James J. Corbett
A NEW BREED of boxer was born when James J. Corbett won the heavyweight title from John L. Sullivan in 1892. Corbett was an educated man who practiced the science of boxing. He broke the mold of the stereotypical brawling prizefighter.
Corbett was born on September 1, 1866 in San Francisco. He was raised in a middle class home, attended college and even worked as a bank clerk. He learned his boxing not on the streets but in sparring clubs. He learned how to box under the guidance of Walter Watson at San Francisco's Olympic Club.
Because of his handsome appearance and classy ring style, he earned such nicknames as Handsome Jim, Pompador Jim and finally, Gentleman Jim.
Corbertt's first pro fight came when he was 18 and he knocked out Frank Smith. Gentleman Jim's career took off, however, with a three-fight series against fellow hall-of-famer Joe Choynski. They met three times in a three month span in 1889. The first bout was a no contest after four rounds. Corbett won the second with a 27th-round knockout and the third with a four-round decision.
The first fight was interupted by police, but the middle bout, contested six days later, was an epic contest fought on a barge in San Francisco Bay. The seems from Choynski's gloves cut Corbett in round three. And later in the fight Corbett broke his left hand. Yet, he managed to summon enough power to knockout Choynski with a left hook.
The next year he won a four-round decision over respected heavyweight Jake Kilrain. Then in 1891 he fought a 61-round battle with fellow hall-of-famer Peter Jackson, which was ruled a no contest. A month after that bout, Corbett boxed a four-round exhibition with John L. Sullivan, giving him a preview of things to come.
The much anticipated Sullivan-Corbett fight took place on September 7, 1892 in New Orleans. It was the first heavyweight championship bout in which the participants wore gloves. Corbett, with Prof. Mike Donovan in his corner, boxed brilliantly. He countered sharply and managed to sidestep Sullivan's bullish charges. In the 21st round, Sullivan was exhausted and Corbett pounded the champion into submission, knocking him out with a right hand.
In 1894, Corbett successfully defended the title with a third-round knockout over Charley Mitchell. He would lose the crown in his next defense as Bob Fitzsimmons kayoed him in the 14th round in 1897. In 1900, Corbett challenged heavyweight king James J. Jeffries -- who was his former sparring partner -- and was knocked out in the 23rd round. They fought a rematch in 1903 and this time Jeffries scored a 10th-round kayo. In between the two Jeffries fights, Corbett knocked out middleweight champion Charles "Kid" McCoy in the fifth round.
Corbett performed on the stage during his reign as heavyweight champion and continued his acting career well into his retirement.
19 June 1910
That Solar Plexus Blow
Robert Fitzsimmons v James J Corbett
17 March 1897
Articles for a fight for the championship of the world between the title holder James J. Corbett. and the middleweight champion, Robert Fitzsimmons, were signed a few days before Christmas, 1896. The promoter of this battle, which was fought in Carson City, Nev., was Dan Stuart, of Texas, who had demonstrated his ability in affairs of this sort. Stuart was known the country over as a square man, who always was anxious to make good his word, and with him at the head of affairs the followers of pugilism rested in full confidence that the contest would be in every way above suspicion.
One of Stuart's close friends was a man who for more than thirty years has been interested in all classes of amateur and professional sport and who today is known the country over as one without a blemish upon his reputation. To this man Stuart went one day early in January, 1897 and asked him if he would undertake to place $50,000 in wagers on the Corbett-Fitzsimmons battle, the money to be furnished by Stuart.
"That is too much money to bet on this fight, Dan," said his friend. "When two such men as Corbett, and Fitzsimmons get into the ring- either one is likely to be returned the winner. Fifty thousand dollars is a lot of money to risk on a contest of this kind."
"I will not risk the money," said Stuart, "unless I am able to make certain arrangements that I now have in contemplation."
"Fifty thousand dollars could not be bet," replied his friend, "without attracting much attention. I don't know what you mean, Dan, but, of course, the Inference is bad. I never have had a shade the best of it, and I don't want the best of it. If I bet $50,000 on this fight my friends would know it, and I would be suspected of employing methods that I do not like. Then if your connection with the wagers were established—and I don't see how it would be possible to keep It secret—It would look very bad for all of us. I wish you would get somebody else to place your money,"
Stuart replied that he knew of no other man who could place $50,000 without attracting a lot of attention that -would be harmful to the fight and distasteful to himself.
"Why don't you try Pittsburg Phil (George E. Smith)," responded his friend. "I had thought of him," said Stuart, "but I am not acquainted with him. Of course, he is just the man to place this money if he could be persuaded to do so." "I will be very glad to see that you meet him," responded Stuart's friend. "If you will name the time and place I will bring you together." This was agreed upon, and Dan Stuart and Pittsburg Phil were brought together. What arrangement was made between them cannot now be told. Both men are dead, and what they knew of the Corbett-Fitzsimmons battle died with them.
Pittsburg Phil was In San Francisco a few days before Corbett and Fitzsimmons came together. That city was in a tumult of excitement, and betting on the result of the fight was free. In the poolrooms, which then flourished in an open manner, Pittsburg Phil took the Fitzsimmons end of the wagers at 1 to 2. So much did he bet that the odds gradually shortened, until two days before the fight 7 to 5 was the longest price that Corbett's adherents would offer. Phil then went to Carson City, where he repeated the methods he had employed in San Francisco. In a poolroom owned and managed by Corbett's brother, Phil wagered a large fortune on the chances of Fitzsimmons, and again he forced the prices to shorten materially.
The first six rounds of the battle were all in favor of Corbett. The sixth round found Fitzsimmons apparently a beaten man. Not once, however, did Pittsburg Phil falter. A the ringside, even at the moment when Fitzsimmons seemed about to sink to the mat helpless, he stood covering every dollar of Corbett money that was offered. The friends of the champion knew that all he had to do was to continue forcing the fight and Fitzsimmons must fall before his onslaught . To their surprise, Corbett betrayed bad judgment, and instead of going in to strike down his battered opponent, he stood away and gave Fitzsimmons time to recuperate his strength.
There was in Carson City the last few days that preceded the battle a man who was and continued up to the time of Stuart's death a close personal friend and business agent of the fight promoter. This man believed Fitzsimmons had no chance to whip Corbett. and wagered a large sum of money in accordance with his views. Two days before the battle he retreated from his position and bet so much money on Fitzsimmons that at the conclusion of the fight he was a heavy winner.
When Corbett went down to defeat In the fourteenth round he fell in such a manner as to take him almost out of focus of the picture making machine. Raising himself on his hands, he twisted around so that he faced the lens. His face then took on an appearance of intense pain. Apparently he was unable to gain his feet during the count of ten. As the fatal word "Out!" was spoken Corbett sprang to his feet with as much strength as he had shown at any time during the fight and declared an Intention of whipping all who were in the ring.
There had been bad blood between the heavyweight and middleweight champions for several years. More than one attempt to bring them together had failed. Corbett, it seemed, was more willing than was Fitzsimmons to test their relative merits. Finally, however, the two men agreed to fight to a finish under the Marquis of Queensbury rules for the heavyweight championship of the world and for a purse of $15,000. all of which went to the winner.
George Siler of Chicago was agreed upon as referee.
Stuart picked Carson City as the scene of the fight, Nevada having enacted legislation favorable to glove contests. Corbett established his quarters at Shaw's Springs, having in his camp various celebrities of the prize ring, among others. James J. Jeffries, then known mealy as a husky young boilermaker but now as the one unbeaten champion of champions.
Fitzsimmons began training in Cook's Grove, his brother-in-law, Martin Julian, being in charge. Both pugilists during their period of training displayed freaks of temper and peculiarities that were beyond the power of their friends to understand. At all1 times Corbett was sullen, fretful and disagreeable. Fitzsimmons acted like a crazy man. He was frequently seen tramping barefooted through the snow.
At times he would joke in a hysterical manner other times he would have moments of sullenness equal to those of Corbett. Previous to his battle with Jackson, Sullivan and Mitchell, Corbett had been pleasant and confident of success. In Carson City he seemed to dread the approach of the day of the fight. That he was afraid of Fitzsimmons no one believed. It may have been that he was afraid of the battle. Finally as the sun was mounting toward its zenith on March 17, the two men were brought together in the ring at the open air arena outside Carson City.
There were the usual preliminaries and introductions. One feature of the battle that marked a precedent was the presence at the ring side of Mrs.Fitzsimmons, wife of Corbett's antagonist. When the men were called to the center of the ring to receive final instructions from the referee Corbett advanced and held out his hand to shake with Fitzsimmons. The offer was refused, Fitzsimmons backing away, shaking his head and muttering "No."Then the ring was cleared, the gong sounded, and the two gladiators began one of the most remarkable battles the prize ring has known.
Corbett, as in his preceding fights, was a picture of muscular strength and agility. He was trained to the hour, his flesh hard and white as marble. The only bad feature of his appearance was to be found in his face, which was drawn and rather heavily lined. He showed evidences of worry. Fitzsimmons, never an object of beauty, shambled about the ring on his thin legs, which knocked together atthe knees and spread apart like the prongs of a bent hairpin. His large lands dangled from his long arms far below his thighs. A sneering smile did nothing to improve his facial beauty.
As their hands came up Fitzsimmons made his attack. The only effect was to enthuse Corbett, so that the blood, forcing its way to his cheeks, gave to him an appearance of greater vitality. Corbett maneuvered so as to keep Fitzsimmons with his face to the sun. The Cornishman assumed the aggressive and swung violently with his right and left. Corbett dodged and the two men came Into their first clinch. They parted at a word from the referee, and Fitzsimmons took up his pace, following Corbett around the ring. Suddenly the champion halted, pushed his way forward and handed Fitzsimmons a hard right and left to the head and ribs. Fitzsimmons countered with a left, then landed without force over Corbett's heart. All that could be said of the first round was that the two men were feeling each other out, Corbett using the greater caution and showing the better judgment.
Corbett Seems Invincible.
Coming up for the second round Corbett immediately changed his tactics and demonstrated his willingness to exchange blows. He drew Fitzsimmons forward, brushed aside his left lead and then swung a heavy right blow to the temple and clinched. Fitzsimmons was angry. He endeavored to force Corbett away, and when they finally broke the Cornishman was in Corbett's corner, where he was kept for a full half minute by the champion, who landed half a dozen blows, none of which, however, was damaging.
Fitzsimmons finally fought his way out of the close corner, Corbett giving ground, but doing much the better work in the leads. Half a dozen times Corbett jabbed Fitzsimmons head back with a light left. Suddenly he shifted his methods, dipped his shoulders and shot in a heavy left to his opponent's stomach. Fitzsimmons, hurt, tried to clinch. Corbett pushed him off, repeated his tactics and drove a second hard left hand blow to Fitzsimmons stomach. Again Fitzsimmons fell into a clinch, and they were swaying together when the bell rang.
They met in the third round in the center of the ring. Corbett, standing straight, stepped in close and swung a damaging left to the stomach. Fitzsimmons drove his left for Corbett's head, but the blow was ducked and they came to a clinch, Corbett showing that he possessed the greater strength, pushing Fitzsimmons about with ease. Nevertheless the Cornishman was willing to force matters and he drove the champion back to the ropes, taking in payment a hard left hand blow to the face. Immediately after that Corbett came back with his right and caught Fitzsimmons under the jaw, and as the Cornishman raised his guard Corbett sent a hard left to the body.
