Philly Boxing History

DECEMBER 24, 1903




South Philly's Philadelphia Jack O'Brien was born James Francis Hagen on January 17, 1878. He became one of the best boxers in the early part of the 20th century, with campaigns in the middleweight, light-heavyweight, and heavyweight divisions. In 1905 he won recognition as light-heavyweight champion with his 13th round TKO of Bob Fitzsimmons.

About two years before winning the title, O'Brien fought Jim Jeffords at the Broadway Athletic Club, at 15th & Washington in South Philadelphia, on Christmas Eve 1903. This heavyweight scrap was a 6-round no decision bout, but the newspapers called O'Brien the winner. 

From the Philadelphia Daily Record: "Jack O'Brien, fresh from his 15-round victory over Twin Sullivan at Boston took on big Jim Jeffords, the California  heavyweight, and bested the latter in a fast six-round bout at the Broadway Athletic Club last night. For four rounds Jeffords gave an excellent account of himself; in fact, it is doubtful if he has ever put up such an aggressive battle in a local ring. He was willing to mix it up and tried his best to exchange blow for blow, but he usually came out on the short end, as O'Brien was too fast and too clever and got in two - sometimes three and four - to Jeffords' one blow. When big Jim did land a punch it had something behind it, but they did not seem to disconcert the local boxer to any great extent, as he was back at Jeffords right and left in such quick succession that the latter was bewildered."

Philadelphia Jack O'Brien went on to an overall career record of 138-14-19 (51 KO) in a 16-year run between 1896 and 1912. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1994.

  1904 - Harlem Tommy Murphy W6 Danny Dougherty at the National A.C. in South Philly
  1904 - Harry Decker D6 Bert Keyes at the National A.C. in South Philly
  1907 - Jack Blackburn W10 Mike Donovan at Reading, PA
  1907 - Reddy Moore TKO3 Hugh McCann at the Bijou Theater in Center City Philadelphia
  1908 - Young Pierce W6 Phil McGovern at the National A.C. in South Philly
  1909 - Tommy O'Toole W6 Charlie Griffin at Philadelphia