Extraordinary Stories

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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The "Spell It With An 'A' Or An 'O', But He Was Still A Champ" Story

Monument to Leo Hauck in Buchanan Park.
It was an ordinary day.  Walking through Buchanan Park near Lancaster's Franklin & Marshall College when I came upon a small monument dedicated to "The Lancaster Thunderbolt", Leo Houck.  Read the plaque on the monument which brought back stories my dad would tell me about listening to Friday night boxing matches on the radio.  Boxing matches that were held at nearby Rocky Springs Park to the south of Lancaster. One of the greatest boxers of all time grew up in Lancaster.  Guy by the name of Leo Hauck who lived on Second Street in the city.  Leo was born November 4, 1888 and by the age of 14 was boxing flyweight.  Over the years he fought successfully in every weight division up to heavyweight.  In 2012 he was enshrined posthumously into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.  Well, reading the information on the plaque got my attention so I had to "Google" him and found him to be one heck of a great boxer as well as coach.  It was said in one newspaper article I read that "No other fighter who ever came out of this city, and few who ever fought anywhere, mastered the art of self-defense so thoroughly."  
Leo Hauck, the Lancaster Thunderbolt
His size of 5'8" never seemed to be a big disadvantage for the extremely strong and durable fighter whose career spanned 22 years.  During that time he fought 207 fights in every weight division from flyweight to heavyweight  He was at his peak at middleweight and fought for the World titles at middleweight and light-heavyweight, but never won them.  He fought one 6 round fight against World Champ George Chip, but the bout ended in a no decision which means Chip retained the title.  During his career he fought titleholders such as Frank Klaus, Joe Thomas, Johnny Wilson, Harry Greb as well as Chip.  He was born Leo Florian Hauck, but went by Leo Houck after a promoter misspelled his name on a poster.  
Leo  Houck, America's Premier Middleweight.
He used Houck the remainder of his life.  He was known for his lithe defense and devastating left triple-jab.  He approached each fight more as a chess match that as a street fight and considered boxing more about the sport than the violence. After retiring from boxing in 1923 he began another career as the boxing coach at Penn State spending the next 27 years helping the Nittany Lions become a collegiate powerhouse and guiding 48 boxers to college championships with one boxer, Billy Soose, eventually becoming middleweight champion.  "The Lancaster Thunderbolt" died January 12, 1950 at the age 0f 61.  I also found another interesting story that was reported in the Lancaster newspaper.  Story about Leo and his two younger brothers.  It was around 1910 that they moved to the Second Street home, but the year after Leo got married and moved out of the house.  
Drawing made on the 3rd floor bedroom wall on Second St.
By then he was an established boxer and his brothers used the many scrapbook stories and photos to create drawings on the third-floor bedroom walls of their Second Street home.  Those pictures have lasted thorughtout all those years and were recently viewed by Joe Hauck, one of Leo's children.  Even though the home on Second Street has changed owners numerous times since the 1910s, the drawings have never been destroyed, giving Lancaster and the boxing world a piece of history to remember one of their greatest members.  One last note about Leo Houck would have to be that in 1921 he was scheduled to fight then Heavyweight Champion Jack Dempsey at the Fulton Hall, now known as the Fulton Opera House, in downtown Lancaster, but Jack never showed up for the fight.  Just lucky for Mr. Dempsey he didn't or history may have have been changed that night.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Middleweight Champion
Tough looking boxer.
Another pose from Leo Houck.

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