Portland’s Chinese ‘Rocky’

By Gary Libby

In the late 1940s one Harry Wong battled his way into the boxing scene in southern Maine. Known variously as “little Chinese wildman” and “Bongo Bongo,” Harry fought thirty-seven bouts in the Portland and Lewiston areas between 1946 and 1948. He won seventeen (eleven by knockout) and came away with six draws. But he himself was knocked out five times and lost nine decisions. It seems that his great asset and also great weakness was an aggressive, lunging style, without much defense. This made it likely that he would knock out his opponent or be KO’d himself. It also made him popular among fans, who loved action.

Harry Wong, was born in Portland, Maine, in 1925, the son of restaurateur Charles Tuck Wong and his wife Mark Shee. Harry’s father opened the Oriental Restaurant in Portland’s Monument Square in 1917. That deluxe establishment closed in 1938.

Chinese boxers being a rarity, it is not known how Harry got into his brief pugilistic career. He first entered the ring in 1946 when he fought to a four round draw against Young Sacco in Sanford. He weighed in at 142 pounds. Two days later and three pounds heavier, he fought Napoleon James at Portland’s Exposition building. The newspaper’s account said that Harry was too strong and that he “wanged away inside” while evading James’ wild swings. A few days later, now at 147 pounds, he knocked out Young Tanguay, of Biddeford, in the first round.

Later that year he fought three more bouts, notching two knockouts and a draw.

The Sunday Telegram called him a “little Chinese wild man.” On May 11, 1947 Harry caught Art Gallant of Portland with a right uppercut so hard that his head hit the canvas with a thud. Gallant’s corner men took five minutes to revive him. Harry next took on “Jabber” Joyce, a well known local baseball pitcher, in what was described as a slugfest. The Press Herald said, “Mr. Wong comes from a race noted for stoic calm but on his expressive pan, emotions ran the gamut from deep concentration to intense pain as he alternately pitched his best punches and caught Jabber’s.” Harry won a six round decision.

Within a year from this event, Harry fought twenty-eight more times, in the course of which he himself occasionally fell to an opponent’s blows. His final bout took place on April 9, 1948, ending in his being knocked out in two rounds by keg-chested Bob Stecker of Portland.

During his boxing career, Harry lived with his mother at 64 Brown Street in Portland. He was listed in the Portland City Directory through 1949. His mother sold the house, and the family dispersed by 1950. She died at the Togus Veterans Administration Hospital in 1954. Harry himself dropped from the historical record.

 [From September 2007 CAFAM Newsletter]

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The Chinese & American Friendship Association of Maine provides forums and outreach that promote cultural interchanges between the US and China.

Some rights reserved. Please share content responsibly. Banner image: Peonies, Yun Shouping (1633–1690), Public Domain via Wikipedia Commons. Produced by The Compass LLC.