Name: Charley Mitchell
Alias: Charles Watson Mitchell
Birthplace: Birmingham, England
Age at Death: 56
Height: 5′ 9″
Managers:Pony Moore; Billy Thompson
Charley Mitchell was a crafty, feisty, scrappy competitor and one of the hardest hitters
for his size the ring has ever known. As a middleweight, he was one of the best who
ever fought. He had exceptional ability at using London Prize Ring Rules to his advantage.
During his career, he engaged in over 100 fights with both gloves and bare-knuckles,
using the London Prize Ring Rules as well as the Queensbury Rules. He often
fought men who outweighed him by 30 to 40 pounds. Mitchell took on all comers in London,
often fighting as many as four bouts in one night.
In 1880 he became the boxing instructor for the International Athletic Club at the
"White Rose" in London, and opened a boxing school at the "Palais Rubens" in Antwerp,
Belgium. Mitchell toured the United States and Canada with Jake Kilrain,
and later Frank (Paddy) Slavin, putting on exhibitions, sometimes daily and sometimes
on the same day as one of his fights. Mitchell was in Kilrain's corner on July, 8,
1889 when he fought John L. Sullivan for the Heavyweight Championship of the world.
He died of what was called "locomotive ataxia" in Hove, England.
Boxing Champion of England
CORBETT AND MITCHELL.
Corbett became a full-fledged stage celebrity after that. At various times he had little snarls with English Charlie Mitchell, and after much vexatious wrangling and bitterness of spirit, articles were signed for another world's championship fight. It was arranged that the contest should take place under the auspices of the Duval Athletic Club, of Florida, and Manager W. A. Brady, as an inducement to Mitchell to make the match, declared he would give the British fighter $1,000 in currency the moment he took his seat in the corner of the ring.
There was considerable uncertainty regarding the mill. Governor Mitchell, of Florida, set his face against the affair and declared there would be no boxing in the everglade section as long as he was at the helm. On this account the fate of the fight was in doubt right up to the day it took place. The troubles which beset the promoters, however, did not deter Corbett and Mitchell from setting up training quarters in Florida. Jim pitched camp at Mayport Beach near Jacksonville, and Mitchell installed himself at Anastasia Island, near St. Augustine.
Mitchell had to resort to the hardest of work in order to strip his frame of the superfluous flesh which had accumulated through years of indolence and high living, He walked and sprinted along the margin of the tide at the island day after day, and he put in tremendous licks with the punching bag and the other equipments of his gymnasium on the beach.
Many, who noted the way in which Charlie was forced to reduce his bulk in order to give free play to his muscles and his breathing apparatus, decided that his chances of success in a go with Corbett, a natural athlete, were remarkably small. It was remembered, however, that Mitchell had performed wonders before, when the weight of opinion was against him. Sportsmen who believed in the ethics of fair play and who consistently desired to give credit where it was due, did not forget easily how Mitchell, when little more than a lightweight, faced the mighty John L. Sullivan at Madison Square Garden, and subsequently fought a draw with " the big fellow " on the field of Chantilly. Mitchell had proved that he was possessed of that rare fighting quality, " bull dog courage," and there never had been any doubt in regard to his talent as a boxer. The fact that he had won the boxing championship of England suggested that he was an expert in the ring methods in vogue across the Atlantic. His pluck and his ability were considered sufficient to give him more than a fighting chance with Corbett, but whenever that factor known as condition came up for discussion, the fellows who wanted to see the better man win shook their heads and expressed the opinion that nothing but defeat stared Charlie in the face.
Mitchell, himself, was as chipper as a cricket all through his days of preparation. He was the life of the camp and was always in a jolly mood. He was quite at home when it came to an argument and he liked to discuss the chances of the fight with visitors who believed that Corbett was the better man. A favorite saying of Mitchell's was, "This fellow Corbett has no private graveyard that I have ever heard of. His jaw is just as vulnerable as other men's jaws, and a good punch will tumble him the same as it will tumble anyone else. Champions have to come and go, and I don't see why this Pompadour Jim should keep on forever."
About Corbett's condition there was never any question, but his moods were far more variable than when he was getting ready to box the great John L. Sullivan. Jim disliked Mitchell on account of a squabble they had in some public place, and in the fight to come the thought of giving Charlie a thorough drubbing was uppermost in his mind.
He seemed to have absolutely no fear for his laurels, and he became irritable when he heard of the troubles that beset the path of the Jacksonville promoters. In his condition of mind it was very easy to distort things, and he was inclined to attribute wrong motives to Mitchell. He somehow seemed to connect Charlie with many of the schemes devised for preventing the contest, and he became curt and ungracious through brooding over the possibility of Mitchell's escaping him. It is highly probable that Jim would have been satisfied to battle in private with nothing in sight but the satisfaction of settling the old grudge.
