4. Beau Begins Boxing

A natural evolution from battles royal and his passion for combat, Beau Jack began boxing when he was fourteen years old. During his time downtown shining shoes, Beau met a wrestler named Jack Ross (1891–1953). Ross operated the Coney Island Sandwich Shop on the corner of Eighth and Ellis streets. He was ­barrel-chested, balding, 6 feet tall, and weighed 195 pounds. Ross immigrated to the United States from Greece when he was 14 years old. At age 20, Ross became a professional wrestler. Ross, aka the “Greek Demon,” wrestled from coast to coast. He was a heavyweight with ribs of steel. During his ­31-year wrestling career, Ross held numerous title belts, including the Southern middleweight title, which he held for over five years, the Southern ­light-heavyweight title, and the Southern heavyweight title. His son, Louis Ross, Jr., played football at Richmond Academy and was also a prevalent wrestler. But Jack Ross was not just a wrestler, he was a savvy businessman. Along with wrestling, he was a restaurateur and local wrestling promoter.

Ross came across Beau one day while he was shining shoes outside his restaurant. Ross could tell that Beau was an extraordinary teenager. He was polite, ambitious, and a hard worker. Beau was eager to survive the tough times, so Ross put him to work. Beau ran errands at his restaurant and worked around some of the local pool halls. Recognizing his grit and toughness, Ross gave Beau some of his first ring experience. As Ross promoted wrestling matches, he let Beau fight in boxing preliminaries and battles royal before his events, in return for “eating” money.

It didn’t take long before Beau became a dominant boxer around town, fighting in local venues, such as the Lenox Theatre, Richmond Arena, the New Coliseum, and Aiken’s Municipal Auditorium. Beau’s first recorded boxing match took place at the Lenox Theatre. An African American venue built in the early 1920s, the Lenox Theatre was located on the corner of Ninth Street and Gwinnett Street in Augusta’s “Golden Blocks” district, where black businesses prospered. The ­Greco-Roman architecture was inspiring. A headline in the Augusta Chronicle on January 9, 1921, hailed the theatre as “Lenox Theatre Finest Theatre Owned and Controlled by Colored People in the United States.”1 When the stage was removed, the venue had seating for 1,191 spectators.

Beau was only 15 years old when he stepped into the theatre’s ring on Thursday night, October 8, 1936. Presented by the Home Boys’ Charity Club, the ­all-star boxing card was scheduled for 37 rounds of action featuring such fighters as “Battling Puggie” of Savannah, “Fast Black,” and “Battling” Beau Jack. Special seats were reserved for white people in attendance. Jack continued his winning ways and his reputation continued to grow as he defeated his foe.

Although there were undoubtedly fights in between, Beau’s next recorded bout was three years later on Friday night, April 7, 1939, at the Richmond Arena in Augusta, Georgia. Richmond Arena, also known as the American Legion Arena, was located at the corner of Jones and Ninth streets. Beau opened the weekly wrestling card featuring Red Raider and Red Dugan of Chattanooga. He thrilled the ­battle-hungry fans by demolishing his opponent by knockout.

With the help of Jack Ross, Beau became a regular on the local boxing scene. Five days after knocking out his opponent at the Richmond Arena, Jack was back in the ring on another American Legion wrestling card. In the main event, 250 spectators witnessed veteran wrestler George Romanoff of Jacksonville lose to Red Shadow by disqualification. To open the ticket, the increasingly popular Beau Jack was featured in a ­six-round exhibition bout with “Battling” Henry. Needless to say, he did not disappoint the fans. Beau overwhelmed “Battling” Henry with his furious flurries, terminating the bout in the fifth round when he landed a hard punch upstairs, ending Henry’s night early by way of knockout.

After Beau’s victory over Henry, he fought his next nine matches at Aiken’s new Municipal Auditorium. Located in Aiken, South Carolina, approximately 17 miles east of Augusta, the Municipal Auditorium had seating for 500 spectators. Fight cards were fervently presented every Thursday night. Beau began his run at the Municipal Auditorium on January 18, 1940, entering the ring not only for a ­four-round boxing match but also in the battle royal before the beginning of the fight card. Beau won both battles.

Jack was back two weeks later to fight a ­four-round preliminary contest against Jake Mosely of Aiken. Beau easily pounded out a decision victory over Mosely. The main event featured Augusta’s Baxley Hardy, a talented southpaw fighting in the middleweight division. Hardy defeated Jimmy Dillon on his way to a professional record of 46–6–2. Before a packed auditorium the following Thursday, February 8th, Beau won another decision in his preliminary bout with “Battling” Burns of Warrenton, Virginia. The next week, Jack knocked Alvin Stevens out in the 3rd round of their ­six-round battle. It was reportedly his eighth victory in a row. On Thursday night, February 29, Beau defeated Vincent Corbett of Bath, South Carolina.

Jack was on a roll, winning his next four fights at the Municipal Auditorium between March 7 and April 4. On March 7, Beau defeated Son Jenkins of Spartanburg, South Carolina. Two weeks later, he emerged victorious on points over Silent Stafford of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Then he scored a ­second-round knockout over Joe James of Charlotte, North Carolina. Finally, after working the first day of the Masters Tournament, Jack defeated Tommy Lee of Atlanta, Georgia, in a ­four-round bout.

Within three months, Beau belted out at least nine straight victories at the Municipal Auditorium, improving his record to 11–0. Other accounts have Beau winning at least two more bouts, but they are not recorded. Two months later, in a fantastic turn of events, Jack would test his boxing skills in Holyoke, Massachusetts.

1. “Lenox Theatre Finest Theatre Owned and Controlled by Colored People in the United States,” Augusta Chronicle, January 9, 1921, 6.

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