After Sam tutored
with Professor Byers he grew as well as improved, but he improved a lot faster
than he grew. He beat Gans, at approximately even weights, but when he fought
Jack Johnson, one of the best heavyweights who ever lived, he spotted him 27
pounds. Langford weighed 158, Johnson 185. Sam was 26, according to Nat
Fleischer, or 25, according to Sam, and Johnson 28. Sam knocked Johnson down
for an eight count, Johnson never rocked Sam, and there has been argument ever
since over the decision for Johnson at the end of the 15 rounds. Sam's effort
was a succ�s d'estime for the scholastic approach to boxing, but Johnson, an
anti-intellectual, would never give him another fight.
Johnson, by then
older and slower, did fight another-middleweight in 1909—Stanley Ketchel, the
Michigan Assassin. Ketchel's biographers, for the most part exponents of the
raw-nature, or blinded-with-blood-he-swung-again school of fight writing, turn
literary handsprings when they tell how Ketchel, too, knocked Johnson down. But
Johnson got up and took him with one punch. There was a direct line of
comparison between Langford and Ketchel as middleweights. They boxed a
six-round no-decision bout in Philadelphia which was followed by a newspaper
scandal; the critics accused Langford of carrying Ketchel. Nobody accused
Ketchel of carrying Langford. I asked Sam once if he had carried Ketchel, and
he said, "He was a good man. I couldn't knock him out in six
statures have been transposed in retrospect. The late, blessed Philadelphia
Jack O'Brien fought both of them. He considered Ketchel "a bum
distinguished only by the tumultuous but ill-directed ferocity of his
assault." (That is the way Jack liked to talk.) Ketchel did knock Mr.
O'Brien non compos his remarkable mentis in the last nine seconds of a 10-round
bout (there was no decision, and O'Brien always contended he won on points).
Jack attributed his belated mishap to negligence induced by contempt. He said
Langford, though, had a "mystic quality."
appeared upon the scene of combat you knew you were cooked," Jack said.
Mr. O'Brien was,