It was the afternoon of January 25, 1894. The skies were dull and the weather cold and cheerless when the crowd began to wend its way from Jacksonville to the big structure on the outskirts of the city, where Corbett and Mitchell were to box for the world's championship, a purse of $20,000 and stakes of $5,000.
In the throng which poured through the highways and byways in the direction of the trysting place was a large sprinkling of militiamen in uniform. They had been called to Jacksonville by the governor's order to aid in preventing the fight. At the eleventh hour, however, the club sued out an injunction restraining the governor from interfering-. This was just the thing the soldiers had hoped for. They purchased tickets for the mill, and as someone remarked, they came to hinder and remained to see. The place filled slowly. The uncertainty which attached to the affair up to the last moment had affected the sale of tickets. There were comparatively few visitors on hand from points outside of Florida and Louisiana.
Not more than one-half of the seating space was occupied when the fighters entered the ring. Mitchell was the comedian of the occasion from the outset. He wore a flowing bathrobe and on his head, perched rakishly, was a small conical shaped hat, such as clowns wear in English Christmas pantomimes. With Mitchell were Jim Hall, Pony Moore, Tom Allen and Steve O'Donnell. Corbett was stern visaged as he stepped in through the ropes and took his corner. He gazed over in Mitchell's direction once or twice. With Jim were Billy Delaney, John Donaldson and Jack Dempsey.
W. A. Brady walked across the ring and placed ten one hundred dollar bills in Mitchell's hand. This was in accordance with the promise made prior to the signing of articles. Mitchell handed the money to a friend at the ringside. Mitchell kept his eyes trained on Corbett almost continuously. Charlie chuckled, shrugged his shoulders and whistled while having his gloves put on. Corbett might have been undergoing preparation for the electric chair, so solemn of mien was he.
"Honest John" Kelly, who was to referee the fight, entered the ring and the preliminary ceremonies were galloped through. Mitchell wished to exchange the customary handgrip, but Corbett refused to shake. There was a lull and someone drew Kelly's attention to the fact that the usual formalities in the direction mentioned had been omitted. Corbett became impatient, and said, "hurry up there," to the timekeepers, in a snarling way. Mitchell thereupon returned to his corner.
The gong gave forth its ominous clang and the men crept towards each other. There was shuffling of feet on the powdered resin and the swift play of glove-covered hands as each of the contestants tried to create an opening for a blow. Corbett, in the early stages of his bout with Sullivan at New Orleans, showed a hair-trigger alertness in the matter of avoiding danger. There was nothing of that about him this time.
He was all confidence and he was simply possessed with the one idea to wipe out an insult either fancied or real. The wonder is he fought so well, considering the revengeful feelings that were in his heart. This bitterness of spirit on Corbett's part was one of the things on which Mitchell based his hopes of success. Some of those who heard him speak of the matter believed that he saw in Corbett's avowed animosity the prospect of a victory on a foul. Charlie, to his intimates, declared he would fling taunts at Corbett in the ring in the belief that he would cause the champion to become incensed and rattled and thereby afford the chance for a knockout punch.
Alas! poor Charlie. He did not have much time for taunt flinging. If he did attempt to utter uncomplimentary things his speech must have had a muffled sound, for Corbett's tensely gripped gloves were seldom away from Charlie's mouth and nose. After a short spell of feinting and sparring, Corbett stepped towards the round bodied Englishman and drove
him across the ring. Mitchell was wide-eyed and his legs were in danger of becoming entangled as he backed away.
He wrenched his body this way and that, as if bent on darting past his implacable enemy, but each of Corbett's . hands came to the ready in turn, and Charlie made up his mind that to try and reach the open at that particular stage of the proceedings would bring him in contact with a swing or an uppercut. As Mitchell's back touched the ropes Corbett brought his left up from the hip. Mitchell smothered the blow with his forearms and bumped heavily into a clinch.
They broke quickly and a fierce left upswing landed on the Englishman's eye. Corbett followed with the right and Mitchell stood his ground bravely and gave blow for blow. It was Corbett's rally, but when Mitchell scuttled away from that swirl of gloves there was a thin, dark trickle from Jim's nostril and a smear of blood on his upper lip. It was the result of a jab from the Britisher's left glove and it was at least something for Charlie to be proud of. It had always been Corbett's boast that his nose had never been bled during a fight.
