WESTVILLE - Some call it the Sweet Science.
Others vilify it, calling it barbaric and out of step with the times, but boxing has been a part of the Pictou County sporting landscape for more than 100 years. While the sport has been in a slow but steady decline through much of North America, Pictou County has two competitive clubs that are still going strong.
The Westville Academy of Amateur Boxing and the Trenton-based Albion Amateur Boxing Club continue the tradition-rich sport in the county. More than a century ago, the sport got its first recorded reference. It was Nov. 6, 1906 and the following was printed in the Eastern Chronicle:
"A few nights ago a couple of local boxers, Reid from New Glasgow and Warman of Westville, boxed eight rounds for the amusement of the onlookers and the gate receipts. Honors were even at the close of the bout."
John Ashton is currently conducting a voluminous amount of research on sports in Pictou County, for the local Sports Heritage Hall of Fame. "Boxing wasn't terribly big in the first part of the 20th century," Ashton said.
In 1909, Westville's Jimmy "Kid" Foley would be the first Pictou County boxer to have a pro career; he embarked on a five-year lightweight career in the U.S. winning four and losing eight in his career, which took him from Oakland, Calif. to St. Louis.
After serving in the U.S. Army during the First World War, Foley would later settle in Milwaukee, where he died in 1960 at age 74.
By 1913 in Westville, there were protestations about the sport: some wanted it banned in the town. This from The Freelance, in September of that year:
"There was a meeting of the men of the town on Friday night to protest against the
"Fighting Bout" advertised to take place in Strickland's Theater. It is high time some one was coming to realize the need of looking into the sports and entertainment provided for our young people, Surely something better than gambling in brutal force could be give to entertain us for a evening's pass time. The boxing match came off Monday evening. The Mayor and Council should be ashamed of themselves for allowing it to be."
Boxing Timeline in Pictou County
‰ 1912 - Dan McDonald (New Glasgow) trains at New Glasgow YMCA, enters Boston Amateur Boxing Championships and defeats Southern USA champion Fred Beckler of New Orleans.
‰ Dan McDonald loses to a New Yorker at National Boxing Championships in Boston
‰1921 - Guy Phinney's Boxing Club opens in Pictou.
‰ Vic Langille New Glasgow) defeats Jimmy McMillian (New Glasgow) Billy McDonald (Glace Bay) defeats Willy Cavanaugh (Westville) Jardine (Trenton) and Morgan of Westville fight to a draw Desmond (New Glasgow) defeats McCarran (New Glasgow)
‰ 1924 - Weekly professional boxing held in Stellarton. Some Pictou County boxers appearing on the cards George "Spinney" Wright (Westville), Tommy Francis (Pictou Landing Mi'kmaq), Jim MacMillan(New Glasgow,) Vic Langille (New Glasgow), Jerry Daley (Westville) Kid Melanson (New Glasgow ), Ranny Carrigan (New Glasgow), Young Mentis(New Glasgow), Ed Langille(New Glasgow), Art Morris (Trenton), Joe Fitz (New Glasgow)
‰1924 - Willy Cavanaugh (Westville) invited to Olympic trials in Montreal
John Ashton helped with this article, as did Karen MacLeod of the New Glasgow Library.
Ashton is doing a research project on behalf of the Pictou County Sports Heritage Hall of Fame and welcomes any information on sports history in the county. He can be reached at 923-2837.
1925 - Halifax Boxing Commission established in Halifax- oversee boxing and wrestling matches
1927 - Boxing bouts staged at Bailey's Brook, Pictou County and Arisaig, Antigonish County
1928 - Vic Langille (New Glasgow) middleweight knocks out Reg Harper (Saint John N.B.)
1930's - Some Pictou County amateur and professional boxers during the 1930's
Bobby Allen, Frankie McEachern , Harold Davis,
Harold Campbell, Kid Roy, George Hill, Victor Langille,
Edward Langille, Keith Langille, Alvin MacLean,
Bobby Allen of Westville (welterweight) begins a 12 year pro career with most fights in the United States (won 6 (KO 1) Lost 15 .
John Ashton helped with this article, as did Karen MacLeod of the Pictou-Antigonish regional Library. Ashton is doing a research project on behalf of the Pictou County Sports Heritage Hall of Fame and welcomes any information on sports history in the county. He can be reached at 923- 2837.