Ken Jones: 'The Toy Bulldog' who cocked a fist at Al Capone

The late Edward Patrick "Mickey" Walker, the fist fighter, is best remembered in the annals of boxing as the middleweight who had the best left hook and the biggest thirst in the business. If it hadn't been for the one, the thirst, the other, the hook, might have made him the only 150lb heavyweight in modern history.

The late Edward Patrick "Mickey" Walker, the fist fighter, is best remembered in the annals of boxing as the middleweight who had the best left hook and the biggest thirst in the business. If it hadn't been for the one, the thirst, the other, the hook, might have made him the only 150lb heavyweight in modern history.

When he wasn't fighting the bottle, Mickey Walker was often fighting heavyweights. The only difference was he could hold his own with heavyweights. He found them so easy to hit and beat, he even fought them dead-drunk on occasion to even the odds a little.

One such was the eve of the 1930 Kentucky Derby when the pocket-sized Walker climbed in with a 15st 10lb, 6ft 3in brute named Paul Swiderski. You have heard of fighters staggering out of the ring. Walker staggered into it. Anywhere else, and his police escort would have arrested him as a common drunk.

Actually, Walker, known otherwise as 'The Toy Bulldog,' was an uncommon drunk. He hit the floor so often in the first round of that contest, the referee never bothered to come out of a crouching position - he knew Walker would be right back - and Walker's manager, the foremost ring larcenist of all time, Doc Kearns, reached over and rang the bell with a water bottle while there was still a half-minute to go in the session.

Kearns's reward was a punch in the jaw from Walker because in his condition he couldn't tell friend from foe. Kearns recovered in time to pull a fuse and plunge the arena into darkness the next time Walker went down. Trouble broke out, police were called, and when order was restored, Walker was sober and Swiderski was sunk.

This is only one of the riotous instances recalled in a dog-eared copy of Walker's biography "The Toy Bulldog And His Times" which I borrowed from a friend and have just finished reading. Walker, who held the undisputed welterweight and middleweight championships, had 141 fights in his 100-proof life. He was married seven times, once squandered almost half-a-million dollars on one trip to Paris and was thrown out of hotels for brawling in half the major cities of the world.

Once, in Hollywood, he bought half of Laurel Canyon from the screen actor Lloyd Hamilton for $55,000 when both were in their cups. When he sobered up, Walker sold it in panic for $58,000 - or about $7m less than it was worth.

Walker palled around with Charlie Chaplin and Al Capone. He once ran across a ballroom floor to take a punch at Edward, the Prince of Wales. He actually cocked a fist at Capone before a friend stepped in. "You saved his puss," Walker grumbled. "I saved your life," the friend corrected.

He was a front-man for a bootlegger, yet he spent half-a-million dollars trying to learn polo and to crack society. He was the middle-weight champion of the world and a leading contender for the heavyweight title but he was stopping gutters like a Bowery bum. He lost the the most important fight of his career, to the heavyweight Max Schmeling in 1932, because he trained on a golf course - not on golf, on champagne. The caddy carried the bottles. Walker carried the clubs. No one kept score but on his worst holes Walker used up three bottles.

Many good boxers have taken good care of themselves while they were fighting and turned to drink when they were through. Walker, who often held victory parties before the fight, reversed the trend here too. One day in 1939, while the radio crackled the news of the start of the Second World War, Walker found himself on the toot with a cast of characters he shouldn't even even have been talking to. At the age of 38, he hoisted a glass of beer and announced, "Gentlemen, this is my last drink. I'll never take another as long as I live."

He never did. Walker filled the void in his life with painting, a notion that came to him while watching a movie on the life of Gauguin. Although some unkind critics suggested he should have taken the boxing gloves off first, his art was exhibited widely. "It is the only thing," Kearns cracked, "that could keep Mickey Walker on canvas." His fight friends were even more impressed. "Could Picasso get off the floor 14 times against Swiderski?" they asked.

While Walker's lifestyle is not recommended to athletes in any field, his colourful career, and that of many former great champions, serves to remind us that boxing is better served by the past than the present.

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
musicHunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original  manuscripts
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
lifeAiming to show breasts in a non-sexual way for cancer awareness
New Articles
i100... while following the referendum
New Articles
i100... with this review
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special
tvNick Frost, Natalie Gumede and Michael Troughton step up
Arts and Entertainment
Matthew Beard, Ben Schnetzer, Douglas Booth and Jack Farthing in ‘The Riot Club’
filmReview: Sheer nastiness of Riot Club takes you aback
Arts and Entertainment
tvBut something’s not quite right
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Research Manager - Quantitative/Qualitative

£32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week