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26 July 2019 Bonita Granville vs Anne Shirley

Page history last edited by Vassago 3 years ago




Posted by Lookout! Boxing on July 26, 2019, 12:10 am




Retro Bout: Ca. 1941

“New Fighting Flyweights of 1941”

Bonita: DOB: 12/23/23, 5’0 (1.52 m)

Annie: DOB: 04/17/18. 5’2 (1.57 m)

Results: Lookout Writing: Archer

Before: The height of the “Golden Age of Celebrity Boxing” when the studios controlled the boxing careers of their contract players. It was time that saw the most interest in likes of Betty Grable, Esther Williams, Barbara Stanwyck and Ginger Rogers to name a few. Yet there are always petite fighters eager to get into the ring. Bonita Granville was certainly one of these. She had been “Nancy Drew” for Warner Brothers, but wanted to show she was “all grown up”. What better way than to fight in the ring? She had to wait until she was 18, but that day had finally come.

“I know I’m not so big, but, hey, Judy Garland is 4’11, I’m a giant compared to her and a better boxer, too!” Bonita said with a jab at MGM and their carefully protected prospect.

Anne Shirley was a few years older than Bonita, but while she had come down that same path, she was not about to let “that punk kid roll over me in her debut.” Anne knew that her studio RKO bosses would like nothing better than to have her beat one of Warner Brothers’ prize prospects.

For a long time film of this fight was strictly limited to studio VIPs and other well-connected parties. This was often the case of many “Golden Age” bouts for which even written descriptions are hard to come by. However the tireless work of the FCBA Historical Library & Archives has started to under and restore films now in private collections.

The film interestingly is filmed in Technicolor, unusual for most celebrity fights of the period. The setting is a garden of a large estate. Posts and ring ropes string. Veteran Barbara Stanwyck enlisted as special guest referee, another indication someone wanted this fight to get deluxe treatment.


Bonita was in a dark blue one piece with light blue gloves and small blue boxing boots. Anne had chosen a black and white pattern one piece with white gloves and black boots. Bonita nearly tripped getting into the ring, drawing laughs from the well-dressed crowd seated on comfortable chairs, and a sneering look from Anne. Barbara went over and soothed the rattled youngster and guided her to the center of the ring for the instructions. These were done efficiently by Miss Stanwyck and the fighters deployed to their corners. The bel was rung.

R1: Bonita galloped across the ring and started heaving punches at Anne. This was a case of enthusiasm over technique, but one of her punches caught Anne squarely between the eyes. Anne went staggering back, her arms windmilling as Bonita kept trying to get at her jaw, Anne did hit the ropes, but bounced off to catch Bonita by surprise and knock her back on her heels. Bonita took a wild right-handed swing at Anne, who ducked, and lashed back with a right that slapped hard into Bonita’s jaw. Bonita stumbled back looking woozy and Anne came in fast, trying to get at her chin again. Bonita showed she had a jab and used it drive Anne back with quick blows to the face. The two backed off circled and then came in again, this time exchanged punches to the body. Given the close range, not many of these missed so both took a lot of punishment from the exchange. They drifted apart and then Anne tried to come in again, but Bonita sent her into quick retreat with a neat clipping right uppercut to the chin. Bonita and Anne then circled each other, exchanging punches to the bell. The judges ruled it was Bonita Granville’s round by a narrow margin.

R2: Anne came in strongly as the second round began. Bonita seemed flustered by the pressure and tried to jab her back, but Anne would not be stopped. Bonita then tried to back away, but Anne kept close to her. She was firing punches to head and body and keeping the rookie confused about what to do next. Then Anne feinted to the stomach and drew down Bonita’s guard, but then brought a crashing right into Bonita’s chin. Bonita’s head snapped back. She shuffle-stepped backwards a step or two AND DOWN SHE WENT. Bonita Granville sat down on the grass and sat there with a glassy-eyed expression on her face. Anne Shirley gave a sneer and then departed for the neutral corner. Bonita sat there, shaking her head and then looking up as if surprised to see referee Barbara Stanwyck standing over her, counting. Then Bonita jumped to her feet, almost too quickly as she tottered around before stabilizing. Barbara Stanwyck checked her out closely then allowed the fight to resume. Anne came back in and Bonita just seemed interested in staying away. This drew hoots from some of the more unkind watcher and Bonita shifted to defending her ground. Anne was happy to circle and make Bonita miserable with unexpected punches hitting her from surprise angles. The bell rang and Bonita looked relieved. Still, Anne Shirley had won the round and now had a knockdown to her side of the cards.

