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Friday, July 22, 2011

THE WAY TO LIVE - (Circa 1908) - The Story Of My Life - Part 6 - By George Hackenschmidt

At the end of July Koch and I left England for the Continent and engaged in tournaments at Brussels, Liege, Namur and other places, in all of which I won the first prize, Koch generally succeeding in winning the second.

I then went back to England in order to wrestle a match with the renowned veteran, Tom Cannon. This took place on September 27, 1902, at Liverpool, and lasted thirty-three minutes. The English champion, though now somewhat of a veteran, had had a very wide and exceptionable experience, and was able to bring into play some very skilful, if somewhat painful, moves, which he had picked up from Turkish wrestlers. I managed, however, to secure a hammerlock and Cannon succumbed.

Not satisfied with this result, Cannon, after staying out a fifteen minute "limit" contest, made another match "to a finish" with me, which I won fairly easily.

This success, though not a very arduous one for me, was generally regarded as a great feather in my cap, and I received a number of excellent engagements to wrestle in England and Scotland in consequence.

I entered my name for the Gold Belt contest in Paris (November 1902), but they sought to impose a number of peddling counter proposals, to which I could not see my way to consent, a result which seemed to be highly acceptable to the Paris authorities, as it was apparently intended that the favourite, Pons, whom I had already thrice defeated, should win. I did not regret this, as Pons is a first-rate man.

After this I toured all over England, being successful against every wrestler who accepted my challenge to all comers.

In 1903 I met and defeated the following wrestlers: Tom Cannon, Tom Connors, Tom MacInerney and Tom Clayton. I threw all of them, but was unfortunately laid up with an attack of rheumatism brought on by the damp climate of Glasgow, which prevented my taking part in the contest for the Championship of the World in Paris. In this contest Pedersen was first and Raoul le Boucher second, both of whom I had previously defeated.

Owing to the fact that the "Catch-as-catch-can" style of wrestling is the more usual and favorite method in England, I was frequently obliged to wrestle with my opponents in this method, but, thanks to my strength and presence of mind, I always came off the conqueror. I very often trained specially for this style with Jack Smith of Manchester, a very clever wrestler.

In September 1903, I wrestled with Bech Olsen, who had, however, no claims to be considered a first-class wrestler. The contest, however, came to an unsatisfactory termination, as, owing to an accident to my ankle, the match had to be discontinued.

On the strength of this, Antonio Pieri, "the terrible Greek," challenged me to wrestle with him, hoping that I would fall an easy victim. The match came off about the middle of October at the oxford Music Hall, in London, and I threw this very experienced and--in spite of his years--very dangerous adversary, in twenty-five minutes. Pieri challenged me to a return match to be decided by one fall under Graeco-Roman, and one under "Catch-as-catch-can" rules. We met on November 21, and in the first bout (Graeco-Roman) I beat him in 17 min. 11 sec. by means of a "half-nelson," and in the second bout, which followed immediately after, in "Catch-as-catch-can" style, I threw him in 15 min. 25 sec.

Smarting under his defeat, Pieri set himself to work to unearth a wrestler who could beat me. And before very long he introduced to the British public a Turk named Ahmed Madrali, a man of gigantic strength, who was boomed in every possible manner, as being a better man than myself. At first I paid but little attention to these attacks, as I had a great many excellent engagements in London and in many other large English towns, where I defeated everyone who came into the ring against me. At last, however, I took up his challenge, and we met on January 30, 1904, at Olympia in London, the winning of two falls out of three to decide the match, the Turk being 6 ft 1 in. In height and weighing 16 st. A huge audience had assembled when the Turk entered the ring with Antonio Pieri, whilst I was accompanied by Koch. The contest, as will be remembered, was a very brief one, as on Madrali making a move for my waist, I dashed in and lifting him off his feet, threw him on to his shoulders. Unfortunately, he fell on his arm, and, as this was dislocated, he was unable to continue the contest, but luckily was able to begin wrestling again three months later.

This victory raised my reputation to its zenith, and since that time I do not think that I have had a wrestling rival in the affections or esteem of the British public.

