Johnny Coulon

Johnny Coulon bigraphy, stories - American boxer

Johnny Coulon : biography

February 12, 1889 – October 29, 1973

John Frederic Coulon (February 12, 1889 – October 29, 1973) was the bantamweight boxing champion of the world from 6 March 1910, when he wrested the crown from England’s Jim Kendrick, until 1914, when he was defeated by Kid Williams.


Born in Toronto to American parents Emile Eugene Coulon (1857–1911) and Sarah Loretta Waltzinger (1857–1923), Coulon grew up in turn-of-the-century Chicago, where, as a prelim fighter, he became known as "The Cherry Picker from Logan Square." He turned pro at 16 and was champion at 21. His career, managed by his father, Eugene "Pop" Coulon, stretched from 1905 to 1920. The hall-of-famer is listed as losing only four times in 97 fights, but he claimed to have fought over 300 pro fights.

Coulon won his first 26 bouts before losing a 10-round decision to Kid Murphy. In a rematch with Murphy in 1908, Coulon reversed the decision and earned recognition as the American bantamweight champion.

After capturing the world title against Kendrick in 19 rounds, he defended the title against Earl Denning, Frankie Conley, Frankie Burns, and Kid Williams. He finally lost the crown in 1914 when Williams stopped him in the third round. He also faced Harry Forbes during his career. Coulon met three Hall-of-Famers in his career: Kid Williams, Pete Herman, and Charley Goldman, who is best known for training Rocky Marciano.

Coulon served in the United States Army during World War I, often instructing soldiers on how to fight. He boxed twice after his service stint and retired from the ring in 1920 with a record of 56 wins, 4 draws, and 32 no-contests.

After retirement, he began public performances with a stupendous stage act. He would appear stripped to the waist and challenge anyone in the audience to try to lift him off his feet. It seemed an empty challenge since at five feet and barely 110 pounds, he was smaller than many schoolboys. But each who took up the challenge soon left the stage baffled and frustrated. Coulon himself never made any extravagant claims that he could violate natural laws. He was content to make a living by presenting a baffling stage act. The trick was that Coulon would feign a struggle, grabbing the opponent by the neck and applying pressure to a nerve there.

In 1921, Coulon married Marie Maloney (1892–1984). She never saw him fight professionally, but together they opened Coulon’s Gymnasium on the South Side of Chicago. Marie was the business manager. "His professional career was over when we met, but together we saw oh so many of the great ones train at our gym down thru the years — men like Jack Dempsey, Gene Tunney, Jim Braddock, Joe Louis, Sugar Ray Robinson, and Muhammad Ali." Ali would often use the gym to keep himself toned during his exile years. Coulon managed junior welterweight champion Eddie Perkins (74-20-4) and light-heavyweight contender Allen Thomas.

Coulon also trained amateur sensation Robert Beal who remembers Coulon as a kind and exciting man.

Ernest Hemingway visited Coulon’s and insisted on sparring with the local pugs. LeRoy Neiman sketched boxers working out. A cult movie of the sixties, Medium Cool, filmed scenes at the gym, where Coulon briefly appeared, a tiny old man captured forever on celluloid.

Coulon was not only a topnotch trainer, but living boxing history. He was a close friend of Jack Johnson, had frequented Johnson’s restaurant, the "Café de Champion," and had even been a pallbearer at the great champion’s funeral. He had known every heavyweight champion since the Great John L. Sullivan, had been bantamweight champion of the world, had trained hundreds of fighters and was a revered celebrity in Chicago during the 1960s. At 76 he could leave a ring by jumping over a top rope, landing softly on his feet. He celebrated a birthday by walking the length of the gym on his hands. He died at 84 in 1973 in Chicago and was buried in St. Mary’s Cemetery.

Coulon was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1955 (Sport: Boxing; Theme: Strength & Science), was installed in the Catholic Youth Organization’s Club of Champions for his contributions to amateur boxing in 1971, and into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1999.

Category:1889 births Category:1973 deaths Category:Bantamweight boxers Category:Boxers from Illinois Category:Canadian people of American descent Category:Boxing people from Ontario Category:Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame inductees Category:Canadian boxers Category:Canadian emigrants to the United States Category:People from Toronto Category:Sportspeople from Chicago, Illinois