Born: October 27, 1920
Died: May 24, 1989
Patrick Edward Comiskey was born October 27, 1920 in Paterson. His father, James, was an ironworker. Tall, broad-shouldered and immensely powerful, Pat was drawn to boxing as a teen during the Depression and made a name for himself in the amateur ranks as a devastating puncher. He was trained by Johnny Lane and managed by Bill Daly. Eventually, the curly-haired teen grew to 6’3” and 202 pounds. Pat was married briefly to a New York model, but they were divorced before Pat turned 19.
Pat’s first pro fight pitted him against Jack Glover in Newark. Just 17 years old, he knocked Glover out in the first round. Pat dispatched his next six opponents with equal efficiency knocking them out in either the first or second round. His 10-bout winning streak came to an end in Madison Square Garden in 1939, when he fought to a draw with Gene Bronin on the undercard.
Pat didn’t actually lose a fight until December 1939, when he lost a brutal 8-round decision to Steve Dudas. Pat injured both hands pounding away on Dudas; many felt he deserved to win. After recovering from a broken right hand, he defeated Dudas in June of 1940. Pat’s thunderous right hand was as effective as ever, earning him one of the era’s best nicknames: The Celtic Crusher.
Pat was on the fast track to stardom when he faced 31-year-old Max Baer in Roosevelt Stadium that September. Pat's fans were certain that he would be the man to one day knock Joe Louis off his perch; defeating Baer, the former heavyweight champ, was viewed as an important step on his way to the title shot. However, Baer pummeled Pat in the opening round and referee Jack Dempsey stopped the fight after 2 minutes and 39 seconds.
Pat recovered to win 15 of his next 16 fights, losing only to Lou Nova in 1941. Pat joined the Merchant Marines in the spring of 1943, shortly after being convicted for assault. After the war, Pat won 9 fights in a row before losing back-to-back bouts in 1946. Over the next five years, Pat scored wins over some tough heavyweights, including crafty Lee Oma, His ranking soared to #3.
Bill Daly was hoping to line up the long-awaited title shot against Louis in 1948. That plan went down in flames when Pat lost a decision to Henry “Snow” Flakes in Akron. Desperate to prove the loss was an aberration, Daly scheduled an immediate rematch on Pat’s home turf, but this time Flakes knocked him out.
Pat finally stepped into the ring against Louis in September 1948 in Washington D.C. However, it was a six-round exhibition bout with puffy 16-ounce gloves. Louis outpointed Pat in an exciting fight that featured both boxers slugging it out toe-to-toe. They fought another exhibition that winter, during which Pat landed a punch to the champion’s chest that Louis described as the hardest he had ever received.
Pat’s last fight came in April 1951. He beat Joe Kahut in a 10-round decision. However, Pat’s knockout punch was all but gone, and he decided it was time to get out of the game. His final record was 73 wins (60 by knockout), 12 losses and 2 draws.
Pat moved to North Hollywood in the waning years of his career. He supplemented his boxing income working in the moving and storage business. Pat joined the Teamsters and eventually became a union organizer. He also made friends in the film industry and went on to enjoy a moderately successful acting career, His work included the portrayal of Gus Dundee—an ex-champion who dies after a fight—in the 1956 film The Harder They Fall. It was a fictionalized biopic inspired by Primo Carnera, starring Humphrey Bogart and Rod Steiger, as well as Max Baer. Pat’s ring performance ranks among the most realistic in the history of boxing pictures. A few years later, Pat played one of George Raft’s henchmen in Some Like It Hot. He struck up a friendship with Marilyn Monroe during the making of the movie.
Pat moved to Florida with his wife, Helen, in the late 1970s after he began exhibiting signs of dementia. His chosen career had finally caught up with him and eventually he developed Alzheimer’s Disease. He passed away in 1989 at age 68. In 2006, Pat was enshrined in the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame.