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An unforgettable knockout

An unforgettable knockout

Letter to the Editor
Re: “A Brief History of Campus Life and Athletics”
Issue #2-2009

The article that mentioned the opening of the “New Gym” in 1931 brought back a flood of satisfying and agreeable memories for me. Although Queen’s athletic achievements relate most often to the success of the football team, in my eyes, possibly the most thrilling sports event I have ever witnessed involved a boxing bout in this New Gym.

In the annual Inter-collegiate Assault-at Arms (boxing, wrestling and fencing, with participants from U of T, McGill, and Queen’s), with Queen’s serving as the host in the early 1930s, the program was down to the final and deciding event – the heavyweight boxing bout between McGill and Queen’s.

Having failed to win the crown for 29 years, this was a crucial situation for the Tricolour. Under such circumstances, with the standing-room-only crowd of students and local boxing enthusiasts looking on, the atmosphere was emotionally charged.

Our heavyweight hopeful, the late Freeman (“Casey”) Waugh, BA’34, a 5'10", 195-pound lineman from the football team, looked more like a wrester than a boxer. First in the ring, he was obviously quite nervous as he received some last-minute instructions from coach Jack Jarvis. After a few minutes the McGill boxer, George Maughan, arrived at ringside. He was a muscular 210 pounds on a 6' 4" frame. As a one-time member of Canada’s Olympics team, he exhibited great poise.

When the two pugilists stood at the center of the ring listening to the referee’s instructions, the vast difference in the builds of the combatants was all too evident. As a loyal Queen’sman and cheering for an apparent underdog, I had to realistically conclude that this time, in the overall standings; it would be another case of “close but no cigar.” This view was more or less confirmed when the spectator beside me muttered that he expected the first punch would end the fight and in McGill’s favor.

The opening bell sounded, and after the perfunctory handshake, the two pugilists squared off. Waugh, stooped low, with his right glove almost touching the mat. He swung a “haymaker” in the looping arc.

Maughan saw this swing and easily stepped back. From the force of the mighty thrust, Waugh landed on the floor. Before the referee could being to count, he was back on his feet. Maughan had a difficult time stifling laughter at his opponent’s unorthodox approach.

Again, Waugh crouched down and started near the floor with hid right-fist wind up. To everyone, including Maughan, it was clear that this was a repeat of the first swing. Maughan’s plan was to duck beneath the punch and to catch Waugh with his guard down, with a stinging blow as he sped by powered by his own momentum.

In some inexplicable way, Maughan underestimated the dip of his head. Instead of getting under the swing, he moved right into the path of the thunderous punch. Down he went on his face, sprawling across the ring. The referee began his count. By the time he has reached seven, it was clear this blow had been “for real”.

The favorite from McGill was a knockout victim at the hands of the unknown contestant from Queen’s.

At the count of 10, standing with all the others in the stunned, but frenzied, crowd, I was delirious over the upset victory. Once again, David had slain Goliath. After a drought of almost three decades, the Tricolour had regained the intercollegiate heavyweight boxing title.

In a brief minute or two in the ring, Casey Waugh had soared to the heights as a campus hero, with his stature as a boxer still someone in doubt, but with his ability as a brawler firmly established.


[Queen's Alumni Review 2009-4 cover]