Ed "Gunboat" Smith


Edward (Gunboat) Smith was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on February 17, 1887. His family was irish. After spending his youth in orphanages, working on farms,on the railroads, he joined the U.S. Navy, where he began boxing and won the heavyweight championship of the pacific fleet.

In 1912, fighting professionally, he knocked out Bombardier Billy Wells, a top british heavyweight who, until his fight with smith, was in line for a crack at the world championship. The Wells fight ended in 2 rounds on March 14 in New York. Then he decisioned Jess Willard in 20 rounds on May 20 in SanFrancisco, and defeated the great negro heavyweight Sam Langford in 12 rounds on November 17 in Boston. Willard went on to knock out Jack Johnson in 1915 to win the world heavyweight championship. langford never got a crack at the title because he was black.

On January 1, 1914, Smith won the "White Hope" heavyweight championship of the world by knocking out Arthur Pelky in 15 rounds in California. The white hope championship was a somewhat artificial title created by the boxing promoters of that era, with the help of the newspapers and the public. It came about due to the unpopularity amoung many whites of the arrogant, outspoken, controversial Jack Johnson. At the time, Johnson had been heavyweight champion of the world for several years and white challengers had met with no success in thier attempts to dethrone Johnson in the ring. So a seperate white championship was created.

On July 16, 1914, Smith lost his White Hope title in London on a 6-round foul to Georges Carpentier. A controversy surrounded that fight for many years, since it was never established for sure wether or not Smith did foul Carpentier by hitting him while he was down. Six years later, Carpentier was to become the light-heavyweight champion of the world.

After his loss to Carpentier, Smith was knocked out in a return bout with Sam Langford on October 20, 1914, in Boston. On January 27, 1915, he defeated Battling Levinsky, later to become world light-heavyweight champion, in 20 rounds. Smith and Levinsky fought a six-bout series between 1914 and 1917, each winning once, with 4 no-decision bouts.

In October 1917 Smith met Jack Dempsey, who was then on the way up, and still two years away from becoming champion, losing in a 4-round decision. On December 30, 1918, he was knocked out by Dempsey in 2 rounds. After a string of knockout losses, Smith was stopped in 1 round by the outstanding Negro heavyweight Harry Wills in Havana on October 10, 1921, and retired from the ring.


He had close to 130 fights in his carrer, scoring 39 knockouts, winning 16 other contests, fighting 48 no-decision bouts, 5 draws, and losing 9 decisions (including the foul to Carpentier), while being knocked out 11 times.

Ed "Gunboat" Smith was a referee after he retired from being an active boxer. One fight he refereed was the Harry Greb vs. Tiger Flowers middleweight title bout on Feb 26, 1926 (pictured above). This was the first time Greb fought Flowers.

When Greb came into his corner he said to a handler, "Am I seem' things ~ Is that Gunboat Smith over there?" When Gunboat motioned the fighters to the center of the ring for instructions, Greb trotted over. "Hello Gunboat, ol' pal," he said, chipper as a robin after a spring rain. "Where d'ya git that ol' pal stuff?" Gunboat's voice was no friendlier than his words. Six years earlier a careless thumb had dropped into Gunboat's eye and an alnost simultaneous jolt on the chin had knocked him out in Round One. Greb said when he returned to his corner, "I wish I stuck my other thumb in Gunboat's eye that time in South Bend."

At the end of the fight two judges had voted for Flowers. But Gunboat Smith, who had reasons for not loving Greb, voted for Greb.

After his retirement from boxing, Smith also worked as a runner on Wall Street, a private policeman at Madison Square garden and Yankee Stadium, and as an actor in silent films.











RING RECORD: 55 wins - 9 losses - 48 ND's -5 draw - (129 total bouts)

 selected bouts

unknown	1908	Sailor Jack Carroll		unknown						Draw 6
Nov 17	1912	Sam  Langford			Boston						W 12
May 20	1913	Jess  Willard			SanFran.					W 20
Oct 9	1913	Carl E. Morris			New York					WF 5
Jan 1	1914	Arthur  Pelky			California					KO 15
Jul 16	1914	Georges Carpentier		London						LF 6
Sep 28	1914	Johnny Thompson			Pitts.						ND 6
Oct 20	1914	Sam  Langford			Boston						KO by ?
Dec 15	1914	Jim    Coffey			New York					ND 10
Jan 1	1915	Battling Levinsky		Waterbu.					ND 12
Jan 27	1915	Battling Levinsky		NewOrl.						W 20
Mar 16	1915	Jack   Dillon			Milwauk.					ND-L 10
Sep 4	1915	Sailor Jack Carroll		New York					ND 10
Nov 9	1915	Joe       Cox			St.Louis					ND 8
Nov 29	1915	Jim    Coffey			New York					KO by 4
Mar 14	1916	Jack   Dillon			N.Y.C.						ND-L 10
Apr 28	1916	Bob    Devere			Syracuse					ND 10
May 15	1916	Battling Levinsky		Philadel.					ND 6
Sep 23	1916	Jim    Coffey			Philadel.					ND 6
Oct 2	1916	Jack  Dempsey			SanFran.					L 4
Oct 3	1916	Joe       Cox			Brooklyn					ND 10
Oct 10	1916	Battling Levinsky		Boston						L 12
Jan 1	1917	Battling Levinsky		Brooklyn					ND 10
Feb 16	1917	Jack   Dillon			NewOrl.						L 20
Oct 2	1917	Jack  Dempsey			SanFran.					L 4
May 24	1918	Harry    Greb			New York					ND 6
Dec 30	1918	Jack  Dempsey			Buffalo						KO by 2
Dec 3	1919	Carl E. Morris			SanFran.					Draw 4
Jan 23	1920	Carl E. Morris			Fresno						W 4
Oct 21	1920	Harry    Greb			SouthBe.					KO by 1
Oct 10	1921	Harry   Wills			Havana						KO by 1