Chagaev, Pride, & Sid Jackson’s Legacy

by Nathan Hamm on 4/18/2007 · 4 comments

Many readers surely have already heard that Ruslan Chagaev won the WBA heavyweight title by defeating Nikolai Valuev in Stuttgart a few days ago. Islam Karimov is, of course, making hay of the news.

Karimov … hailed Chagaev for his “great contribution to improve the authority and prestige of Uzbekistan in the international arena and bringing up youth in the spirit and love and devotion to the motherland”.

He even bestowed Chagaev with the Buyuk Hizmatlari Uchun order.

As is well known though, Chagaev neither lives nor trains in Uzbekistan. So, congratulations are in order to the people of Uzbekistan. There’s nothing wrong with taking pride in a fellow countryman’s success. None of the credit goes to the politicians though.

In fact, more credit should go to an interesting American who ended up in Tashkent quite unintentionally when the outbreak of World War I stranded him in St. Petersburg, where Russian officials advised him to head for the capital of Russian Turkestan.

Sidney Louis Jackson was born into a poor Jewish family in New York in 1886. At 18, he became a professional boxer, and went on to fight for the US team. In 1914, he broke his thumb in a match in Glasgow, and decided to use his recovery time to see Europe. Convinced by a travel agent that he’d see polar bears wandering the streets in Russia, he set off with another boxer. They made their way from Arkhangelsk to St. Petersburg, and then eventually on to Moscow. It was there that they, by chance, found an English newspaper and discovered that war had broken out in Europe. The US consulate in St. Petersburg advised them that their only escape route was via Tashkent.

When they got there, the two found out that Gill had received money by wire while Jackson had not. It was agreed that Gill should hasten back to the US and try to send help for Sid. The closest thing to help he ever received was a letter from his mother in 1916.

The rest of his story, as told by Jim Riordan, can be read here (PDF).

The Chagaev-Valuev fight can be found at YouTube.

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– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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Nick April 19, 2007 at 2:07 am

Wow. What a fascinating character! He was in Tashkent at the same time as FM Bailey, then.

Joshua Foust April 19, 2007 at 10:41 am

Good call Nick. Though, if I remember Mission to Tashkent correctly, with the exception of his initial arrival Bailey was so deep under cover no one outside the secret police really knew who he was or what he was there for.

Nathan April 19, 2007 at 12:42 pm

Actually, there were some who knew what Bailey was up to. Nazaroff knew him, but they don’t mention each other in their memoirs for reasons discussed, I think, in Hopkirk’s comments in Nazaroff’s book.

This makes me want to go back through both to see if there’s any mention at all of an American in Tashkent at the time. I’d imagine Bailey’s more likely to say something. But, it sounds like Jackson was all over the place in military units fighting for the Bolsheviks at the time, so if there are any memoirs from 1914-1918 Tashkent that anyone knows of, I’d be interested in checking them out.

Nick April 20, 2007 at 3:33 am

The most prominent American was the US Consul-General, Roger Tredwell, whose adventures in Tashkent appear to be even more hair-raising than Bailey’s.

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