Monsignor Franklin M. Kelliher
Franklin Kelliher was born early in the 20th century. Throughout his life, sports were always a very important part of his life. He was a star athlete in high school. He later matriculated at Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. While there he starred on the basketball and baseball teams. He was also the school’s heavyweight boxing champion for two years. In the 1920’s he was one of the top amateur boxers in the New England area. While at Holy Cross Kelliher decided to study for the priesthood. In June of 1930 he was ordained a priest and soon after was assigned to the Buffalo Diocese.
While studying in Montreal he met Robert “Bibber McCoy one of the top professional wrestlers in North America. McCoy then began preparing the young, burly priest for a part - time career as a professional wrestler. From 1928-1932 he had a very successful and prosperous career as the “Masked Marvel” and later the “Red Devil.” He wrestled exclusively in Montreal, Toronto, Cleveland and occasionally in Buffalo. In a 1932 match against Sam Cordovano, a well-known football player and wrestler, Kelliher’s mask came off. Soon the identity of the “Red Devil” reached Bishop Turner of the Diocese of Buffalo and Kelliher’s mat career came to an abrupt conclusion. Although his career was quite short he was able to save enough money to buy a home and a Packard for his parents, a lodge for himself in Ridgeway, Ontario and save money that would later be used to help fund the Working Boys Home.
In mid 1936 Father Kelliher was an assistant pastor at St. John the Baptist Church on Hertel Avenue when Monsignor Edmond Britt asked him to take over the directorship of the poorly disciplined Working Boys Home. The young priest readily accepted this position and held it for the next 39 years. He already held the position of chaplain at the Erie County jail and morgue, a job he had accepted in the previous year and would hold until 1972. Kelliher would use strong discipline through boxing and other sports to maintain total control of the 50 boys that normally lived at the home.
Beginning in 1938, Father Kelliher began entering a team of boxers in the local Golden Gloves Tournament. He also promoted amateur boxing cards on a regular basis. Profits from these shows were used to constantly remodel and refurbish the Working Boys Home that was located on Vermont Street and later on Busti Avenue after a fire at the original site.
In 1960 The Buffalo Courier Express dropped their sponsorship of the Golden Gloves. Kelliher acquired sponsorship of Buffalo’s premier amateur boxing event. He continued this relationship till the mid 1970’s, when poor health forced him to give it up as well as cutting back on most of his other activities. Monsignor Franklin Kelliher passed away on February 22, 1985.
Monsignor Franklin Kelliher certainly possesses the qualifications for entrance into the Buffalo Veterans Boxing Hall of Fame, as he is already a member of the International Golden Gloves Hall of Fame, the American Amateur Boxing Hall of Fame and the Canadian Amateur Boxing Hall of Fame.
Total Fights 45 Won 28 (24 Knockouts) Lost 15 Draws 2
Although he was certainly not the greatest fighter to come from Buffalo, few could match the drawing power of this giant pugilist from Lackawanna. Many of his amateur fights outdrew most of the local pro fights in mid 1930’s. Although not documented many local fight experts have said that even though only an amateur, at $1,500 a fight, George “Big Boy” Brackey was one of the highest paid fighters in Western New York.
Although his amateur career lasted less than two months, Brackey compiled a record of 6-1, losing only his last fight, a five-round decision to Earl “Red” Conway before a crowd of 5,000 at the Broadway Auditorium. The first six fights were all by knockouts, with none extending past the second-round.
Big headlines, a big publicity campaign and a great deal of fanfare announced the beginning of “Big Boy” Brackey’s professional career against Bill Fogarty on April 27, 1934. Billy Kelly, in an October 1, 1934 column mentioned that “Big Boy” Brackey and Walter Potter (10/1/34 against Brackey) were the only two local fighters to go directly from the amateur ranks to a main event fight. During the next year he fought 16 times, losing only to Johnny Freeman and fighting a draw against Young Hippo. Many of those early fights turned into wild brawls, most memorable of these fights were those against Walter Brennan, Frank Kowalski, Young Hippo, Billy Nichy and two fights against Salamanca’s Johnny Freeman. Three fights against Max Zona in 1936 and two more against Johnny Freeman in 1937 could easily fit into this category.
Beginning in mid 1935 the level of competition went up, while at the same Brackey’s conditioning and recuperative skills went into decline. He also had problems with his manager, his wife and his father-in-law. This decline began when Buddy Baer KO’d him in mid 1935 and again four years later. Primo Carnera KO’d him in late 1935. Seven months later King Levinsky won an easy decision over Brackey. In March of 1937 Natie Brown also decisioned Brackey. In 1938 he suffered severe beatings at the hands of both Bob Pastor and Wild Bill Boyd. Although he split two fights in 1940 and had one last fight in 1946, a knockout loss to Bill Wilson, Brackey’s career effectively came to an end following his second fight with Buddy Baer. George “Big Boy” Brackey compiled a record of 28-15-4. During his relatively brief career he knocked his opponents down 68 times, while going to the canvas himself 96 times. His fights were never short of action. Four of his victories ended in less than one minute; Mike Corey (17 seconds), Jimmy Terry (41 seconds – Brackey landed the only two punches of the fight), Dynamite Reed (43 seconds) and Jack Ketchell (51 seconds).
