PHILLY BOXING HISTORY                                                                     December 14, 2011


Home Boxers Fights Arenas Non-Boxers Gyms Relics More About Contact



ARTHUR KING: 1927-2011
Canadian Lightweight Champion Dies at Age 84

By Andrew Fruman

Canada lost one of its most accomplished fighters with the passing of Arthur King yesterday. King had struggled with his health for many years, with the effects of a lengthy career taking their toll on the 84-year-old boxer. A crafty, well-rounded operator, renowned for a lightning quick left hand, King was a leading contender for the world’s lightweight title during the late 1940s and early 1950s.

Born in Toronto on February 23, 1927, King endured great heartbreak in his early years. His father, who had taught him how to fight, died of an infection suffered in a work-related accident when King was only 9. A few years later, his mother passed away as well after a battle with cancer. A stay in an orphanage followed, along with trips in and out of foster homes, before a permanent home with a stable family was found.

King, already prone to settling disputes with his fists, needed an outlet and found salvation in the boxing ring. Fighting, as the Globe & Mail’s Jim Coleman put it – with all the savagery of a school kid whose sister has just been called a very dirty name – King became a local sensation as a 16-year-old, starring regularly in sold-out amateur shows at Massey Hall.

With no challenges left in the amateur ranks, King turned professional amid much fanfare, headlining his debut at Maple Leaf Gardens for promoter Frank Tunney in January of 1946. Matched tough from the start, King soon learned his hell-for-leather style had its limitations against professional opposition, and varied his game, developing into an effective counter-puncher.

Soon equally adept fighting off his back foot, as he was when on the attack, King’s rise was rapid, and by age 21, he had captured a couple of championships – winning the Canadian crown from Danny Webb and the British Empire title in a rousing slugfest over Billy Thompson in Manchester.

After returning from England, King believed his best chance to add a world championship to his laurels was to fight south of the border. His manager at the time, Dave Yack, who had helped King refine his talents, reluctantly agreed, and King’s contract was sold in October of 1948 to notorious Philadelphia mobster Blinky Palmero.

After the move, King continued to develop as a fighter under the tutelage of veteran trainer Jimmy Wilson, though he watched as his career stagnated. With Palermo already managing lightweight champion Ike Williams, King was treated as an insurance policy, with his wishes to be released from his “contract” falling on deaf ears.

When Williams lost the title to Jimmy Carter in 1951, King’s prospects looked to have improved and a year later, after toppling number one ranked contender Paddy DeMarco, a title shot appeared imminent. However, a razor thin split-decision loss to George Araujo at Madison Square Garden, a verdict booed for several minutes by the New York crowd, stifled those plans, and King was pushed back in the line.

A string of victories followed, including lopsided decisions over second- ranked Henry Davis, and top-ten Montreal slugger Armand Savoie, and a $30,000 offer was tabled to Carter for a title match at Maple Leaf Gardens. The champion was reportedly asking for $40,000, prompting Jimmy Wilson to remark that if the Carter’s demands were met, he would just up the request to $50,000.

Had Carter known King’s physical condition, he might have taken the cash. Along with scar tissue around King’s eyes, his hands, which had proved troublesome for years, were both in rough shape. A bone in his famous left, injured against Fitzie Pruden, eventually shattered during a bout with Eddie Chavez, resulted in a major operation. The surgery would keep King out of the ring for two years and effectively end his run as a lightweight contender.

Tunney came to the rescue at this point, buying off Palermo and finally clearing the way for King to move back to Toronto. With bone fragments from his left hand tucked in his wallet, King made a comeback in 1956 as a welterweight. A little bigger, and a little slower, King was still crafty enough to compete with world-ranked fighters, including bigger men such as middleweight contenders Tiger Jones and Yama Bahama, though his body didn’t cooperate. A freak knee-to-knee collision with Henry Hank during a sparring session forced King to the sidelines, while a rib injury meant further time off.

By this time, King was married and a father, and with no money to his name – thanks to Palermo’s unsavory business practices – he decided to give up the dream.

Unlike many of his contemporaries who struggled to adapt to life after boxing, King was able to settle into a nine-to-five job and raise a family. A musician in his younger days, he enjoyed listening to his collection of jazz records to stay relaxed and also wrote a bit of poetry.

When the Toronto Star caught up with him in 1998, King said he was content:

I got my family. I got a nice trailer up north. Some bad guys are under the ground. And I’m feeling okay. No complaints.




Andrew Fruman - Special Contributor - December 14, 2011