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At Midnight I'll Claim Your Bones

October 10, 2016

 

Australian Jim Hall was the most gifted middleweight to come out of the bare knuckle boxing era. He arrived in the United States  in 1892 to fight for the world heavyweight championship and trained at the Manly Art Institute in Beloit, Wisconsin (at the time, the finest fight training facility in the world).  He should have been the champ, but bad luck, hard drinking, a weakness for married women and an uncanny knack for getting into bar fights kept the title just out of his reach. He fought numerous bouts through the 1890’s - always a popular figure, admired by many for his perfect physique and athleticism. By the early 1900’s, he was out of work and sick. Alcoholism, years of hard living and tuberculosis found him bed ridden at a charity ward in Chicago. It was there that he made a devils bargain with a Chicago surgeon named Dr. Rahde.  Jim Hall signed away his bones. Upon Hall's death, the Doctor planned to exhibit the fighter's skeleton across the country in a traveling show. Dead or alive, the dissipated ex-contender could still attract a paying crowd. Rahde handed Hall a $150 down payment.  The prizefighter signed his name on the contract and drank the money away. When the Doctor came calling a few too many times to check on his deteriorating condition, Hall became spooked. He fled north in the middle of the night to Neenah, Wisconsin. There, a small group of local fans took him in, gave him some pocket money, put him up in a hotel.  and helped him keep an eye out for Doctor Rahde. A few weeks after his arrival, He was admitted to the State TB sanitarium in Stevens Point. He died a short time later. His body was returned to Neenah, and placed in an unmarked grave (at Hall’s request to best keep the Doctor away), plot 283 at Oak Hill Cemetery. In 2006, boxing historian Bill Schutte bought him a headstone. The epitaph reads...... “Jim Hall - Prizefighter”.