Fitzsimmons was eager to clinch, and as they came together gave Corbett a short arm jolt to the head. No damage was done and Corbett more than evened matters up by letting his right fall heavily on his opponent's kidneys. The body blows were distressing Fitzsimmons, a fact that did not escape Corbett's attention. He started in to demonstrate his superiority over his opponent, and he had little difficulty in accomplishing his object. Corbett exchanged rights to the ribs and then sent two hard punches under the heart, getting away without a return. The round belonged to Corbett beyond a doubt. Those who predicted his victory were confident he could not be defeated.
Corbett took up his victorious march again in the fourth, which Fitzsimmons opened with an attempt to take the lead. He forced Corbett for a few seconds and received a smashing left in the face for his pains. There was a clinch and Fitzsimmons goaded Corbett in the ribs, to which the champion responded with a light right to the jaw. Fitzsimmons smiled but backed away, Corbett following rapidly after him. Corbett danced in and out and snapped a hard left to the chin. Fitzsimmons was angry and swung wild, falling out of position. Corbett took quick advantage and landed the heaviest blow of the fight up to this time on Fitzsimmons right ear. It was a distressing blow and Fitzsimmons did not steady himself for several seconds. Then he led with his left and clinched.
Corbett was the master of the situation, and as he forced his opponent away he jolted one of his eyes with his right. Fitzsimmons made no attempt to conceal his distress. He rushed into a clinch and endeavored to best his opponent at infighting. But at this he found Corbett right at home with a knowledge of wrestling that was surprising.Corbett was playing with Fitzsimmons much as a cat plays with a mouse, and as they broke away he rapped his opponent with a hard right to the heart and, immediately stepped forward, whipped his right into the ribs with all his force. Swinging Fitzsimmons half around, he drove his left to the jaw, and working his arms like piston rods, repeated the blow. Fitzsimmons staggered as he went back to his corner, while Corbett showed absolutely no sign of distress. Julian and his other seconds worked hard over Fitzsimmons during the minute's intermission and sent him out for the fifth round somewhat refreshed.
Fitzsimmons rushed and ran into a left jolt to the chin that caused him to clinch. Corbett drove a heavy right to the region of the heart and Fitzsimmons arms fell to his side. A second blow to Fitzsimmons body seemed to wake him up and he landed a heart punch that failed to do much damage. The best that could be said of Fitzsimmons was that he took his punishment with great gameness. At every point of the game Corbett was demonstrating his superiority. In the clinches with his forearm against his opponent's throat he forced his head back, and then as soon as free, drove his fists through to the body or to the face. Fitzsimmons was bleeding freely, a fact that caused the spectators to clamor for a knockout. Twice Corbett jabbed Fitzsimmons on the nose with his left and the Cornishman was almost ready to take the final nap. Then came a sharp admonition from Corbett's corner. Delaney, grasping one of the ropes of the ring, leaned with his head far forward toward the two contestants.
"Jim, Jim," he shouted, "take your time! Don't let him fool you"
This cry from his corner for a moment seemed to anger Corbett. He stepped back, looked at Delaney, and then rushed forward and in quick succession landed two lefts and a right, jarring Fitzsimmons from the top of his head to his feet. Fitzsimmons, attempting to drive in a punch to the heart, fell into a clinch. His eyes were half dazed and he was so distressed that his breath was hissing through his teeth. Mrs. Fitzsimmons had sprung to her feet and was shouting instructions to the men who were seconding her husband. As the bell sounded and gave to Fitzsimmons another chance she sent a messenger to his corner and told him to change his method of fighting. Corbett stood in the middle of the ring, showing no distress. He walked to his corner without a mark on his face and without a red spot showing on his body.
Fltzsimmons came up for the sixth round still showing the effects of the punishment received in the earlier sessions. His first move looked as if he were willing to lose the fight on a foul. He rushed to a clinch, threw his forearm across Corbett's throat, and, exerting all his power, forced Corbett's head back until some at the ring side scared that his neck would be broken. The referee sprang forward and parted the two antagonists, while the cry of "Foul!" went up. Siler evidently thought no great damage had been done and motioned for the men to get into action.
Corbett was enraged, and with his first lead got Fitzsimmons with a heavy right to the chin. They clinched and as they broke away Corbett again sent his opponent's head back with a fearful right uppercut. Fitzsimmons was dazed and Corbett had no difficulty then in landing a second right full on the mouth, spattering Fitzsimmons blood all about the ring. Again Delaney sprang to his feet and again the warning cry was given:
"Take your time. Jim! Don't be in a hurry!"
As he shouted Corbett drove in a right and left to the face. Fitzsimmons was too weak to make a fair defense, and he was utterly unable to assume the offensive. All he could do was to save himself in the clinches. When he was forced to break he stood with his legs apart, assembling all his strength to keep his feet.
The Mysterious Warning.
Corbett landed a right to the chin and Fitzsimmons fell to the floor. He rested on his knee while again came the mysterious warning from his corner to take his time. These suggestions were beyond the power of the spectators to understand. Fitzsimmons, unable to protect himself, apparently could have been knocked out at my time Corbett wished to land the final punch. Instead of taking advantage of his long lead Corbett kept away. He drew back whenever an opening presented, landing only the lightest of punches. Fitzsimmons clinched and hugged and Corbett made little effort to force him off. When the round was nearly over
Fitzsimmons again began to swing his fists, but was unable to give force or direction to his blows. Corbett laughed at him, but stood without malting an effort to do damage. Then the gong sounded and Corbett walked to his corner, apparently the most discouraged man in the" house. Those who saw victory ahead for him failed to understand his attitude.
Fitzsimmons came up for the seventh round, dazed and weak, and though it appeared certain that Corbett must win one of Fitzsimmons backers stood at the ring side taking every dollar of Corbett money that was offered, asking no longer odds than 10 to 6 for his wagers.
When the men advanced for the seventh round a different Corbett was seen. Up to that moment he had been able to handle Fitzsimmons much as a man handles a boy. Yet in the seventh Fitzsimmons drove, him all around the ring. He was forced against the roped whenever they bumped together. His blows, that had been well timed and accurately placed, lacked power and precision. Just before the round, ended Corbett apparently came to his senses and for a. moment showed a flash of his earlier ability and sent in some smashing blows.
The eighth round was arepetition of the seventh, except that Fitzsimmons came to the front much refreshed, Fitzsimmons fought as if the advantage were all his. Corbett contented himself with straightening his left and jabbing Fitzsimmons in the nose. On one occasion the two men exchanged words in the ring that were understood by no one but themselves. Corbett, apparently enraged, met his opponent with a right hand blow that flattened his nose. Then he forced matters and placed two lefts to the face and a hard right under the heart. Fitzsimmons weakened and clinched and then again assumed the aggressive, though he did little damage to his opponent. Corbett contented himself with a defensive attitude.
Just before the ninth round closed Fitzsimmons covered with blood and leg weary, received a hard blow on the chin. He tell against the ropes and Corbett drew back his right to send in. what might have been a decisive blow. Fitzsimmons hands hung by his sides and he was utterly unable to protect himself, when from Corbett's corner came the cry, "Look out for him, Jim. he's shamming! He isn't as weak as he looks!" Corbett smiled in derision at his opponent, but made no further move until the bell sent them to their corners.
Fitzsimmons opened the tenth round in a determined manner. Corbett dodged a heavy, left and Fitzsimmons stumbled to the ropes. As he turned Corbett stepped in and drove his right to the ear He had full swing for the blow, but there was no force behind it. Fitzsimmons clinched and they were in the middle of the ring when they broke. Corbett waited and Fitzsimmons swung a failure for the face. Corbett countered on the nose and Fitzsimmons again clinched. As they broke Fitzsimmons tried a left jab for the ribs, but Corbett stopped it with his glove and laughed.
Punches Are Stingless
In the meantime Fitzsimmons was not being punished severely and his strength was returning to him. Corbett showed no, desire or ability to distress his opponent. He landed at will, but there was no sting to his punches. Clinches were frequent in this round and Fitzsimmons made good use of his left, which reached Corbett's head repeatedly, but, so far as the spectators could see, did little damage. There were some who judged from Corbett's lack of force that he was tiring, but he went to his corner without a falter being noticed in his stride.
Fitzsimmons turned up for the eleventh round as if he realized that victory was assured. He drove Corbett about the ring, inflicting little punishment and taking a few left blows to the face and rights to the body.
Once Fitzsimmons hooked Corbett on the chin. The champion seemed to become enraged, and, bracing himself, drove first his left and then his right to Fitzsimmons face, spattering the blood in every direction. This surprised Fitzsimmons and they clinched. In the break Corbett drove his right to the ribs absolutely without return Again Fitzsimmons seemed to be at the mercy of Corbett. and Delaney shouted:
"Jim, look out for that right."
Corbett kept away until Fitzsimmons had recuperated. Then in the last ten seconds of the round he
landed on Fitzsimmons face at will. They were In a clinch as the bell Sounded and Corbett apparently was the much the fresher of the two.
Corbett opened the twelfth round by feinting. Fitzsimmons was ineffective in his leads and Corbett poked his left to the nose as he pleased. Fitzsimmons was bleeding. Corbett then drove a heavy left to the body and took ajolt on the chin In return. They clinched and Corbett landed two more right handers to the jaw as they separated, Fitzsimmons head rocking heavily. Corbett was again taking a long lead and his friends were confident he could end the fight when it pleased him. Corbett, who had missed hardly one of his blows, swung a terrific right uppercut just before the gong ended the round. The blow missed Fitzsimmons face by a full foot, and there were those in the arena who expressed the opinion that the blow had not been well intended.
Fitzsimmons always regarded the thirteenth as his lucky round, and he hustled out of his corner as if he expected to settle matters. Corbett drove a hard right to the heart and Fitzsimmons slowed up. That lasted only for a minute, however, and the Cornishman then began to drive Corbett before him around the ring. They sparred rather cautiously and then Corbett was forced against the ropes. Corbett scored repeatedly but with no force. A moment before the gong Corbett made a swing -that landed a right uppercut and two, lefts, all three blows reaching Fitzsimmons' face,covering him with blood.
As the men came to the middle of the ring for the fourteenth round Corbett placed a hard left on the mouth, shaking Fitzsimmons thoroughly. The Cornishman rushed and received a second blow of the same kind. These two blows seemed to damage the giver more than they did the receiver. Fitzsimmons passed an overhand right that caught Corbett on the ear. They clinched and Fitzsimmons worked Corbett clear across the ring. Fitzsimmons landed two heavy blows on the chin, neither of which distressed Corbett Then the champion stepped forward, crouching slightly. Fitzsimmons straightened up and drove his left to the body, catching Corbett hard directly under the heart. Few of those around the ring saw; this blow as it was actually delivered. Fitzsimmons fist after landing continued in a half swing and caught Corbett on the jaw. Corbett fell to his knees and as he did so Fitzsimmons landed another left to the jaw. There were cries of 'Foul!" of which the referee took no notice,
Corbett gradually toppled over until his hands rested on the floor. Then with his left hand he grasped the flesh over his heart. It was at this moment that Corbett. who was half out of focus of the camera, reached forward with his right hand and caught one of the ropes. Then he swung himself around directly facing the camera. He was in this position when counted out.No sooner had the word been uttered taking the championship from him than Corbett was on his feet. He threw both hands in the air above its head, then rushed over to where Fitzsimmons was standing near the ropes. His brother, Joe, caught Corbett by the arm but Jim easily freed himself, and, dodging past others in the ring, struck Fitzsimmons, who was waving two small American flags. There was plenty of force in that blow. the blow that his-friends thought might have been delivered in any round after the fifth. Fitzsimmons fell to the floor and his friends were compelled to carry him to his corner and place him in his chair.
Siler raised his voice above the din at the ring and shouted "Fitzsimmons wins!" Tears coursed down Corbett's checks. "I'm not licked," he said. "I am strong and full of fight. I am willing to fight on if he is willing. The championship is his. The bets have been won. Know I want to show which is the best man. This is a tough deal, boys."
