Firmly entrenched in the folklore of Central Newfoundland is the story of Mike Shallow. Shallow was a pipefitter and then long time fire chief in Grand Falls. His involvement with the fire department has led to a request from one of the members of the current fire department to find out some things about Shallow. Why? Because Mike Shallow was a boxer and was reputedly Heavyweight Champion of the British Empire.
Mike Shallow was born in 1874 or 1875 on the Southern Shore near Fermeause. At a young age he moved down to the “Boston States” for work. By his late 20’s he was back in Newfoundland and making a name for himself as a boxer.
Shallow seems to appear on the scene around 1903 and is subject to numerous newspaper bits in the Evening Telegram. It appears that Shallow was a man prepared to take on all comers. If a ship was in port with a boxer on board chances are there would be a match with the local “Champ.” At one point I recall reading that Shallow had fought the British Navy boxing champion sometime around the turn of the century.
Later in his career after the heights of 1904 Shallow was still known to take up the odd challenge in both boxing and wrestling. It was not uncommon for a wrestler to come to St. John’s for a match against him and for hundreds, even thousands of spectators to crowd into places like Princes Rink to take in the spectacle.[i]
As Shallows fame and boxing record grew a benefit was held to raise money for Shallow to take a trip to England to fight. He left for Britain on October 4, 1904 and according to the newspapers of the day Shallow fought 13 bouts over the next several months winning 11 of them and losing the other two through what Wrestling announcers used to call “Grave injustice.”
He fought contenders for the Championship, Regimental Champions and even a former champion who he knocked out in 8 rounds. With this record behind him he faced off against Jack Scales. From what I can gather Scales was the British Heavyweight Champion around this time. The first bout between Shallow and Scales took place in December of 1904 and after ten rounds was declared a draw. After a number of other bouts Shallow again fought Scales and won, knocking the Champion out in the eighth round.[ii] He arrived to great fanfare about the SS Carthaginian in July of 1905 and was billed as the Champion of England.[iii]
After being so successful in England Shallow fully intended to, at some point, take on the current American heavyweight Champion, Marvin Hart. In November 1905 after returning from the UK Shallow fought Jack Monroe of Cape Breton and was heralded as the “Champion of England.”[iv] It was reported that 5000 people attended the event. It doesn’t appear that Shallow ever sparred off against Hart for the World Heavyweight Championship.
By 1910 Shallow begins to fade from the limelight. He had moved to Grand Falls, married and started a family. He found work as a steamfitter-pipefitter with the A.N.D Company, a pretty important job when one considers how much pipe work there was at the mill. It is interesting to note that many of the early big time boxers were also experienced trades men like plumbers and boiler makers. He also joined the fledgling A.N.D Company Fire Department and seems to have been right hand man to the first fire Chief Mr. Gaitely. The first report of Shallows involvement with the fire department was from January of 1910 when there was a fire in or near the residence of Mike Sullivan, one of the mill department managers. In 1915 Shallow assumed the position of fire Chief and would remain in this capacity until he retired in 1943.[v]
Shallows retirement from prizefighting did not end his involvement with sport. He set up a boxing club in an old school building on Carmelite Road that was known as “Shallows Club” here he trained many of the early settlers in the art of fisticuffs. He was also involved with baseball. Mike Shallow died at Grand Falls in 1948 he was around 74 years old.[vi]
Still the question remains largely unanswered, was Shallow the British Empire Champion? Well from what I can gather from the papers and other sources he certainly fought the champ at least twice, though I can’t find a newspaper mentioning the second time. The other issue is that boxing records from that period of time are few and far between and there is precious little on Jack Scales though he is noted as a famous British prize fighter. There is also the issue with sanctioning bodies as there was no international Boxing body at the time like the World Boxing Association. Whatever Shallow may have won or lost; he was definitely a contender and at the time he was of about the same caliber as better known American Boxers like “Gentleman” Jim Corbett, Jack Johnson and Jack Dempsey.
[i] Evening Telegram
[iii] Evening Telegram
[iv] Evening Telegram November 11, 1905
[vi] Sport NL