Fighter Bios

I thought it might be easier if we put the bios in a new thread.


Milo of Croton was the most highly decorated wrestler in the Greek world, with six Olympic victories and six Pythian victories to his name – as well as countless victories in the smaller athletics festivals. At one such festival, the other wrestlers refused to even enter the event once they learned that Milo would be competing, knowing that they could never hope to defeat him.

There are many tales of Milo's legendary strength. Olympic victors were entitled to have a life-sized bronze statue erected in their honour. Milo had his made, then simply lifted it into the air and carried it to its place. He is said to have held a pomegranate in his fist, and challenged people to either open his fingers to release it, or to squeeze his hand and crush it. No one was ever able to do either. Milo once demonstrated his amazing balance by standing on a greased discus, and holding his ground when challengers would try to push him off.

His fame was such that when the Sybarites sent an army of 300,000 men against his city, it was Milo who was chosen to lead their army of 100,000 men against them. He went to war wearing his Olympic crowns, and with his inhuman strength was the first to break the Sybarites' battle-line – sending them into a full retreat.

Alas, Milo's strength and pride were to be his undoing. Whilst walking through a forest, he saw a tree which the woodsmen had been attempting to split open with wedges. Milo haughtily threw the wedges aside, thrust his fingers into the gap, and tried to rip the tree apart. The gap closed on his fingers, trapping him. As he stood there, his fingers wedged in the tree trunk, wolves devoured him.

John L. Sullivan
BORN : October 15 1858; Roxbury, Boston, MA
DIED : February 2 1918; Abington, MA

John L. Sullivan was born the son of Irish immigrants in working class Roxbury Mass. During the American industrial revolution. He stood between 5'10 and 6'0 depending on who you ask, and his weight would fluctuate between 180 lbs and up to 220 depending on which he was taking more seriously at the time; fighting or drinking. Apparently Johns fighting training consisted of walking from bar to bar , downing several beers and the announcing that he could "lick any son of a bitch in the house" Any takers were greeted by what is still considered today as one of the most brutal right hands in boxing history. And, remember that this is in the days before Marquess of Queensbury, who didn't even write his boxing code until 1872. That means the fights would be bare knuckled, and the ring may consist of the same ring used in a fight in the boys locker room, the crowd just forms a circle. After clearing out every bar room on the eastern seaboard, John finally got a shot at what he already was quick to point out was his, the World heavyweight title. On Feb 7, 1882 in New Orleans John met the heavyweight champion Paddy Riley. 30 seconds later Ryan was on the floor from a thundering right hand. But, as this was the rough and tumble world of bare knuckle boxing a fight dosent end until you give up, cant continue or your second throws in the sponge. So for the next eleven minutes Ryan got knocked down 8 more times until his handlers conceded defeat. By all accounts Ryan was back on his feet when his corner threw in the sponge. 9 knockdowns in 11 minutes and back on his feet.

So at 23 years of age John L. Sullivan was the bare knuckle boxing champion of the world. But times where changing. State legislatures were enacting "anti boxing" bills prohibiting boxing to "prevent the disgusting spectacle" of unarmed combat( sound familiar Sen. McCain?) so many of Johns fights would be held on barges or in back rooms, often raided by police. In fact, prize fighting remained an illegal activity in most states until in 1920 New York passed the walker Law permitting public prize fighting.

John retained the heavyweight title for seven years, and fought what was the last bare knuckle championship fight in history on July 8, 1889 against Jake Kilrain near Biloxi Mississippi. If you are going to end an era, you might as well end it on a high note. John and Jake battled for 75 rounds. Yes, you read that correctly. For two hours sixteen minutes and twenty three seconds two men went toe to toe under the Mississippi sun. During the 44th round Sullivan began vomiting, but refused to conceed. In the 75th round Sullivan mustered a final assault and fired a tremendous combination, including his trade mark right hand for a closer. Kilrain made it back to his corner, but there he stayed slumped over unconscious. His handlers threw in the sponge and John L. Sulivan won the last bare knuckle championship of the world.

But the years of Johns "training" regiment where catching up with him , as no doubt where the dozens of fights. His weight continued to balloon, and his drinking problem spiraled out of control. He did continue to fight, but as the rules of the Marquess of Queensbury began to be enfored, the combination of gloves and his own dimissing skills left him beatable. In 1892 at 33 years of age John agreed to fight "Gentleman" Jim Corbett under the new rules, and Jim Corbett, one of the first fighters who could be considered what we would call today a boxer out boxed and frustrated John.

John fought his last fight against Jim McCormick on March 1st 1905.