Deputy sheriffs cleared the ring and Corbett and Fitzsimmons were brought together to shake hands. Corbett then admitted that he had been whipped, but said he was sure he was the better man. He asked Fitzsimmons for a return fight, and Fitzsimmons responded: "I will never fight again."
W. A Brady, who had acted as Corbett's manager, issued an immediate challenge to Fitzsimmons for a return fight for $10,000. Fitzsimmons merely smiled and shook his head. In order to stop misunderstanding it should be said that the very great majority of those who saw the fight and the great majority of those who have discussed it in private and public have not doubted that the battle was honestly fought, honestly lost and honestly won. There are many, however, and among them some of the best judges of pugilism in America, who believe that Corbett could have won the fight in the fifth, sixth, seventh or eighth rounds. Although Fitzsimmons fought many battles after winning from Corbett he never would consent to give his old antagonist a return match.
The Berkshire Evening Eagle
Tuesday Jan 26, 1943
Scored win over Joe in 28th Round
Choynski and Corbett Battled each Other five times but the scap on Barge was easily the best of all. Choynski, the little man who beat many good big men made several other Notable contribution to pugilistic History, but will be remembered longest For his bloody barge brawl with “Gentlemen Jim” . that was the ultimate in grudge fights.
San Francisco Rivals
Corbett and Choynski were reared a few blocks apart in. the Hayes Valley section of San Francisco, and as each progressed pugilistically they became bitter rivals for the admiration of the city's fight fans. They fought five times, but four of these feuding engagements were minor meetings compared to that thundering melee on the barge.The feud started when both were amateurs, Corbett boxing for the Olympic Club and Choynski for the rival California Athletic Club. Brothers of both boxers worked in the City Hall. They argued and their arguments spread to admirers of Irish Corbett and Jewish Choynski. After various "incidents," Jim and Joe fought with their bare fists in the sand hills outside the city one Sunday morning in 1883.Corbett knocked out Joe in the first round.
A year later they met in an amateur tourney and Corbett, won a three - round decision. Choynski turned professional and enjoyed such success that he decided to tackle, his arch-enemy again. Members of Choynski's club goaded Corbett, through the newspapers, into accepting a match-for-stakes or professional bout with Joe. Corbett, instructor at the Olympic Club after quitting his job as bank teller, was an amateur. It required much persuasion before his father, Pat, consented to the professional match, but he did it out of family pride.
Fight Shifted From Barn Corbett and Choynski met for a finish fight in a barn near Fairfax, Cal., on May 30, 1889, with a $2000 side bet at stake. The sheriff and deputies stopped the bout in the fourth round. Hence it was shifted to a- barge, anchored in the Strait of Carquinez, near Benecia on June 5.
A broiling sun beat down on the barge as Corbett and Choynski were rowed out from shore. More than 200 spectators were aboard. Corbett fought with two-ounce gloves, and Joe used teamster's gloves because he had lost his two ounce mitts. Corbett outweighed Joe, 178 pounds to 170, and had advantages of height, reach and speed.
Corbett won the opening rounds with masterly boxing, but injured his left and in--the' third round. He already was handicapped by a broken right thumb, suffered in the brief barn engagement. Choynski, the harder puncher, kept boring in with his seamed gloves, and by the fifth round, both were bleeding profusely.
In the 14th, Joe exploded a left hook on Corbett's right eye, almost knocking him out. Corbett staggered about the deck but didn't go down. Jim rallied in the 15th and they continued fighting furiously.
As the deck became slippery with blood and some of the spectators sickened at this sight of the gore, Referee Patsy Hogan wanted to stop the brawl and call it a draw, but neither principal would permit it. Both men were in terrible shape in the 25th. Corbett's eye was completely closed and his hand injuries forced him to hit with his wrists.
In the 28th Corbett summoned all his strength and drove a right to Choynski's jaw. Joe went down for the count, and Jim almost fainted from the pain in his right hand. He didn't know the fight was over when his brothers helped him to his corner.
Corbett always described the ending of this baige bout as a full count knockout in the 28th round. However, Nat Fleischer's ring record book, in listing Choynski's fights, says it ended in the 27th when Choynski was unable to continue. Choynski and Jim met again on July 15 that year in a four-round bout at the Olympic Club, with Jim taking the decision. But this was an anti-climactic engagement. As Corbett went on to become heavyweight champion and Choynski also carved out a career with his fists
Sunday State Journal 23 Jan 1910
BATTLE WAS A GRUDGE FIGHT.
I can hardly repress a smile When I think of the agitated governors and district attorneys who go into Hysterics over our modern contests with six ounce gloves. Some of these ladylike gentlemen Should have seen the sport when it was in its iron days. It would have done them good and put some real red blood in their veins.
Perhaps – could they have gone to Benicia on that famous day twenty Years ago when James J Corbett and Joe Choynski fought to a finish on a barge anchored out in deep water. Those where the heroic days ofThe ring, Fighter didn’t quibble over purses and gate money and theatrical dates. They fought because fighting was in their blood.
The hatred between the two men was the talk of the town and excited so much interest that the Californian Athletic club offered the $10,000 for a 10 round contest. It may seem strange to any modern pugilist but they turned down the offer. They did not want to fight with big gloves for a few rounds. They wanted a fight to the finish.
It was arranged at last and the two agreed to meet for a side bet of $2000 to a finish wearing two ounce gloves. The Olympic Club boys Put up Corbetts $1000 and Charlie Asher posted for Choynski. About 200 sports saw the fight.They rowed out to the waiting grain barge in small boats. Some put up as much as $200 to see the mill. There were famous men in that crowd – bankers , merchants, politicians and actors. Nat Goodman, who was playing at the old Baldwin Theatre in San Francisco, swung a towel for Choynski and when he got ashore late in the afternoon he telegraphed “Dismiss the audience, can’t get back in time”.
Then there was Phil Crimmins , who as a member of the Kelly and Crimmins combination Bossed San Francisco for years afterward. In the middle of the fight Crimmins got so excited that he fell overboard and as everybody was busy watching the fight he nearly drowned before his friends thought of looking for him.
The fight was early in the morning when the men Came together. Choynski’s gloves were missing and there was a short delay. Corbett had his two ounce gloves on. A two ounce glove is a deadly weapon for it protects the hand and allows delivery of a hard punch without danger of hurting the knuckles, yet does as much damage as a bare fist.
Captain Griffith, a racing man, passed up his driving gloves Corbett handed them along to Choynski. Joe offered to let Corbett use them “ Use the yourself or use bare knuckles” said Corbett. Choynski put the gloves on. They were so tight he couldn’t close his fists. He wanted to cut the fingers off but Corbett objected. The fight began.
Choynski at that time was rough and rugged and a wicked hitter, but little science.Corbett was already a master of the art of boxing. He had the advantage of height and reach and at once made use of it. He Jabbed Choynski time and again in The face and the blood ran as the light gloves landed.
Jack Dempsey was behind Choynski. He had taken a bottle of whiskey to Drive out the cold and was hardly in shape to second a fighting man.his one advice to Joe was to stand off and box. This is just what Corbett wanted him to do.
They fought like tigers, after the fifth round Choynski’s nose was broken, both lips were split and both eyes near closed. Corbetts Face and body was cut to ribbons on the back of Choynski’s gloves.
By the 15th Choynski was thoroughly whipped but he wouldn’t quit. Both eyes were swollen shut he could only see enough to keep tearing in and slam away for general results.
He went over to Corbetts corner in the 16th started shouting “Come on Jim” Delaney pushed Corbett to his feet and said quickly “Run away – he can’t catch you” Corbett ran for a moment then turned and fought.
In the 17th Choynski landed several smashing punches and Corbett reeled around the ring.Choynski looked All the winner then but only for a moment.
In the 22nd his seconds wanted to throw up the sponge but Choynski refused to be rescued and although he was blinded fought along as best he could.
He was cut to ribbons when he finally dropped In the 27th.Patsy Hogan the referee counted , Choynski struggled to his feet but the referee mercifully declared him counted out.
SULLIVAN V CORBETT
“I will never challenge Sullivan” this remark was made by James J. Corbett to a party of friends in Chicago just before Christmas, 1891. Corbett had come East with the idea of making a theatrical engagement and at the time had not fully determined to enter pugilism as a career;. He had been talking of his encounter in the previous May with Peter Jackson-a battle that, in spite of the No ''contest" decision, had Stamped Corbett as a fighter far above the ordinary caliber
Since then some have been heard to say that Corbett won his reputation from none but old and decrepit men. yet it should be remembered that it was after his fight with Corbett that Peter Jackson went to England and from Frank Slavin won the most sensational fight of his entire career.
When he entered the ring with Corbett. Jackson, the greatest of all negro pugilists, had a bad ankle, But Corbett also suffered-under a severe handicap He had been ill and was ill when he entered the ring. More than once during the fight he received medical treatment. Yet had he not been restrained it is certain he would have knocked out Jackson.
"Billy" Delaney, the foxiest ring general that ever developed a pugilist, knew that a draw with Jackson was sufficient glory for Corbett. In whose corner he was and he refused to permit his principal, even when Jackson was so leg weary that he could hardly stand, to take chances in an exchange of heavy blows.
Corbett always liked John L. Sullivan and to this day speaks of him as one of the World's greatest pugilists a harder hitter, in Corbett’s opinion, than either Fitzsimmons or Jeffries. Continuing his conversation with his friends in Chicago the young pugilist .said
"Yes, 1 think 1 can beat Sullivan, but if he waits
for me to challenge him he can retain the champion
ship for life Should he lose the title I will be an immediate
Challenger. The only way to bring Sullivan
and me together is to persuade him to make the first
move, If he does that he will find me ready and waiting for him”
This conversation, considerably emphasized and much distorted was repeated to Sullivan, and finally brought forth the sweeping challenge to the world that Is here quoted. An attempt had been made to sidetrack Sullivan and to regard him as a retired champion. this injured his theatrical business and his pride. It should be said for Sullivan that he far Underestimated Corbett's powers. He regarded him as a clever boy without ability to put force behind his blows.
"Corbett can't punch a bole through a pound' of butter” was one of Sullivan’s favorite remarks.
James Corbett had flashed across the pugilistic horizon like a meteor. Though in California he was regarded as the greatest of all amateurs little was known of him in the East until he met Jake Kilrain in six rounds in New Orleans. Kilrain had been whipped by the mighty Sullivan after a tremendous battle. The idea of an unknown beating him was considered absurd. Yet Corbett stepped into the ring and from the first sound of the bell made Kilrain look like a novice. He went through six rounds without a mark on him, while Kilrain crawled through the ropes cut and bleeding as the result of a score of bruising blows.
Corbett was ever a student of pugilism. From his earliest encounters as a schoolboy he made every fight answer the purpose of a lesson. He was always ready to put on the gloves with amateur or professional. When he found a man with a blow that was new to him Corbett made a study of the blow, improved upon it and appropriated it to his own use, So it happened that when Sullivan visited San Francisco Corbett eagerly accepted the suggestion that he and the champion should appear in a mimic bout at the Grand Opera House.
The two men appeared before a tremendous crowd. Instead of wearing ring costumes the two pugilists were in evening dress. Not a hard blow was struck and not an attempt was made by either to break the agreement. Yet it was a tryout of the champion and for the benefit of Corbett.
There are those who have said that Corbett was filed with fear when he went to New Orleans for the meeting with Sullivan. Such a statement is utterly erroneous. The youngster was filled with confidence. He had his battle planned in his mind and it is a fact that he won the fight just as he had planned, forcing Sullivan to the final count one round earlier than he expected.