“Big Boy” Brackey was a slugger with a glass jaw, a dislike for training and a propensity for using rabbit punches. He seemed to bring out the worst in his opponents. His fights frequently turned into brawls with fighter being wrestled to the canvas, fighters hit while they were down and fighting after the bell. George Brackey died of a stomach ailment on February 15, 1955, less than nine years after his final fight.
Nobody is absolutely certain when Charley Murray was born, but our best guess would be that it was either 1884 or 1885. You see Charley never revealed his age. He promoted his first boxing match at the age of 16 in 1900. During the next 50 years he promoted wrestling, tennis, both college and professional football, bicycle racing, motor cycle racing, auto racing, harness racing, marathon racing events as well as hundred of boxing cards. His career was so comprehensive, extensive and successful that the Buffalo Courier Express commented at the time of his death that Murray was the, “Premier Buffalo Sports promoter and one of the most fabulous sports figures in the US in the first half of the century.”
Charley Murray was a close friend of George Halas, Art Rooney, Bert Bell and the Mara Family. Using these connections Murray was able to bring NFL games to Buffalo in the later 1930’s and early 1940’s. He was hoping that Buffalo’s support for these games would result in a NFL franchise for Buffalo. According to his friends in the league, the only way that this would come to fruition would be if Murray agreed to assume the role of team president. His other obligations prevented him from accepting this offer. Less than a decade later he returned to the football arena again. He was part of the local delegation that traveled to Philadelphia in late 1949 to meet with Bert Bell and the other NFL leaders to plead for a franchise in the newly formed National-American Football League The very temporary name of the NFL). The Ill-fated plan broke Murray’s spirits and probably hastened his death on March 22, 1950.
Murray’s final promotional was a pro tennis show on December 8, 1949. He first successfully promoted tennis tournaments in the 1920’s. His circle of friends included tennis legend Bill Tilden. He was one of the few promoters to be able to put up with “Big Bill’s” temperamental disposition. Tilden made two visits to Buffalo in the 1920’s. Murray’s final out of town promotion took him to New York City. He had achieved great success with the roller derby in Buffalo, while others had failed in a similar venture in New York City. Murray was called to New York City where he immediately achieved success. Soon after that the roller derby craze reached television.
It was in boxing, however, that Charley Murray achieved his greatest success. At the same time he was a sports reporter at the turn of the century with the Buffalo Enquirer, sports editor with the Buffalo Commercial from 1908-23 and a reporter with the Buffalo Times in the 1930’s. He was a close personal friend of Jack Dempsey and his constant companion prior to the Dempsey-Firpo fight. Murray was also at ringside for both Dempsey-Tunney fights. It was Murray that first noticed the discrepancy in the count after Dempsey failed to go to a neutral corner after sending Tunney to the canvas. In fact Murray coined the phrase “The Long Count.” It was this close friendship with Dempsey that brought the “Manassa Mauler” to Buffalo in the 1920’s for three fights and a series of exhibitions at the Loew’s Theater against a young Lou Scozza. Murray did fail in his attempt to land the 1920 championship fight between Dempsey and Bill Brennan. The fight was held in New York City.
Paul “Red” Carr was a boxing manager and long-time matchmaker for Charlie Murray and Billy Kelly at the Queensbury A.C. Jimmy Slattery would become their “meal ticket” in the late 1920’s as all of his local fights but one were promoted by Murray. The Velodrome Club headed by Eddie Tranter, Bob Stedler and Al Murphy and Grant Quale’s and Hugh Shannon’s Crescent Sporting Club formed the competition. In a very unusual venture Murray, Quale and Shannon co-promoted the Jimmy Slattery – Lou Scozza Light-heavyweight title fight on February 10, 1930.
Charlie Murray’s connections with major boxing promoters around the nation like Tex Rickard provided Slattery and later Benny Ross entrance to the national boxing scene. Fights with such boxing legends like Paul Berlenbach, Tommy Loughran, Maxie Rosenbloom, Tiger Flowers and Young Stribling were made possible by these connections. Once again Murray did not achieve complete success. In 1924 he offered Georges Carpentier a $30,000 guarantee to fight Jimmy Slattery in Buffalo. Fifteen years later he offered a $5,000 guarantee to Joey Archibald to defend his recently won Featherweight title in Buffalo against Jimmy Gilligan. Neither fight was held.
For fifty years Charley Murray was the most popular figure on Buffalo’s sports scene.