Young Griffo - Australia's Best?

Discussion in 'Boxing News and Discussion' started by El Gavilan, Dec 13, 2003.

  1. El Gavilan

    El Gavilan Guest

    Ah, the old days. A time, to borrow a phrase, that was simpler and more confused. Folks sat ringside with guns, and fighters extended their prowess to saloons and the street without legal intervention. One of my favorites of this ilk was Young Griffo, an Australian savant who broke all the rules and then, seemingly inevitably, broke down.

    Young Griffo and Jack London would've gotten along just fine. John Barleycorn was both their best friend and ultimate nemesis. It contributed to both their enormous moments of clarity and epiphany, but also painful demise. Alcohol stoked their natural talents, and destroyed them as well.

    Young Griffo was "The Natural" gone wild and gone wrong. Griffo was perhaps the greatest defensive fighter in boxing history, and the most gifted. Griffo didn't log long hours in the gym learning his craft, he was one of those rarities born with an innate radar.

    By weight, he was a featherweight, but he became bored easily, and fought and conquered larger men often. According to a few sources, Griffo was never really beaten as a featherweight. When he ran into difficulty finding fights in his native Australia in the early 1890s, he went on a kind of walkabout in the U.S. He looked around the west coast, drifted into the midwest, fought in Boston, etc. During this time, he spent a lot of time in bars, and then proceeded to engage in real ring battles where opponents were frustrated and dominated by a guy who was often under the influence as he applied virtuoso skill and beatings. Like Jack Johnson, Griffo talked to his opponents and ringsiders as he administered defensive clinics and thorough whippings. Because of his drinking, his manager often jailed him a week before an important fight to keep him out of the saloons.

    One such instance was Griffo's battle with the great George Dixon. Dixon, it should be noted, fought in 33 championship prizefights in his career. Griffo was jailed to keep him out of trouble, and although Griffo vs. Dixon is still listed as a draw on the books, it is said that Dixon couldn't do much with Griffo, and learned more in the ring with Griffo than he had in all of his previous fights. They ended up fighting 3 times.....all draws.

    As alcohol and excessive travels began to erode Griffo's astonishing skills, he engaged lightweight champ Jack McAuliffe at Coney Island. This is listed as a W for the lightweight champion, but one of the judges later revealed that he goofed in the scoring, and Griffo actually won.

    After that, Griffo was more a phantom in life than he was in the ring. He vanished......disappeared. Once in awhile, there was word that Griffo showed up in a nondescript saloon, and bought everyone drinks and a good time. Realistically, Griffo was on the skids. He ended up in an insane asylum in the midwest. He became homeless after he was released. He died in 1927.

    Like many fighters at the turn of the century, there are a lot of stories about Griffo. In saloons, he would stand on a small towel and invite patrons to hit him as Griffo wasn't allowed to move his feet. They all couldn't land cleanly. Another trick was to sit at the bar, and catch flies between his index finger and thumb....a testimony to his unusual reflexes. He was often known to verbally abuse patrons at the bar, and then watch in the mirror as a poor, angry thug would try to hit him from behind with wild blows as Griffo ducked and dodged while watching in the mirror the entire time.

    Perhaps Griffo's greatest feat of one upsmanship occurred in 1895. According to the great site, "Antiquities of the Prize Ring", Griffo applied some tricks and some nationalism on James J. Corbett. Here is the passage:

    "Early yesterday morning Champion Jim Corbett, with his manager Billy Brady, and a small party of friends, was in Foley's restaurant in New York when "Young Griffo" entered the establishment. The Australian, in his usual evening condition, seeing Corbett, went over to him and asked him to "take something". Corbett abruptly declined and attempted to ignore Griffo's presence by turning his back to him. Griffo would not be ignored, but attracted the champion's notice by saying: "It takes us Australians to do up you chumps. Peter Jackson can do you and I can stand you for four rounds myself." To this Corbett retorted: " Here you little whipper-snapper go about your business if you have any or I'll break you in two." Griffo's response was a blow aimed at Corbett's jaw. Jim stopped it with ease, and with his open hand he slapped "the feather" on the chops so severely that he knocked him on the floor. Corbett was wild with rage, and stooping down, he attempted to pick Griffo up that he might slap him again. As he did so Griffo's right leg shot out suddenly and the heeel of his toe caught Corbett on the point of the jaw and the champion fell. As his body struck the floor his head collided against the rim of the iron cuspidor. Brady and Billy Delaney picked him up unconscious. There was a slight cut on his head just back of his right ear, which bled freely. Griffo and his boon companions made their escape into their hack and were driven away. Corbett revived and went to the drug store and had his wound dressed."

    Griffo: Resourceful, eccentric, cunning, and dirty. Little man, little known, but a giant never forgotten to those who saw him and crossed his path.

    [ December 13, 2003, 07:25 AM: Message edited by: El Gavilan ]
  2. Joonie73

    Joonie73 Guest

    Fabulous stuff. I have been scouring various boxing boards for 3 years now & you are already one of my favorite posters [​IMG]
  3. Lefthooker

    Lefthooker Member

    My Dad used to tell me stories about Young Griffo when I was a kid.
    I posted a couple of years ago on this board about him, and was surprised at how few had ever heard of him ( especially remarkable because we have a heavy Aussie population here).

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