The Nelson-Wolgast Fight and the San Francisco Boxing Scene, 1900–1914


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About the Book

During the early years of the 20th century, San Francisco promoters served up boxing’s grandest spectacles. On February 22, 1910, a crowd of more than 15,000 braved chilly, rainy conditions to witness one such match, pitting lightweight champion “Battling” Nelson against Ad Wolgast. That epic battle came to stand virtually unchallenged as the most brutal fight of all time.
This volume recaptures that historic fight while vividly illuminating the geographic, historic, and political forces that made it all possible. In chronicling these colorful boxers and their vibrant era, this work also reveals the dangers faced by workman pugilists like Nelson and Wolgast, making their tale, at its heart, a cautionary one.

About the Author(s)

Sociologist Arne K. Lang has taught at the University of Nevada–Las Vegas, the University of Nebraska, and Tuskegee University. A leading authority on the history of boxing and the history of American sports gambling, he lives and writes in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Bibliographic Details

Arne K. Lang
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 199
Bibliographic Info: 36 photos, appendices, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2012
pISBN: 978-0-7864-7003-7
eISBN: 978-0-7864-9039-4
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      vii

Introduction      1

1. Off to the Battle      5

2. Snapshot of a Fight Town      12

3. Movers and Shakers      16

4. Writers      38

5. Battling Nelson on the Rise      45

6. High Times for Battling Nelson      60

7. The Rise of Ad Wolgast      73

8. The Build-Up to the Show-Down      81

9. The Bloodbath in a Bog      87

10. Joe Gans and Battling Nelson      91

11. Ad Wolgast at His Peak      112

12. The Flickering Light of Nelson’s Boxing Career      124

13. Ad Wolgast’s Descent      137

14. Battling Nelson’s Later Years      149

Appendix 1: World Title Fights Promoted by Sunny Jim Coffroth      159

Appendix 2: Complete Ring Record of Battling Nelson      162

Appendix 3: Complete Ring Record of Ad Wolgast      166

Appendix 4: Boxing and the Newspapers      171

Chapter Notes      174

Bibliography      182

Index      185

Book Reviews & Awards

“recommend”—Cyber Boxing Zone; “a very fun read and a wonderful addition to the library of any true boxing fan. Lang’s book is a masterful paean to a vintage era in boxing history…evocative prose…Lang manages to put his readers in the ring with these all-time greats during their most significant matches to the extent that one can almost feel the intensity of the fights they were in and the ferocity of the punishment they received. Lang’s book is as hard to put down as Battling Nelson in his heyday and the very rare photographs and illustrations in the book truly enhance the majesty of his words”—; “excellent…outstanding”—East Side Boxing; “fills in some blank pages regarding a significant fight and a little-known era in boxing history”—The Sweet Science; “using a variety of sources, Lang is able to stitch together a rich tapestry around the Nelson-Wolgast bout. It’s a period that’s not often discussed today, much less appreciated, and Lang does a great job of bring it to life”—The Die is Cast.