|The "Golden Smile" of Tiger Flowers
after defeating Harry Greb.
Theo Flowers justly earned the nickname...
When "Tiger" Flowers scored his stunning upset victory over Harry Greb on February 26,
1926, to become middleweight champion of the world, he was not only the first American
Negro boxer to win a title, but the first since the reign of Jack Johnson to even challenge for a
championship. During the eleven years following Johnson's loss to Jess Willard there had been
an "unwritten" law allowing the champions to bypass black fighters.
Battling Siki had won the lightheavyweight title from Georges Carpentier in France and lost it to
Mike McTigue in Ireland, but Siki—although he finished his career and his life in the United
States—was from Senegal in Africa.
Flowers was the only man to ever defeat Greb, without being beaten in return. He twice scored
fifteen-round decisions over the "Pittsburgh Windmill". During his career of some 290 bouts,
Greb lost but five decisions— two to Gene Tunney, whom he also beat and fought a pair of no-
decisions with, and one in ten rounds to Tommy Loughran, whom Greb beat twice. And
remember that both Loughran and Tunney were light-heavyweights, whereas Flowers was only
a middleweight, yet no one remembers Flowers as a great fighter. A true member of the
Born Theo Flowers in the small farming town of Camille, Georgia, on August 5, 1895, his early
years in the ring were obscure. Like many a Negro youngster in the South, he began in bootleg
bouts and "battle royals". He claimed to have had his first professional fight when he was only
fifteen; however, his first recorded fights were not until 1913, some eight years later when he
was 22. During that year lie won a fifteen-rounder over Battling Mims and a twenty-rounder
from Battling Henry Williams, so he must have had quite a bit of experience behind him.
Like most black fighters of his era, Flowers' bouts were mostly against others of his own race
and in 1922 he was kayoed four times. Jamaica Kid, Lee Anderson, Kid Norfolk and the then
42-year-old Sam Langford turned the trick.
The following year Flowers traveled to Mexico City where he defeated "Fireman" Jim Flynn.
Weight differences meant little in those days, especially to Negro fighters who usually took what
they were offered, complaining about weight or money
Flowers beat Jamaica Kid and fought a no-decision with "Panama" Joe Gans, but was again
stopped Norfolk in that year.
The year 1924 was an unbelievable one for the "Georgia Deacon" as fought a total of 36 times
without a defeat, including a pair of knockouts over Jerry Hayes and Clem Johnson on the
same night. Flowers kayoed former middleweight champion Johnny Wilson in three rounds in a
battle of southpaws and also halted Willie Walker, Bob Lawson, Tut Jackson, gained revenge
by again stopping the Jamaica Kid and defeated George Robinson, Lee Anderson and Joe
Lohman. He drew with Frankie Schoell and battled Greb to ten torrid rounds in a no decision
affair in Fremont, Ohio.
In 1925 he had twenty-five contest winning all but four. Three of those losses were to light
heavyweights, he was twice stopped by Jack Delaney and dropped a decision to Mike
McTigue. He also lost on a foul to Lou Bogash, but kayoed Tommy Robson, Jackie Clarke,
and defeated Frank Moody, Pat McCarthy, Lee Anderson and Bogash. Flowers went to no
decisions against Ted Moore, Jack Malone and Chuck Wiggins.
He started off 1926 with his upset triumph over Greb, and came back prove that it wasn't a
fluke by again outfighting Greb over fifteen rounds in Madison Square Garden on August 19th,
in what turned out to be Greb's last fight. He was to die following an eye operation two months
In between the Greb fights, Flowers kept busy with six bouts including return to Mexico where
he kayoed Lee Anderson in two rounds.
In Ocober he lost in nine rounds on a foudl to Maxie Rosenbloom in Boston, and then was
signed to defend his title against Mickey Walker.
Although he was the champion, Flowers was also black - and when Walker's manager, the
craft "Doc" Kearns, made the match he set the terms, which were for the fight to be held in
Chicago, where the law only allowed ten round bouts. Kearns figured that Flowers might be
too strong for Walker over fifteen rounds, and he was right.
Mickey got off to an early lead and, despite a strong rally by Flowers, won the title on decision.
Like Greb, Flowers was suffering from eye trouble, and like Greb it is impossible to know just
how long he fought with it and how badly his sight was impaired. He kept active in 1927 with
eighteen fights, losing only to Leo Lomski whom he spotted a dozen pounds. Flowers turned in
wins over Chuck Wiggins, Joe Anderson, Jock Malone, Pete Latzo and twice drew with
Rosenbloom that year, then on November 12th he kayoed Leo Gates in four rounds.
Four days later he was dead, dying in much the same manner as had Greb the previous year,
following an operation on his eyes to correct the sight problem.
His listed fights were 149, of which he won 115, scoring 49 kayos and boxing six draws. He
fought fourteen no decision battles, and he had one no contest, lost but three decisions—twice
on fouls—and was stopped eight tunes. However, it is safe to assume that he had fought well
over 200 battles and was still a top-notch ringman when he died at age 32.
Flowers must rate among the top lefthanders of all time and, while overshadowed publicity-wise
by the likes of Joe Louis, Muhammad Ali, Jack Johnson, Joe Walcott, Joe Gans, George
Dixon, Sam Langford, "Sugar Ray" Robinson, Henry Armstrong and other great black fighters,
he must be ranked on a par with them, yet despite his fine ring record and top-flight ability, he is
still a "FORGOTTEN CHAMPION." ~
From Boxing Illustrated
|"Tiger" meets the "Toy Bulldog"
Mickey Walker at center ring.
|Tiger Flowers goes through the
ropes but still manages to pull off one
of the biggest upsets in the 1920s.
|Southpaw Tiger Flowers on the
attack against Harry Greb in
|The Last Great Contenders
Book available in Paperback or
The weigh in for Flowers and Harry Greb.
Flowers faces off against Leo Lomski.
The writer mistakenly credits Lomski
with a dozen pound weight advantage.
Flowers actually had three pounds on