Packey Langford  
Author:  Paul Hindley

Packey McFarland grew up in the rough and tumble stockyards area of Chicago. As a handsome but slight child Packey was an obvious target for local toughs and he quickly learned the best way to end the taunts was through his fists. When Packey was sent out to work at the age of 16 in a local boiler shop, his reputation with his fists had preceded him and it was not long before a fight was arranged between Packey and the factory ‘champion’. So impressive was Packey in flattening his fellow worker that it was enough to convince his boss there was a career to be made by Packey and he sent him along to Harry Gilmore’s gym for training as a boxer.
In a short time Packey had cut a swathe through the local amateur competition and in 1904 he turned pro at the tender age of 16. Whilst Packey won most of his early fights (limited to four or six rounds due to state laws) his only two losses during this period were to Patsy O’Brien in which McFarland was knocked out and in a five round decision to Dusty Miller. Unbelievably Packey was to fight on for another 11 years and these two losses remained the only two official losses he was ever to record.
Whilst Packey beat some good fighters over the next couple of years such as Kid Herman, Kid Goodman and Bert Yanger his breakout win was to come in 1908 when he was matched with the great Freddie Welsh who many considered the uncrowned lightweight champion of the world. Despite Welsh being a heavy favourite Packey won comfortably over ten rounds. To prove the win was no fluke the pair were rematched over 25 rounds and whilst a draw was the official verdict most observers felt this very generous to Freddie. If this form was not impressive enough in itself in between the two Welsh fights Packey also found time to knock out former lightweight champion Jimmy Britt, all told not too shabby for a kid still barely 20 years old!
Packey's good form carried through into 1909 and 1910 although these were not especially active years for him. Perhaps the standout fight in this period was yet another match up with Welsh, this time at the National Sporting Club in London. In an echo of their previous fight most observers had Packey winning all the way only for Welsh to receive a draw, however to give some idea of how bad a decision this was shortly after the fight the referee was declared insane and committed to a mental asylum.
1911 was a far more active year for Packey and wins during this period against the likes of Owen Moran, Young Erne and a draw with the excellent Jack Britton confirmed McFarland as the genuine article. Around this period and through 1912 Packey was to make countless offers to the lightweight champions such as Welsh, Battling Nelson and Ad Wolgast. However Packey had a problem, his weight, whilst he could make the lightweight limit of the time, 133, it was a struggle and the champions were well aware of Packey’s struggles and so tended to insist on longer duration fights such as fights over 45 rounds or to the finish even adding the caveat that Packey weighed in on the limit at ringside which was normally enough to ensure a title defence against Packey could be avoided.
When faced with such frustrations Packey did what he always tended to do, he travelled the country beating the best lightweights he could again including a fight with rival and former champion Jack Britton. McFarland had previously drawn with Britton in Memphis, subsequent to this Britton’s manager had spent his time telling anyone who would listen Jack had deserved the nod in that fight. Upon hearing that Packey instructed his manager to make a second fight with Britton and this time he left nothing to doubt beating the former champion with something to spare.
Packey carried on fighting through 1913 before calling it a day on the back of one final fight with Britton in which he was even more convincing a winner than any time previously. Packey was to stay retired for less than two years because in 1915 he received an offer of $17,500 for a fight against Mike Gibbons who also features on our list. Packey had never drank or smoked and as he tended to live cleanly getting himself back into action was not too much trouble, however in an interesting indication of how hard Packey must have struggled with his weight earlier in his career in this fight he weighed 154.. The fight in itself was something of a chess match, Gibbons was a little flat having agreed to come in at 147 and McFarland had enough respect for Mike’s abilities to not take too many chances. Newpapers were split on who deserved the nod with Packey perhaps having the edge slightly but it mattered little, in even competing with a fighter as great as Gibbons after a two year hiatus Packey had proved, were any further proof needed, his greatness.