Born in an era when prizefighters, actors and others in the public spotlight adopted an "American-sounding" pseudonym, Josef Paul Zukauskas took the family name of a popular retired Irish boxer and future Hall of Famer, "Sailor Tom" Sharkey (1873-1953).
In 1929, in a fight held in Yankee Stadium, Jack Sharkey knocked out the former light-heavyweight champion, Tommy Loughran to win the United States heavyweight title. His victory earned him the opportunity to fight for the vacant world title against the German contender, Max Schmeling. In their June 12, 1930, championship fight, Sharkey was disqualified in the fourth round after delivering a punch that landed below Schmeling's belt. This is the only occasion in boxing history when the heavyweight championship was won by disqualification.
In October of 1931, Sharkey defeated the highly regarded Italian heavyweight, Primo Carnera, and was then given another chance to fight for the title. On June 21, 1932 at the Madison Square Garden Bowl in Long Island City, New York, Jack Sharkey defeated Max Schmeling in their rematch to win the World Heavyweight Boxing Championship.
Sharkey, who held the heavyweight title from June 21, 1932, to June 29, 1933, before losing it under questionable circumstances that would dog him the rest of his life, died Wednesday in Beverly, Mass., at age 91 after a long bout with illness.
Sharkey than a good sense of humor and the misfortune to be born at a time when he could find himself in a ring with Dempsey and Louis.
Sharkey got a measure of justice two years later when he was awarded a split decision over Schmeling (whose manager, Joe Jacobs, reacted with a phrase that entered the language: "We wuz robbed") and the most coveted championship in sports.
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