By: John Connolly
Who was the greatest American Boxer of all time? The answer is easy. The Boxer who won the most, sired the most Champions and changed the look of the breed was the great CH. Bang Away Of Sirrah Crest.
Boxers came to the US early in this century. The first Champion was the imported German Sieger Dampf v. Dom (Von Dom was the kennel name of the Stockmanns). The first BIS winner was German Sieger CH. Check v. Hunnenstein in 1932.
From 1946 to 1956, Boxers became very popular, and the Boxer entry was quite often the largest entry in the shows. The Boxer dominated the Groups and BIS. The first great Boxer, CH. Warlord Of Mazelaine, made his appearance at the ABC in 1944, going up from the classes. There were two more ABC wins in 1945 & 1947. He was also Best American Bred in Show at Westminster in 1944 (an award that was given in those days because imported dogs had dominated the BIS wins). He returned in 1947 to win BIS at Westminster– the first Boxer to win that show.
Warlord was followed by CH. Mazelaine’s Zazarac Brandy who was BIS at Westminster in 1949, and also set a record for all breeds by winning 61 BIS –no small feat in those days when there were so few shows, and nobody flew dogs around the country. Boxers surely were having their heyday. I was just starting in Boxers and was thrilled because the Boxer that lived behind us in Dearborn was a Brandy son. The fact that he was a plain brindle had no effect on my awe of him because of his great and famous sire.
Little did the Boxer world know that the best was yet to come. Frau Stockmann came to the US to judge a show and toured the country looking at Boxers. She judged a match and placed a young fawn dog BIM. After the show she placed the puppy on the crate he had won for BIM and went over him again for the interested crowd. After all, she was the mother of the breed. She proclaimed him as the “best Boxer in America today.” CH. Bang Away Of Sirrah Crest lived up to this lofty praise. He was BW from the puppy class at the ABC and finished in his fourth show going BOB Group 2. Prior to this he was shown under John P. Wagner (the father of the American Boxer) and he was BW, BOB Group 3 and Best American Bred in Show. His first time out as a special he was BIS. In 1951, he was BIS at Westminster — the third Boxer in seven years to win the big one. Bang Away was a great show dog. When he was in the ring everyone went to ringside to watch him — he was always a contender for BIS. In 1952 he broke Brandy’s record of BIS wins. Shortly after breaking the record he was retired back to California.
Then another great show dog appeared on the scene, the English Setter CH. Rockfall’s Colonel. This dog, much like Bang Away, had a glow about him and he began racking up an impressive number of BIS wins. As he approached Bang Away’s record, Bang Away came out of retirement and immediately began racking up BIS’s. This was when I was lucky enough to see Bang Away. I was showing Brittanys, helping a handler at the Berrien County show. As I was unloading our station wagon of dogs and crates (this was well before vans came onto the scene), I saw a young lady walk across the parking lot some distance from me with a Boxer on lead. Even from a distance I knew I had never seen a dog this good. I ran up to where she had gone and then saw Nate Levine (Bang Away’s handler). Of course, then I knew who this wonder dog was, and every minute I had that day was spent watching Bang Away in his pen, in his crate, and in the ring. All the knowledgeable people were telling me he was older now, he had gone BIS the day before, he had bred a couple of bitches, so he was kind of tired. When he was in the ring you could not take your eyes off of him, you couldn’t look at anything else in the ring. He easily won BIS, winning a large washing machine. I remember wondering how Nate was going to get it home. Bang Away retired with 121 BIS wins. The English Setter retired with 100. These were out of sight numbers in those days. I am still thrilled just reliving this show as I write this. I only wish everyone could have seen him; his photos are nothing compared to the dog in the flesh.
Bang Away not only set the dog world on it’s ear, but he completely changed the look of the Boxer breed. Compared to the good dogs that went before him, he was streamlined and he added more style and more flair to the breed. Naturally, everyone flocked to breed to him and he became the top producer of the breed. I was stumbling around trying to find a good Boxer to show and learning to show dogs by showing some that were lacking in quality. In those days the Boxer ring was filled with top handlers and the young fellow without much knowledge was facing a tough road. We had Jane Kamp (Forsyth), Bob Forsyth, Larry Downey, Stan Flowers (he was just a kid, but he was good), Gene Haupt, Don Starkweather, Bob Greene, Joe Gregory, Phil Marsh, Tommy Ashburn, Stu Sliney and Don Bradley, just to name the ones we showed against the most. It was obvious to me that I needed better Boxers to compete with these handlers.
Mr. & Mrs. Black, MBC members, had a beautiful bitch, CH. Utopia Chaparrel, who they bred to Bang Away. They ended up with a big stylish dark red fawn dog Bon Gay’s Dash Away. This dog had everything, except that he had a locked stifle joint on both rear legs that prevented him from moving properly. I talked Marie Mark into breeding her bitch Duchess Nicklebows to Dash Away, and of course she let me have pick puppy who was Mgm’s Matched Pennies Echo. When bred to CH. Marquam Hill’s Comanche ( a Bang Away son), she produced CH. Capriana’s Renegade and CH. Capriana’s Apache. Finally, thanks to Bang Away, I had something good enough to compete with the top handlers. I never saw another locked stile hock like Dash Away’s and he is in the background of over a hundred Champions.
Bang Away was probably the most published dog of any breed. He appeared in Life, Colliers, Esquire, and many dog magazines, as well as in many newspapers. He became famous enough that the airline pilots knew him and he rode up top in the plane. The pilots would brag to each other that Bang Away was on board. He was defeated only 5 times. One of these defeats resulted in a riot by the gallery. They threw everything, including the chairs, requiring a police escort to get the judge out of the building. The show was later found to have been fixed and the judge was disbarred by the AKC.
At the 1952 ABC Parade of Champions, the three Westminster BIS winners, Warlord, Brandy and Bang Away, appeared together. The Boxer was at its crest, winning BIS at Westminster in 1947, 1949 and 1951. Since Bang Away the only Boxer to win BIS at Westminster, and the only bitch to win, was CH. Arriba’s Prima Donna in 1971. We are due for another BIS at the Garden.
The 1956 ABC Dinner was a “This is your life, Bang Away” production. Bang Away sat at the head table and ate steak and was crowned THE KING.
Bang Away was the dog that had the most impact on the American Boxer. I would be surprised if every Boxer in America today doesn’t trace back to him. He deserves the title THE GREATEST!!!