George “Kid” Lavigne was born in Bay City in 1869, when he was young, his parents moved to work at a sawmill a few miles north of Zilwaukee in the town of Melbourne( you can read my post about the town HERE). In 1886 he turned pro at the age of 16, and Because of his age, and many of his early fights were in Saginaw, he earned the nickname, “The Saginaw Kid.” While he began boxing early, he went unbeaten in 46 fights and did not suffer his first loss until 1899. While there were quite a few draws on his record, many of those took place when boxing was illegal and were the result of police intervention.
Lavigne’s entry into boxing was at a time when boxing was becoming a more civilized sport. Boxing began putting in regulations that eliminated the free-for-all street-brawling style of fighting that boxing had been. Kicking, biting, elbowing or whatever it took to be the last man standing was no longer acceptable to defeat an opponent. While the new rules were more civil, the sport of boxing remained a test of endurance. Lavigne’s fight with George Siddons on March 1, 1889, in Saginaw went 77 rounds which lasted for over five hours before the referee ruled the fight a draw.
Lavigne had many noteworthy fights, but his bout at New Orleans on December 14, 1894, with local favorite Andy Bowen was probably his most notorious. Bowen was no match for the more skillful Lavigne. The Saginaw Kid pretty much had his way with Bowen, even though Bowen was able to hang on until the 18th round. A smashing right by Lavigne to Bowen’s right jaw sent him head first to the canvas for a final count. Back then, the canvas had no padding to protect Bowen’s head from taking a severe blow from the wood floor underneath. Bowen never regained consciousness and died the following day from his head injury. Everyone was shocked, including Lavigne who was arrested and charged with murder. Later, the murder charges were dropped and Lavigne was released. In February of the following year,Lavigne staged a benefit bout in Saginaw with the proceeds going to Bowen’s widow
Lavigne claimed the American version of the lightweight title by virtue of wins over Andy Bowen, Joe Walcott and a 20-round draw with Young Griffo. A match was set up in London for Lavigne to meet British champion Dick Burge in 1896. Burge was described as a “scientific boxer” while Lavigne was portrayed as an “aggressive, savage fighter.” The action was constant as Burge managed to draw blood from Lavigne’s nose and mouth. But the American never faltered and eventually scored a 17th-round knockout and claimed the world title.
In 1899, Lavigne moved up in weight in a bid to capture the welterweight title and was knocked out by champion “Mysterious” Billy Smith. Later that year, he lost the lightweight crown as well when Erne decisioned him over 20 rounds in a rematch.
He fought on sparingly over the next few years, but his addiction to alcohol and his lack of proper training took its toll. After another knockout at the hands of young Jimmy Britt, Lavigne sailed for France and opened a boxing school in Paris for three years. He returned to the states and opened a saloon in Detroit, “Kid Lavigne’s Triangle Cafe”. He continued to believe he could make a comeback and fought a few exhibitions. He lost his final match in six rounds against “Fighting” Dick Nelson in 1909. Finally closing his saloon in late 1913, by 1914 he found himself working for the Highland Park Plant of Ford Motor Company near his home in Detroit. After his first wife Julia Drujon died in 1922, he remarried two years later to Flora M. Davey. He had no children. He worked at Ford until his death of a heart attack at his home in Detroit on March 9, 1928 and is buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery.
He was only 58 years of age, and like many boxers of his era, had a life somewhat shorter than average.
Lavigne was inducted into the Ring Hall of Fame in 1959, the Michigan Boxing Hall of Fame in 1965, the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1998, the Bay County Sports Hall of Fame in 1998, and the Saginaw County Sports Hall of Fame in 2002.
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