AUSTIN, Texas — Prizefighting memorabilia collector Donald Scott called this portrait of Young Peter Jackson, with his arms folded, left eye closed and ear half chewed off, the perfect boxing photo. “It says pride and determination and makes a visual statement about the sport that none other I have seen can,” Scott said. He believes the portrait was taken in 1900 after Jackson’s fight with Mysterious Billy Smith and, like many such photos, probably wound up on the wall of a bar.
One could excuse Donald Scott for handling his collection with kid gloves.
Scott, a retired official with the Federal Job Corps program who collects prizefight memorabilia, lives in the Austin, Texas, area with his wife, Rachel, and two dogs, Gans (named after lightweight champion Joe Gans) and Gypsy. If you guessed that the dogs are boxers, ding! ding! ding! — you win this round.
His living room walls are filled with historic photos of prizefighters and events, many of them signed. A large coffee table in the room has multiple drawers full of pins, programs and other memorabilia. A nearby cupboard holds binder after binder of boxing artifacts.
“What you see here is just scratching the surface of the collection,” says Scott, a contagiously friendly man with salt-and-pepper hair, a close-cropped beard and glasses. With a few more years and a few extra pounds, he could pass for Santa Claus (if Santa enjoyed watching guys pummel the tar out of each other for cash and glory).
When he’s not smiling or laughing, Scott is doling out interesting facts, anecdotes and frank observations.
“That’s John L. Sullivan in later years,” he says, pointing to a photo he’s placed in a shrine of sorts to three early heavyweight champions — Sullivan, “Gentleman” Jim Corbett and “Ruby” Robert Fitzsimmons. “He didn’t live much past about 1915, I think. He really porked up.”
Scott began collecting prizefight memorabilia in 1978 and claims to have one of the largest such collections in the world. A lifelong collector, Scott obtained his first pieces of boxing memorabilia by trading away his extensive baseball card collection.
“I just got caught up,” he says. “I mean, I’m out of control. My wife is a saint.”
His fondness for prizefighting stems from his childhood, when he and his father would watch boxing matches on television. One of Scott’s prized possessions is a pair of gloves worn by Rocky Marciano while the fighter defended his heavyweight title at New York City’s Polo Grounds stadium on Sept. 24, 1953. In his youth, Scott idolized Marciano and he remembers watching this particular televised fight with his father.
Ninety-nine percent of Scott’s collection is pre-1964, and the bulk of it dates to before the 1920s. It includes souvenir fight scarves, trading cards that used to come in packs of cigarettes, tickets, robes, championship belts and practically any other type of boxing artifact imaginable.
In addition to collecting, Scott has published Boxing Collectors’ News, a newsletter and website for collectors, since 1988 (www.boxingcollectors.com). He has attended every International Boxing Hall of Fame induction ceremony since the Canastota, New York, facility opened and presents a collectors’ lecture during that weekend. Finally, Scott’s expertise comes in handy as he conducts appraisals of material donated to the IBHOF.
Scott’s favorite item: A portrait of turn-of-the-century prizefighter Young Peter Jackson, with his arms folded, left eye closed and ear half chewed off. Scott calls it “the perfect boxing photo.”