May 8, 1947: John Thomas begins training at the Main Street Gym for the California State lightweight championship match at Wrigley Field on June 3.
Before being drafted into the Army, Thomas was an impressive young fighter and was scheduled for a lightweight championship bout with Juan Zurita when he went into the service.
Thomas was the 5-6 favorite for the 1947 match, but Enrique Bolanos scored a TKO in the seventh round, the first knockout of Thomas’ career. In a rematch Sept. 30, 1947, at the Olympic, Bolanos knocked out Thomas in the fourth round. It was Thomas’ last fight.
He ended his career with a record of 53-7 with one draw, scoring 18 knockouts. Thomas told the Sentinel in 1990 that he had received extensions on the draft since 1943 but that time had run out. “They promised me that I’d get a title shot when I got back, but it never happened,” he told the Sentinel. “I wasn’t the same when I got back anyway, so it worked out OK.”
Thomas was sometimes credited with being the first African American referee in pro boxing, but he said that claim belonged to Ernest Bendy, who fought as “Dynamite Jackson.”
Bolanos, who died in 2012 at the age of 87, ended his career with a 79-22-5 record and 44 knockouts.