Corbett went in pursuit of Mitchell again and one mix- up followed quickly on another's heels. Most of the work was done near the ropes, Mitchell, as a rule, backing to the confines of the ring before making up his mind to trade punches with his clever and merciless adversary. There was considerable clinching, and out among the onlookers there was the usual commotion, for it was a speedy, spiteful contest and Corbett's fists were beating a merry rataplan on the Britisher's head and hide.
When the round ended and Mitchell went with just a suspicion of unsteadiness to his corner, there was jubilation, either feigned or real, among the Englishman's seconds. They appeared to be telling Charlie he had done famously. Corbett was viperish in the next round. He went at his man as a bull terrier goes at a friendless cat, and the rapid thumps of his gloves were like the heartbeats of a terror-stricken child.
Mitchell's face was a study. His head was batted from side to side and his countenance was marked with little dabs of red. He still kept throwing out his fists with all the energy he could command in the hope that a vagrant wallop would enable him to spike Corbett's guns. Once Charlie stopped while being forced backward by the steady pelting of Corbett's gloves, and flung himself at his opponent. The sudden change of tactics took the Californian by surprise and Mitchell sent in some hot shot before Jim set himself and began to strike back.
Then it was the same old thing. Mitchell's head rocked and his brave attempts at counter-hitting whistled past Corbett's face as the San Franciscan, with rhythmic movement, drew his head back out of Charlie's sphere of usefulness.
Back into an angle of the ring went Mitchell, breathing heavily, and his eyes becoming more and more distended. He seemed to bear with the smashes that were bruising his face, but he cringed when Corbett curved his left arm and drove his fist in at the stomach. Charlie lowered his head suddenly and escaped beneath Corbett's arm to the center of the ring. He turned towards his corner and grinned through a mask of blood in a ghastly way.
Corbett went at him again. A long, straight left found a resting place on the Britisher's swollen lips, and Mitchell lunged out in the hopes of countering. A second later, a left upswing caught Mitchell while ducking and when he raised his head it looked as if the shadows of defeat were closing around him. He backed wearily into a corner with Corbett following, dealing out swings and jabs. Along the ropes they went, the steady flog of Corbett's gloves hastening the end. Suddenly, with a snapping sound, as of a twig breaking, Corbett's glove reached his opponent's jaw. The Englishman's arms dropped heavily. He balanced an instant on his heels and then fell between the ropes.
The crowd was in a tumult then. The pent up passion in Corbett asserted itself to such an extent that he was in danger of losing his head entirely. He struck at Mitchell as the latter made an effort to gain his feet. Mitchell dropped to his hands and knees, and finally, with great effort, stood erect. Before Corbett could get at him again the round ended.
Mitchell appeared to be greatly distressed as he sat in his corner. When they sent him to the center for the third round it seemed very evident that he was on the verge of defeat.
Corbett dashed at him and hammered him around the ring. Then Jim put extra force into a heart punch. Mitchell cringed and toppled. He caught the lower rope as he was falling, and again Corbett became furious and smashed at him.
One blow grazed Mitchell's forehead and Kelly pushed Corbett away. Corbett's seconds rushed into the ring, but the referee was too excited, seemingly, to notice this
infraction of the Queensberry rules. Between trying to count while Mitchell was down and at the same time prevent Corbett from committing a foul, Honest John had his hands full.
Most of the spectators were on their feet yelling themselves hoarse and wildly waving their arms. Mitchell made a gritty effort to reach his feet within the time limit. He managed to do so, but had no sooner straightened up than a smash on the jaw from Corbett 's right laid him low again. This time he stretched his full length on the floor and the championship fight was at an end.
Corbett and Mitchell were hauled before a judge at Jacksonville after the contest to show cause why they should not be punished for offending against the laws. They evidently explained their actions satisfactorily as there is no record of their having been punished. When they met outside the court house, Corbett forgot the old soreness and greeted Mitchell in a friendly spirit. "I must say that you are a good, game fellow," is one of the compliments the San Franciscan paid to the Britisher. Mitchell took his defeat philosophically, but his father- in-law, "Pony" Moore, seemed depressed over the result of the fight.
"I think I can do better than that," said Mitchell. "Of course, a fellow always tries to explain away his defeat, but I'm not wishing to take any of the credit from Corbett. All I have to say is, that in trying to get into the best condition possible I brought myself too low in weight. I won't say what I scaled a day before the fight, for nobody would believe me. I was pretty close to the middleweight mark though."
