Gipsy Daniels was not a heavyweight himself, but he beat many
top big men – including the German legend in one round
MAX SCHMELING is chiefly remembered today for being the first man to win the world heavyweight title on a foul, and for his two encounters with Joe Louis, with each winning by knockout. British fight fans of 50 years ago would have also known he was twice beaten inside the distance by UK-based fighters, with the Canadian Larry Gains winning in two rounds in 1925 and the Welshman, Gipsy Daniels, stopping him in one round in 1928.
Many today with an interest in the history of the sport will recognise the name Larry Gains, a very good heavyweight who also beat Primo Carnera, but few will know anything about Gipsy Daniels. At the start of 1928, Schmeling had won 33 of his 39 contests and had become the European light-heavyweight champion. Daniels, meanwhile, had annexed the Welsh and then the British light-heavyweight titles and had been boxing since 1919. The two men had met once before, in 1927, when Schmeling won a hard contest on points and so, for Daniels to KO the future great in only one round, was sensational.
Despite this, I can find no trace of the contest being recorded in either BN or The Ring at the time. Few in Britain would have known about Daniels’ feat until a few years later, after Max had won the world heavyweight title, and few would have believed that it could have happened even then
The 1929 Everlast Boxing Record Book, then the leading publication for boxers’ records, even reversed the result in Max’s record, suggesting that it was he that had KO’d Daniels in a round, and not the other way around. Schmeling went on to great things in the 1930s, but Daniels’ career petered out, and he eventually retired in 1938 after winning 97 of his 158 professional contests.
Daniels came from Newport and, after starting his career as Young Daniels, he was selected by the MP and boxing fanatic, Horatio Bottomley, as one of his ‘John Bull’s Boys’, a group of promising heavyweights who, it was hoped, would restore Britain to world greatness.
Georges Carpentier had put paid to our two leading heavyweights, Bombardier Billy Wells and Joe Beckett, in a round apiece and Bottomley was so enraged by this that he trawled the length and breadth of the country for promising talent that he could nurture.
It was at this time that Daniels took the name ‘Gipsy’, although his given name was Billy. The 1920s saw the introduction of ballyhoo and brash publicity to the sport and it was felt that a degree of colour and mystery needed to be added to Daniels’ story to make him stand out.
By 1921 Daniels was campaigning in America and he was starting to make waves. Although never a heavyweight himself, Daniels would get in the ring with anyone, no matter how big, and his punching power saw him gain many stoppages over leading heavyweights.
In 1928, when he went to Germany for the rematch with Schmeling, he put this power to good use. At the time, Germany had six decent heavyweights – Schmeling, Franz Diener, Hans Breitenstraeter, Hein Mueller, Helmut Hartkopp and Hein Domgoergen. Daniels went through three of them like a dose of salts. He followed up his clinical one-round hammering of Schmeling with two-round knockouts of both Breitenstraeter and Domgoergen, with the three contests taking place in Berlin, Frankfurt and Leipzig respectively.
The German fans must have been mightily impressed with Daniels, a one-man wrecking ball of their heavyweight talent, but when he returned the following year, in 1929, he was outpointed by the other three, Diener, Mueller and then Hartkopp.
He had two further trips to Germany in the early 1930s, losing on both occasions to that country’s newest heavyweight sensation, Walter Neusel.
While he lost more than he won against the Germans, he beat the best of them in one round, and for that he will never be forgotten.