The storied wrestling history of Louisville can be credited to one dedicated sportsman,
James Heywood Allen, founder of the illustrious Allen Athletic Club and a sports
promoter since around 1905. Known as "Heywood Allen," he was a native of St. Louis,
and broke into the entertainment industry under a somewhat cruel umbrella, working as
a "circus wrecker." That particular job entailed a group of individuals working for one
circus purposely going out to "wreck" a rival circus. Allen later admitted that he wasn't
proud of that work, and quickly moved on to becoming an announcer for a "fight club"
on the West Coast. There he was introduced to the glitz, glamour, and brutality of
professional boxing and wrestling. In the mid-1900s, he began to offer sports
attractions at the end of burlesque programs at the Buckingham Theater in Louisville.
Within a short time, along with a partner/wrestling manager named William Barton, Allen
was promoting many well known wrestlers in Louisville and the surrounding area.
Interestingly, Allen had a unique Pfefer-esqe quality to him. He re-named many of the
superstar wrestlers that came into Louisville. Lou Thesz was known as "Don Louis
Thesz." Frank Sexton was "Mike Sexton." Gladys Gillem was "Gladys Ryan." Warren
Bockwinkel was "Frankie Bockwinkel." Speedy LaRance was "Larry LaRance."
On May 4, 1935 at Louisville, during the special Derby eve show, Jack Reynolds
defeated Patrick Lansdown Finnegan to regain the World Welterweight championship.
Hugh Nichols beat Leroy McGuirk after nearly 50-minutes to regain the World Light
Heavyweight title. Billy Thom retained his World Junior Middleweight Title through a
draw against Alexander "Cyclone" Burns.
Research by Tim Hornbaker
|Louisville Wrestling History