Tommy Ryan’s given name was Joseph Youngs. But when Ryan ran away from home as teen, he changed his name to Tommy Ryan and became one of the best welterweight and middleweight boxing champions in the world.
Ryan’s boxing career began in the lumber camps where he worked as a teenager. This rough introduction to the sport led him to turn professional in 1887. A smart and tough fighter, one of Ryan’s early lightweight bouts (against Jimmy Murphy) lasted 57 rounds.
Ryan won the welterweight title in 1891. In 1893, one highlight from Ryan’s five-series battle with the Mysterious Billy Smith was a 20-round brawl that was interrupted by the Minneapolis police in which Ryan was declared the winner.
In 1898, Ryan moved up to the middleweight division and became a champion again by defeating Jack Bonner in another 20-round decision. Ryan would retire as a champion in 1907 having never relinquished his crown. Ryan engaged in more than 100 bouts during his career. He earned 17 knockouts in his first 18 bouts and did not lose a bout until 1896. He had only three career losses.
After retirement Ryan’s life took a number of different paths. He fought exhibitions, traveled the vaudeville circuit, managed boxers and ran a gym in Syracuse.
1891: Won world welterweight championship
1893: Began five-series battle with the brawling Mysterious Billy Smith
1895: Defeated Jack Dempsey (The Nonpareil) in the third round
1896: Lost to former sparring partner Kid McCoy in the 15 th round by KO. Supposedly, McCoy tricked Ryan by telling him that he was not in shape and Ryan trained lightly for the match.
1898: Defeated Tommy West in a brutal match; Captured the middleweight title in a 20-round decision over Jack Bonner
1958: Inducted into Ring Boxing Hall of Fame
1991: Inducted into International Boxing Hall of Fame in old-timers category