. After the contest Corbett made an extended tour of European countries. By his quick defeat of Mitchell he increased his fame as a fighter, and many who had doubts as to whether he was entitled to call himself champion of the world after his affair with Sullivan admitted that his victory over Mitchell fully established his pre-eminence among heavyweight boxers.
It should be explained that in those years there were still many admirers of the old style of fighting with bare knuckles. These hardshell ring patrons even pooh-poohed the idea that Sullivan was ever champion of the world, holding that his victory over Ryan at Mississippi City simply made John L. champion of America. Among those who maintained that Sullivan was really a world's champion was Billy Madden, John L.'s former manager. Said he: "Sullivan was certainly the champion of the world. Here is the proof. The title went to Tom Allen on the retirement of Jem Mace. Goss won it from Allen on a foul, and Paddy Ryan won it from Goss. Sullivan succeeded to it when he defeated Ryan, and Corbett became the champion of the world through winning from Sullivan under the Queensberry rules, by which all championships in future will be decided.
Then there arose another thorny question, to wit: "Was not Sullivan's title clouded when Charlie Mitchell boxed a draw with him on the turf at Chantilly?" This was a poser and those to whom the query was put avoided answering it directly by saying : "Well, anyhow, Corbett has defeated both Sullivan and Mitchell so that no one can dispute Corbett's right to sign himself world's champion."
There was one who disputed it, however. This was Peter Jackson, who had defeated the best men in England and Australia as well as some of the top notchers among American heavyweights, and who had boxed sixty-one rounds with Corbett at San Francisco.
Jackson made overtures to Corbett to fight after the latter returned from abroad, but the match never came to a head. Each man claimed that the other had thrown obstacles in the way of a meeting and a disinterested person could choose between two diametrically opposite statements of the circumstances. Anyhow, Jackson and Corbett did not fight again and
Corbett was left to enjoy his laurels until Fitzsimmons began to pester him for a match.
Fitz, in addition to being the kingpin among middleweights, had demonstrated that he was able to hold his own among heavyweights. When he suggested that he would like to fight Corbett there began a long drawn out wrangle, which was notable for the bitterness displayed on both sides. Corbett at first declared Fitzsimmons would have to defeat some prominent heavyweight before being considered eligible to box for the championship. The sporting press sustained Fitzsimmons in his demand for a go with Pompadour Jim, and the latter eventually decided to give the Cornishman battle.
A match was arranged to take place in Florida, but the legislature of the state named passed a law which forbade the holding of glove contests. Dan Stuart, Joe Vendig and others believed they could bring the men together in Dallas, Texas, but here again Governor Culbertson interposed an objection, and, with the lawmakers to back him, wrecked the plans of the
promoters. Prominent citizens of Hot Springs, Arkansas, then offered to furnish a battleground for Fitzsimmons and Corbett, and Stuart moved his headquarters to the point named.
It was decided that the fight should take place at Hot Springs on October 31, 1895, Fitzsimmons meanwhile training at Corpus Christi, Texas, and Corbett at a spot a few miles out of Hot Springs. Governor J. P. Clark, of Arkansas, set his face against the championship fight, but the Hot Springs promoters insisted that all would be well. Fitzsimmons left Corpus Christi on October 28 for the scene of the contest and was met at Marshall, Texas, by a special train sent out by the Hot Springs sports to bring the Cornishman to the ringside in safety. Fitzsimmons and Julian refused to leave the train they were on, and before proceeding much further on their journey, were arrested by deputies sent out by Governor Clark. Fitzsimmons and his party were taken to Little Rock, Corbett being arrested at Hot Springs and brought to the city named. Thither the sports and the correspondents flocked, and it was generally admitted that there was no chance of the fight taking place in Arkansas.
While waiting for the affair to come up in court, Fitzsimmons and Corbett were guarded by deputy sheriffs. Each of the fighters called on the governor in turn and the state's chief executive also invited the leading sportsmen as well as the visiting correspondents to visit him at his office. He was quite amiable and he laughed heartily when referring to the efforts made to bring off the fight in Arkansas. Manager W. A. Brady had a conversational tilt with Governor Clark and failed to impress his views on the governor.
Said Brady: "The great trouble is, Governor, some people don't appear to know the difference between a prize fight and a scientific glove contest." "I guess I'm one of the class you refer to," said the Governor, with a grin. "That's why I am stopping this thing."
Corbett and Fitzsimmons were brought before the court at Little Rock and bound over to keep the peace toward each other as well as to all and sundry in the state referred to, and the prospect of a meeting between the world's heavy and middleweight champions faded. Corbett returned to New York, and early in November, 1895, intimated that he would soon retire from the ring.