Though the origins of the name Boxing Day have nothing to do with pugilism, today’s entry looks at early boxing matches at Robinson Auditorium.
Though the building did not open until February 1940, there were a few preview events in the lower level exhibition hall beginning in October 1939. (The construction upstairs would not be completed until January 1940.)
Wrestling was a more common sport on the lower level. But from time to time there was boxing. It appears that the first boxing matches took place on November 9, 1939.
Pine Bluff’s heavyweight Bob Sikes was the star attraction on the main card as he faced off against Chicago’s Al Globe. The two were fairly evenly matched through the first three rounds. In the fourth round, Globe sent Sikes to the mat, before the latter arose on the seventh count. (He was a bit groggy and could not name the city in which he was boxing.) Ninety seconds into the fifth round, however, Sikes delivered a knockout punch to Globe.
The warm-up bout featured Carolinian Maxie Doyle against Jimmy Merritt of Oklahoma. After the ref called the match on a TKO in favor of Doyle, the two continued to fight in the ring. It took their seconds to leave the corner and help the ref break it up. The boxers were threatened with suspension if they continued it any further.
Prior to the Doyle-Merritt bout, Bauxite’s Woody Bell edged out Young Leonard in six rounds. Charley Regan and Bobbie Lee came to a draw after their six. The first match of the evening featured two African American boxers: Little Rock’s Bill Walker, who earned a decision over North Little Rock’s Herbert Taylor.
Since the heating system was not yet operational at Robinson Auditorium, promoters for the early wrestling and boxing matches touted the fact that a temporary heating system was in place as temperatures started to drop.
Sikes was back at Robinson in another marquee match on February 9, 1940, one week before the official opening of the upstairs Music Hall. By this time permanent heating and lighting had been connected.
The headline bout was Sikes against Joe Regan of Ames, Iowa. They were scheduled for ten rounds.
Earlier fights on the card were the six-round middleweight match of Gould Nix of Willow meeting Buck Buchanan of Rogers; welterweight Doyle Venable of Dierks vs. Little Rock’s Freddie Richardson; Johnny Allen of Saint Louis meeting Woody Bell of Bauxite; and, in the first match, Kid Tobey of Hot Springs vs. Bill Walker of Little Rock. The latter was a four round bout featuring two African American boxers.
The marquee fight did not go anywhere near as long as ten rounds. Fifty-four seconds into the second round, Sikes pummeled Regan with a right to the chin, a right to the cheek and a left hook to the head. After that Regan was down for the count. Though at the eight count he did manage to turn over from his back to his stomach and remained in that position until being helped to his corner following the bell.
Earlier in the evening, Nix, Venable, and Bell all won their bouts by decisions of the judges. Walker won the curtain raiser by a knock out in the second round.
It was a capacity crowd for the boxing event at Robinson Auditorium. Tickets, which were available for purchase at Rube & Scott, Inc. men’s clothing store, ranged from 55 cents for general admission, to $1.10 for reserved seating and ringside seats of $1.65 or @2.20.