Curley and the Fighting Fireman

Damon Runyon

Wilkes-Barre Times-Leader/June 5, 1935

Jim Flynn, the old Fighting Fireman of Pueblo, Colorado, who died in Los Angeles not long ago, was managed in the later years of his fistic career by none other than the good M. Jacques Armand Curley, the celebrated wrestling entrepreneur, and of Flynn the promoter tells many a story. 

Curley had a genuine fondness for the Fireman, because of Jim’s tremendous fighting heart and his picturesque personality. At one time Curley probably honestly believed that Flynn could win the heavyweight title, and to the day of his death, Jim Stoutly insisted that the police had no right to interfere in his fight for the championship against John Arthur Johnson in Las Vegas, N. M. twenty years ago next July 4th. 

They stopped it in the ninth round on the ground that Flynn was outclassed. Flynn never believed it. Flynn never believed that he ever was outclassed by any man, with one possible exception. That was Sam Langford. Flynn got a newspaper decision over Langford in Los Angeles in 1910, but a short time later, Sam got Flynn in the ring again and flattened him in ten rounds. 

In 1923. they met again in Mexico -City, but by that time Jim was all through as a fighter. He lasted only three rounds. He had been going twenty-one years when he crawled through the ropes for that battle. He always said Langford was the greatest fighter he ever met. 

Widow Now Living In Brooklyn 

In commenting on the death of Flynn, this column erred in stating that he was divorced from his wife, Fannie Vedder, a well-known and accomplished actress.  

As a matter of fact, they were still married when Jim died. Mrs. Vedder is now living in Brooklyn. Their son, a fine chap, visited his father in Los Angeles not long before Jim passed away. Flynn and Fannie Vedder were married for many years, and the writer is glad to make this correction. 

Jack Curley thinks that Jim was one of the very gamest glove gladiators that ever laced on fighting shoes, an opinion in which all those who saw Jim in his heyday must agree. So far from being affected by his knockout at the hands of Langford, Flynn fought on to the title bout with Johnson two years later.

The Fireman always welcomed a match with a negro opponent, because he had an idea that he went into the ring with some sort of psychological advantage over the negro. He fought over a dozen battles with the best colored heavies of his time, including two with Johnson, and three with Langford. 

Fought Until He Was 44 

The good M. Jacques Armand promoted the Las Vegas match between Johnson and Flynn, and the latter was so sure he could beat the Galveston negro that he fought for very little money. His knockout by Johnson five years before the Las Vegas battle had failed to convince him of Jack’s superiority. 

Jim was then 33 years old, yet he went on fighting for eleven years thereafter, meeting the very roughest men in the land. He spoiled many a championship hope besides the great Dempsey. He was long past his fighting prime when he flattened the Manassa Mauler at Murray, Utah, in one punch. 

The writer was talking to Jack Curley not long ago and was surprised to learn from him that the Las Vegas fight was not the complete loser that everyone supposed at the time. He says that as a matter of fact it broke better than even, though it didn’t draw up to expectations. Promoting prize fights was a precarious occupation in those days. 

Curley Was Big Boxing Promoter 

Curley’s fame as a wrestling promotor is so great that it has almost been forgotten that he was one of the biggest fistic promoters of his time, and he managed many fighters, including Flynn, Marvin Hart, who was briefly the heavyweight champion, Tommy Ryan the great middleweight, and others.

He promoted the Willard-Johnson heavyweight championship battle in Havana in 1915, with the late Harry Frazee, baseball and theatrical manager, and Lawrence Weber as his backers. They wound up making money out of that, as they had a “piece” of Willard, and he won the title, and bought them out.

Curley also promoted the Dempsey-Fulton fight in Harrison, N. J., the battle that made Dempsey. His backer then is said to have been Harry Tammen, the Denver newspaper publisher. Curley was the hardest working pugilistic promoter the writer has ever seen, with a capacity for infinite detail, but he was just a little ahead of the fistic gold rush. 

Thinks Louis Big Drawing Card 

Curley is greatly interested, as a showman, in Joe Louis, the young negro heavyweight sensation who fights Primo Carnera at Yankee Stadium this month. He thinks Louis may be the greatest drawing card since Dempsey and Tunney. 

It was Curley who first came babbling into New York of having seen the greatest fighter of his experience, after seeing Dempsey drape Carl Morris over the ropes in Buffalo one night, and Curley was managing Morris at the time, trying to build him up to a heavyweight championship tilt with Willard. 

Oddly enough, Curley was managing Jim Flynn when Flynn knocked out this same Dempsey a couple of years previously in Utah, but Curley did not go to Utah with Jim for that fight. He sent the Irishman out there with little hope for him, as Jim was pretty well washed up at the time. 

Curley was mildly surprised when Flynn flattened the unknown Dempsey, but was positively astounded when he saw, in Buffalo, the manner of man his old warrior had belted out. The good M. Jacques wouldn’t mind having a Jim Flynn, of say 1911, around right now. He would be better than the wrestling game.


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