Harley OliverHitters, Grapplers and Strongmen 28th February - 24th March 2018 | Stanley Street Gallery

Harley Oliver
Hitters, Grapplers and Strongmen

28th February – 24th March 2018

Boxers, wrestlers, circus strong men of the early 1900s. Brief heroes.


Joe Gans


Joe Gans was a talented boxer but fought in an era when being black meant he could never be his own man. He started boxing young, around seventeen and over the next 18 years fought 196 times for a total of 1475 rounds. In 1902 he won the world lightweight championship.

A hero then ? Well maybe. The forces that surrounded him were often malevolent. Even his obituary is uncertain how to remember him. 

‘There is no telling what Gans might have accomplished, but he was early led astray by evil associations and up to the time when he fought that historic battle with Nelson in Goldfield four years ago, but few of the followers of the boxing game would trust Gans. He had been fighting to orders too long.

His first real, great stand was against Jimmy Britt in 1904, when he "lost on a foul" in the fifth round. This was one of the, most barefaced "frames" ever put over, and later Gans confessed the part he played.. It was shortly after that Gans was taken hold of by Benny Sellig, a manager who made money for him and gave him a reputation and the ambition to be honest. ‘

San Francisco Call (newspaper).

He died young of TB, fighting until the end.