Boxing Greats of La Crosse

Posted by Anita on January 15, 2013

(written by Bill Petersen, Archives Staff)

At one time, boxing was a big sport in La Crosse. In 1948, a Golden Gloves district tournament was held in La Crosse and no fewer than 13 amateur boxers from the city advanced to the state Golden Gloves competition in Milwaukee.

The 1948 district tournament took place on January 27th and February 3rd and was held at the Avalon Ballroom, a popular local boxing venue. The La Crosse Junior Chamber of Commerce, who was often involved in the sponsorship of local boxing meets, provided trophies for the winners.

At the regional tourney, Bob Warner of La Crosse earned the “Outstanding Fighter” trophy. LeRoy Lachman was presented with the “Champion of Champions” trophy, Jerry Pretasky won the “Cleanest Fighter” prize, and Vernon Lessard of Prairie du Chien took home the “Most Skillful Fighter” hardware.

John Mulrooney of La Crosse won the biggest trophy of the tournament, earning the Jimmy Gill Memorial trophy for most outstanding welterweight. The trophy was presented by the George B. Rose Jewelry Co. The fans also voted Mulrooney the “Most Popular Fighter.”

Besides the afore-mentioned La Crosse boxers, Dick Brewer, Paul Lyga, Jerry Adams, Billy Schwartz, Lawrence Gibson, La Verne Smith, Jerry Stankey, Don Shuda, and Glenn Chesney also advanced to the state Golden Gloves tournament. George Markos was the coach for the La Crosse contingent.

The La Crosse boxers did not fare well at the state tournament. Most of them were defeated in the first round although Lachman managed to get to the finals where he was knocked out by a Milwaukee fighter.

Jimmy Gill and George Markos are legends in La Crosse boxing history. Jimmy Gill’s real name was Carl Gillmeister, but was known as Jimmy Gill in boxing circles. He was a state boxing champion and compiled a 68-1 record as a professional. During a non-title exhibition fight in Janesville, Wis., Gillmeister fought junior world welterweight champion Pinky Mitchell to a draw in a 10-round bout.

Gillmeister died in La Crosse on December 14, 1947 at the age of 45 following a heart attack.

George Markos had a 15-year boxing career that started in 1936. He was never knocked out once while compiling a professional record of 76-11-13. At one time, he was ranked 18th in the world. His aggressive style in the ring earned him the nick name “The Tiger,” but outside the ring, he was universally known as one of the nicest guys around who was always willing to help out a neighbor or friend.