an athlete, especially a boxer, lacking in ability, experience, or competitive spirit.
a stupid, clumsy person.
Origin of palooka
An Americanism dating back to 1920–25; origin uncertain
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019
US slang a stupid or clumsy boxer or other person
Word Origin for palooka
C20: origin uncertain
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
"mediocre prizefighter," 1926, of unknown origin, credited to U.S. sportswriter and "Variety" staffer Jack Conway (d.1928). Non-boxing sense of "average person" is from Joe Palooka, hero of Ham Fisher's comic strip.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper