When Niles, Ohio comes up in conversation, many locals around the Mahoning Valley immediately reference to the birthplace of the 25th President of the United States William McKinley, the winning tradition of the Niles McKinley High School football team, or just a proud town with a long history of Italian-American heritage.
What many don't know is that one of the best boxers of his time was born and is buried in the Northeast Ohio city which currently has 18,000 residents that call it home.
Born January 3, 1924, George "Sonny" Horne began his amateur career under the guidance of another Niles native Matt McGowan. Horne went on to have a very successful amateur career capturing multiple middleweight Golden Glove titles. Horne turned pro on August 7, 1941, in Youngstown, Ohio defeating Don Juhasz of Cleveland, Ohio on points.
Horne on the advice of McGowan would move to New York City shortly after his pro debut to propel his career in a bigger market under the watchful eye of manager George Sheppard.
Not even 18 yet, Sheppard kept the youngster out of troubles way by keeping him in the suburbs of the city in Long Island where he trained under Al Lange.
Horne, for the next year, until his 18th birthday when he could get licensed to fight in New York, would fight in the New England states of Massachusettes, and Connecticut.
With his record sitting at a perfect 6-0, Horne made his debut in the state of New York by defeating Van McNutt at the Westchester County Center in White Plains.
Horne would begin his career winning his first 19 bouts before tasting defeat for the first time on July 21, 1942, losing on points to Vinnie Rossano in Queens, New York at the Queensboro Arena.
Not deterred by the blemish on his record, the young Horne pressed on winning 44 of his first 50 fights.
Horne would go on to challenge many of the greatest middleweights of his time and became a true journeyman with the will fight anybody at any time and at any place mentality.
Hornes biggest claim to fame during the peak of his career was three bouts against the legendary Rocky Marciano. Though Horne lost all three bouts, he gave Marciano all he could handle according to reports. Other notable opponents included Kid Gavilan, Bobby Dykes, Tommy Bell, and Artie Levine.
With his power, reflexes, and speed diminishing at a rapid rate for his young age, Horne sought change and moved back to his hometown of Niles with his wife and three children.
Not long after what would be his last bout on August 29, 1951, a loss to Lalu Sebotin, his 13th in-a-row, at the fairgrounds in nearby Warren, Ohio, Horne received the terrible news that he was suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.
Horne would show the toughness like he did his whole career but sadly he would lose his bout to ALS on September 27, 1959, at the age of 35.
Though he never claimed a championship belt, Horne has always been remembered for his grit and toughness. According to BoxRec, Horne finished his career with a record of 73-34-5. How many of those losses can be contributed to his disease starting to take over we will never know, but one thing almost for certain is Horne would never have used that as an excuse anyhow.
Horne was the first person to be inducted into the Trumbull County and Area Boxers Hall of Fame.
Information gathered from BoxRec.Com, FindAgrave.com, Wikipedia.com and by Jim Amato's article on MyBoxingFans.com