Trained On The Cars
In the baggage car attached to the train which Corbett took to New Orleans a gymnasium had been fitted up. There Corbett continued his training as he sped through the country, and just as the train entered New Orleans he authorized a friend who was with him to wager $3,000 on his chances at the prevailing odds .
Corbett’s confidence, however was as nothing with that of the champion. Sullivan did not believe the man lived who could stand before his tremendous rushes. He had prepared for the battle at Canoe Place Inn, Long Island , established under Royal grant in the second decade of the18th century and now frequented by automobile parties touring through Long Island. He took of many Pounds of surplus weight, yet went to New Orleans carrying a girth that made his friends shake their heads and long for the Sullivan of five years earlier.
Corbett did his training at Asbury Park with Delaney at the head of affairs. He gave himself most careful preparation spending all his wakeful hours in the open air. Odds of 4 to 1 against Corbett were freely offered when the two men pushed their way through the great throng of the Olympic Club. Even at those almost prohibitive figures Sullivan money was urgent and plentiful, while the backers of Corbett were shy. Of all the thousands of men who packed the club house that evening Corbett unquestionably was the one alone absolutely confident of his own victory.
John L Sullivan was the originator of the fighting face. In his hundreds of ring contests he had frightened his opponents by the ferocity of his appearance. More than one fight had been won by him before a blow had been struck. Yet Sullivan was puzzled by the demeanor of Corbett while the preliminaries of the battle were being arranged in the ring. In Sullivans corner were Jack McAuliffe, premier lightweight of all time, Joe Lannon, Phil Casey and Charlie Johnson. Behind Corbett were Billy Delaney, Mike Donavon, Jim Daly and Joohn Donaldson.
Corbett stopped and joked with his seconds after crawling through the ropes and then stepped jauntily over to Sullivan paying not the slightest heed to the heavy scowl that darkened the champions visage. He gripped his opponents huge fist, gave it a hearty squeeze and told Sullivan he was glad to see him. Then he went prancing away jumping from one foot to another like a schoolgirl – he was testing the floor of the ring to find any possible weakness that might be developed. His coolness was a revelation even to his most intimate friends. The experience was new to John L. and it may have had the effect Corbett desired upon the title holder.
When the two men came together to receive instructions from John Duffy, the official referee, Corbett stood nonchalantly shoulder to shoulder with Sullivan. He looked an ideal Greek athlete compared with the heavy muscled Roman gladiator. Sullivan began to explain his understanding of the rules and his deep voice rumbled from his lips, Corbett stepped away to shake hands with a friend at the ringside. Sullivan stopped in disgust showing he had been making another effort to discourage his opponent.
There was a hush through the building as the gong clanged, a little after nine o'clock, and brought the two men together Sullivan rushed, and as he approached Corbett he swung his left, which Corbett ducked under and hopped away just in time to escape a vigorous right intended for the jaw. Sullivan was almost carried almost off his balance, but he steadied himself by catching the rope with his left hand. Again he plunged toward Corbett, swinging right and left, while the crowd was inclined to jeer Corbett for his evasive tactics, rush after rush was made by the champion, Again and again he swung his tremendous right, followed by his no less tremendous left.
It seemed that Sullivan expected the jeers of the crowd would compel Corbett to halt and exchange blows with him. But the round ended without a blow having landed. Corbett had been content to let his adversary extend himself and develop his fighting blows while he in turn made absolutely no effort to inflict punishment. As the round ended the jeers changed to prolonged applause, though it was difficult to tell whether the cheering was for Sullivan's earnestness or Corbett's skill in avoiding danger.
The second round found Sullivan again aggressive. He rushed two thirds across the ring and swung his left for Corbett's face. He misled his target by eighteen inches. The champion then worked Corbett into a corner and landed the first blow
Then came a clinch and the first great surprise of the battle. Sullivan's admirers had been waiting for this moment and expected to see the champion crush his less robust adversary in his great arms almost as he might crush an eggshell in his brawny fist. Instead, Corbett caught Sullivan by the forearms, pinning them in such a manner that he was unable to do the slightest bit of damage Sullivan in turn leaned against Corbett, straining to break the embrace, intending to force home a heavy body blow as they separated.
Then came the second surprise of the fight Corbett made a quick shift. His forearm went across Sullivan's throat and the champion's head was forced back until he was compelled to break the clinch and give ground. His throat was constricted and before he could catch his breath Corbett had swung him around against the ropes and was posing unharmed in the middle of tile ring .
Almost bellowing with rage, Sullivan charged back from the corner, and Corbett for the first time made an aggressive move. Sullivan swung out his mighty right fist. Corbett stepped deftly aside, shifted and brought his left with his full weight behind it flush on John L's mouth, The mighty Sullivan was shaken from head to toe, Enraged beyond power of endurance, he charged after Corbett, driving him around the ring, swinging first left and then right, delivering blows that, had any of them landed upon a vital spot, would have ended the battle then. Corbett, with a smile of derision, dodged here and there, lightly thrusting aside one blow, dodging inside of another, and finally, just before the bell sent them to their corners, drove his own left fairly into the pit of Sullivan’s stomach, the force of the blow being heard throughout the arena.
The challenger's friends were jubilant, Sullivan’s backers, a trifle nonplussed. Were still confident that the champion finally would succeed in landing one of his well meant blows The odds had shortened. Corbett's friends were taking 3 to 1 and were ready with rnore money than at any tine previous to the battle.
Sullivan came up for the third round wearing a look of sobered determination. He did not plunge after Corbett as he had in there previous rounds He walked steadily after his lithe opponent, attempting to feint him into a lead Sullivan led his right and it whistled by Corbett’s ear like a rifle ball. There was a short clinch and Sullivan attempted a left as they broke away. Corbett merely drew back his chin, permitting the blow to brush his cheek as it passed by.
Corbett's footwork at this moment was marvelous He was weaving in and out, with his fists swinging at his sides, making little attempt at parrying or countering. Sullivan found it absolutely impossible to land a blow upon him Corbett finally halted in his waltz, stepped suddenly forward and swung his left full to the champion's stomach, Sullivan made a wide sweep with his right arm in response and brought up against the ropes, only to see Corbett five feet away, smiling at him in derision. As Sullivan faced around Corbett edged closer to him, for a moment feinted wildly and then stepped closely in and swung right and left to Sullivan's face.
The champion was somewhat distressed and was angered thoroughly. He pawed Corbett with his left hand and then shot out a vicious right which for a fraction of a second seemed destined to find its proper target. Corbett ducked and the blow brushed his hair. Corbett danced away, the smile gone from his face as he realized how close he had been to annihilation.
Returning to his former tactics, Sullivan opened the fourth round with awild rush. He hurled his great bulk at Corbett time and again and kept the challenger on the run to avoid his blows. Several times Corbett seemed to be in grave danger, but on each occasion succeeded in worming his way out of the corner into which he had been forced. Finally Sullivan caught him against the ropes, swung, missed and clinched holding Corbett with his left and fell with a heavy thud across Corbett's kidneys. Corbett's arms dropped to his side and he fell forward upon Sullivan's breast. This was only for a second, however, and he then backed away, taking his own time to recover from the effect of the blow, which he since has said was the heaviest he ever received in the ring . Had Sullivan been able to land such a blow in a more vulnerable spot the history of the modern prize ring would have been changed.
As his strength returned to him Corbett again took up his serpentine methods, advancing and retreating, feinting first with one hand and then with the other until Sullivan was completely bewildered. Corbett then dropped his hands arid looked at his beefy opponent in a most tantalizing manner. Sullivan, thoroughly enraged, rushed Corbett sidestepped, then dodged in close and, just as the round closed, dealt the champion a blow on the right ear that came near sending him to the mat This was the hardest blow struck by Corbett thus far in the fight, but it did not seem to bother Sullivan in the least. He went to his corner smiling in derision, and in a voice that could be heard throughout the entire arena grumbled his complaint that Corbett would not stand up and fight like a man.
This complaint of Sullivan's so irritated Corbett that as he came up for the next round he made a complete change of method. Standing toe to toe with Sullivan he swapped blows until he was taught the folly of this system by a jarring left that thoroughly Shook him up. Corbett fell into a clinch, again caught Sullivan by the arms to save himself from injury, then threw his forearm up and across the champion's wind pipe, forcing Sullivan from his balance so that he was unable to settle himself for a punch.
Both men lost their temper at this point And the best fighting of the contest was seen. Sullivan rushed in with a right swing. Corbett moved his head just far enough to allow the blow to pass, then with a spring like that of a panther he went forward and feinted Sullivan into the same position that he had compelled him to occupy in their try-out fifteen months earlier in San Francisco and then swung a heavy right that caught Sullivan flush on the point of the nose, damaging that feature to such an extent that it was puffed and sore during the' remainder of the fight.
Sullivan lost alt sense of distance, and though he fought back with all of his old time energy Corbett merely laughed at him, avoiding his blows and sending in smash after smash without once missing the target for which he aimed. Sullivan was tired and of gory appearance and was glad of the opportunity to clinch to save himself from the bombardment, which he little understood.
It was at this point that those who had bet on Sullivan attempted to save themselves from loss by hedging their bets, offering even money that Corbett would win His seconds sent Sullivan up for the sixth round so much freshened that his friends again took heart, and odds of 7to 5 were offered that he would retain the championship. During the sixth round Corbett contented himself with a plan of campaign that seemed intended merely to annoy Sullivan and compel him to work himself into fatigue.
Corbett gave evidence that it was his intention to so change his fighting methods with each round that the big fellow could not tell what to expect. As round seven opened he sprang forward and met Sullivan more than half way across the ring, Standing close he drove in a short arm left to the stomach and then brought his right up to Sullivan's Chin. Sullivan swung his left, which barely touched Corbett's chest. Corbett returned with two rights and a left to the champion's face, again damaging Sullivan's nose.
Corbett sprung back; then weaving in again he planted a hard right to Sullivan's heaving stomach. The champion's arms dropped to his sides, and Corbett, taking advantage, scored repeatedly with both hands, hitting Sullivan almost at will.
Step by step the absolutely defenseless Sullivan was forced back to the lopes, where Corbett, taking deliberate aim, put his entire weight behind a right that drove hard between the champion's eyes. Sullivan's head bent far back and his knees sagged. He looked like a whipped man, and the crowd of eight thousand fight falls were on their feet calling for the
finish. A knockout might have occurred had the round been a minute longer, but the bell came to Sullivan's rescue and he staggered to his corner a sorry looking champion Indeed.
Nevertheless the minute of rest did Sullivan much good, He came back freshened, and in the early part of the eighth round did the best work that he had accomplished. Corbett was forced into clinches, and Sullivan complained to Duffy that he was being fouled by Corbett, who continually forced himself out of the clinch throwing his, forearm across Sullivan's
throat, completely shutting off the champion's wind. Sullivan was much distressed by this trick, which was new to him, and attempted fighting at long range. In that he was thoroughly outpointed. Corbett was glad to stand off and shoot his left through to the face .
Sullivan's features were distorted, his cheeks puffed and his eyes blackened. Corbett seemed to have just got down to his work. His movements were as perfect as those of a steam engine. In and out his glove shot, seldom failing to damage and weaken the champion. The ninth round was a repetition of the eighth . He seemed to reach Corbett with an occasional blow but the youngster was so timing his movements that the blow always caught him as he was going away and left no sign of damage. Sullivan landed several apparently heavy lefts on Corbett's chest, but, not enough damage was done to even redden the skin.
