Boxing tournament poster

The McAlester Boxing Club was started in 1947 and trained many young fighters, including Don Vaughan.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first of a multi-part series on the late Don Vaughan’s boxing career and the McAlester Boxing Club in the late 1940s. All newspaper quotes come from the McAlester News-Capital unless otherwise noted.

I wish I had started this project when my grandfather, Donald “Don” Vaughan, was still alive. While I did interview him about his life, we didn’t go in-depth about his boxing career that started in McAlester, Oklahoma.

After he passed and I inherited his boxing clippings and memorabilia, I started researching his career in the late 1940s and hoped to interview his best friend, sparring mate, and fellow Golden Gloves boxer Jerry Barnes. I just never had the time I wanted to to dive into his story — caring for my son, finishing college, working, eventually moving to Oklahoma for my first “grown up” job, buying a home, getting married, having another child, and more. Then my window to interview Barnes closed with his death in 2017.

But this year, I decided to make the time to complete this project to honor my grandfather and Barnes — although I still regret not seizing the opportunity to interview them while they were still alive.

I had my grandfather’s scrapbook of article clippings about his boxing, football, debate team, and academic careers, but none of the articles had the date of publication or name of the paper in which they were published.

The newspapers in my grandpa’s hometown of McAlester, Oklahoma, were only digitized in the last few months and made available on-site at the McAlester Public Library. When I finally had an opportunity to make the trek from Michigan to McAlester, I sat in the parking lot connected to the library wifi and proceeded to download more than 200 articles.

My research started with the fall of 1947 as I believed he debuted with the ’47-’48 McAlester Boxing Club. I looked at every single sports page from then through the spring of 1950 — finding out later that his career began in April 1947, an entire year earlier than I thought!

Now I am back in Michigan, more than 1,000 miles away from the McAlester library with the COVID-19 pandemic meaning it could be months before I can return to sift through newspapers for fall of 1946 through the summer of 1947 for anything I missed.

Luckily, he had a few articles from that first year that I could review — and it would appear his first season (’46-’47) was not a busy one. I don’t think he fought more than 10-15 matches total and I have the results of roughly half of them. So while I am certain my final record for him is incomplete, I don’t think it is off by more than 15 matches as he had a career winning percentage of .889 in the matches I’ve found.

Although I believe my research has about 85-90% of his career, I am unwilling to sit on this project for another indefinite period because it is still a great tribute to a great person and athlete.

My hopes are that if I can find complete results for his boxing career that I can submit him for consideration for recognition in the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame and the McAlester Athletic Hall of Fame. Despite the boxing club not being a school team, he was a McAlester High School student and I think his fantastic win-loss record and proof of three (practically four) state championships are noteworthy.

I also had the privilege of interviewing by phone three of the last surviving teammates of my grandfather and former members of the McAlester Boxing Club when he was there. Jerry Bob Troy (now of Edmond, Oklahoma), Jim Coxsey (now of Quinton, Oklahoma) and Tom “Tommy” McClenahan (now of Virginia Beach, Virginia) were kind enough to take some time to talk with me about the club and my grandfather. I was very touched by all the kind things they said about him and fascinated by the details they gave me that could have only been provided by people who were there for many of these events.

I hope you have as much fun reading this series as I had putting it together.

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