Related Biography: Boxer Jack Sharkey
Jack Sharkey, born Josef Paul Zukauskas in Binghamton, New York, on October 26, 1907, first got into boxing while he was serving in the U.S. Navy. He engaged in more than twenty-five bouts during his military service, becoming champion of the Atlantic Fleet. In 1924, shortly before leaving the service and while stationed in Boston, he changed his name and turned professional. He won his first three professional fights, only to lose his fourth on a poor decision. Although he avenged that loss, he was knocked out by Chilean Quintin Romero-Rojas in his 10th fight. He also lost decisions to Jim Maloney, Charley Weinert, and Bud Gorman, but he beat Maloney twice in rematches and defeated the highly rated Johnny Risko and Jack Renault.
On July 21, 1927, Sharkey was knocked out by Jack Dempsey, but he bounced back from that defeat to score a number of major victories, including defeats of Jack Delaney and Tommy Loughran. He also knocked out British heavyweight champ Phil Scott, earning himself a match on September 26, 1930, with Germany's Max Schmeling for the vacant world heavyweight title. After almost knocking out Schmeling in the third round, Sharkey landed a low blow in the fourth round and was disqualified, giving Schmeling the title.
Sharkey and Schmeling met again in a rematch on June 21, 1932, at the Long Island City Bowl in New York City. It was a close match, although many observers felt that Schmeling definitely had the edge. However, Sharkey won the split decision and took the championship, prompting Joe Jacobs, Schmeling's manager, to shout, "We wuz robbed!"
Sharkey married Dorothy Pike in 1925. The couple had three children. Carefully husbanding his boxing earnings, he retired from the ring in 1936. Living in Boston with his family, he managed a neighborhood bar and refereed local boxing and wrestling matches. Later in life, he and his wife moved to Epping, New Hampshire, where he lived until his death in 1994.