The eleventh round saw Corbett land twice but with no great force to his blows, and Sullivan failed to land a glove on the challenger .Rounds twelve, thirteen and fourteen were in a measure monotonous, although Corbett's dazzling foot work pleased the onlookers, not once did he consent to exchange blows with the champion. He was in and out and around Sullivan, hammering away like the traditional Cooper around a cask.
Much money had been wagered that Corbett would not stay a full fifteen rounds and he opened that round in a manner to prove to his admirers that he was determined not only to stay but to show he was the best man in the ring.
Sullivan, having been warned by his seconds that his friends would lose many wagers if he did not put Corbett out in this round, growled out an oath as he left his corner and rushed headlong at Corbett his backers were overjoyed when he reached Corbett’s neck, but it was only a glancing blow that did little damage. Back came Sullivan with another charge
and Corbett, suddenly stopping his retreat, stepped forward and threw his full weight into a right that was followed by a smacking left. Both blows reached Sullivan's face, doing much damage. Again Corbett took up his weaving stride swinging his fists down by his hips, throwing his head first to one side and then to the other, almost at will hammering in blow after
blow to the Challenger's stomach. Sullivan was discouraged, and his friends could not help realizing that barring an accident, he was a beaten man.
His shoulder slunk and his breast heaved as he stumbled to his corner at the sound of the welcome bell. Corbett was fighting too logical a battle to give to his opponent an opportunity to take advantage of an accident. Many expected him to rush in at the opening of the sixteenth round for a knockout. Instead of doing that, he kept out of range of Sullivan's fists and made the champion's face the target for his volley of rapid fire lefts. Sullivan was so completely tired that he threw out both arms and fell into a clinch to avoid the blows that rained upon him, and as the round closed Odds of 2 to 1 that Corbett would win found no takers.
In the seventeenth round Corbett was still resting, his face yet unmarked and his hair not ruffled; not a red spot on his body to show whew the champion had landed. He was going with all of his strength and all his speed, yet he was still content to make Sullivan receiver general for all punishment, keeping himself the while out of possible reach of Sullivan's fists.
Sullivan finally fell forward, and, as he came to a clinch gave Corbett a half arm jolt in the neck. This apparently dazed Corbett for a few seconds, and as they separated Sullivan was able to land a right and left but was to weak and too wild to do much damage and his opportunity was lost.
Nearing The End
Coming up for the 18th round Corbett stood as if ready to swap blows with Sullivan, but as a heavy swing came over he ducked beneath it and while crouching swung forward with a tremendous left that sank far into Sullivan's flabby stomach. The champion gasped with pain and astonishment and before he could recover Corbett swung his left upward and again flattened Sullivan's nose, With a quick movement he then drove his right to Sullivan's ribs and as the champion's guard fell-shot two hard lefts flush to the face.
Corbett was now playing for the knockout, He stepped forward and twice in succession jarred Sullivan's head back between his shoulder Again it was apparent that the bell saved Sullivan from defeat. A tremendous right crashed against his neck just as the bell sounded, and his seconds worked industriously over him to send him forward for the nineteenth round in as good shape as possible.
Corbett now saw victory close at hand, and in the nineteenth round made no other attempt than to keep Sullivan so tired that he could not regain his stamina and speed. He made no move to knock the big fellow out, but sent in half a dozen hard left jabs to the face. The twentieth found Sullivan almost in a collapse. Two or three tremendous swings, however,
showed that he still possessed power to land a knockout blow if he could bring it home, Corbett stood back out of danger and lashed out with his right, catching Sullivan repeatedly on the jaw. Finally the old fellow's knees gave Way, his hands fell to his sides, his eyes glared and he stood waiting for the blow that would send him to the floor a defeated man. Corbett poised ready to land that blow, but was disturbed by the clanging of the gong that gave to the champion another and what proved to be his last moment of glory.
Sullivan came up for the twenty-first round still dazed and tired. His legs wobbled and refused to support him. Corbett, as strong and active as when the fight opened, sprang upon him and caught him full in the mouth with a tremendous right drive. This was followed by a left, another right and a second left. Corbett was now fighting as Sullivan would have had him fight when the battle opened. He was standing before his antagonist regardless of any punishment he might himself receive and was working his arms like piston rods.
Sullivan reeled caught at the rope with one hand and spread his legs to brace himself, Corbett caught him on the point of the jaw with a right swing and then restrained his left mercifully, waiting for Sullivan to drop from exhaustion. There was still a spark of strength left in the older man's body, however, and he refused to fall.
Corbett again threw his right fist forward with just sufficient force behind it to drive Sullivan from his balance The big fellow was not knocked out, but he sank forward to the floor of the ring, He struck the mat on his left side, then rolled over on his face. Jack McAuliffe from his corner showered ice cold water upon him from a sponge. The mighty Sullivan placed the palms of his hands on the floor and attempted to raise himself. He succeeded in lifting his body a few inches and then lurched forward as the referee counted the fateful ten.
The referee waved his hands in the air and then putted Corbett on the shoulder to show that the championship had passed into new hands. The youngster walked forward and attempted to help Sullivan's seconds to carry him to his corner. His face wore a look of sympathy for the man he had beaten Filled with the elation of victory, he was still sorry for Sullivan and made his sympathy known with a word of condolence.
Sullivan, heartbroken and dejected, sat in his corner until the demonstration had somewhat spent itself , then, rising and supporting himself by the topmost rope, faced the crowd. For a moment he could not control his voice. Then, swallowing a sob, he "I tried once too often, I am glad the championship remains in America." Again the cheering was taken up, and fully as many then followed the defeated Sullivan to his quarters cheering for him and chased after the new champion, giving him their plaudits for his prowess and success
Not only had a new championship been established, but a new school of pugilism had been set up in the world'. Queensberry rules had been substituted for all time for the old London prize ring rules. Science, intelligence ring speed had been called upon to form the champion capable of defeating the greatest of all representatives of muscle and brawn. Sullivan, the
most popular pugilist who ever wore a glove and the greatest of all fighters in the London prize ring, had lost his laurels to Corbett, the greatest and most entitle boxer the world has produced.
THE CORBETT-SULLIVAN FIGHT.
The meeting between Corbett and Sullivan at New Orleans on September 7, 1892, signaled the dawn of the new era so far as the settlement of world's championships among heavyweights is concerned. There had been Queensberry contests for championships of various sections before, and also Queensberry contests which determined world's championships in classes lower than heavyweights.
This, assuredly, was the first time in which two men had boxed under Queensberry conditions for the distinction of being voted the peer of all pugilists the earth around.
Not so very long before, Sullivan, who was considered equally at home under old rules and new, had vanquished Kilrain in a bare knuckle fight at Richburg, Mississippi. Kilrain was also an adept at either style of milling and the fact that he was selected as an opponent for Sullivan is the best evidence that he was regarded as John L.'s most formidable rival.
With Kilrain removed from his path, Sullivan seemed to have but two opponents in sight, so far as old style battles went. One of these was Frank Slavin and the other Charlie Mitchell. Peter Jackson was ineligible for two reasons. In the first place Sullivan drew the color line, and in the next, Jackson could not by any manner of reasoning be induced to become a party to a prize ring encounter.
There was no talk of a return match with Mitchell and for some reason the turf fight with Slavin was not arranged. Sullivan remained alone in his glory and it looked as if he would retire undefeated.
But the Queensberry mills were working and a new order of pugilists was being developed. In far away California Jim Corbett, who was regarded as little short of a precocious amateur by the seasoned sluggers of the three big fighting centers of the world, to wit, England, Australia and the United States, was coming to the front in a manner that boded ill to the champions.
The first hint of Corbett's promise as a candidate for the highest honors of the ring was when he won from Jake Kilrain in six rounds at New Orleans in 1890. Kilrain's chagrin was more pronounced, possibly, than when Sullivan downed him at Richburg.
To be defeated by Sullivan, the greatest living fighter, was bad enough, but it was the fortune of war. To be bested by a sapling from the wild and woolly west, of whom no one had ever heard, was gall and wormwood.
After that came Corbett's wonderful fight with Peter Jackson, and in the following year he conquered the mighty John L. in the first Queensberry battle in which Sullivan risked his title. Then the Oueensberry crackajacks ruled the roost and they have ruled it ever since.Long may they continue to do so.
It might be in order at this time to trace the gradual coming into favor of the Queensberry system in the United States. Beyond question, the California Athletic Club of San Francisco was the first organization to conduct contests of this kind between professionals. Prior to the formation of the club in question Queensberry matches were held in private or, by special dispensation, at some sporting resort or public hall. As a rule the public exhibitions consisted of four and six round bouts. When the California Athletic Club first began to handle contests very little publicity was given to what happened in the club arena. Very often one would see in the sporting pages of the San Francisco papers that so and so had boxed so and so the previous evening, and that one man was awarded the decision on points in such and such a round.
Those who happened to be present at the affair knew that it was a bitter fight ; one bristling with interesting detail a contest, in fact, to which columns would be devoted nowadays.
When President L. R. Fulda and his associates took hold of the California Athletic Club and installed it in more commodious quarters on new Montgomery and Mission streets, public interest in the sport was aroused. The club added to its members San Francisco's merchant princes and leading professional men and the country was scoured for pugilistic talent. Boxers were brought from Australia and England, and San Francisco became the Mecca of the fighters. This was back in 1888.
One has only to recall some of the contests decided before the club in order to be convinced that the city named led the world in the promotion of Queensberry pastimes. Jackson and Corbett boxed there and it was at the C. A. C. that Jackson defeated George Godfrey, Joe McAuliffe and Patsy Cardiff.
The lightweights, Jimmy Carroll and Champion Jack McAuliffe fought there; so did Carroll and English Sammy Blaklock. It was there that the two Murphys, Frank and Billy, boxed, and also there that Spider Weir, the inimitable, lost to Billy Murphy shortly after the latter's arrival from Australia.
Jack Dempsey and LaBlanche, the marine, fought at the California Athletic Club and it was in the ring of the organization named that Fitzsimmons made his first appearance in America, defeating Billy McCarty. Patsy Duffy, of Boston, gained a decision over Tom Meadows at the club in question, and George Dixon defended his bantam championship against Abe Willis, who journeyed all the way from the antipodes to box him.
Tommy Warren won from Jack Havlin at this club, and Joe McAuliffe, the Mission tanner, outboxed Mike Conley, the Ithaca giant, and Frank Glover of Chicago.
Among other sterling performers of those years who boxed for California Athletic Club purses were George Dawson, of Australia ; Young Mitchell, Buffalo Costello, Johnny Griffin, Doc O'Connell, Danny Needham, Mike Lucie, Frank Childs, Patsy Kerrigan, Australian Billy Smith, Paddy Gorman, Sam Fitzpatrick, Brooklyn Jimmy Carroll, and Joe Choynski.
Other clubs sprang up in San Francisco and in time the sport languished temporarily. The scene shifted to New Orleans, where many important contests were held, among them that between Jack Dempsey and Bob Fitzsimmons for the middleweight championship of the world.
New Orleans being so situated that it could draw from the sport patrons of New York and many other large cities, the Louisiana promoters became ambitious.They determined to arrange a carnival of boxing, which would comprise contests for the championships of the world in the various classes. It was during this carnival held in September, 1892, that Sullivan and Corbett boxed. In events which preceded the heavyweight fight, Jack McAuliffe defended his title of lightweight champion against Billy Myers, and George Dixon won without a
struggle from Jack Skelly.
In order to relate the events leading up to the Corbett- Sullivan fight in their proper sequence, it will be necessary to refer to the Jackson-Corbett match. The fight in question took place in San Francisco in May, 1891. The effect of it was to push Corbett to the front as a world's championship possibility.
