A Load of Old Bull                                                                                         

Strong as a bull, we’ve all heard it said, but what is it with boxers and bulls? Fair enough bulls are strong but so are a lot of other animals! But bulls are so synonymous with boxing that a lot of boxers have had the word bull incorporated into their names, like the ex-middleweight champion of the world, Jake LaMotta for example, he was known as The Bronx Bull, later changed to The Raging Bull, in which he was portrayed by, Robert De Niro in a film of the same name.                                    

Then there was the rough-house Argentine heavyweight contender, Luis Angel Firpo, a superbly talented in-fighter, he was known as, The Wild Bull of the Pampas, he was the first Latin American to fight for the world heavyweight title; and he almost won it. In his 1923 slugfest of a title fight against, Jack Dempsey, he managed to knock the rock fisted Manassa Mauler clear out of the ring in the first round despite himself having been knocked down 7 times. There is a famous ringside photograph that caught this incident as it happened, and in it Dempsey’s upside down feet and legs can be un-flatteringly seen dangling in midair as though suspended from invisible strings. Although Dempsey was out of the ring for a record 17 seconds he wasn’t counted out. It seems that in those days boxers were allowed a 20 second count if they were knocked out of the ring. Dempsey got his revenge though when he kayoed Firpo in the second round.                                                                                          

Recently retired lightweight champion of the world Juan Diaz (he unified the WBA, WBO, and IBF titles) was called The Baby Bull, he also held the light-welterweight title for a short while after a controversial win over Paulie Malignaggi, but Malignaggi easily won the rematch. The Baby Bull also hosted his own radio show in which he interviewed well known boxers. Can you guess the name of his show? It was The Baby Bull Radio Show, very imaginative!                                                                                                       

 For those of you that follow unlicensed boxing there was the grotesque looking, Donny (The Bull) Adams,) he was a real rufty tufty character, he called himself King of the Gypsies, no one else did, just him! To be honest the number of fighters that call themselves bull is far too long to list them all here.                                                                                                

Even the ancient Greeks had a thing for bulls, they had athletes that used to jump over them for fun, and in mythology one of the 12 labours of Hercules was to capture the Great Cretan Bull; who was supposed to be the father of the fearsome, Minotaur, half man, half bull.                                                                                                             

It is reported that in his later years even the late great, Sugar Ray Robinson took to drinking a glass of bull’s blood before stepping into the ring, apparently he believed it gave him extra strength to add to his already hurtful punches.                                                            

But to cut our beloved sport a bit of slack it’s not just boxers that have a thing for bulls! In America bull wrestling is a big thing on the rodeo circuit, and everybody knows about Spain’s almost suicidal Pamplona bull-run, where somebody gets killed every year.                                                                                                      

There was also a crazy Korean karate master that muscled in on the bull act. His name was Mas Oyama, and he was either the bravest man in the world – or the daftest! Because he liked to fight bulls using only his bare-hands, he reputedly defeated and killed 52 of them this way. You could say he turned karate chops into loin chops.                                     

Surely everybody knows you shouldn’t fight with bulls of any kind, it’s too bloody dangerous! The history books are full of such stories, I mean just look at what happened to Custer when he got on the wrong side of Big Chief Sitting Bull!!! And whilst I’m being silly there is the strange case of Cory Terry who supposedly died from drinking too much of the energy drink Red Bull! Silly or not his family are suing the manufacturers of it for a massive 85 million dollars.                                                                                                

 But there was also a great introverted British boxer from Wales that fought with a live bull on a regular basis, he had the vastly Welsh sounding name of, Thomas Thomas, or Tom Thomas, as he preferred to be called. Unusual name or not he was no mug and had a defence an income tax inspector couldn’t have penetrated. He was actually the very first Middleweight Champion of Great Britain, and as it happens also the first holder of a Lonsdale belt at this weight. With a record of 41 wins out of 44 contests he sadly died aged 31 from the effects of rheumatism just as he was preparing for a fight against that great middleweight contender, Billy Papke. Not unusually for the time the young, Thomas started his boxing career before he was old enough to shave in the sweat laden boxing booths of Wales. He toured with the likes of the great, Jim Driscoll, and Freddy Welsh, cutting himself a nice little niche in the boxing world. Initially a heavyweight; but at only 5ft 7 inches he struggled with taller opponents, although he did still manage to win the heavyweight championship of the Rhondda Valley. However, after dropping a few pounds he eventually found fame as a middleweight, but being of a shy disposition he didn’t want, or seek fame, and shunned the limelight. He was also very careful with his money and saved every penny he earned, which meant that excepting for a few old pairs of boxing gloves he lacked what we would call today vital training equipment – he just wouldn’t part with his pennies! He didn’t believe in paying for sparring partners either – so he sparred with a bull instead! His favourite sparring bull was called, Billy One-Horn, and he spent hours on end punching the living daylights out of it. The rest of his training virtually consisted of nothing more than bare-back horse riding, sounds a weird way of doing things but it obviously worked for him. But not so for an amateur boxer called, Billy Joe Gregg Jnr, this idiot and his mates broke into a dairy farm and filmed themselves punching cows and calves in their heads (and God knows what else they got up to.) Thankfully he was given a hefty fine and sentenced to 8 months in prison.                                                                                                                                                       

I swear all I have written here is true – no bull!