There is no need for me to enter into any description of the troubles, legal or otherwise, connected with my next big encounter. They were far from being pleasant to either Jenkins or myself, but since neither of us wished to disappoint the public, we readily agreed to the final makeshift arrangements and met on the mat before 6,000 people at the Albert Hall on July 2, 1904. I early on succeeded in getting "behind" the American champion, but after a five minutes' struggle he succeeded in breaking loose. Three times afterwards I threw him on the mat, but he managed to wriggle out of a fall. Jenkins struggled hard and displayed very good defensive tactics, but was forced finally to succumb to a "half-nelson" after 20 min. 37 sec. wrestling. After fifteen minutes' interval Jenkins opened the second bout with an aggressive movement, and for some little time we had a stand-up struggle. Again we went to the mat, where, in spite of his utmost efforts, I finally managed to pin him out after 14 min. 27 sec.

The Sportsman report of this match read as follows:

"It was ten o'clock before the rivals appeared on the platform. By this time the spectators were in a high state of enthusiasm and gave the men a ringing cheer. Taking stock of the two men it was clear that Hackenschmidt had the advantage, physically speaking, at every turn. He looked a stone and a half heavier, deeper and more solid about the chest, more firmly set on the limbs, and to have nearly twice the muscular development of the man. Jenkins is a strongly-built man, but he did not appear half so fit as his opponent, carrying too much flesh. For all that, he made a creditable show, and gave on the impression of being a man of real grit, resource and stamina. "When the men got to grips, Hackenschmidt attacked in decisive style, and twice just missed with the flying mare. In less than three minutes he fixed his rival in a cruel body grip and swung him over on to the stage. Jenkins endeavoured to spring forward on to his feet, but Hackenschmidt's arms shot out like lightning, and he pulled his man down with the greatest ease. The American defended very cleverly, and, failing to find an opening for an arm-hold, the Russian picked his opponent up with the intention of pitching him over his back. Jenkins smartly eluded his grip, and after six minutes both were on their feet. Hackenschmidt was forcing the pace at a terrific rate, and three times lifted his man up and brought him to the boards with a magnificent display of strength, but it availed nothing against the American's skilful defence. Again Hackenschmidt attempted the flying mare, but his hand slipped on his opponent's neck, and like a flash Jenkins gripped the Russian by the waist and had him down. The wrestling was now more even, and each man attacked in turn. The strength and science which the challenger exhibited were a complete revelation, and he kept his opponent at bay without much difficulty. When a quarter of an hour had gone, Hackenschmidt rushed in and swung Jenkins bodily round the stage, describing three circles before he threw him to the boards, but the American once more eluded his grip like an eel. Then the Russian braced himself for a big effort. Twice he twisted Jenkins over on to one shoulder, and just as promptly did Jenkins, with a mighty contraction of his neck and shoulder muscles, snap the holds. At this point Jenkins mysteriously weakened. Hackenschmidt bore down on him with the power of a Hercules, and with a pedal action similar to a man pushing a heavy roller up a hill, forced his man over on his back, and with an irresistible 'half-nelson' gained the first fall in 20 min. 37 sec.

"In the second bout Hackenschmidt did most of the attacking, but Jenkins again put up a wonderfully plucky and skilful defence. Once the latter forgot himself and the rules by employing the leg-hold, but Hackenschmidt appeared quite unruffled by an act which ought to have been penalized by disqualification. Minute after minute sped by, but Jenkins could put on nothing more dangerous than a back-of-the-neck hold in answer to the Russian's arm-hold. Then Hackenschmidt brought the 'half-nelson' into play, but when Jenkins seemed in hopeless plight he extricated himself by a magnificent feat of wrestling, subtlety that evoked a tremendous storm of cheering. It proved his last expiring effort, however, for before he had quite recovered from the exhaustion which the struggle had engendered, the Russian had cleverly slipped on a second 'half-nelson,' and Jenkins was placed squarely on his shoulders in 14 min. 27 sec. Jenkins is to be congratulated on his plucky fight and his fine display of wrestling. The cheer which he received after his defeat was quite as hearty as that accorded Hackenschmidt."

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