Corbett, even before he met Jackson, was firm in the belief that he could defeat Sullivan if the opportunity occurred. He declared himself to this effect while training at Sausalito for his affair with Peter. "But I will never challenge John L.," added Jim. "It will be for him to make a proposition, and if ever he does, I’ll accommodate him."
National pride had something to do with Corbett's sentiments. He felt that he was in line for the world's championship and considered himself as Sullivan's natural successor. He was quite content that John L. should enjoy his laurels, and as he remarked, "I can keep my hands full fighting foreigners for a while."
After his draw with Peter Jackson for a draw it was to all intents and purposes Jim placed himself under the management of William A. Brady. Sullivan and Corbett, who were apparently on the best of terms, arranged to spar a four-round exhibition at the. Grand Opera House, San Francisco, in June, 1891, a month after the Jackson-Corbett contest, and it was during this mimic bout that Corbett fathomed Sullivan's methods thoroughly and filed away what he had discovered for future reference.
The exhibition was particularly interesting to those who divined Corbett's purpose. It was not one of those "slap and duck" affairs that Jack Ashton and Sullivan were in the habit of delighting the gallery gods with nightly. It was a virtual tryout of the great and only John L. for the benefit of James J. Corbett, and Sullivan did not suspect it. At that, never a hard blow was struck.
Corbett was a student of the art Oueensberry, if ever there was one. He was always adding to his knowledge of things scrapatorial, and he did not permit the slightest chance for improvement to escape him.
He would don the gloves with a visiting boxer be he amateur or professional at any hour of the day and if the stranger had any little trick worth copying Jim made a mental note of it and it became a part of his own stock in trade. He had only to see a fighter in action to determine quickly which were his strongest and weakest points, but in this particular respect Corbett was no more discriminating than other clear headed fellows of his calling. To box with a man, even though the bout were of a friendly nature, was to know him thoroughly, and when Corbett retired to his dressing room the night of his set-to with Sullivan he felt that he was well posted in regard to Sullivan's methods.
It was amusing to watch Jim feinting and fiddling. Sullivan pushed his pillow-covered fists before him with that reckless abandon peculiar to all stage combats, but Corbett just tapped and parried and studied.
It is claimed that a boxer, and particularly a natural boxer, can no more depart from his usual style of milling when required to spar at a lively clip, than an ordinary person can disguise his handwriting when asked to scribble something in a hurry.
Corbett, maybe, had this in mind when the third round began. He hustled the big fellow by making quick passes that were not intended to land, and soon Sullivan's massive shoulders were working vigorously as he launched out with half speed blows.
Corbett blocked and countered lightly and grinned and grinned. Once he raised his right arm quickly and held his glove as if about to send it against Sullivan's face. He dropped it again to his side, content to note that the opening was there. It was in that friendly bout on the Grand Opera House stage, probably, that Corbett mapped out the plan of attack which won for
him at New Orleans.
It was not long after the Opera House affair when Sullivan began to discern that he had a formidable rival in Corbett. For that matter there was an inclination among sport critics and sporting men generally, to sidetrack Sullivan, as one who had virtually retired, and whenever there was talk of a match in which a representative American was to figure, Corbett's claims
That Sullivan still considered himself a factor in championship disputes was shown by an open letter he issued from St. Paul, Minnesota, early in March, 1892. It read as follows :
"Our season ends about June 4 and we do not resume
again until September 12. This gives me over three
months' time to prepare.
"I hereby challenge any and all of the bluffers who
have been trying to make capital at my expense, to fight
me, either the last week in August or the first week in
September, this year, at the Olympic Club in the City of
New Orleans, for a purse of $25,000 and an outside bet
of $10,000. The winner of the fight to take the entire
"I insist upon a bet of $10,000 to show that they mean
business $2,500 to be put up inside of thirty days, an-
other $2,500 to be put up May i, and the entire $10,000,
and as much more as they will bet, to be placed by June
15. I am ready to put up the entire $10,000 now. First
come first served. I give preference in this challenge
to Frank P. Slavin, of Australia, as he and his backers
have done the greatest amount of blowing. My second
preference is that bombastic sprinter, Charles Mitchell,
of England, whom I would rather whip than any man
in the world. My third preference is James J. Corbett,
of America, who has uttered his share of bombast. But
in this challenge I include all fighters.
"The Marquis of Queensberry must govern this con-
test, as I want fighting, not foot racing, and I intend
keeping the championship of the world.
"JOHN L. SULLIVAN,
"Champion of the World."
Sullivan's defi threw the world of sport into a flutter. To begin with, it was an unusual thing for a world's champion to issue challenges and the fact that Sullivan had thought it incumbent upon him to do such a thing was taken as evidence that the big fellow was genuinely agitated and in a fighting mood.
For a while it looked as if Charlie Mitchell, of England, would accept Sullivan's challenge. The amount of the side wager named by Sullivan proved a stumbling block to Mitchell, however. Then William A. Brady, acting for Corbett, declared that the Californian stood ready to box John L. on the terms named by the champion and that all the conditions imposed by Sullivan in the matter of putting up a side bet would be observed.
To begin with, Brady posted $1,000 to bind the match. The news was forwarded to Sullivan by wire and he immediately telegraphed his backers to cover Corbett's forfeit. James Wakely, the well known sporting man, saw to it that Sullivan's forfeit money was forthcoming and the full details of the match were arranged in New York on March 15, 1892.
It was agreed that the contest should take place in New Orleans early in September and that the Olympic Club in that city should have the preference, provided it offered a purse of the value of $25,000. In case the Olympic Club did not see fit to hang up such a large amount, then the club making the best bid was to be accorded the privilege of handling the mill. Incidentally the Olympic Club, through its secretary, Charles Noel, subsequently announced that it was prepared to offer the fighters the amount named and the question of a
battle ground was settled.
The articles of agreement drawn up for the first Queensberry encounter for the world's championship were worded as follows:
First. The match is to decide the heavyweight championship of the world, a stake of twenty thousand dollars ($20,000) and a purse of twenty-five thousand dollars
Second. The contest shall take place before the Olympic Club, of New Orleans, Louisiana, on Wednesday, September 7, 1892. In case the said Olympic Club refuses to give a purse of twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000), the contest shall take place before a club to be mutually agreed upon by the signers of these articles.
Third. The contest shall be under Marquis of Queensberry rules. The gloves shall be the smallest the club will allow, and other details of the contest itself shall be left to the decision of the Olympic Club or the club before which the contest shall take place. The club selected shall name the referee.
Fourth. The sum of twenty-five hundred dollars ($2,500) has been deposited by each party. It is agreed that the remainder of the stake of ten thousand dollars ($10,000) shall be deposited on the days named here: June I, twenty-five hundred dollars ($2,500) ; July 10, twenty-five hundred dollars ($2,500) ; August 25, twenty-five hundred dollars ($2,500).
Fifth. The final stakeholder shall be agreed upon on the date of the second deposit, June i.
Sixth. Should either party fail to comply with these articles, the money then in the hands of the temporary stakeholder shall be forfeited to the party which shall
have fulfilled its obligations according to this paper.
J. C. KENNEDY, JAMES WAKELY
Witness for Corbett. For JOHN L. SULLIVAN.
JOHN McDoNouGH, JAMES J. CORBETT.
Witness for Sullivan.
Sullivan trained for the match at Canoe Place Inn, Good Ground, L. L, the champion's work being supervised by Phil Casey, the handball expert. Jack Ashton assisted in preparing the big fellow for the contest. It is said that Sullivan weighed close to the 230 pound mark when he began his arduous routine and by strict attention to business he reduced his avoirdupois to 210 pounds.
Corbett ensconced himself in training quarters near Asbury Park, with Billy Delaney at the head of affairs. Jim gave himself a careful preparation, putting in much of his time in the open air.
September came around and New Orleans saw many strange faces. First on the ground, of course, were the press correspondents, and on their heels followed a number of dyed-in-the-wool fight followers who believed in being on hand early so as to secure good locations at the ringside and comfortable quarters at the hotels. When Corbett reached New Orleans a day or two before the date of the contest I saw him exercise at one of the clubs in the Crescent City. His appearance denoted that he had been out in the sun and wind a good deal. Rowing had entered largely into his training. His shoulders were as brown as a berry and his arms were of the same hue. His face was also tanned.
He was heavier muscled than when he boxed Jackson. He was as clean as an antelope about the legs and his neck and shoulders looked as if they had been subjected to some special process of development.
They were betting 4 to I against Corbett at that time, but the fact did not seem to worry him. He was as confident as it was possible for a man to be. The thought of the surprise that was in store for the sporting world amused him. When it is remembered that the weight of expert opinion was against him, the nerve he maintained was truly remarkable.
Nor was his trainer, Billy Delaney, one jot less sanguine in regard to the result of the big fight. To give an instance of Delaney's confidence in Jim's ability to trim Sullivan, I will relate an incident. Among the earliest of the fight excursionists to reach New Orleans was a rich young Californian who had backed Choynski when the latter boxed Corbett. This gentleman did not think Jim had a ghost of a show with Sullivan and was making his bets accordingly. Delaney heard of this and he said to a friend : "I wish you could pull to one side and have a little talk with him. He is against Jim in this affair and I hate to see him lose his money. Will you go and tell him from me that Corbett will win as surely as the sun shines? He is a nice fellow and it worries me to think of him having the thing wrong."
The friend delivered the message and received very little thanks. "Delaney means well, but I think I know what I'm doing," said the Californian. "I have had others come to me and tell me how well Corbett looks and all the rest of it. Of course he looks well. How else could anyone expect to find a man on the eve of a championship fight and after months of training? I still stick to Sullivan."
Sullivan also became the guest of one of the New Orleans clubs, on his arrival at the Crescent City a couple of days in advance of the fight. He was the great attraction for the populace of course and the streets in the neighborhood of his abiding place were packed.
When, on the afternoon of his arrival, he punched the bag for a while, entrance to or exit from the club was impossible. The place was literally jammed and the privileged guests crushed each other to the wall in their efforts to catch a glimpse of the famous John L. Sullivan.
Came the fateful September 7, and New Orleans streets were filled with strangers. Fight talk was in the air and the hotel lobbies and bars were given over to the visiting sports. Even the ice cream caravansaries and soda water fountains did a rushing trade.
In the early evening all travel seemed to set towards the Olympic Club. The crowd began the pilgrimage before dark. Hacks were at a premium and some of those who managed to secure vehicles to take them to the club were obliged to alight several blocks from their destination and fight their way through a dense throng. Hundreds of police were detailed to keep the mob away from the approaches to the club house, but regiments of soldiers could not have performed the task.
Several enterprising parties, who had erected temporary booths for the sale of solid and liquid refreshments, did a roaring trade. Some one remarked there was the atmosphere of Mardi Gras time about the whole proceedings.
Within the Olympic Club the scene was a notable one. It breathed of suppressed excitement. Ticket holders, who came in flushed from their exertions in gaining an entrance, sought their seats as quickly as possible and seemed intensely relieved the moment they were comfortably located.
Policemen and club members acted as ushers, and considering the size of the gathering there was very little confusion. There was a steady stream of spectators into the arena from the moment the gates were opened. It was estimated that between 7,000 and 8,000 persons witnessed the championship fight.
The fighters arrived at the club shortly after 8 o'clock. Representatives of the men tossed for corners in one of the club parlors and Corbett won. He decided to occupy the angle of the ring in which McAuliffe and Dixon, winners of the previous matches in the tournament, had sat.
In due time the men entered the ring. Sullivan was accompanied by Jack McAuliffe, Joe Lannon, Phil Casey and Charlie Johnson. Corbett's principal esquires were Billy Delaney, Jim Daly and Professor John Donaldson. Mike Donovan, boxing instructor of the New York Athletic Club, was in Corbett's corner by invitation.
