Little Rock Copper Bowl: When Chiefs (of the Police variety) were involved in football in Little Rock

Next Sunday is Super Bowl Sunday, so it seems to be a good time to remember the five year series of football games in Little Rock known as the Copper Bowl.

From December 1959 through December 1963, the Little Rock Police Department played the North Little Rock Police Department in a series of football games.  The Copper Bowl games were fundraisers to help the LRPD provide food and presents for needy families during the Christmas season.

The agreement was that the teams would play for five years. The team with the most wins would permanently receive the Copper Bowl trophy.  The LRPD was outfitted with uniforms from Little Rock University and Louisiana State University (thanks to the efforts of Sgt. Harold Zook).  The games were played at Quigley Stadium.

Before the final game on December 1, 1963, the series was tied at 2-2.  The LRPD team won the game and permanently captured the trophy.  Over the five year period several thousand dollars were raised.

80 years ago today – Basketball came to Robinson Auditorium

Coach Earl Quigley in the 1940s

While Joseph Taylor Robinson Memorial Auditorium is known today as a performance and meeting venue, in its early days it was also the home to sports. Eighty years ago tonight the first basketball game was played at Robinson.

With the renovation dropping the orchestra level down many feet, one of the basketball goals would have been approximately where the cast of Wicked is currently performing.

One of the first regular activities which took place in the lower level exhibition hall was a series of boxing and wrestling matches.  Building on the success of this, basketball came to the convention hall in January 1940.

A series of games featuring Little Rock High School and North Little Rock High School were announced by Tiger Coach Earl Quigley to take place from January 11 through February 16, the official opening day for the facility.

At that time, neither high school had a gymnasium; therefore both schools played their basketball games on their school auditorium stages with fans seated in the audience. The convention hall offered a regulation size floor (made of pecan block parquet) with seating for over 1,300 people along the sidelines and in the balcony.  The first men’s basketball game in Robinson Auditorium took place between the Little Rock High School Tigers and the North Little Rock High School Wildcats on January 11, 1940.

The Tigers lost the game before a crowd estimated to be 1,300.  Earlier in the evening there had been an exhibition between two women’s basketball teams.  The cost for admission to the games was 35 cents for the reserved seating and 25 cents for general admission.

More Boxing Day looks at the sport of Boxing in LR. This time at Robinson Auditorium.

Boxer Al Globe lays in the ring after being knocked down by Bob Sikes in this GAZETTE staff photo

Boxer Al Globe lays in the ring after being knocked down by Bob Sikes in this GAZETTE staff photo

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.

Boxer Bob Sikes, GAZETTE staffer Lou MacDuff and boxer Joe Regan in a GAZETTE staff photo

Boxer Bob Sikes, GAZETTE staffer Lou MacDuff and boxer Joe Regan in a GAZETTE staff photo

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.