Michael J. Gibbons

(The "St. Paul Phantom")


Tale of the Tape 

Born: 20 July 1887
Birth Place: St. Paul, Minnesota
Died: 31 August 1956
Height: 5' 9"
Weight: 145 to 162 3/4 pounds
Race: White; Irish-American
Manager: Eddy Reddy & George Barton


Indisputably, Gibbons was a great defensive fighter, mainly because of his tremendous footwork;


Mike Gibbons



     Alhough he never became a champion, Mike Gibbons is considered by many boxing historians to be one of the top ten Welterwights/Middleweights of all time.  Gibbons learned to box at the YMCA in his native St. Paul. He turned professional at the age of nineteen with a third-round knockout of Roy Moore and was unbeaten in his first fourteen fights before losing a decision to Jimmy Clabby. Indisputably, Gibbons was a great defensive fighter, mainly because of his tremendous footwork.  A footwork wizard who could wear an opponent out with his defensive maneuvers, Gibbons could punch hard, too. As a young fighter, he built a reputation that put him in line for the middleweight championship.
     In 1912, the middleweight division had no recognized champion. More than half a dozen fighters, including Gibbons and Eddie McGoorty, claimed a right to the title. Gibbons signed to fight McGoorty with the winner to be declared champion. The heavier McGoorty was the favorite by far, and Gibbons employed his ring choreography not to beat McGoorty but to keep him from winning. Gibbons constantly backpedaled and put on a great display of footwork but he did not really fight. The newspapers awarded McGoorty the decision, but the fight's lack of action kept him from gaining general acclaim as the titleholder. Asked by a reporter why he had not fought more vigorously, Gibbons replied, "Because you and every other writer said that McGoorty would beat me, simply because he was ten pounds heavier than me. I decided to prove you were wrong, and that he couldn't lay a glove on me. And he didn't. That's all I cared about."
     Gibbons continued to fight successfully after the McGoorty fight, and proved his mettle in a 1916 match with Hall of Famer Jack Dillon. At the time, Dillon was reputed to have the best punch in all of boxing. For ten rounds, Gibbon's eluded Dillon's attack and countered beautifully when Dillon missed him. Gibbons won every round of the fight, according to those at ringside.
    Gibbons fought for another six years, taking on Harry Greb, among others. Even the blurringly fast Greb was confused by Gibbons, by then known as the "Phantom of St. Paul." Greb shouted to his manager, "From now on, match me with one guy at a time."

     Though ranked by Ring magazine as one of the top ten middleweights of all time, Gibbons never got a title fight. Originally a wrestler, he switched to professional boxing in 1908. He won his first 12 of his first 13 fights, with 1 draw, and claimed the middleweight championship after Stanley Ketchel died in 1910, but wasn't recognized as champion.


Mike and Tommy Gibbons in a sparring match while stationed at Camp Dodge, Iowa


       Because of eye damage suffered in the ring, Gibbons retired in 1922. He later operated a gym, managed some fighters, and promoted bouts. Gibbons also served on the Minnesota Boxing Commission. Gibbons had 62 victories, 38 of them by knockout. He lost only 3 decisions, and he also had 4 draws and 58 no-decisions.


-source: Iowa Chronicles of the World War, Edited by Benjamin F. Shambaugh. WELFARE WORK In IOWA, by Marcus L. Hansen.  Published at Iowa City in 1921 by The State Historical Society of Iowa. Page 96-97.