People: Mickey Walker
Mickey Walker (1903-1981)
Edward Patrick "Mickey" Walker was born July 13th, 1901 in Elizabeth. His father was an amateur boxer as a young man, and John L. Sullivan was a family friend. The senior Walker discouraged his son from following in John L.'s footsteps, but Mickey entered the ring against his father's wishes at the age of 18. He lacked formal training, but made up for it with powerful punching and pit-bull aggressiveness. He lost just twice in his first 40 fights.
During the 1920s, the "Golden Age of Sports" in America, no athlete could match the jaw-dropping, jaw-shattering, pound-for-pound skill of middleweight Mickey Walker. For much of the decade, Walker trained in Highlands, where he put his prize money to work in various bootlegging schemes. He also owned a piece of the New York Americans NHL team. Back then, many owners were "sportsmen"-a euphemism sometimes used to describe professional gamblers.
The "Toy Bulldog" stood 5'7" and weighed between 150 and 160 pounds in his prime. Mickey defeated Jack Britton in 1922 to claim the world Welterweight title. In 1926, he won a narrow decision over Tiger Flowers to become Middleweight champion. A year earlier, Mickey had lost a championship shot against Harry Greb in a 15-round decision. Later they continued the fight in an alley after arguing about the outcome in a New York saloon!
Mickey tried to ascend to the Light Heavyweight throne in 1929, but lost to Tommy Loughran in a split decision. He often fought men well above his weight class, yet rarely lost. In bouts with opponents outweighing him by 20 pounds or more, his record was a remarkable 10 wins, 1 loss, and 2 draws. The sight of miniscule Mickey hammering heavyweights into submission made him one of the most beloved boxers of his era.
Mickey gained polish with experience, but was always known for his strength, toughness and durability. All told, his career mark was 109-22-5, with 58 wins coming by knockout. About half his fights were held in Newark or Elizabeth. Though not quite in the class of Middleweight legends Sugar Ray Robinson or Harry Greb, an argument could be made that Mickey was the "best of the rest"-a group that includes all-time greats Marcel Cerdan, Gene Fullmer, Marvin Hagler, Jake LaMotta, Dick Tiger, Felix Trinidad and Tony Zale. Mickey died in Freehold in 1981.