Corbett's demeanor while the preliminaries were being arranged seemed to puzzle Sullivan. Jim stepped around and tested the floor with his feet as coolly as some athlete might smooth the loose soil before attempting a record jump. He appeared to be entirely oblivious to the fact that the biggest and best fighter in all Christendom was glowering at him from across the ring.
Then Corbett walked over to the ropes and yanked at them as if to make certain the posts were firmly braced and that the ring fixings would bear the strain of a hurricane fight.
It was a new experience for John L. He had been used to intimidating opponents with a glare, but here was a youth who did not even deign to glance towards the big gladiator's corner and who went about his business as if there was no such a person as Sullivan on earth, or at any rate as if John L., at the most, was something simply incident to a great happening.
Of course it was all a studied method of procedure on Corbett's part, but it had its effect on the giant in the other corner.
When they came together to receive instructions from Referee John Duffy, Corbett was equally nonchalant. If he had any misgivings in regard to the outcome he buried them deep and displayed no outward sign of uneasiness. He looked at Sullivan casually and then allowed his eyes to wander over the sea of faces, nodding repeatedly as if he -thoroughly understood everything Duffy said and was fully prepared to act in accordance with the directions given. The rumble of John L.'s deep voice could be heard as he interposed remarks in regard to his own particular manner of interpreting the rules.
Then the little knot in midring dispersed. The seconds stepped away and the fighters turned and went to their corners. Corbett walked jauntily and John L. paused on the way to his angle of the ring and looked over his shoulder at his opponent. Corbett's back was to him and Jim was not aware of Sullivan's act until some one in his corner told him about it. The young Californian smiled.
It was now a few minutes after 9 and presently the gong rang out ; the -chairs were whipped from the ring and the champion of the world stepped briskly forth for his famous fight with the San Franciscan.
As the men maneuvered for the first punch they presented a striking contrast. Sullivan, although he had trained arduously, looked rotund both in body and limb, when compared with the trimly built westerner. There was a depth of chest and a width of back and shoulders about Sullivan which suggested crushing force. He wore green fighting breeches and the look on his face was half savage and half serious. Corbett's fighting costume consisted of an elastic breechclout and laced fighting shoes with socks rolled down to the ankles. The tan of his arms, shoulder knobs and neck contrasted plainly with the pallor of his skin generally. His face, while sunburned, was somewhat pallid and the shadows cast by the overhead lights gave
his eyes the appearance of being deeply set in their sockets. He looked serious but not in the least worried.
Sullivan was the first to make a motion. He swung his left and Jim ducked under it. Corbett threw another left aside with his guard arm and hopped away nimbly when the big fellow tried a vigorous right swing for the jaw. The force of the blow was such that it nearly threw John L. off his balance.
Warned by the way those big arms were whizzing through the air Corbett began to step around at a lively gait. He was well out of range and the crowd began to hiss and cry "fight ! fight !" Jim's brow was corrugated. He rubbed his nose softly with his right glove but he still kept out of range and was "as flee as a bird" at the least sign of familiarities on the big fellow's part.
Sullivan looked at his lissome adversary disdainfully. John dropped his arms and waited seemingly in hopes that the jeers of the crowd would cause Corbett to stand in and trade punches. Not a bit of it. Corbett, who had mapped out his plans carefully, bided his time, and the man who had defeated Paddy Ryan and Jake Kilrain fumed. Sullivan gathered himself together and made one of his famous rushes. It was like an elephant crashing through underbrush as he bumped into the ropes. Corbett was around the end, as it were, and into the open
with a grin on his face and Sullivan's lip curled in contempt of Jim's runaway tactics.
There was another clattering rush from Sullivan with similar results, and the crowd began cheering. It was difficult to determine whether the tumult among the spectators was over Corbett's nimbleness or John L’s determination to bring matters to an issue. Sullivan rushed no more during that round. He made one left sweep for the westerner's midsection and his big fist simply plowed through space. Now it looked as if the crowd was jeering Sullivan's futile efforts.
The round ended without a blow being struck. Corbett, as a matter of fact, made no effort to inflict bodily damage on the Goliath in front of him. He seemed thoroughly satisfied with the progress so far and he smiled in a contented way as he skipped blithely to his corner. In the ordinary course of things a glove fight gathering is suggestively silent at the close of a round which is devoid of exchanges. In this particular instance there was loud cheering and it seemed to be for Corbett.
The second round found Sullivan feinting and working his massive shoulders while trying to entice Jim into a mixup in 4 the center of the ring. , Corbett still acted carefully and when Sullivan let fly his left for the face the blow did not go within two feet of its target. John followed it up with another left hand assault and again he found nothing but air. Then suddenly Sullivan bore down on his man. This time Jim was not so active in getting away and he was carried towards the ropes, a glancing right hander catching him on the jaw.
They clinched and here came the first real surprise of the contest. Comparing the bulk of the men it seemed as though Sullivan, did he care to exert his force, might have crushed Corbett like an eggshell when they met in an embrace. Instead of that Corbett pinioned the big fellow so as to render him perfectly powerless. The San Franciscan's forearm went across Sullivan's throat and there was a look, of something like reproach in Sullivan's eyes as he glanced at his opponent. Sullivan was holding on to Corbett. John's head was pressed back and it was plain to be seen that the knowledge of grips and locks Corbett had gained in his wrestling with Jimmy Faulkner at the Olympic Club was standing him in good need.
It came to the Corbett men then that there was little fear of Pompadour Jim being roughed or smashed like a butterfly in the clinches and the thought made them radiantly happy.
Sullivan seemed to be slightly discouraged as they broke away and it almost looked as if Corbett had been waiting for that clinch before deciding as to the degree of energy he should put into his work. When they reached the center Jim sent in his first forceful blow, a stinging smash on the mouth with the left. John L. responded with two or three ineffective lunges at the body and a right swing which would have worked damage had it reached Corbett anywhere above the shoulder. Corbett dodged these blows. He laughed and skipped
around, and just before corners rang he drove his left fairly into the pit of Sullivan's stomach.
Sullivan came to the scratch in the third round with a remarkably sober look on his countenance. He feinted and frowned but Corbett grinned and sidled. Twice the Sullivan right went careering in the direction of Jim's head, but in neither case did the blow go within many inches of the mark. After dodging around for a while Corbett stepped in suddenly and swung his left into the champion's stomach. It sounded like a drum beat and Corbett was five feet away by the time John L. made a vicious sweep with his right arm in response.
Corbett was gauging his man to a nicety now and was becoming endowed with more and more confidence as the minutes ticked away. He crept close to Sullivan and feinted in a bewildering manner. Then crack, crack twice in succession that lightning left banged into Sullivan's face and the onlookers yelled like Comanche’s.
Sullivan was ill at ease. He was sweating like a bull and, try to hide it as he might, he was palpably discouraged, but with the dogged pluck and perseverance that had carried him through many a stubborn fight out in the open, he continued to rush and swing.
He let go one right hander which threatened danger to the grinning Californian. The Sullivanites, sitting around the champion's corner, half arose from their seats as the champion's glove shot out. Corbett got beneath it by barely a hair's breadth. It brushed his pompadour, but he bobbed up to one side grinning. It was a close shave. The Corbett crowd chortled and the champion's friends looked glum. Jim was doing famously.
A rush from Sullivan marked the opening of round four, and Corbett flitted rapidly. Again and again the big fellow hurled his great bulk in Corbett's direction, but Jim kept changing his spots and laughing in a tantalizing manner. Once or twice Corbett dropped his arms and gazed sarcastically at the champion. Incensed at Corbett's levity John L. rushed and rushed, but failed to connect. Once in a clinch Sullivan allowed his right to fall on Corbett's back. Jim said subsequently that it was as if a heavy piece of timber had dropped upon him,
Corbett took to feinting again and Sullivan's eyes widened.
His previous experiences had caused him to be dubious as to what would happen when Jim began nodding his head and whirling his gloves in that mysterious way. Jim was satisfied to notice that Sullivan was confused. He stepped back and surveyed his big opponent, but before the round ended he dodged in close and dealt the big fellow a jarring rap on the ear with the right.
There was a smile of derision on Sullivan's face as he stalked to the scratch when the bell sent them together for the fifth round. It may be that Corbett's fighting spirit was stirred by his opponent's evidences of disgust. Certainly he made a shuttlecock of his bulky is-a-vis in the round in question.
Hostilities began with a left hand exchange, both fighters reaching the head. Sullivan's blow was just hard enough to irritate Corbett and Jim came in with an additional lefthander which took the big fellow on the mouth. They were standing toe to toe now and the spectators were in an effervescent state.
Sullivan got home again with the left and they bumped together and clinched. Jim's forearm as usual was on the champion's windpipe and Sullivan was forced out of balance to such an extent that he had to be content with clinging to Corbett's shoulders without trying to settle himself for a punch as they broke.
When they parted, Corbett worried his man by feinting and after a second's indecision Sullivan charged like a wild steer. Corbett sidestepped and chuckled. Sullivan faced him and made another rush. This time Corbett stood his ground and the most desperate work of the contest was seen. Sullivan swung his right and Corbett threw his head back far enough to allow the blow to pass. Quicker than a flash of light Corbett's shoulder went up and his right glove came whizzing around. It reminded me of one of the motions I had seen him make during that friendly bout at the Grand Opera House, but of course on that occasion he withheld the punch.
This time his fist caught John L. between nose and cheek bone and the champion faltered. There was blood on Sullivan's face. Sullivan fought back savagely, but his gloves in the main glanced from the lithe fellow's shoulder or were thrown up so that they went high. Corbett's smashes were going in with unerring certainty and Sullivan's face showed the effects of the visitations. Discovering that it was dangerous work to continue trading rights with the big fellow, Corbett changed his tactics. He dipped his head when Sullivan's dexter fist came around and he peppered the champion's face rapidly with left upswings. Sullivan looked gruesome. He clinched to save himself and he tried to land on Corbett while hugging. Corbett baffled him easily, broke away and then returned to the attack.
Jim's left was working like a pump-gun and Sullivan was powerless to avoid his stinging blows. It looked, indeed, as if the championship would change hands in that round, but the big fellow's marvelous strength and vitality stood him in need.
There were blank faces in Sullivan's corner as John L. walked unsteadily towards his chair at the gong sound, while from the verge of the ring to the furthest confines of the gallery excited men were bobbing up and down and shrieking hysterically over the impending Corbett victory.
It must be said that the champion's seconds sent him to the front in comparatively good shape for the sixth round. Corbett was not inclined to dodge the issue so much now and there were several exchanges. Corbett's blows were the more telling and Sullivan's face showed signs of wear and tear again. Judging from the clumsy manner Sullivan let go his right, he had lost much of his steam.
After a while Corbett took his time, and maneuvered whenever Sullivan tried to work close. Jim sent in a light left on the stomach and another on the face. A little later there was a rally in which both landed, but Corbett lessened the force of his opponent's blows by moving his head quickly when struck. A good deal of the work was done in midring and Sullivan began to tire. The champion was the recipient of a damaging left on the face before the bell rang.
Round seven was another disastrous experience for Sullivan. It was on the lines of round five, Corbett standing closer in and fighting more viciously. Sullivan swung his left for the face and Corbett drew back his head, allowing the champion's glove to touch his chest. Then it was left, right, left from the San Franciscan, Sullivan's nose being the object of attack. Corbett then took a strong lead, scoring repeatedly with both hands and swinging his left into the stomach once in a' while. Sullivan's arms dropped and the big fellow seemed to sway on his feet.
"He's licked!" "He's licked!" was the cry that went up and it seemed to act as an admonition to Sullivan. He braced himself and made valiant efforts to counter Corbett when Jim smashed at him. He was unable to reach the Californian with a telling blow.
