Sunday, October 7, 2007

Eugene "Silent" Hairston- Boxer

This week I chose Gene "Silent" Hairston for my Deaf Hero profile. He was born in Harlem in 1930, and became deaf from spinal meningitis when he was only twelve months old. As a child he attended a public "deaf" school, then dropped out in order to take care of his younger brothers and sisters. After working at several odd jobs, he decided to try fighting like his boyhood hero Joe Louis.

Each morning for six months he showed up at the Tremont Fighting Club in the Bronx with a note saying he wanted to fight. At first the owners of the club refused to allow him to fight because of his deafness, but they eventually gave in. He fought so well they decided to train him.
As an amateur Hairston quickly moved up the ranks and won two impressive titles: New York Golden Gloves Champion, 137lb Welterweight Open Division; and Chicago Intercity Golden Gloves (147lb.) Welterweight Champion. He lost only one out of sixty-one amateur bouts. Then he started playing professionally. During his professional boxing career he recorded forty-five wins, twenty-four knock-outs, thirteen losses and five draws, and he went up against some of the toughest Middleweights in the world including Jake LaMotta (aka Raging Bull) who beat him only after ten grueling rounds. He became known as second best in the world. He was quite possibly the only one who could have beat Sugar Ray Robinson, but due to eye injury he had to give up boxing at age twenty-two and never got a chance to fight Sugar Ray.

Though he never asked for special accommodations for his deafness, it was because of Gene "Silent" Hairston that boxing arenas added flashing lights to their ring posts. Other boxers also found the flashing lights helpful, so boxing arenas continued to provide these flashing lights long after Hairston left the ring for good.


Cindy said...

I like reading about all these deaf heroes!! Your summaries are so interesting that even a non-sports fan like me can enjoy learning about deaf athletes.



Anonymous said...

I just watched a rebroadcast of the Jake LaMotta vs "Silent" Hairston fight. I believe the year was 1952. Hairston must have sustained his eye injury later that year. Although LaMotta won the fight on a unanimous decision, I found that Hairston was an amazing boxer. His legs were strong into the 10th round and he had lightning speed and powerful punching. He fought as easily from the outside as he did on the inside. LaMotta's best punch was supposed to be his Left Hook, but Hairston was his equal with his on hook. It was almost like watching Casius Clay a decade or so ahead of his time. I swear I saw him duplicate some of the leg quick back and forth moves so common with Clay/Ali. I tuned in on the fight in the 6th round so I missed the 1st half. LaMotta definitely did not walk over Hairston. I did not know the outcome ahead of time and there were several times I really thought Hairston was going to knowck out LaMotta. I also did not know that Hairston was deaf while I was watching the fight. I don't think you will be able to discern that from watching the fight. If you get a chance to view this on Classic Boxing be sure and watch it. Bill Ryan Sparks, Nevada

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