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Windsor Boxer Harry Marshall

It would be impossible to calculate the number of Windsor boys whose lives were changed because Harry Marshall taught them how to throw a punch without getting into trouble.

Born in 1923 in Liverpool, England, Marshall moved to Windsor with his parents when he was five and grew up on Bernard Road. While a student at W.D. Lowe, he was an all-city track star but found his true calling in the boxing ring.

Marshall’s father, a boxing enthusiast and coach, had introduced him to the sport. The oldest of five boys, Marshall was the only one to pursue boxing. While serving for the Canadian Army in England during World War II, he became the Army Lightweight Champion in 1945.

Back from overseas, he turned pro. Fighting in the Windsor and Detroit area for the first few years, Marshall’s career progressed but could only go so far. Hoping to achieve national champion status, Marshall and his manager moved to New York City.

In one hundred fights, he suffered only two knockouts and seven losses. Ring Magazine ranked him the #3 lightweight in Canada in 1942.

One of Marshall’s favorite memories of his amateur days was the opportunity, while overseas, to spar with Canadian champion Danny Webb. Great friends, but competitive in the ring, the two would often work out together. While they never fought one another officially, Marshall did score a knockdown against Webb during their informal sparring.

Marshall resettled in Windsor and married Patricia Crilley — they had both grown up in the same neighbourhood. He had developed a reputation there for showing off his athletic abilities — his favourite trick was walking on his hands. Tom Marshall, youngest of their three children, remembers a story of his dad showing off during his courting days. One day when his mother went to the Marshall home, she was met by her fiance walking on his hands — down a flight of stairs.

A labourer at Chrysler’s for 30, Marshall inspired physical fitness in the workplace before it became standard to provide employees with such outlets. Convincing his employer to allocate space on the second floor, he brought in medicine balls, speed bags and other equipment to give workers the opportunity to work out on their breaks.

The YMCA allocated space to Marshall for a time, as did the Jewish Community Center. Founding the Windsor Amateur Boxing Club in 1968, Marshall petitioned City Council to donate a former storage building, and the WABC moved into its permanent home on Grove Avenue in 1970.

Marshall then approached various businesses in Windsor for donations, such as Pazner Scrap on Drouillard Road, which contributed iron to build the ring, and fellow Chrysler employees donated their time welding it together. Even the canvas and ropes were donated.

Even Marshall’s wife got into the spirit obtaining her license as an official judge, and attending matches regularly. Tom Marshall entered twenty amateur fights, winning 19, with — the other resulting in a draw.

"Dad taught me the science of keeping my hands up, scoring points and not getting hit."

Marshall’s love of the sport, and his desire to instill confidence and skill in young men motivated him to open his club’s doors to the youth of Windsor. Regardless of background or past history, prospective boxers were welcomed at the club, as long as they followed the rules. WABC also provided opportunities for men in local drug rehabilitation programs and St. Leonard’s Halfway House to work out as part of their therapy.

WABC has produced its share of stars. Pete Pestowka became Canadian Amateur Middleweight Champion and Jim French and Charlie Stewart won gold medals at the 1972 Canada Winter Games in Saskatoon. In 1973, the WABC team won the Michigan Golden Gloves championship, and became the only Canadian boxing club to defeat the famous Detroit Kronk and Brewster Clubs.

Sportsmanship and hard work have always been more important than winning to Marshall, and that principle is held in high regard in the Marshall family.

In 1972, Harry was voted Kinsmen Club of Windsor Sportsman of the Year, and was recently nominated for induction into the Windsor-Essex County Sports Hall of Fame.






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