LEUNG JAN 1826 - 1901

Leung Jan (Liang Zan) was born in 1826, the second son of a Foshan herbalist and took over the family pharmacy after his father passed away. Leung Jan began learning Wing Chun during the 1850s under Red Junk Opera performer/poler Leung Yee-Tai and later continued under Wong Wah-Bo. Leung Jan was a famous local herbalist and was known both as a doctor and as a martial arts expert.

Leung Jan gained great fame in the last quarter of the 19th century for his fighting ability, and remained popular well into the 20th century when pulp novels and later movies began to circulate, spreading the name of the Wing Chun Wong (Yongchun Wang, King of Wing Chun) and vaulting him into folk-hero status among the local populace.

Famous for his reputation as a winner of numerous challenge matches, Leung Jan received numerous students in his clinic. Leung Jan's most well known student was Chan Wah-Shun who carried on his classes and reputation in Foshan. Leung Jan also taught his son, Leung Bik. Both Chan Wah-Shun and Leung Bik were teachers to Yip Man.

At the age of 73, Leung Jan retired back to his native village of Gulao, Heshan county, where he taught Wing Chun Kuen to a few local students, before passing away at the age of 76 in 1901. He is said to have won over three hundred fights during his career.

Some historians credit Leung Jan as one of the first Wing Chun practitioners/teachers who did not have ties to the anti-government groups. Having no ties to any secret societies meant that he did not have any secret identities to hide. This is perhaps why his existence is more widely documented by the public and is accepted by most practitioners and historians of the Wing Chun method.


Floro Villabrille 1912 - 1992

Grand Master Floro Villabrille is the undefeated champion of countless Kali and Eskrima stick fighting death-matches in the Philippines, Australia and Hawaii. In the 1930's, Kali and Eskrima stick fighting matches were full-contact bouts where the combatants were not aided by the use of body armor, pads or headgear. Combatants used the stick in the right hand and punched with the left hand. In close quarters, grappling, sweeps and throws were used. It was similar to the no holds barred fights of today except that victory was only declared when one of the combatants was either slain or demobilized.

Floro Villabrille was born February 18, 1912 in Cebu, Philippines. He began his martial arts training at age 14, studying Eskrima from his uncles and kung fu from his grandfather.

In his hunger for more knowledge, he traveled the entire Philippines studying the many forms of Filipino martial arts from various masters. His three most influential instructors were his uncle, Leoncio Villagano, Master Pio from Masbate Isles, and Princess Josephina from Gandara, Samar.

His favorite instructor was Princess Josephina, who was the blind daughter of a village chieftain of Gandara on the island of Samar. When Villabrille first arrived on the island, he wasn't immediately taught Kali. Only after passing a series of initiations that displayed his loyalty and sincerity to learning the art, Villabrille was assigned to the chieftain's daughter. At first thought, Villabrille was insulted that the chieftain assigned his blind daughter to teach him, but his resentment quickly turned to respect. He was told to go to the river the next day to meet the Kali master. The next day at the river he found a woman waiting for him. When he asked her where is the Kali master, she answered "I am the Kali master". He did not believe she was the great master, so she instructed him to attack her. Again and again he struck and each time she was able to defend his blows. When he finally looked at her, he realized she was blind. Blind since birth, Josephina developed an extraordinary sixth sense that Villabrille said allowed her to feel what direction and angle the strikes were coming from. Villabrille was amazed by her prowess and lived on the island for 2 years learning under her direct tutelage.

Villabrille cont'd

By the age of 17, he was fighting in death-matches. Villabrille fought one of his memorable bouts at age 18, taking on a Moro stick fighter. There were no rules, nor body armor, and the two traded vicious blows for five rounds before Villabrille finally persevered and subdued his determined opponent. For weeks afterward, Villabrille was unable to lift his arms over his head due to the blows he had absorbed while at-tempting to block the Moro's stick strikes. If they had been fighting with bladed weapons, Villabrille admitted he would have been killed. July 4, 1933 was Villabrille's last fight in the Philippines. His opponent was Elario Eran, a Moro Datu (Prince) from the island of Mindanao. Elario was an expert in Silat-Kuntao; another form of Indonesian/Filipino martial art. People warned Villabrille that the Moro Prince was quick and better than him and suggested that he cancel out of the fight, but he ignored the pleas and refused to bow out. At stake was the National Grand Championship of the Philippines. According to Villabrille, the Moro Prince was highly skilled and they traded blow for blow until the 3rd round when Villabrille felt a hit bounce off his skull. At the same time, Villabrille's bahi stick struck Eran on the neck causing instant death. At the end of the bout, then U.S Governor-General Frank Murphy of the Philippines presented Villabrille with a certificate making him Philippines' Grand Master of Martial Arts. That same year, he stowed away on a ship to Oahu, Hawaii, later settling in Kauai, Hawaii.

