Steele v. Strangler

Time – December 12, 1932

Two of the ugliest professional athletes in the U. S. last week crawled through the ropes of a ring at Madison Square Garden. One was blubbery Ed (“Strangler”) Lewis, recognized by the New York State Athletic Commission as the heavyweight wrestling champion of the world. The other was crook-nosed Ray Steele, whose challenge the Commission had ordered Lewis to accept.

Half an hour later, Referee Eddie Forbes raised Lewis’s shaggy right hand, pronounced him still champion. Referee Forbes’s announcement was inaudible in the loudest, most prolonged booing (20 minutes) that has ever occurred in Madison Square Garden. The bout had not ended in a fall. Instead, after stumbling about the ring with their heads locked like two foolishly embattled elks, Lewis and Steele separated, glared, grunted. Steele whacked Lewis on the face with the back of his hand. Referee Forbes warned him to refrain. Steele whacked Lewis three times more. Instead of disqualifying Steele, Referee Forbes warned him again. A wrestler who had helped Lewis train for the match, lop-eared John Evko, climbed into the ring in his bathrobe, whacked Challenger Steele. Referee Forbes tried unsuccessfully to push Wrestler Evko out of the ring, then awarded the bout to Lewis on a foul. A disgruntled spectator slapped Promoter Jack Curley on the nose. Members of the New York State Athletic Commission prepared to investigate the bout.

The wrestling exhibition—in New York State it is improper to advertise wrestling as a contest—between Lewis and Steele was the result of a peculiar situation. Three years ago there were two claimants to the heavyweight wrestling championship of the world. Instead of wrestling each other, each continued to claim his championship, defend it against minor opponents. Christopher Theophilus (Jim Londos), recognized as champion in New York State, made the most money, in matches arranged for him by promoter Jack Curley. Ed (“Strangler”) Lewis, recognized as champion outside New York State, finally lost his title on a foul to Canadian Henri De Glane. He then began persistently to challenge Champion Londos. Last summer, the New York State Athletic Commission ordered Champion Londos to wrestle Champion Lewis. When Champion Londos failed to obey, the Commission awarded his title to Champion Lewis on condition that Champion Lewis defend it first against fat Jack Sherry of Alaska, next against lumbering Ray Steele. By defeating Steele last week, Strangler Lewis became positively the only world’s wrestling champion in the U. S.

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