Boxing was one of the most popular sports in the Clearfield County region, ranking right up there with baseball, prior to the World War II era.
In the 1930’s, one of the most well-known boxers in the state was Jesse Duke, known as “the Pride of Woodland” and also “Woodland’s Iron Man.”
Jesse was born in Woodland to his parents Ashley Woolridge Duke and Nettie (Jury) Duke in 1908. He was raised in Woodland and had an interest in boxing while growing up. Charley, Jesse’s younger brother, also took a liking to the sport.
The fighting weight for Jesse was 127 to 130 pounds. He was well known for his left-hander. Throughout the late 1920’s and early 1930’s, it was written in local newspapers that Jesse competed in many promoted matches.
Some of his fellow boxing mates from Clearfield County at the time included, Bill Flannigan, Dick McClure, Dick and George Duckett, Art Hockman, Blair Mann, Jake Kanter, Al Pyle, Teddy Misko, Monk Fox, Bobby Barrett, Dick Houston, Barney Nevling and his brother Charley Duke.
In July of 1930, Duke had won his last six fights with four of them as knock-outs. An article describing a fight at the Mishler Theatre in Altoona was published in the Sept. 27, 1927 edition of the Altoona Tribune “Jesse Duke of Clearfield and Billy Palm of Johnstown put up the best bout of the night.
Five times Duke had his foe on the floor only to see him rise for further punishment.” “It was by far the best bout of the night with Duke the winner by a wide margin.”
On this same night at the Mishler, Barney Nevling of Coalport was in the ring with Red Cuzzolino battling to a six-round draw.
Jesse Duke went on to marry and raise two sons. Jesse worked for Harbison-Walker. He and his wife Celia (Martell) both died in 1978.