Villabrille fought several more matches in Hawaii. In 1948, he fought his last match. After that final match, which left Francisco Adorno an invalid for the rest of his life, Floro Villabrille remained as the only undefeated Kali champion of Hawaii and the Philippines. Shortly after, the death-matches were banned. Villabrille pooled his knowledge of the various styles in the Philippines and along with his combat experience in the ring developed his own system of combat known and the Villabrille System of Kali. His foremost student and personally chosen successor, Grand Master Ben Largusa systemized and broke down Villabrille's System and put into place the theories philosophies that complement the art. Today, the art is known as the Villabrille-Largusa Kali System.
In some parts of the Philippines, Grand Master Villabrille is considered a national hero. At the municipal museum on Mactan Island, Cebu, Philippines, Villabrille's original certificate from Governor-General Frank Murphy hangs next to a statue of Lapu Lapu, the man who is credited for killing Magellan and stopping the Spanish invasion.

It is the kali great's many victories and his many astonishing accomplishments that his followers will remember most. He was said to have superhuman strength and could not only punch nails through two-by-fours with his bare fists, but could then pull the nail out with his hands. "One time he took a rusty nail it had no point and he smashed it right into solid wood," recalls Frank Mamalias, one of Villabrille's former training partners. "He told the audience; 'I have $100 for anyone who can pull that nail out.' No one succeeded, so he held the board, took his hand, and pulled the nail out with no hesitation. It sounded like a .38 going off!"

Another time, Villabrille challenged a man to peel a coconut with his bare hands. The man tried desperately to make inroads in the leather-like covering surrounding the actual coconut shell, but to no avail. Villabrille took the coconut and in no time had pried the outer portion apart with his bare hands.

Villabrille cont'd

The venerable stick-fighting master fought hundreds of full-contact weapons matches during his lifetime, many of which did not end until one fighter was left incapacitated or dead. Villabrille reportedly never lost one of these so-called "death matches," although the beatings took a terrible toll on his body.
In his book The Filipino Martial Arts, noted Filipino fighting arts expert Dan Inosanto includes a quote from Villabrille about how he trained for these full-contact matches: "Before a fight, I go to mountains alone. I pretend my enemy is there. I imagine being attacked, and in my imagination I fight for real. I keep this up until my mind is ready for the kill. I can't lose. When I enter the ring, nobody can beat me; I already know that man is beaten."

As it turned out, there was only one opponent Villabrille could not defeat his own advancing age. The legendary Filipino stylist died March 8, 1992, of complications caused by a minor stroke. He was 79. Like the determined fighter he was, Villabrille had earlier fought off several heart attacks and a 1975 stroke that left him paralyzed on his left side. His wife Trining, and their three sons, Kenneth, Floro Jr. and Ralph survive him.


cool posts!

Wang Xiang Zhai ( 1886-1963)

Wang Xiang Zhai was student of the famous Xingyi Quan stylist ( Shape Mind Fist) Guo Yun Shen who was reknown and infamous for his fighting skills.

After mastering the teachings of Guo Yun Shen, he travelled throughout China testing his skills and learning from different teachers. He is said to have lost only two matches ( a stylist from Hubei and a Liu He ba Fa stylist) and drew with one ( White Crane stylist from Fujian). Notable victories were over the Hungarian world champion named Inge which was recorded in the London Times and Ichiro Hatta (6. dan, Judo) who was Japan's representative in wrestling at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

Later in his teaching career, he began to depart from the orthodox training methods of Xingyi. He thought that his students paid too much attention on the shape of techniques and not enough in the mind and intention. He modified his teachings and changed the name to Yi Quan ( Mind Fist) to emphasise the mental training. Forms were dropped, training now consisted mainly of simple standing and moving moving exercises, shadowboxing and free fighting. He also started using scientific theories in place of classical Chinese theories in his system. Yi Quan is also known by the other name of Tacheng Quan ( Great Achievement Fist).

He produced many famous students. Zhao Daoxin defeated a Norwegian boxer named Andersen and also won the Third All China Sports Championship. Zhang Entong defeated the Chinese heavyweight wrestling champion Zhang Kuiyuan in the 1950s. Bu Enfu was a Chinese champion of boxing and shuiajiao. Most famous and accomplished was Yao Zongxun who was designated his successor, representing him in challenge matches later in life.

