Luigi Borra

by Dennis Mitchell

Luigi "Milo" Borra posing at around 28 years of age.

Luigi Borra was born in Milan Italy, January 14, 1866.  As a young man he was active in gymnastics, wrestling and weightlifting.  At the age of twenty three, he gave up employment as a telegraph instrument maker and joined the circus as a wrestler.  From there he joined the Folies Bergere also as a wrestler.  He had a good physique and was a good poser. He performed throughout Europe in music halls and theaters, combining gymnastics, posing, and feats of strength. It was while performing that he met Louis Attila.  Attila convinced Luigi to return to England with him so that Attilla could manage and promote him and arrange for bookings.  However, Attila’s motives were not only for Luigi’s benefit.  Louis Attila had been traveling and performing with Eugene Sandow.  A quarrel between Sandow and Attila caused their break up.  Attila went to Paris and later returned to England with Luigi.  He intended to use Luigi as a new performer to dethrone Sandow.  Luigi was a small man and unknown in England.  Attila knew that Sandow would not meet any well known performer and hoped to get revenge by having Luigi challenge Sandow in wrestling and in feats of strength. Sandow, after his defeat by the McKann brothers was not accepting any challenges, and there were quite a few of them. Attila claimed that Sandow would not meet Luigi, as Luigi had defeated Sandow in wrestling in Italy.  However Attila could not show any proof of this.  Some years later (1894) when Attila opened his Broadway gym, they became friends again.

One of Luigi’s acts was to place a 200 pound barbell on his shoulders.  Six 56 pound block weights were attached to a harness that Luigi was wearing, and two men would hang onto the ends of the barbell.  The total weight being over 1,000 pounds.  Luigi would turn around three times while supporting the weight.  He would also hang by his teeth while doing a crucifix with a pair of 50 pound dumbbells.  He would juggle an 80 pound kettlebell and with the left hand, would clean and bent press 225 pounds.  He only weighed 160 pounds.  He would press up into a hand stand while lifting 200 pounds with his teeth.

Brinn "the Cannon Ball King", aka Luigi Borra, supporting a a 500 pound motorcycle by a chin pole.

He continued performing under Attila’s management, and as many strongmen did, changed his name to Milo.  For a short time he did some exhibitions with Louis Cyr.  With the rising popularity of the Saxon Trio, Luigi stopped performing for a while, but later reappeared as Brinn – The Cannon Ball King.  His act opened December 28, 1903 at the Hippodrome Theater in Liverpool.  His act consisted of juggling, hand balancing and balancing a cannon or a motorcycle at the end of a pole on his chin.  He was able to do this with a 400 pound cannon.  He not only performed in England but also in Germany and Italy.  He was an excellent performer, and showman, well liked, and performed for many years.  After retiring from performing he ran a bar called the Grafton Arms.  At the weight of 167 pounds he stood 5′5.25″, chest 46.5″, biceps 15.75″, thigh 23.5″, and calf 15.75″.  He died January 19, 1955 at Twyford in Berkshire, England.  He was 89 years old.

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