Home > Oral Histories of Some Lankville Pugilists, Sports > Oral Histories of Some Former Lankville Pugilists

Oral Histories of Some Former Lankville Pugilists

Gene “Tea-Sipper” Supps (1936-1944, 21W 3L, 12KO)

Gene "Sippin-Tea" Supps, 1938

Gene “Tea-Sipper” Supps, 1938

I really got no memory of how I came to be a fighter. I was born on a mountain and we had this little one-room schoolhouse and it was without fire. And the professor was a little man from over the next mountain and he had a thing about shapes. He wanted us to know all the shapes. “I don’t care if you come out of here with no knowledge at all,” he would say. “Long as you know your shapes.”

So anyways, he was going on about the shapes and then these two men come in and they scanned the room. And the one man, he pointed to me and the other man came and picked me up by the collar. And the next thing I knew, I was on a big gunboat.

And they said, “See if you can lick everyone on this ship.” So, I fought a bunch of ’em in a makeshift ring they had set up including a couple of big Chunkers*.  And the one man, he nodded the whole time and it turned out later that he was the old bare-knuckled fighter Skip Binders.  Skip was with me for my first couple of fights until they cut his head off.

One time, I sipped some tea before a fight.  And one guy said, “Look at that hillbilly.  He’s a tea-sipper.”  And a couple of days later they put that name on a poster and I thought, “Well, that’s that.  It’s on a poster now.”  So, after that, I was always introduced as Gene “Tea-Sipper” Supps.

I won my first five professional fights all by knockout and then I come up against the Moderately-Portlyweight Champion at the time, Buddy Weisko, from the Teets Islands.  Weisko had a funny way of fighting where he’d bend over at the waist so he was looking at your shoes.  I just pounded him on the back until his kidneys gave out and they stopped the fight.  So, I got the Moderately-Portlyweight championship in 1938.

I defended it six times and then I lost it about 1941.  That bout was against Kid Vanilla at Lankville Round Garden.  It was a main event and we followed a big clown show.  I was beating Kid Vanilla on points going through eight rounds.  When I came out for the 9th, I swear to The Ghost that the Kid had something on his gloves.  Next thing I know, I couldn’t see none.  And that was that.  Kid Vanilla pounded me all over the body and then on the chin and I was blind as a bat.  I went down into the ropes and it was all over.

Course, we protested but the commission couldn’t find any wrongdoing.  Years later, when the Kid was dying in the hospital, I went and saw him.  I said, “Kid, you had something on your gloves, didn’t ya?”  He said, “Yeah, I’m sorry Tea-Sipper.  They made me bleach my gloves.”  I thought about that for awhile and then I left but later I came back and punched him in the face.  I think he died a couple of days later.

I retired in 1944.  I haven’t done nothing since.  I mean, nothing.  Just sitting in chairs.  I sit in chairs all the time.

Oral Histories of former pugilists will continue in future issues.

*Derogatory term for those hailing from the Chunk Islands, 125 miles southwest of Lankville.

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