Sunday, June 26, 2016

TBG Book Review: Mickey Walker: The Toy Bulldog and His Times

The Boxing Glove Sunday Night Book Review
By Peter Silkov

"Mickey Walker: The Toy Bulldog and His Times"

By Mickey Walker with Joe Reichler

Mickey Walker was one of boxing’s most dynamic and colourful champions, at a time when the sport was at its most vibrant, and overflowing with talented, charismatic characters.

In his autobiography, “Mickey Walker: The Toy Bull Dog And His Times,” Walker recalls his amazing ring career, which saw him win world titles at welterweight and middleweight, come close to winning the light-heavyweight title, and even become a contender for the World heavyweight title.  Standing 5’ feet 7” inches tall, Walker was short and muscular, and lived large both inside, and outside of the ring.  As a fighter he was no ring scientist, more a human dynamo of relentless aggression, and strength. 

Throughout his career Walker would fight anyone, regardless of size, and he often fought men much heavier than himself.  This part of his career would culminate in his time as an unlikely heavyweight contender, when he routinely gave away 20 to 50 pounds to top-rated, world class heavyweights.  Walker remains the only World welterweight champion to have secured a top ten ranking in the heavyweight division.  A feat that is very unlikely to ever be equaled.

In many ways, he was a smaller version of World heavyweight champion, Jack Dempsey, it is perhaps not surprising that he ended up being taken under the wing of Dempsey’s notorious manager, Jack Kearns.  Together Walker and Kearns would form a legendary partnership.

Born on July 13, 1901, Walker turned professional in 1919, at the age of 18 years old, despite the objections of his father, who did not want his son to be a prizefighter.  By the time Walker was 21, he had won the World welterweight championship, and was fast becoming one of boxing’s hottest properties.  One of the most amazing things about Mickey Walker’s boxing career is that he enjoyed much of his greatest success in the ring, while living the wildest of lifestyles outside of it.  Although he was self- managed early on in his fighting life, after he won the World welterweight crown he attracted the attention of Jack Dempsey’s manager, Jack Kearns, and the two soon formed a colourful, and often controversial partnership.  Although Kearns’s astute handling took Walker’s public profile to a higher level, and helped Mickey become one of the sports biggest stars, he also led Walker into a lifestyle of party’s, bars and brothels and the tales of Walker and Kearns’s excesses became legendary.

Married 6 times, to 4 different women, Walker fully enjoyed the roaring 1920s, and talks us through his colourful and dramatic life, both in and out of the ring.  There are many entertaining anecdotes about his fights and the circumstances surrounding them, and Walker always seems to be surrounded by a myriad of characters who are as colourful as him.  As well as the assorted fighters, managers and promoters of the boxing world, Mickey also came into contact with many of the gangsters of that time, most notably, Al Capone, who was to become a very good friend.

The 1920’s were a time when the America felt it could do no wrong, and everyone with money, partied round the clock on champagne, and boxing was at its most popular, enjoying a golden era the like of which the sport would not see again, until the 1970s.

Eventually the fun times grew darker for everyone, even the happy-go-lucky Mickey Walker.  His playboy lifestyle inevitably took a toll on his relationships, and he began to collect divorces like he had world titles.  By the 1930s, with Walker having moved from welterweight, to middleweight, light-heavyweight, and then finally stepping up to heavyweight, what money he hadn’t lost in the 1929 crash, he saw go in divorces and his frenetic lifestyle.  Even before his retirement in the mid-30s, Walker was almost completely broke, and nursing an ever-growing thirst for alcohol.

Like so many other great fighters, Walker experienced some very dark days when he left the ring.  Lost without his boxing career, broke, and seemingly devoid of prospects, Walker became a full time ‘sot’ spending his days going from bar to bar, and seemingly drinking himself to an early grave. But, unlike so many others, Walker managed to pull back from the abyss, and kick the habit, after an argument with a fellow skid row drinker, shook him to his senses.

Free from alcohol, Walker rediscovered an artistic streak, which he had shown in his youth, and started a new career as a painter, something that he would become as dedicated and passionate about as he was once for fighting, drinking, and womanizing.  (Ironically the paintbrush would lead to yet another failed marriage for Mickey.)

Mickey Walker’s life is one of dramatic ups and downs, he is certainly one of those men for whom it can be said ‘he lived a large life.' “The Toy Bulldog and His Times” gives a great insight into the life of a fighter whose accomplishments are too often overlooked today when the great fighters of the past are discussed.  He certainly belongs in the top 10 of the all-time greats at welterweight and middleweight.  How many men of that size have been able to mix it successfully with such bigger men, with the success that Walker enjoyed.

This autobiography is also an entertaining look at the times, in which Walker lived, and shows the switch from the carefree 1920s, to the dark and depressed 1930s.

There are also a very generous amount of photographs in this book’s pages, portraying Walker both in and out of the ring.

The Toy Bulldog and His Times is recommended reading for anyone who is interested in the great fighters of boxing’s golden age.  This is the story of a fighter, the type of which will never be seen again.  Mickey Walker shows throughout these pages that as well as being a great fighter, he is a great storyteller as well. 

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

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