Famous Ring Wars: Harry Greb vs. Mickey Walker
By John F. McKenna (McJack): Welterweight champion Mickey Walker, AKA “The Toy Bulldog” challenged the great Harry Greb, AKA “The Human Windmill” for the middleweight championship of the world at the Polo Grounds in New York City on July 2, 1925. Eighty six years after his premature death in 1926 at the age of 32, Greb is still considered by many boxing historians to be the greatest middleweight who ever lived and also among the top pound for pound fighters.
During his career Greb fought an unbelievable 300 times during a fourteen year career. In the days when it was difficult for fighters to make a living, Harry fought on average twenty two times a year. Jack Dempsey, who was heavyweight champion during Greb’s title reign, said that he had the fastest hands of any fighter he had ever seen. Along with his speed Harry had incredible stamina, an indomitable will and the ability to launch his punches from impossible angles. Greb frequently fought light heavyweights and heavyweights and handed future heavyweight champion Gene Tunney the lone defeat of his illustrious career.
Mickey Walker was managed by Jack “Doc” Kearns, who also managed Dempsey. Years later Kearns would manage Archie Moore and Joey Maxim and is widely credited with staging the first fight in Las Vegas in 1955 between Moore and heavyweight contender Nino Valdes.
Walker became welterweight champion in 1922 at the age of 21 when he defeated Jack Britton by decision. Later on when Walker moved up to middleweight he took on all comers all the way up to heavyweight. In 1931 Mickey fought former heavyweight champion Jack Sharkey to a draw. He also defeated heavyweight contenders King Levinsky and Paulino Uzcudun in 1932. Both Levinsky and Uzcudun would go on to fight the great Joe Louis. Walker was stopped in the 8th round when he took on boxing great Max Schmeling also in 1932.
On the morning of the epic battle between Greb and Walker the odds maker had installed Greb as a solid 8 – 5 favorite largely because Walker was attempting to step up from welterweight to dethrone the middleweight champion. It was thought by some, including Walker, that the 31 year old Greb would have trouble making the 160 pound weight. When the word spread that Harry had not only comfortably made the weight, but had weighed in at 157 ½ pounds the odds jumped up to 9 – 5 in Greb’s favor.
The day before the fight it was rumored that African American heavyweight contender Harry Wills was demanding that his fight with Charley Weinert receive top billing instead of the Greb – Walker fight. It was clear, however that it was just a publicity stunt by the promoters to hype the fight.
When the bell rang for the start of the fight Walker immediately started going to Greb’s body and was successful in landing numerous devastating left hooks to the body. Greb countered with some terrific body shots of his own, but Walker carried the round. The second and third rounds were more of the same as Greb’s handlers worked feverishly on his legs which were apparently cramping.
In the 4th round Greb started getting into the fight and appeared totally relaxed as he laughed at Walker’s attempts to free his arms during a clinch. Greb appeared to have the edge in the round and Walker seemed to be tiring already from the hectic pace Greb was setting.
The 5th round was even but Greb appeared to spit a couple of teeth out after being hit with a left right combination. Walker was also bleeding from his nose as he walked back to his corner. The tide of the fight began to turns as Greb had a slight edge in the 6th and 7th rounds and began jogging back to his corner at the end of the rounds is if to demonstrate his vitality to the younger Walker.
The 8th round saw both fighters pummeling each other as every time Walker succeeded in landing a punch, Greb would fire back with a volley of his own punches. The 9th round was too close to call, but in the 10th round Greb came at Walker full force and took the fight up to another level of intensity.
In the 11th round Greb forced Walker back into a corner and began to flail away at Mickey landing punch after punch without a response. Greb won the round by a wide margin and it became clear that he had never faced a fighter who was in the same league as Harry Greb.
Walker won the 12th round, although Greb landed the most punches. Walker’s punches were sharper and the cleaner punches. Greb came back to win the 13th round, clearly having the better of the exchanges and landing the higher volume of effective punches. Walker appeared somewhat disoriented as he walked back to his corner.
In the 14th round Greb tried to overwhelm his tough opponent in an attempt to knock him out. The attempt was futile however although Walker appeared out on his feet. Walker had to be helped back to his corner. Greb too appeared exhausted as he walked back to his own corner.
Greb again had the edge in the 15th round and was awarded a unanimous decision by the judges. Greb’s experience and his strategy to smother Walker so that he could not get off his power shots from long range had paid off.
No account of the famous fight between Harry Grebb and Mickey Walker would be complete without a retelling of the legendary events that happened in the hours after their fight in the ring.
As the legend goes Greb and Walker wound up in the same nightclub in Manhattan after their fight, an establishment known as “The Silver Slipper”. Not to be confused with the famous “Silver Slipper” in Washington, D.C.
Greb and Walker fought hard and partied hard. Both had brought their dates with them to the nightclub. After downing a few drinks Greb and Walker accompanied by their dates left the nightclub. Once outside Walker began to good naturedly needle Walker about what he referred to as his “illegal tactics” in the ring. Greb apparently taking offense to Walker’s comments began removing his suit jacket stating that perhaps we should continue with the “sixteenth round right now!” Walker did not hesitate and as the story goes sucker punched Greb while he had his arms behind him attempting to get his suit coat off. Greb after consuming a considerable amount of alcohol was in no condition to continue after being knocked to the ground by Walker’s sucker punch.
Attempting to determine the veracity and the truthfulness of Walker’s account of the “sixteenth round” is as difficult as trying to find the elusive Big Foot.