Freddie Welsh - Later Life

Later Life

Welsh retired from boxing after a defeat by Archie Walker in 1922, but retired as a wealthy man. Before he lost to Leonard in 1917, Welsh bought a farm on Long Hill in Chatham Township, New Jersey. The farm was set in 162 acres (0.66 km2) and Welsh spent thousands of dollars on improvements, installing a gymnasium, a state of the art kitchen, golf course, tennis courts and a swimming pool. His idea was to turn it into a health spa, and on 11 August 1917 a host of celebrities and dignitaries were invited to its opening. One of the guests, Bat Masterson, described Long Hill as a 'palatial home sitting high upon a hill, like an acropolis'.

Welsh found Long Hill a poor distraction and thought of joining the British forces, but was persuaded out of the idea by Fanny. Instead he joined the United States Army, serving as a lieutenant and was consigned to the Walter Reed Hospital where he helped rehabilitate disabled veterans.

In 1918 Welsh was struggling with Long Hill and decided he wanted rid of it. Welsh had spent $150,000 on Long Hill, his entire life's earnings, and he placed it on the market for $20,000 cash as his business was close to collapse. He was still unable to find a buyer. Welsh's dream was to earn and run a health farm, held since his first days in America; now with his dream in tatters his life began to disintegrate. On 11 October 1919, Welsh was the only diner in a restaurant on 50th and Broadway, when by complete coincidence Harry Pollok walked in. The men became violent, and a fight ensued which ended with Pollok being rushed to the Polyclinic Hospital with half his right ear in an ice bucket. Pollok swore out a warrant against Welsh who was arrested upon complaint that he had bitten his former manager's ear in half. Welsh denied the charges and after Pollok failed to appear to press the charge for a third time, the case was dismissed.

In 1920 he was discharged from his duties at Walter Reed Hospital having reached the rank of captain. He returned to Long Hill, and with his money dwindling made the decision to return to the ring. After six months of preparation he faced 'Kid' Green on 28 December 1920. Despite the three and a half-year absence from the ring, Welsh was in good shape and took only four rounds to beat Green; though he had switched his trademark defensive boxing to a heavier brawling style. Welsh then fought twice in May 1921, against Willie Jackson and Kid Murphy, both wins; but the most notable event regarding the bouts was the appearance of heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey, who was spending time relaxing at Welsh's health farm. After two more fights in 1921, both in Canada, Welsh returned to New York to face Archie Walker in April 1922. The fight was a sporting disaster for Welsh, losing seven of the ten rounds, and by the tenth he was being chased around the ring as he covered himself up. It was a pitiful display and Welsh never stepped into a professional ring again.

By 1923, during Prohibition, Long Hill was attracting more guests for its supply of home-brewed ciders and beers than its sporting facilities. While in 1924, through their mutual acquaintance of Ring Lardner, F. Scott Fitzgerald turned up at the farm and sparred three rounds with Welsh. In 1924, Welsh was back in court, after he was involved in a car collision caused by him driving his vehicle on the wrong side of the road. Welsh began looking for other ventures to take him away from the health farm, and in 1925 he rejoined the US Army, becoming a boxing instructor at the Plattsburg Barracks in upstate New York. While in the forces he placed an advertisement for a manager to run Long Hill, which was accepted by neighbour and friend, Sidky Bey, and his wife Hranoush, known as Madame Bey. With strict curfew hours and a no-alcohol policy, Madame Bey made the farm a success, and Long Hill became an important training venue for New York boxers. But her tenure at the farm ended acrimoniously, over an argument with boxer Battling Siki, who Welsh believed to be a bad influence. After discussing the matter with other boxers, Madame Bey left Long Hill and set up her own rival venue. With Welsh in the Army and Madame Bey gone, the farm fell into disrepair. Bey later recalled Welsh fondly, stating that he was a man who enjoyed having a good time, but was a terrible businessman.

In 1927, with Welsh unable to raise the capital to pay the mortgage on his Long Hill estate, the farm was sold to satisfy a mortgage of $30,000 even though it was valued at $150,000. With Long Hill lost, Fanny and Welsh separated, Fanny taking a job as a live-in housekeeper at the St Paul's Hotel on 60th Street, New York, a venue where she and Welsh once lived in a suite of apartments. Soon after Welsh's health began to deteriorate and he began complaining of severe chest pains. His doctor reported that Welsh was depressed and was drinking too much. On 17 July 1927, Welsh appeared at the West Side Court in New York City, sporting a black-eye suffered in a street brawl. He faced a charge of disorderly conduct, after he came off worse in a drunken encounter with Edward Delaney of New York. The patrolman who saved Welsh from a serious beating assured the magistrate that it was a friendly fight and the charges were dismissed against both men.

On 28 July 1927 a maid at Hotel Sidney, discovered Welsh laid face downward in his pyjamas and bathrobe. He had died in the night. A doctor was called who opined that Welsh had died of a heart attack. On 13 October 1927, Welsh's old health farm was destroyed in a fire.

Read more about this topic:  Freddie Welsh

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