Mike Gibbons  
Author:  Paul Hindley

Mike Gibbons was born in St Pauls Minnesota in 1887. At age 15 he joined his local YMCA and began to learn to box under former pro George Barton. In fairly quick time Mike fast established himself as Barton’s star pupil whipping anyone in the stable or locality in and around his weight. So impressive and rapid was Mike’s progress that when lightweight legend Joe Gans visited the area on a vaudeville engagement Mike was selected to spar with him, Gans was impressed enough with Mike’s ability to tip him for great things as did Gans’ rival Battling Nelson who Mike also sparred on a similar visit to the city.

By 1907 Mike had cleared out his local amateur rivals and his turn over to the pro game was inevitable. His first couple of years as a pro saw him continue his amateur form winning pretty much as he pleased against local opposition, his first loss was not until he met the man many considered the welterweight champion of the world Jimmy Clabby in a fight where Jimmy knew too much for Mike giving him a sound beating. In 1910 tragedy struck boxing when the middleweight champion Stanley Ketchel was shot and killed. Mike was in the mix to challenge for the newly vacant title. In order to challenge for this title he knew he needed to get past Clabby and got his chance in September 1911, the improvement in Gibbons was clear when he got a well-deserved draw with Clabby. On the back of this the two fighters were matched again and Mike finally got the nod over his rival taking a clear decision over Jimmy in what many considered his best performance to date.

Finally getting the better of Clabby appears to have convinced Mike he could make something of the boxing game and it was at this point he quit his job as a sheet metal worker to box full time, on the back of this he also relocated to New York to try his luck in the capital of boxing in the States. Mike split his time in this period between fighting in New York and Philadelphia and whilst the level of opposition varied Mike’s form didn’t with him winning everything normally in good style. Mike’s next win of note was against former middleweight title claimant Jeff Smith who Mike outboxed in decent fashion.
A couple of fights after this Mike fought future champion Eddie McGoorty and despite a 10lb weight disadvantage Gibbons secured a draw, although it should be noted many felt this was kind to him. Mike rebounded in fine style though ko’ing the heavily touted Bob McAllister as well as decent contenders Al McCoy and Soldier Bartfield. If one was to try and identify Mike’s peak this period between 1914 and 17 would probably be it. His wins during this era reads like a veritable who’s who of the middle and light heavyweight divisions of the era containing as it does the likes of McGoorty, Smith, Clabby, Jack Dillon, George Chip, Ted Kid Lewis, Leo Houck and the immortal Harry Greb. In fact the only setback in this era was a fortunate ten round draw against the great Packey McFarland where Mike agreed, perhaps foolishly, to weigh in at 147 leaving him severely drained.

Mike’s career was interrupted at this point by the First World War where Gibbons served as an instructor, however on completing his service Mike resumed his career mixing again with many of the guys he had tussled with before such as Greb, Chip and Smith. At this time the middleweight champion was Mike O’Dowd who had earned his title in knocking out Al McCoy. Mike did manage to secure a fight with O’Dowd in what is often billed as a title shot, however as the fight was held in Minnesota where decisions were not allowed this perhaps could not and should not be considered a title challenge, although it was unfortunately as close as Mike ever got and in it he held his own with O’Dowd in a close and well fought battle.

Unlike so many fighters at the time Mike has invested his money well and on the back of the O’Dowd fight retired. However when O’Dowd dropped his title to Johnny Wilson Gibbons decided he had the beating off Wilson and resumed his career. Despite his retirement lasting well over a year it was not long before Mike was back in the groove and back beating fighters of the calibre of McGoorty, Jeff Smith and the teak tough Chuck Wiggins. However as happens to all fighters father time was catching up with Mike and he was dropped in back to back fights against Happy Lippleton and Tommy Robson, these fights were for all intents to signal the end for Mike, although he fought on a little while this was mainly to satisfy commitments he had already made than any ambition to get back into the title picture and Mike wisely called it a day in 1922 with a brilliant record of only 9 losses from 133 fights and the distinction of being one of the finest middleweights ever.