Saturday, January 28, 2012

Globeville Boxer, Henry Rein

"I was the welterweight champion for awhile and then I got smart and quit." 85-year-old Henry Rein reminisced. "I worked at the Rio Grande Railroad and they had a group down there who worked out in the gymnasium all the time and that’s how I got started. We used to put on boxing shows down at the yard for the folks who worked at the Rio Grande, and they taught us how to box, which is different from street fighting. 
"Gus Pappas was the guy who used to set up the matches at the carnivals and got in touch with you. He said I was his boy because I would always fight. I used to box against the carnivals — take all comers. I’d have four or five fights a night. I’d hurry and come home from the railroad and go over to the carnivals.
"I was about 17 when I went professional and we used to drive to Durango, Manassas, and Nebraska, working for a percentage of the gate. I never did make big chunks of money - $115 dollars is the most I ever made for a single fight, but that was good money those days.  I was champ from ’29 to ’34.
"I married a Globeville girl, Lydia Engleman in 1934. We met at the Frieden’s Evangelical Lutheran Church there on 45th and Lincoln and we lived in Globeville after we got married. My wife didn't mind my fighting and used to come to see me box once in awhile.
"I retired from boxing in 1939. I had a bread route for Happy Home Bakery and also hauled trash. Then I was the business agent for the Teamsters Union, Local 13 who handled highway construction. I traveled the state, checking the sites, making sure new guys joined the union and that everyone was carrying their cards and were paid up."
Henry retired from the Teamsters Union and he and Lydia moved to the new retirement complex, Windsor Gardens in 1962. Lydia passed away in 1987 and Henry in 1997.
A conversation with Henry Rein, and his daughter ReneĆ© and son-in-law Ron, in his home in June, 1996


Monday, January 9, 2012

Somebody up there likes me

In the 1956 film biography of boxer Rocky Graziano, middleweight "Cowboy" Ruben Shank is mentioned, a detail for which Shank would receive a small royalty. In his later years, Shank would appreciate the monetary gesture. 
Raised in a family of Germans who emigrated from Russia, sons Adam, Ruben and Emil Shank were all capable boxers, but it was young Ruben surprised the boxing world in 1942 when he easily won a match with Fritzie Zivic, a brawler who was noted for "thumbing" the eyes of his opponent. A win over triple-crown titleholder Henry Armstrong at the Denver Auditorium was much closer, causing some critics to complain of hometown bias. 
Shank's continued success over former champions catapulted the 20-year-old newcomer to a bout with Sugar Ray Robinson in Madison Square Garden on August 22, 1942, one of the most important competitions in Shank's career.
The underdog Shank started fast, pummeling Robinson. But Robinson came back in Round 2 to drop his opponent four times and finish him. For several years, the scrappy Globeville resident continued to challenge big-name competitors, losing twice to former middleweight champ Fred Apostoli in 1946. However, it was a match with Melvin Brown in Minneapolis that resulted in Shank's knockout loss and damage so severe that he nearly lost his life. Although he slowly recovered, the National Boxing Association ruled that Shank couldn't fight again and his manager, Chris Dundee, agreed.
Shank challenged the decree in Denver District Court and Judge Henry Lindsley ruled in 1952 that the boxer could resume his career. Armed with the ruling, the 31-year-old Shank fought  a dozen more times, possibly the cause of his labored speech during his later years.
For 28 years, he worked for the Denver Public Works Department and moonlighted at the Mile High Kennel Club. Ruben Shank passed away at age 74 in December 1995. Friend and former boxer Ray Schoeninger remembered, "Reuben was the nicest and most honest person you'd ever want to meet."

"Ex-boxer Shank Dies at 74", Denver Post, December 14, 1995. by Alan Katz.
Photo of "Cowboy" Reuben Shank with Roy Rogers, courtesy of Betty Reed.