Corbett went after his man in savage fashion now. He showered blows on the big fellow and pressed him steadily toward the rope. The final blow of the series was a crushing righthander. It took Sullivan on the damaged nose and, as Corbett clashed with the big fellow, Sullivan's head and shoulders bent back over the ropes. He was a sorry looking world's champion now. The Californian was playing battledore with him.
John L. tried determinedly to offset the San Franciscan's advantage in the eighth round. He lunged for the body and reached the mark, but the straight left facer he took in return was the more effective punch of the two. The blood trickled from Sullivan's face again and once more he braced himself and rushed. This time Corbett met him with a right cross which landed on the side of the face.
Then there was a spell of scuffling work, Sullivan being particularly anxious to get to close quarters. Corbett pinned him more than once and there was a complaint from Sullivan's corner that Jim was forcing John L.'s head back with his forearm in the clinches.
Having satisfied himself that nothing was to be gained by grappling with the sinewy westerner, Sullivan tried fighting at long range. He was thoroughly outpointed at this kind of milling and his face became puffed from the stinging blows Corbett inflicted on him. Corbett had got down to his work and was like a race horse in full stride. He had his man sized up to perfection and was cutting him down in a systematic manner. No vestige of a scratch or a bruise was to be seen about Jim except where the skin of his shoulders appeared to be
rasped slightly from the grip of John L.'s gloves when they clung together in the clinches.
So the fight went on round by round. Sullivan showed the same wonderful powers of endurance which had upheld him in his long siege on the grass with Charlie Mitchell in France and his grueling fight with Kilrain under the broiling sun at Richburg. While he was punished "good and plenty" and was to a certain extent arm weary, he plodded along in the hopes that he might land squarely with his trusty right, the fist that had wrecked the dreams of so many aspiring heavyweights.
He brightened up repeatedly and was always ready with a rush and a savage swing when the moment seemed propitious. While a study of the blow by blow accounts of the fight given by the experts of the sporting press will show that John L. reached Corbett many times with his favorite fist, the explanation is required that in most cases the punch was either a glancing one, or else Corbett allowed his head to go with the blow and thus lessened its force.
In like manner the numerous left scores which are credited to Sullivan were in a large measure harmless. Many of them barely tapped Corbett's chest as he threw his head back out of range. Many a Sullivan punch that had a snapping sound tapped Corbett's face but lightly. Not once throughout the mill did John time the youngster in such a way as to make him feel the full force of a smash.
After Corbett had made such a determined attack on Sullivan in the fifth round and had demonstrated to the satisfaction of his friends that he could outwit the big fellow in any phase of the Queensberry version of self defense, it was thought that Jim would keep right after his man and take Sullivan's measure in from eight to twelve rounds.
Corbett fought intermittently, if such an expression may be used. He was always clever and always careful but he seldom acted the same way in two successive rounds. He would go close to Sullivan, begin a tattoo on the face and body and press the big man to the verge of the ring. In the following round he would keep away, avoid Sullivan's rushes and indulge in but one or two brief rallies.
When the tenth round was reached it was considered that level betting was a fair thing. While the contest had been all in the Californian's favor, the fact that John L. was always in pretty fair shape for a rush and a swing warned the Corbett crowd from becoming too sanguine. In this very round Sullivan shook his man up slightly with a right on the ribs and took a straight left on his gore-covered nose in return. The monotonous jab of Corbett's left seemed to annoy Sullivan as the darts of the picadores annoy the bull in a Mexican ring
Sullivan would charge with the force of a locomotive, flinging his right glove in the direction of Corbett's head as he bore in. Corbett was too spry, however, and by the time the Bostonian brought up against the ropes Corbett would be yards away, grinning derisively.
In the eleventh round Corbett's left was exceedingly busy. It kept shooting into Sullivan's mouth and nose and then Jim varied the performance by swinging onto the ribs and stomach. Sullivan failed to land one good punch. It was the same in rounds twelve and thirteen. In this latter round Corbett simply played fast and loose with the big fighter in front of him. At that it looked as if the San Franciscan neglected many good openings. He wished to rest his arms, probably, but whatever the cause, he allowed Sullivan to do the most of the leading in the last part of the round, while he himself indulged in a clever display of ducking.
In the fourteenth round Corbett traded lefts with the champion and had the better of the exchanges. As usual in such cases, Corbett generally contrived to send in an extra smash for good measure. When the fifteenth round opened there was a buzz of voices all through the building, for a favorite betting feature of the mill had been in connection with Corbett's chances "of staying fifteen rounds." At this stage it looked as if Corbett would not only stay, but would win the championship.
Sullivan probably had been reminded in his corner that on the outcome of this round hinged the ownership of a whole lot of money. He made one of his tremendous rushes, letting go his right as he went in. He reached Corbett 's neck, but it was only a glancing blow. Corbett was alert now. He timed Sullivan's next rush, and bang, bang, went left and right against Sullivan's face. The Bostonian's head went back with a jerk and his desire for rushing was cooled temporarily.
John L. wanted to spar at long range now, but Corbett gave him no rest. Jim wanted to show his admirers that he could pull through the fifteenth round without going entirely on the defensive, and he just rapped and rapped at the big fellow's body and head. Jim stepped in and out like lightning, gauging his rocking horse movement so as to avoid Sullivan's counters, and there was cheer after cheer from the spectators. When the round ended there was a wild scene. Those who had backed Corbett to stay longer than fifteen rounds just howled with delight. Over among Sullivan's seconds there were bowed heads and furtive looks. In sending their man in to try and finish Corbett and save the fifteen round many saw Sullivan had been sent up to be hammered to a pulp.
The fighting spirit was still strong in Sullivan, however, as he strode to the scratch for the sixteenth round. This time Corbett was in a stay away mood again. Occasionally he poked his face towards his opponent and appeared to be taunting him. Once Jim drew back none too soon and Sullivan's left fell on his chest. Corbett mixed it in the last half of the round,Sullivan's nose being the especial target for his rapid fire left. Sullivan got in on the face lightly with the left a couple of times himself. John's success in this direction precipitated a rally during which Sullivan threw out his arms and clinched to avoid the rain of blows.
Odds of 10 to 7 were offered now that Corbett would win.
In round seventeen Corbett divided his time between resting up and jabbing the big fellow. Sullivan, in one of the mixing matches, clipped Jim on the chin twice in succession with the left and also dealt him a glancing lefthander while the San Franciscan was ducking. Corbett came back with his left reached the face solidly. Sullivan snorted and rushed. Corbett danced away and as he went to his corner he seemed the most self-possessed mortal in the world.
Jim stood straight in the eighteenth round and ducked under, left swings. While crouching he smashed his left into the ribs twice. Sullivan gasped and seemed surprised. Then Corbett's left brought up against Sully 's swollen nose. Sullivan made a quick attempt to counter but was short and received two more lefts full in the face. He lowered his guard and appeared to grow listless in his movements.
Corbett stepped in again and straightened his left twice in succession. John L.'s head tilted. He gathered himself together and rushed. He brought up against another straight left, followed by a right which crashed against his cheek. When Sullivan sat in his corner awaiting the signal for the next round his seconds busied themselves scraping the caked sand from the soles of his shoes.
The nineteenth round did not improve Sullivan's chances of success. Corbett was extra careful and anticipated every move. At the least sign of a swing from the big fellow Jim danced away and grinned, and when two minutes . of the three had sped Corbett went close to his man and swung his left on the body a few times. He snapped his head back out of range of Sullivan's swings and then forced the champion to the ropes with a succession of left facers.
The twentieth round was also a betting proposition, much money having been wagered that Corbett would not remain on deck for that length of time. As in the fifteenth round Corbett seemed ambitious to show that there was no occasion for him to loaf in order to protect the bets made by his supporters. He waded in and smashed Sullivan with right and left
in fierce style. The force of the punches sent Sullivan back, and the big fellow made no attempt at a counter. Corbett kept right on top of him, lashing out savagely, and the champion was in a bad way. His knees drooped and he seemed powerless to strike a blow in return.
Corbett was merciless. Both arms were working like the eccentric rods of a piece of machinery and Sullivan staggered towards the ropes. The Californian stepped towards him, intent upon finishing the fight then and there, when the gong clanged.
The end came in the next round. Sullivan's legs dragged as he walked to the center and Corbett sprang at him like a panther. Left, right, left, right fell on Sullivan's face, and the champion's gloves dropped to his sides. He reeled to the ropes and spread his legs to brace himself.
There was no respite for him, however. Corbett, with the scent of victory in his nostrils, fought like a fiend, the thudding of his fists against Sullivan's devoted head sounded like the rattle of a horse's hoofs in a fast gallop. Sullivan backed wearily into his own corner. His head was rocking from its contact with Corbett's gloves, his knees had sagged' and he began to lurch forward.
A brace of crushing right handers on the jaw caused the big fellow's eyelids to droop and his collapse was at hand. Corbett stood away as Sullivan sank to the ring floor. The big fellow was not completely knocked out, but he was in such a dazed condition that his chances of recuperating within the allotted ten seconds were infinitesimally small. He struck the floor on his side and rolled over on his face. The damp black sand of the ring showed in patches on his green tights. McAuliffe showered him with water from a sponge, but Sullivan was
past help. John L. placed his hands on the floor and attempted to rise. He lurched forward on his face. Corbett stood a pace or two away, eyeing him like a hawk, and ready to resume the contest should Sullivan reach his feet. The power to fight had gone from the champion, and with it his title. He was counted out.
By many a ringside I have been, And many a champion's finish seen, but looking back to that particular night, and beyond it again into other years of service as a fight chronicler, I
can say with all truth that I never saw or heard anything to equal the tumult and turmoil that marked Sullivan's downfall.
The uproar was in progress while Referee Duffy was tolling off the fateful seconds close to the face of the prostrate Sullivan. As could be seen by the movement of Duffy's lips, he was shouting off each number, as well as denoting the passage of time by arm motions. There was no such thing as hearing his voice, however, owing to the racket which extended from ringside to eaves. When he had waved off ten seconds Sullivan was still on his face.
Delaney and Mike Donovan jumped into the ring to bring Corbett to his corner, but Jim held them at bay and waited to make entirely sure that victory was his. Official announcements or, announcements of any kind would have been futile just then on account of the earsplitting noise, so Corbett marched over to Duffy and with his head aside looked at the referee inquiringly. Duffy understood the question that was being put to him in dumb show and he replied in kind. He patted Corbett on the shoulder, and the motion said louder than words
" James J. Corbett, I pronounce you champion of the world."
As I said in my official report of the proceedings at the time, " It was the only signal Duffy could give, for the booming of a thousand cannon and the roaring of a whole herd of Kansas cyclones would have been but as popguns exploding to the sound which filled the big pavilion." A New York sport remarked afterwards in the crowded corridors of the St. Charles hotel : " I've often heard of the rebel yell, but that's the first time I was caught in it."
A peculiar thing about these ringside ovations is that they are almost equally vociferous no matter which man wins. There probably would not have been such volume to the outburst if Sullivan had won, for the crowd is always with the under dog in these matters, but there surely would have been a hysterical demonstration if the big fellow in the green tights had drubbed the tall youth from San Francisco.
This is a curious phase of human nature. It is the fact of somebody being knocked out that is cheered. The personality of the man who is down or the fellow who downs him has not a great deal to do with it. I never saw this so plainly exemplified as when Sullivan beat Paddy Ryan to the floor in Mechanics' Pavilion, San Francisco, in November, 1887. Near me, just as the fight was starting, were two dapper looking sports. They were making audible comments as the men began the contest.