up being jailed for his various ‘vice-like’ activities.

When he came out of prison Edgerton made a brief return to the ring, from 1913 until 1916, he had 7 contests, with his last one being on August 23, 1916, when he out- pointed old foe, John Henry Johnson, over 6 rounds.  Edgerton’s final record was (including newspaper decisions) 28(9koes) 39-30. 

Walter Edgerton died on May 3 1930, at the age of 76 years old.

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

1 comment:

  1. The snacks here had a smooth taste with a bit of cheese and lime juice. To start, we got pork rinds at NYC venues; they were really flavorful with a spicy kick and smooth taste. Plus, it was a large fresh bag too, place is worth the price.