I'll do a Mendoza bio here tonight, unless someone else wants him.

[Finally did it, since it was so long I had to make it two posts down below. Enjoy]Jason

the Inosanto site has a long bio of Leo Giron.

Daniel Mendoza (1764-1836)

Mendoza was a London-born Jew of Spanish and English descent. He clearly had that certain je ne sais pas that makes superstars out of some fighters because in that era his being Jewish wasn?t exactly a bonus, yet he still stands today as one of the most famous practitioners of early pugilism. He held the English title, which then was basically the world title, from 1791-1795.

Mendoza, like many big boxing names, was credited with bringing a more scientific style to the ring. He was especially known for his defensive skills: he often barely showed a mark upon his face after a fight, unlike his opponents. Not a small feat since the matches were bare-knuckle. Long range was his favorite, allowing him to dart in and out before the larger fighters could lay a fist on him.

Technique was a necessity for Mendoza, since he was only about 5'7" and weighed in the 160's in the days before weight classes. Mendoza?s "stops" (blocks) were unequalled and coupled with his evasive skills, he became an excellent counter-puncher. Unsurprisingly, noting his size, he was known to punch less hard than others but tended to strike more often and let the cumulative effect take it's toll. Or, as Pierce Egan described his technique in "Boxiana" much more eloquently than I:

No pugilist ever stopped with greater neatness, hit oftener, or put in his blows quicker than Mendoza; but they often failed in doing that execution which might have been expected from their want of force.

Of course, his blocking and punching weren?t his only skills; under Broughton Rules (in effect 1743-1838), the fights were not only dirty, but included a large amount of grappling. The only requirements under the Broughton Rules were "that no person is to hit his Adversary when he is down, or seize him by the ham, the breeches, or any part below the waist: a man on his knees to be reckoned down," thus leaving room for very brutal matches including gouging, kicking, throwing (making sure to fall on top), headbutting, and pretty much anything else. Aside from requiring a decent standing grappling ability, a fighter had to be prepared to take and deliver the less savory techniques also.

Mendoza was not always successful in the less unorthodox techniques, though. In a fight that lost him the championship in 1795, and probably looked much like a well-known Erik Paulson bout some two centuries later, Mendoza fought "Gentleman" John Jackson. The "Gentleman" seized Mendoza's long hair with one hand while he beat on his head with the other. The fight only lasted ten minutes. Mendoza had been staying at Windsor Castle in '95 teaching King George III boxing. Apparently living the good life didn't do a pugilist who relied on quickness and evasion any favors.

In another parallel with today?s martial arts, it is reported by Brown that in Mendoza's first professional fight, "although he won the fight he was not at all pleased with the painful and laboured manner in which he achieved his victory. He reasoned that there was something amiss with his fighting style and promptly retired form the ring for three years in order to improve his skills." Which he clearly did. Reminds me of the reports of a young Bruce Lee's paradigm-changing fight experience.


Page 2 of 2 The strategy he developed was to play a defensive game until his opponent tired, at which point Mendoza would step up his own offense. This strategy worked well, as his fight record of over thirty wins attests. Mendoza was not "just" a fighter, he also had a reputation as a superlative instructor, turning out a number of good boxers in their own right.

Mendoza finally lost the title in 1795, but still fought occasionally due to his finances. Financially, Mendoza never seemed to be able to hold onto money and this was even before the days of boxing promoters. More often he taught and was pretty good at it. He would also tour with circuses before he settled down to run a pub. His last fight was around the age of 56. He then quietly lived running the pub and published his memoirs before his death at 72.

Main sources:

Terry Brown, "English Martial Arts."
Pierce Egan, "Boxiana"
Bob Mee, "Bare Fists; The History of Bare-Knuckle Prize Fighting."


Article on the boxing stances used throughout early stages of pugilism

Mendoza's Treatise on Boxing [Extracts] (c.1800)

Other boxing manuals on the "Online Combat Manuals" Thread


Donald Dinnie (1837-1916)DD won over 2,000 wrestling matches in different styles across the world.One of his most famous feats was carrying two unequally-sized stones, one in each hand, across a small bridge and back. They both had carrying rings and it doesn't sound that impressive until the combined weight of the stones is given- 785 lbs. They are known today as the "Dinnie Stones."During his years of competition he earned about £25,000, which would be about $2.5 million in today's valuation.At the age of 76 he won his last Highland Games competition.Review of a biography and ordering info use google and you can find little snippets including photos of the guy here and there on the web.Jason