George Henry Lavigne (1869 - 1928)
Aka: "Kid Lavigne", "Saginaw Kid." - World Lightweight Champion from 1896 to 1899.
by Marvin Kusmierz (June 2005)
Updated Oct. 27, 2013: Added additional data based on research done by Lauren D. Chouinard.
|Lavigne - 1880 MI Census, Bay City
|John||Self||Male||49||CAN||Work saw mill
Managers: Billy Lavigne, Sam Fitzpatrick, Joe Courtmarsh, Joe Lewis and Billy Roche.
Born: Dec. 6, 1869 - Bay City, MI
Died: Mar. 9, 1928 - Detroit, MI
Father: Jean (John) Baptiste Poudrette dit Lavigne
Mother: Agnes Dufort
Brothers: Jean B. (b. 1860), Joseph P. (b. 1862), William (b.1865), John (b.1870), Frank (b.1877), Dennis (b. 1876), Jochin (b. 1880), James (b. 1881)
Sister: Marie L. (b. 1866), Ida (b. 1878), Agnes (b.1879)
Spouse: Julie Drujon, marriage: 29 Aug 1905, Manhattan, NY, NY.; Flora M. Morrison, marriage: 1923, Detroit.
George Henry Lavigne, earned himself a place in the history of professional boxing and in the history of Bay City, Saginaw and Michigan, when he became boxing's first World Ligntweight Champion in London during June 1896 by knocking out England's Dick Burge in the 17th round. He held this title until July 3, 1899, when he lost it to Frank Erne in 20 rounds at Brooklyn's Coney Island in New York. A year earlier he fought a 20 round draw with Erne in a successful defense of his title.
Several sources cite Lavigne’s birth place as West Bay City, however, this isn’t correct. Lavigne was born in 1869, and West Bay City wasn’t formed until 1877. Based on extensive research it appears that Lavigne was born in the Pittsville area of Bay City, the family later moving to the Dolsenville area, also called “Frenchtown.”
The parents of George Lavigne immigrated to this area from ,St.Polycarpe, Quebec in 1868, one year before George was born. William, his older brother was born in Canada in 1864. His father worked in a sawmill here, most likely the Pitts and Cranage mill at the foot of Washington Avenue. In 1880 the family moved to Melbourne where George’s father, Jean Baptiste, got a job working in the Whitney and Batchelor mill. Several references mentioned that George also worked in a sawmill as a “cooper,” building barrels to ship salt, a byproduct of the lumber mills located on top of vast salt deposits. He may have done so during the early part of his career in boxing.
George was only 16 years old when he had his first fight, which took place in Saginaw on September 7, 1886. It was a first round knockout of Morris McNally. That year he fought six more times at Saginaw winning them all. All were knockouts except for two. It appears that boxing at this time was a part time affair for Lavigne, as he had only four fights over the next two years; one in 1887 and three in 1888, with no losses.
In 1889 he had six fights. including two exhibition bouts. Two of his bouts that year were long-distance contests of 77 and 55 rounds against journeyman George Siddons. The second of the two was a decision for Lavigne in Grand Rapids as he claimed the Featherweight Championship of Michigan. This fight also marked the first time Lavigne had fought anywhere other than Saginaw or Manistee. His fifth fight that year was at Detroit, and his first fight in a major city. As Lavigne’s prowess in the ring grew it became harder to get fights locally. He had only four fights in 1890, including one exhibition, and a technical knockout of Sam Eaton at West Bay City to end the year.
Lavigne’s first fights outside of Michigan were held at San Francisco in 1891. He had two bouts there, a win over Jimmy Lewis (possibly Lucie) in 4 rounds and a technical knockout over Joe Soto in 30 rounds. Most of his fights from this point on leading up to him winning the World Lightweight Championship in London in 1896 were held in major cities around the country.
Lavigne’s entry into boxing was at a time when boxing was becoming a more civilized sport. It was during the 1880s that 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 was acceptable to defeat an opponent and to be the last man standing was no longer acceptable. 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, at Saginaw is but one example. He went 77 rounds which lasted for over five hours before the referee ruled the fight a draw.
In the book, "Gene Tunney - The Enigma of the Ring," author Nat Fleischer wrote:
"Take for example the great fights between Joe Walcott and Kid Lavigne, Joe Gans and Battling Nelson, Ad Wolgast and Battling Nelson, and a horde of others. There never will be such combats as these under our present system of boxing rules and training. If gladiators were to present the condition in which Walcott and Lavigne found themselves, modern rules would probably call a halt by the referee."
"Lavigne took the worst beating of his great career and then came back towards the end and fought Walcott off his feet. The Kid's left ear was hanging on a thread and his face looked as if it had passed through a threshing machine."
