When Ted Jamieson Fought Harry Greb

BY Pete Ehrmann ON May 24, 2006
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When Ted Jamieson died on September 18, 1969, his obituary in The Milwaukee Journal noted that he had been U.S. amateur light heavyweight champion, had fought Gene Tunney and Tommy Gibbons, and had a long career as a boxing referee.

But not mentioned at all was the highlight of the local boxer's ring career: When Jamieson knocked out Harry Greb in the first round.

Don't rupture yourself rushing to look it up in the record book. What you'll find is that Jamieson and the man many consider the most vicious and fearsome fighter in ring history met twice in late 1920. Their first fight was a 10-round no-decision contest. Three weeks later, Greb stopped Jamieson in six rounds.

But to his dying day Jamieson insisted that in the first fight he had the great Greb on the canvas for more than 10 seconds in the opening round.

The circumstances of the fight make it conceivable that Jamieson was correct, and should have been credited with one of the biggest upsets in boxing history.

Born in Scotland, Ted Jamieson was three years old when he moved with his parents to Milwaukee in 1898. He won the Amateur Athletic Association 175-pound title in 1917, beating John Gaddi and breaking his right hand in the process. That same month, the United States entered World War I, and 19-year-old Jamieson enlisted in the U.S. Army the following July. He was sent to Camp MacArthur, in Waco, Texas, where he fought another Wisconsinite, Sailor Glenn Clickner, for the 32nd Division light heavyweight title. The latter was a pro, but there was no differentiation in military competition. “He knocked me down 11 times in the sixth and seventh rounds before the bout was stopped,” Jamieson recollected years later. “I was up and down so often I thought I was a bouncing rubber ball.”

Eventually sent to France, Jamieson had several fights overseas. At Pershing Stadium in Paris, he lost a 10-round decision to U.S. Marine and future world heavyweight champion Gene Tunney on April 26, 1919, for the 175-pound championship of the American Expeditionary Forces. In his autobiography, “A Man Must Fight,” Tunney recalled Jamieson as “a fairly clever, good-hitting, canny fighter,” and said of their fight, “Had I not decided to throw my right hand regardless of pain, as well as the left, I would have lost the decision. The contest was rather even up to the tenth round, when I knocked him down with a left hook.”

When he turned pro after the war, Jamieson’s first fight was a 10-round main event in Milwaukee against Caveman Bob Moha, veteran of over 100 pro bouts. “Many are of the opinion that Ted should have selected someone a trifle more green for his pro debut,” noted the Milwaukee Sentinel. “Moha knows about as much about the game as any mauler engaged in the profession.” But Jamieson was undaunted stepping through the ropes at the Empress Theater on January 10, 1920. For one thing, reported the Sentinel, he had on the boxing shoes that Jack Dempsey wore when Dempsey knocked out Jess Willard for the heavyweight title the previous July 4. “Jamieson was presented with the ‘steppers’ shortly after the struggle and as Ted is one of these ‘you can never tell’ fellows he thinks the leathers will aid him in taking the Caveman’s measure...”

But it was the leather Jamieson made Moha eat that impressed observers of the fight. A “superb exhibition of bull-like fighting,” said The Milwaukee Journal of Jamieson’s effort. The paper called the bout a draw and predicted a bright future for Jamieson.

Jamieson won several bouts over the ensuing couple months, and then was knocked out by Bob Martin (who’d won the AEF heavyweight title, and outweighed Jamieson by 28 pounds) in six rounds. Jamieson went down 13 times, and impressed the spectators by getting up every time.

After he won a newspaper decision over Bob Roper on June 17, 1920, Jamieson spent the summer as a lifeguard on a Milwaukee beach.

On Thursday, August 26, both The Milwaukee Journal and Sentinel reported that Jamieson had departed for Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he was scheduled to fight heavyweight Chuck Wiggins the next night.

That fight never happened, and on Saturday morning the Sentinel reported that Jamieson was fighting that night instead. But not Wiggins. “The Grand Rapids promoter has substituted Harry Griet,” wrote Chet Koeppel. “We never heard of a fighter by that name. It is not Harry Greb, as we imagined when informed of the change. Greb is now at Benton Harbor (Michigan) assisting Jack Dempsey in his training for his bout with Billy Miske of St. Paul on Labor Day.”

It was, in fact, Greb, regarded as one of the best middleweights in the world, with almost 200 professional bouts on his resume. Jamieson had nine.

