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The Debut of Battling Billson

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"The Debut of Battling Billson" is a short story by P. G. Wodehouse, which first appeared in the United States in the June 1923 issue of Cosmopolitan and in the United Kingdom in the July 1923 Strand. It features the irrepressible Stanley Featherstonehaugh Ukridge, and was included in the collection Ukridge, published in 1924.


Main characters

  • Stanley Featherstonehaugh Ukridge, the irrepressible entrepreneur
  • Jimmy Corcoran, Ukridge's writer friend
  • Bowles, Corky's landlord, an ex-butler
  • George Tupper, an old schoolfriend of Ukridge and Corcoran
  • "Battling" Billson, an enormous sailor, friend of Ukridge
  • Flossie, Bilson's girl, a barmaid
  • Tod Bingham, middle-weight boxing champion
  • Plot

    Ukridge, observing the wealth displayed by a prominent boxing manager, resolves to get in on the game himself, and thus make his fortune. By good fortune, an old acquaintance of his from his world-roaming days, an enormous and powerful sailor named Billson, famed for his ability to mop up stevedores by the dozen in bar fights, has landed in England and is looking for shore work, having fallen for a barmaid named Flossie. Ukridge scoops him up, and the two visit James Corcoran prior to heading to the training ground.

    Arriving at his first fight, Billson (now dubbed "Battling Billson") meets his opponent, and is touched by the man's life story. In the ring, this sentimentality affects his performance, until a few strong blows enrage him; he is, however, hesitant, and is knocked out when distracted.

    Ukridge hears that the champion, Tod Bingham, is offering substantial prizes to anyone who can go two rounds with him; he puts his man forward. To ensure Billson's fighting instinct is not weakened by the man's reputation for kindness to his mother, Ukridge persuades Ukridge's girl Flossie to write a letter claiming she has been wooed away from him by the other fighter. This entails taking the girl out for dinner, on their friend George Tupper, who is mortified by the girl's plebiean dress and manners.

    When the day of the prize bout arrives, Corky and Ukridge stand in the crowd, excitedly awaiting Billson's fight. However, the compere announces that the champ has been hit by a truck and will be unable to fight, to the disgust of all. Outside the hall, they encounter a bystander, who describes the "truck" that hit Bingham as an enormous, red-headed man in full rage - if only he'd thought to save his fighting for the ring, says the man, he could have made a tidy sum.

    Billson would return in several other Ukridge stories.


    The Debut of Battling Billson Wikipedia

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