Biography of Boxer Battling Siki or Louis Phal Part 1

About the footnote athlete Battling Siki or Louis Phal, history and biography of the boxers.


Battling Siki

Boxing legend has it that a French actress, touring French West Africa around 1910, became impressed with a young Senegalese boy, made him her servant, and named him Louis Phal.

When he was 15, Louis turned to boxing, but he was soon conscripted into a regiment of the French army, where he distinguished himself for heroism under fire during W.W. I. Afterwards, he returned to prizefighting and made his way to Paris, where he became known as Battling Siki, a name coined by French fight promoters, for whom it apparently offered "native," or at least colonial, connotations.

Siki became known as a fighter with considerable natural ability who might well have been better than he was had he drunk less absinthe (a green liqueur flavored with wormwood). His brashness and leaping style, however, produced slapstick effects that consistently amused the galleries nearly as much as they did Siki himself.

In 1922 Siki was permitted to fight the celebrated Georges Carpentier, world light-heavyweight champion, on the condition that he throw the fight. According to the prearranged scenario, Siki was to get himself knocked down in the 1st and 3rd rounds and knocked out early in the 4th. Before a crowd of 55,000 Parisians, the largest in European boxing history up to that time, Battling Siki changed his mind. He got up from his "knockdown" in the 3rd round and proceeded to demolish Carpentier, finally knocking the "Orchid Kid" unconscious in the 6th.

The referee, in on the fix, tried to disqualify Siki for tripping, but he was overruled by the judges, who declared Siki the winner and awarded him Carpentier's title. "No more absinthe. I will train and fight hard as champion." Siki was heard to say.

Lavishly feted after his victory, Siki was soon touring Paris in a chauffeur-driver car and stopping for absinthe at any opportunity. His enthusiasm continued long after the public's had subsided. He would stroll along the Paris boulevards with a monkey from Senegal on his shoulder and a lion cub on a leash.

When the French Boxing Federation suspended him on a bogus charge, he broke the story of the attempted fix of the Carpentier fight. An investigation followed in which two deaf-mutes were hired to watch films of the fight and lip-read the comments of the allegedly crooked promoter. The suspension stuck.

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