Phil Lawson: Dynamo from Byng Inlet

    Phil Lawson is mostly known as Whipper Watson’s trainer and manager but he was a real powerhouse in the city running shows and training upstarts for many years. He had come from Byng Inlet to Toronto in his youth and was an accomplished amateur himself. He won both City and Ontario championships after starting at the YMCA as a kid around 1910. In 1921 he won the noted Provincial Light Heavyweight Title in boxing, and in 1926 the Canadian Lightweight Championship in Wrestling. 

Lawson took over training for the YMCA in 1926  and started working with Watson as early as 1931. Officially he became his manager in 1940 but he had already been using his specialized training regimens from the time a teenaged Watson had first found the sport.  Besides Watson, Lawson trained Oshawa favorite Billy Stack and worked with others that frequented the MLG cards. Lawson was also very tight in the wrestling/boxing office of Jack Corcoran prior to- and after -the Tunney's taking over. He was later described as 'the eyes, ears, and sometimes mind of Tunney' as they built the office into one of the most successful on the continent. 

Lawson had influence, and was helped by his outgoing personality. He was once described as 'an outgoing character, confident and aggressive, bouncing off the walls in the office, and sometimes volatile.'  He was a health nut who preached clean living and vigorous exercise. Said to charge at everything he did, 'if he went out for coffee he banged doors as he went and he dog-trotted to the bistro.' 

Phil & Whip in The Hanger 1942
The local scribes frequently reported on the strange workout sessions that Lawson was putting his star through. Lawson would have Watson carry him on his back up the Scarborough Bluffs and other unorthodox regimens. One of the strangest is 'The Hanger' a noose like contraption that was to strengthen the neck muscles. It must have worked, Whipper bumped up his weight by 40lbs from his amateur days.

When Frank Tunney introduced the ramp in 1948 to protect Nanjo Singh from the fans, Lawson was right in the middle of it. Tunney had announced there was to be a ramp set up from the entrance way to the ring. An ‘escape hatch’ as described, it served exactly the purpose for which it was created. After Watson was declared the winner and new British Empire champ, Singh attacked Lawson trying to rip his tailored suit off. Watson saved his manager and Singh then hightailed it across the ramp, now safe above the heads of the surging ringside crowd. 

Lawson as an in ring manager got pulled into the action a fair bit for the times. He could take the bumps and would really fly when tossed by one of Whipper's foes.

In May 1949 Lawson died at the age of 48 after having recently suffered some heart trouble. He was memorialized as an 'imaginative man, with a lovely wit.' It went on to say that the local scene 'has been struck a shrewder blow than anything (Fred) Atkins ever presented the Whipper.' 

His passing certainly left a void in the local scene. As a result Watson took on an increased role alongside Tunney as the promotion moved into the boom of the 1950's. 

'Few men in the sports scene will be more sincerely mourned than the likeable chattery voice of Tunney enterprises...' - Daily Star May 31 1949


Lots to fill in on Phil's story...

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