Feb 10, 2018

Les Darcy, the Australian Boxer and Folk Hero

In the U.S. we may not have heard of Les Darcy, but in Australia he's a national hero. His story has been told in books, magazines, and tv programs.  A biography, The Ballad of Les Darcy, by Peter Fitzsimons, "Australia's leading non-fiction writer," is being made into a movie starring former teen star Zachary Garred.  There's an opera, The Flight of Les Darcy.

Born on October 31st, 1895,near Maitland, New South Wales, Darcy had to leave school at an early age to help support his family (his father was a day-laborer, often unemployed, and he had eight brothers and sisters, one handicapped).  He was apprenticed to a blacksmith, but began boxing at age 14, and soon was winning every competition.  He won 22 consecutive fight - during his entire career, he lost only four. 

By the age of 18 he was making a good living with a combination of fights, exhibition matches, and starring in a film.  Soon became the World Heavyweight Champion.

In October 1916, at the start of World War I, Darcy was pressured to enlist in the army, but instead he chose to move to America(passports were being denied to men of draft age, so he stowed away on a ship).  He claimed that he was only interested in continuing his boxing career so he could help support hs family back home, but he was condemned in the press as a coward and "shirker," Australian for "draft-dodger."

His fights in America were cancelled; he did some exhibition matches, then decided to become an American citizen so he could enlist in the American army.  But before he had the chance, he was hospitalized with septicaemia and endocarditis.  He died on May 24, 1917, at the age of 21.

He had funeral processions in San Francisco, Sydney (where 125,000 people lined the streets), and in his home town of Maitland.

There are memorials to Les Darcy all over Maitland today, including this life-sized statue, unveilled in 2000.

I see that the sculptor kept his physique intact.

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