“Jimmy Doyle” – James Emerson Delaney – 1924-1947
On March 11, 1946, an up and coming twenty-one-year old welterweight boxer from Los Angeles who went by the name of Jimmy Doyle stepped into the Arena ring in Cleveland to face Artie Levine, one of the top middleweights in the world. Though he came out on top in the first eight rounds, after going down for a third time in the ninth round, the referee stopped the fight. Doyle went to Saint Vincent’s Hospital where he spent three days recovering from a concussion and brain hemorrhage.
Jimmy Doyle went home to Los Angeles noticeably different; he did not go out dancing or seem to jet about the house – where he lived with his father, mother, three brothers and sister – with the same gusto. After nine months, he was determined to get back into the ring. He easily won his first five fights, earning a chance to face “Sugar Ray” Robinson for the Welterweight Champion of the World.
Doyle had his eyes set on going into business in California, training new boxers, and buying a new home for his mother. Though encouraged by some not to get into the ring, but that he did on June 24, 1947, once again at the Arena in Cleveland.
In the sixth round, with Doyle showing promise, Sugar Ray gave one left hook which sent Jimmy Doyle rigidly back onto the canvas. Doyle was taken to the same hospital as before, although despite an operation and treatment, he never regained consciousness and died early on June 25, 1947.
The twenty-two-year-old fighter had an impressive record – out of fifty-three fights, he had forty-three wins, seven losses, and three draws. The gone-too-soon boxing great has inspired a cult following among historians of the sport and those fans old enough to remember him. Many have called him the “Greatest Fighter on the Coast.”
What many, including at least two Sugar Ray biographers and apparently Sugar Ray himself according to a posthumously-published autobiography, did not know was that Jimmy Doyle was not Irish but in fact a colored Creole from a New Orleans family.
Born James Emerson Delaney in Los Angeles on August 12, 1924, “Jimmy Doyle,” was the son of Edward (originally Edouard) Delaney and Marie Elodie Barret, both from New Orleans, who moved to Los Angeles shortly after their marriage in 1921. Jimmy’s father was born in 1886 to Joseph Georges Delaney and Elodie Landry, part of a French-speaking family of colored Creoles who hailed from the upper Bayou Lafourche country. The boxer Jimmy Doyle’s great-grandparents, perhaps not unlike Sugar Ray’s, had been slaves.
Sugar Ray Robinson had a premonition the night before that he would render a fatal blow to Jimmy. He tried to get out of the fight. After it was over, he rushed to the hospital just as the priest was giving Jimmy the Last Rites. Sugar Ray contributed the earnings from his several fights to Jimmy Doyle’s family and ensured that his mother received fifty dollars a month for ten years.
The death of James Delaney – “Jimmy Doyle” was the first death in a championship fight in modern American boxing history.
Photo Source: www.myspace.com/jimmydoyle
Source: 1900 Federal Census, Orleans Parish; 1910 Federal Census, Los Angeles; Baptismal Register of Annunciation Church, New Orleans.