Born: June 4, 1889
Died: April 10, 1961
Town: Jersey City
Francis Burns was born June 4, 1889 in Jersey City. Small, quick and clever, Frankie stood 5’5” and barely weighed 100 pounds when he began fighting as a teenager. He was counted on to be the family breadwinner after his father and stepfather died, leaving his mother with several children, including a disabled daughter. Between bouts he worked for Adams Express, a delivery company.
Frankie began fighting professionally at age 18, mostly in gyms in Queens and Brooklyn. At age 21, Frankie got his first shot at a title, losing to Johnny Coulon in New York for the World Paperweight (aka Flyweight) Championship. He had beaten Coulon in his previous bout, which was a non-title fight.
Frankie fought about once a month, usually in New York but also in New Orleans on occasion. In 1911, he lost a controversial decision to Abe Attell, who would later be implicated as one of Arnold Rothstein’s henchmen in the fixing of the 1919 World Series.
Frankie’s next title shot came against his nemesis Coulon, this time for the Bantamweight crown in 1912. He lost a 20-round fight on points. They met again in 1913 and fought to a 10-round draw. In 1915, Frankie got another shot at the Bantamweight title, but he and title-holder Kid Williams fought to a draw. Frankie’s last chance to win a Bantamweight championship came in 1917. He narrowly lost a 20-round fight to Pete Herman. He beat Herman a year later, but he had lost the title by then.
In the years following World War I, Frankie fought closer to home at venues in Jersey City, Hoboken, Weehawken and Bayonne. Now approaching his 30s, he was a crowd favorite. From the summer of 1918 until he retired in 1921, he lost only 3 of 35 fights. Frankie finished with a record of 95–18–16.
Frankie never left Jersey City. He passed away at age 71 in 1961, and was among the inaugural Class of 1969 in the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame. Nat Fleischer ranked him the #8 Bantamweight of all-time.