It’s safe to assume that Greb filled in for Wiggins as a favor to promoter E.W. Dickerson, who was sports editor of the newspaper in Grand Rapids and also served as referee of the bout. Greb later claimed that he was told in his dressing room before the fight, “The house is small. Take things easy – Jamieson is a green boy.”

After the opening bell it was Greb who looked pretty green when Jamieson whacked him with a right to the chops that knocked “The Human Windmill” to the canvas for the first time since Joe Chip had done it six years earlier. According to The Milwaukee Journal, Greb was down for a five count; the Milwaukee Sentinel said it was four.

Jamieson’s version was that Dickerson, almost as stupefied by the knockdown as Greb, didn’t even start counting until four or five seconds had passed. That was corroborated in The Milwaukee Journal of September 16, which reported that “Milwaukee fans who attended the Michigan bout aver that Jamieson probably would have recorded a KO over Greb had the referee started the fatal count as Greb collided with the boards. The knockdown came so suddenly and proved such a surprise that the third gent in the enclosure permitted about five seconds to elapse before uttering ‘one.’”

In any event, when Greb got up the fight continued. According to the Sentinel’s Chet Koeppel, “For the next two rounds Ted battered Greb around the ring. After the third round, Greb fought like a demon, using all his ring generalship, and he just barely managed to even up matters.”

Journal boxing writer Tom Andrews quoted from the Grand Rapids Herald:

“Jamieson was not conceded any chance to hold Greb even, but he did more and the Pittsburgher was lucky to get a draw. It was 100 to 1 against Ted, but the way he slammed Harry in the first was a shame. The knockdown made Greb see stars and had he not been in the best of shape he would not have responded at the call of 10.”

This much is certain: Greb was royally pissed. He took it out first on heavyweight champion Dempsey, whacking Jack around the ring in their headline-making sparring sessions. “Dempsey could do little with the speedy light heavyweight, while Greb seemed to be able to hit Dempsey almost at will,” reported the Sentinel on September 2. “Time and again, Greb made the champion miss with his famous right and left hooks to the head and countered with heavy swings to the head and body. Greb was a veritable whirlwind.”

Dempsey KO’d Miske in three (“Everybody agreed that Harry would have been a more suitable opponent for Dempsey” wrote Koeppel) and on September 10, Greb signed to fight Jamieson again on the 22nd. His manager, Jimmy Mason, turned down other good matches to get Jamieson again because Greb demanded another shot at the man his own manager said “gave Harry the battle of his life at Grand Rapids.”

The rematch was in Milwaukee, and the morning of the fight Greb was standing outside his hotel with Journal boxing writer Sam Levy. They spotted Jamieson taking a walk. “He’d better do a lot of walking,” growled Greb ominously. “He’ll need it. Tonight he will be doomed.”

In his account of the fight the next day, Levy wrote: “From the first bell to the last, the visiting giant killer mauled, punched and smiled, much to Jamieson’s chagrin ... At no time was there any doubt as to who would win.”

The Milwaukee fighter quit after the sixth round, claiming an injury to his right thumb. A subsequent x-ray disclosed a fracture, but an editorial in the Sentinel on September 26 nailed it: “...While a broken thumb served as a plausible excuse for stopping the fight, the fact is that with full possession of all his members Jamieson could not have whipped his opponent with the added prestige of a sledge hammer.”

While losing to Harry Greb was hardly a disgrace, Milwaukee boxing fans resented Jamieson’s surrender and he was never again popular in his own hometown. Jamieson got a draw with ancient Sam Langford, and while the record book says he lost to Tiger Flowers, who beat Greb for the middleweight title in 1926, at least one newspaper account says Jamieson won. He quit boxing in 1925 after consecutive stoppages by Tommy Gibbons and Young Stribling.

For 28 years, Jamieson was a top referee in Milwaukee. That ended after he was booed out of the ring after stopping a 1953 fight between heavyweights Dan Bucceroni and Wes Bascom sooner than the fans thought he should have. Jamieson turned in his referee’s license and spent the rest of his working days manning the cash register at his downtown restaurant. “This thing,” he told a reporter, “sounds a lot better than boos, so I’ll just stay behind it.”

Jamieson was 74 when he died, taking to his grave the answers to two confounding questions: Who was “Harry Griet?” And, whatever happened to Jack Dempsey’s shoes?

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