A 1958-62 alumnus takes a fist-in-cheek look back at Fenwick’s lost ‘art’ of pugilism, which began at the school in 1930 as an intramural activity.
By Jim Fineran ’62 (originally published in Fenwick’s First 75 Years, 2005)
It was called the boxing tournament but it actually was ‘fighting’ with gloves and rules, because [for many students] the boxing instruction lasted about two minutes. Tony Lawless was the instructor for what he called the ‘Art Course.’ It was strictly voluntary in that Mr. Lawless decided who was to volunteer and who was not. It was not a good time of year (early February) to be on his bad side. Doctors all over the West Side were exhausted from writing excuses for boys to not participate in the ‘Art Course.’
The bouts consisted of three one-minute rounds with Referee Lawless intoning ‘That’s a round!’ when the minute was up. Of course, if a couple of guys were really going at it, Mr. Lawless would let the rounds go on longer. The tournament commenced on a Friday night in March with ‘The Silver-Gloves:’ a big night of runner-up and championship fights in eight different weight classes. The gym was always packed. [In 1960, some 1,500 fans jammed into the bleachers and balcony.] Tony would bring in ex-pug ‘Tuffy’ Griffiths to referee. ‘Tuffy’ appeared to have taken a few too many shots during his career because it was not unknown for him to ‘put ’em up’ and start feinting when the bell would sound.
I don’t know when Mr. Lawless started all this [it was in 1930, during Fenwick’s infancy], but I do know it came to an end when Fr. Thomas Cumiskey became principal/president (1962-69). More than once he told me that he thought the whole thing was too brutal. Maybe yes, maybe no, but I never knew anyone who got hurt and I think the boxing did a little character-building.
About the Author
Jim Fineran graduated from John Carroll University in 1966 and spent his career in communications/marketing as a TV and radio news anchor; a public-information officer with Delmarva Power and Light (Exelon), the electric utility that serves the tri-state area of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia; and president of his own advertising agency. He is happily retired and residing in Maryland.