R3: Anne maintained the pressure on Bonita in the third round. She was using steady body punches mixed with some quick blows to the head. Bonita was again looking flustered under pressure, but this time she tried to push back, launching some hooks into Anne’s stomach. Anne responded by circling and then reversing which threw Bonita increasingly off balance. This allowed the more experienced Anne to get in shots to the face that were starting to lump the rookie up. Bonita kept lunging at Anne to try to break this up, but Anne would coolly drive her back with a well-aimed counters to the body and head. Bonita was looking quite bruised and battered by the time the round ended. Anne Shirley was looking quite pleased with herself.

R4: Hard to say now what Bonita Granville’s trainer was telling her at the break, but likely it “You got to get the pressure on her, kid. Stop letting her control you.” In any case, Bonita came streaking out of her corner and caught Anne flat footed with surprisingly powerful right to the jaw. The impact spun Anne to one side and into the ropes. She turned around to find Bonita pummeling her with lefts and rights, not all of them well-aimed, but enough to make Anne start sliding along the ropes in a desperate effort to escape the bombardment. Bonita was growing excited and the more excited she got the wilder her punching got. This allowed Anne to finally push off the ropes and out to mid-ring. Bonita looked vexed that she hadn’t been able to pin Anne against the ropes, but quickly headed for her. Bonita still seemed shaken by the sudden reversal and seemed to just want to hold Bonita off. Bonita did manage to control her reckless charging after the first counters to the mouth from Anne and switched to the circling tactics Anne had used. Bonita wasn’t as practiced at the tactic, but she was good enough to keep Anne bottled up defensively until the bell sounded. Now Bonita Granville could go smiling to her corner. She had won the round wide. Anne Shirley looked a bit shaky getting to her corner.

R5: Anne Shirley tried to shake off the setback of the previous round by going aggressively at Bonita Granville. Bonita seemed much better in moving back, but throwing up a barrage of jabs (mostly to the face) to bring Anne to a dazed halt. Then Bonita went to the jaw with that right and once again she used to send Anne Shirley floundering away with bells ringing in her head. Bonita still looked ragged scrambling after her shell-shocked opponent, but she swung in front her and unleashed the ol’ one/two, left/right combo to the chin. Anne Shirley frozen for a moment, then tried to take a step forward and down she crashed with a thud. Bonita Granville stared down in astonishment until referee Stanwyck ordered her to neutral corner. Then she started to count. Anne tried to raise herself up but she could not seem to do more than get to all fours.

“EIGHT!...NINE!...TEN!’’… SORRY, BUT YOU’RE OUT!” Barbara Stanwyck pronounced. She then went over and raised Bonita Granville’s arm in victory.

After: Brief scene of Bonita Granville explaining to onlookers: “I had really been working on my right so I would have something special. I didn’t realize how good it was! I know I have a lot to learn, but this is really a lot of fun! I want more!”

Anne Shirley was understandably disappointed: “I wasn’t expecting that right hand of hers. She wasn’t all that good, but a punch like that from a flyweight makes up for a lot. She won’t be so lucky next time Girls will be looking for it!”

Historical record is still blurry on the details of the further careers of Bonita and Anne. Bonita was known to be fighting into the 1950’s while Anne retired in the later Forties. However both seem to have been serious contenders in the often overlooked in the Golden Age flyweight history. Perhaps further research by the FCBA Library will uncover more.



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