The Day in Sports : COUNTDOWN TO 2000 / A day-by-day recap of some of the most important sports moments of the 20th Century: AUG. 29, 1933 : First L.A.-Born Boxing Champion Remembered
In another century, he was a Los Angeles sports icon--the city’s first Los Angeles-born world boxing champion.
Solly Smith, born Solomon Garcia Smith in 1871, already had won and lost his world featherweight championship, in 1897 and 1898, before he was usurped on the Los Angeles popularity scale by Jim Jeffries, who won the heavyweight championship in 1899.
Smith was a telephone installer living in Culver City when he died on this date in 1933, long forgotten by even ardent Southland boxing followers.
Smith began boxing in 1888, in Los Angeles and Pasadena. In his first try for the title, he was knocked out by George Dixon at Coney Island in New York in 1893.
Four years later, in a rematch, he won a 20-round decision in San Francisco. He made two successful defenses, then lost his crown in 1898 to Dave Sullivan at Coney Island.
In 1980, the late boxing historian Dave Coapman found Smith’s unmarked grave in East Los Angeles’ Calvary Cemetery.
“It seemed a shame to me that the first L.A.-born champion would be in an unmarked grave,” he said.
Coapman organized a drive to buy Smith a headstone and in 1981, for $280, the old champion got a simple, flat headstone with the inscription:
First Los Angeles Born
World Boxing Champion
Also on this date: In 1977, the Cardinals’ Lou Brock, 38, in his 16th big league season, stole second base in the seventh inning to break Ty Cobb’s record of 892 steals. Brock had tied the mark in the first inning. . . . In 1965, Hall of Fame outfielder Paul “Big Poison” Waner died at 62. . . . In 1972, 16-year-old Sandra Neilson of El Monte High School won the gold medal in the 100-meter freestyle at the Munich Olympics.