His name was Mike Farragher and as far as local author Craig Snyder can tell, he was the Mahoning Valley’s first professional boxer.
Snyder, a 1983 graduate of Canfield High School, is a former professional boxer and local Golden Gloves champion who got interested during his fighting days in the history of Valley boxers.
For the past 10 years, Snyder’s interest has left no website untouched nor boxing book unscanned, especially in regards to those with a tie to the tri-county area.
“Out of that research, one thing just led to another and things started to fall into place for me,” said Snyder, who went 22-8 with 13 KOs as a light middleweight from 1986-89. “Ten years later, I am almost done with both my research and biographies on each fighter that I’ve researched and been able to verify. It really has been a labor of love and a project that I am happy I started.”
Snyder said he started the project with plenty of material and it just kept escalating.
“I told myself that with all of the information available, I had better take my time and do this right,” he said. “When I made that commitment, that’s when it all exploded and my research really took off.”
Snyder’s research has yielded 521 fighters, trainers and managers who have called Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties their home.
“You have to remember that back in the day, Warren fighters came through the Youngstown Golden Gloves system,” he said. “Now, everyone goes through Cleveland. When I fought in the Golden Gloves the fights were held at the Struthers Fieldhouse and there would be between 30-50 fights a night, five nights a week.
“The Fieldhouse rocked, was always packed and it truly was a boxing mecca.”
Farrragher was a Youngstown native who made his pro debut on Dec. 28, 1891. He went 14-12-12 before calling it quits on Feb. 26, 1912. Nine other Valley fighters fought professionally prior to the turn of the century.
According to Snyder, the first area native to fight at the turn of the century was Pat Farragher, a lightweight who fought to a draw against Lawrence Lutz of Beaver Falls, Pa., in his only professional pairing.
The area has produced six world champions overall, but Snyder said there’s been a myriad of local boxers who have earned regional or lesser known belts.
Jimmy ‘The Fighting Welshman’ Jones was the Valley’s first world champion, earning the New York State Athletic Commission welterweight title when he defeated Dave Shade of Boston on July 27, 1923.
“Back then, the NYSAC was the only body that sanctioned world title fights,” Snyder said. “When you add Ray ‘Boom Boom’ Mancini, Harry Arroyo, Jeff Lampkin, Greg Richardson and Kelly Pavlik to that list, our area is well-represented on the national boxing stage.”
When the boxing world viewed and recognized fighters of color on a separate stage, it was a Youngstown boxer the world couldn’t help but hail.
Lightweight ‘Nubby’ Joe Gans (21-5-3) was nicknamed so because he had no fingers on his left hand. He was tabbed as the “colored lightweight champion of the world” when he defeated Young Lawrence of Charleston, W.Va. on Nov. 7, 1921.
“In my research, it was verified that Gains packed one powerful punch,” Snyder said.
Also catching Snyder’s attention was Ralph Citro (1926-2004), a boxing archivist, historian and Youngstown native who began training boxers and eventually became a cutman who served in the corner for more than 125 world championship fights.
Snyder, whose father-in-law, Bob Whited contributed by writing a history of Youngstown for inclusion in the publication, is still seeking a publisher and has even thought about self-publishing, hoping it can hit bookshelves early next year.
Like most authors, his only worry is that his research might never make it to a bound volume.
Anyone wishing to share information they might have on a local boxer can contact Snyder at email@example.com.
Greg Gulas writes about boxing and other combat sports for The Vindicator. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.