George “Johnny” Nichols won the Light Heavyweight Championship in the National Boxing Association’s tournament finals in Chicago on March 18, 1932. Johnny Nichols is pictured below with his long time manager Jack Singer.
The March 19 Sandusky Star Journal reported that Nichols had only a “100 to 1” shot to win. Johnny defeated Dave Maier in the fight, but judge’s decision was not unanimous. Two referees voted for Nichols, but another judge, John Houghteling, cast his ballot for Maier. The crowd stood and cheered for Johnny Nichols when N.B.A. president John V. Clinnin linked the gold championship belt around the winner’s waist.
George “Johnny” Nichols was born in Sandusky to Italian immigrant parents. He did much of his boxing in Buffalo. The Sandusky Register Star News said in a 1957 article that Johnny Nichols fought from 1927 through 1937, sat out a year, and had one final fight in 1939. Nichols had boxed in many towns including Boston, Miami, Los Angeles, Denver, and Houston.
Finding vital records about George Nichols proved to be a challenge. The May 10, 1957 Sandusky Register Star News stated that Johnny Nichols was born June 9, 1908. However, the Social Security Death Index gave July 10, 1907 as the birth date for John Nichols who died in 1986 in Sandusky, Ohio. The birth record at Erie County Probate Court (Volume 4, page 98) lists “Philip Joseph Nicolasi” being born Jul7 10, 1907 to Thomas Nicolasi and Ida Demmas Nicolasi. (Ida’s maiden name was probably Demma.)
The obituary of John G. Nichols in the September 27, 1986 Sandusky Register listed John G. Nichols’ parents as Thomas and Ida Nichols, and his wife as the former Bertie Horn. The 1910 U.S. lists his parents as Thomas and Ida Nicholas; but the 1910 Sandusky City Directory contains a listing for Thomas and Agata Nicolosi.
Variations in given names, surnames, and birth dates are all too familiar in family history research. Don’t rule out any data. The best thing to do is to keep a record of all the dates and spellings that are found, and document the source of each. Johnny Nichols was definitely born in Sandusky to Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Nicholas, but through the years names were changed. Johnny’s mother name was listed as Mrs. Ida Nicholas in her 1936 obituary, but Johnny’s name was listed as John G. Nichols with the Ohio Department of Vital Statistics at the time of his death in 1986.
An interesting sideline about Johnny Nichols is his brief marriage to Kit Klein. The New York Times reported in 1935 that the national speed skating champion had married George Nichols, a boxer from Sandusky, but they had never actually lived together.