Lavigne sported a very powerful physique for a man only five foot three and a half inches tall. His had exceptionally large shoulder and arm muscles that made for a power piston like punch. Out of his 34 career wins, 21 were by knockout, and he had only six losses.
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. It was a one side battle as Bowen was no match for the more skillful Lavigne. Only a few die hard fans gave Bowen any chance and the fight proved them wrong from the get-go. Lavigne 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. Regrettably, 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. (See “The Death of Andy Bowen” by [Common-Place.org] for full story.
On August 29, 1905, George married Julie Drujon. Their wedding was held in Manhattan, New York. They had no children. George applied for a marriage license on August 27th, 1923, to wed Margaret L. DuMont Morisett. For unknown reasons they never followed through with the marriage. Just three months later Lavigne married his second wife, Flora M. Morrison Davey, a widow, on December 1, 1923.
After he lost the Light-Weight title in 1899 to Frank Erne, Lavigne only fought sporatically until 1910 when his final fight was an exhibition with Ad Wolgast at Detroit, where he lived out the balance of his life. He held several jobs for the Ford Motor Company in Highland Park. His last job at Ford was as a night watchman.
George Henry “Kid” Lavigne died of a heart attack on March 9, 1928 at his home at 111 LaBelle Avenue on March 9, 1918, age 58. He was buried in Saginaw at Forest Lawn Cemetery.
For more on George “Kid” Lavigne see the biographical work by Lauren D. Chouinard, Muscle and Mayhem: The Saginaw Kid and the Fistic World of the 1890s, available through the website – [KidLavigne.com] – and from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or your favorite bookseller.
Fight Comic Magazine. Contributed by Lauren Chouinard. Added May, 2011.
Lavigne's boxing greatest lives on today through his statistics, but to the generation that bore witness to his greatness as a fighter, he remained a subject of popular interest long after his death. Thanks to Lauren's contribution, we are now able to turn the clock back to December, 1941, when Fight Comic magazine featured Kid Lavigne's life story in a comic strip, and experience what Lavigne's fans enjoyed reading nearly 70 years ago.
-- (See link to pdf file in right-hand column)
George "Kid" Lavigne
Hall of Fame inductions:
1959 - Ring Boxing
1965 - Michigan
1998 - International Boxing
1998 - Bay County
2001 - Saginaw County
George was born in the Pittsville area of Bay City in 1905. His parents were Jean (John) Baptiste Poudrette dit Lavigne and Agnes Dufort, they were married on Feb.20, 1860 at St. Polycarpe, Quebec, Canada.
He had eight brothers,
Jean Baptiste (b. 1860),Joseph Procul (b. 1862), William (b.1864), John (b. 1871), Frank (b. 1874), Dennis (b. 1876), Jochin (b. 1880), James (b. 1881) and three sisters, Marie Louise (b. 1866), Ida (b. 1878), Agnes (b. 1879).
He lived out his later life in Detroit, MI.
None at this time.
Bowen, Andy (fighter)
Burge, Dick (fighter)
Courmarsh, Joe (mgr.)
Drujon, Julie (1-wife)
Erne, Frank (fighter)
Dufort Lavigne, Agnes (mother)
Dumont, Morisette, Margaret (fiance)
Fitzpatrick, Sam (mgr.)
Fleisher, Nat (writer)
Gans, Joe (fighter)
Lavigne, Agnes (sister)
Lavigne, Bill (mgr.)
Lavigne, Dennis (bro.)
Lavigne, Frank (bro.)
Lavigne, Ida (sister)
Lavigne, James (bro.)
Lavigne, Jean (John, father)
Lavigne, Jean B. (bro.)
Lavigne, Jochin (bro.)
Lavigne, John (bro.)
Lavigne, Joseph P. (bro.)
Lavigne, Marie L. (sister)
Lavigne, William (bro.)
Lewis, Jimmy (fighter)
Lewis, Joe (mgr)
McNally, Morris (fighter)
Morrison, Davey Flora (2-wife)
Nelson, "Battling" (fighter)
Roche, Billy (mgr.)
Siddons, Geo. (fighter)
Soto, Jose (fighter)
Tunney, Gene (fighter)
Walcott, Joe (fighter)
Wolgast, Ad (fighter)
Bay City, MI
Coney Island, NY
br>FeatherWeight Champ, MI
Grand Rapids, MI
New Orleans, LA
Pitts & Cranage Sawmill
San Francisco, CA
Wenona, MI (village)
West Bay City, MI
Whitney & Batchelor Sawmill
World Lightweight Champ
Boxing stats and personal information:
[Cyber Boxing Zone]
[International Boxing Hall of Fame]
[The Death of Andy Bowen]
Census, marriage, pedigree information:
City directories and miscellaneous:
Bay County Historical Society Museum
Bay County Library System
Fight Comic Magazine
1941 comic strip featuring
Kid Lavigne's boxing career.