In the unfinished essay, “Men of Iron” by Robert E. Howard delves into the intriguing world of boxing, focusing on the remarkable endurance and resilience of a unique class of fighters known as “Iron Men.” Howard contrasts these men with ordinary individuals and even skilled boxers who may be knocked out or killed by blows that these iron men seem to withstand effortlessly. He specifically highlights the extraordinary cases of five boxers who exemplified the iron man quality due to their incredible ability to absorb punishment without being knocked out. The essay also touches on the combination of physical and possibly neurological factors contributing to their resilience.

First published in The Iron Man, 1976 by Grant.

Howard’s admiration for these iron men is evident, as he marvels at their ability to endure physical punishment that would incapacitate or even kill others. The essay serves as a tribute to their toughness, raising questions about what makes them so different and durable compared to other fighters.

Persons involved

  • Joe Grim: An Italian boxer from Philadelphia, known not for his victories but for his unbelievable durability against heavyweight champions. He was known as the “India-rubber Man” for his ability to take punishment from fighters much heavier than himself, including Bob Fitzsimmons and Jack Johnson.
  • Battling Nelson: Mentioned but not detailed in the excerpt, Nelson was known for his toughness in the ring.
  • Tom Sharkey: Celebrated for his resilience, including recovering from a fall out of the ring onto concrete to win a fight against Joe Choynsky.
  • Mike Boden: Another tough fighter, who, like Grim, could absorb tremendous punishment without being knocked out, as seen in his fight against Choynsky.
  • Joe Goddard: An Australian boxer who claimed immunity to being knocked out by any human punch.
  • Jim Jeffries: Cited as one of the two iron men who achieved a title, combining skill and cleverness with toughness.
  • Bob Fitzsimmons: Recognized for his knockout power, Fitzsimmons could not knock out Grim despite landing numerous heavy blows.
  • Joe Gans: Came close to knocking out Joe Grim by targeting his jaw, resulting in a fight stoppage due to Grim’s swollen jaws.
  • Sailor Burke: The only boxer mentioned to have knocked out Joe Grim, a feat that led to Grim’s heartbreak.
  • Joe Choynsky: A hard hitter who failed to knock out both Sharkey and Boden despite landing significant punches.

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