The Boxing Biographies Newsletter
Volume 2- No 13 3rd June , 2008
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Tricks of the prize ring
Under the white glare of the arc lights, the centre of a thousand eyes, two pink figures move about the canvas covered square, back and forth, with quick, subtly evasive motions, and gloved hands flatteringly cruel. They are the skilful gladiators of our time, though we cannot see all their cleverness. They have tricks within tricks — tricks beneath the tricks we see, which the owners of the thousand eyes do not know about.
For the tricks of the pugilist trade are many. They commence back ill the days of training. The fighter, though, is then the subject — not the projector of tricks. Then it is the trainer who engages to them. Say the fighter is nervous, for instance; and his temperament protests at a too dull routine, like the redoubtable Mr. McGovern, -whose being loathed the skipping rope and whose soul revolted at the abhorrence of the punching bag.
It was a problem for the trainer, but he solved it by saying one day, "Oh, let us cut all this work and go and play baseball." Immediately the gentle Terry became exuberant in his enthusiasm. Cut work? Play? Why, certainly! So he straightway raced and pitched and sweated uncomplainingly under the burning sun, joyously convinced that his regular athletic work was being shelved.
After this the trainer challenged McGovern at handball. McGovern banged this time in the place of pitching, though he raced and sweated just the same. He felt joyful at the knowledge that he had to work no longer—and worked harder than ever. It was a trick of the trainer's—simple, doubtless, but sufficient to attain its object. Into the same category would come the ingenuities of spurring a pugilist to harder training by arranging for appalling reports from his opponent's camp: tales of wonderful fitness, of magical new "dodges" which were being prepared. Fancy staggers at the tonic quality which such news may have upon a lighter, who forthwith adds a few miles of extra roadwork and boxes more snappily and butts Into the sandbag more perservingly than ever.
These tricks of the trade, however, arc far from being limited lo providing the nutrition of encouragement to your own man; they arc more fruitful yet In discommoding his opponent. The once eminent "Young Cobett" was an adept at this. Through his public work it was his ingenious wont to appear weak in some point of defence. He carefully engineered the filtration of news to that effect to the opposing camp, which would then devote much time and attention to it. only to find that, on the night of the contest, the Ingenious Corbelt was rather more than perfect In it. It was discouraging, to say the least, and discouragement in your opponent is valued as a jewel by those who know the ways of "the ring."
More crafty yet was McCoy, however—McCoy, whose tricks must not be counted singly but "by the bag." That historic piece of craft of which the accommodating Mr. "Tommy" Ryan was the victim is a case in, point. McCoy had been the sparring partner of Ryan and had carefully learned his points of strength without exhibiting his own. Many a beating had the generous Ryan ( somewhat ungentle with his sparring partners ) given to him in the practice bouts; but the unknown McCoy was uncomplaining. He was learning.
The Double Cross
Finally, deciding that he had the whole of Mr Ryan’s knowledge safely stored, he resigned his sparring partnership and in a few months challenged his late employer – as “It will give me a chance of getting a few dollars” he remarked privately to that gentleman. Ryan knowing he had beaten McCoy each day for months, accepted Whereupon the inventive “Kid” ( certain to leave no stone unturned) Wrote a letter. “Dear Tommy I know you can put me out any time You want to; but I’m going to ask you to do me a favor. Let me stay ten rounds”
Who could resist such a na´ve appeal? Certainly not Mr Ryan who immediately consented and forthwith ceased the rigors of training He was not assured that the “Kid” would now do the same. However The “Kid” had different views. He came into the ring in perfect condition, and very artistically slaughtered Mr. Ryan. Ryan never forgot that, he squirms at its mention to this day.
In the preparatory stages of conflict Fitzsimmons was not inept. Prior to his fight for the light heavyweight championship with Gardner he met his opponent at the weighing. With his whole strength and with utter geniality he slapped Mr. Gardner upon the back, who was almost knocked down by the force of the blow. He came to the ring less confident than he had been. A trick of the trade had robbed him of something. Fitzsimmons however had need of tricks in that contest.
In the tenth round his hand was knocked into splinters. The bones of the first two knuckles were broken. Gardner stunned by the force of the blow id not notice this. His seconds however, more observant, told him of it during the rest. Fitzsimmons seeing his opponent glance over suddenly commenced unconcernedly to twiddle his thumbs, though the pain must have been excruciating. In the next five rounds he swung viciously and repeatedly with that maimed right hand, missing carefully each time.
And it was not until the fifteenth round that Gardner commenced to entertain suspicions that all was not well with that dangerous right. When Fitzsimmons saw this he hit Gardner a tremendous blow with the third and fourth knuckles of it, which convinced Gardner once more that he must have been mistaken. Fitzsimmons won that fight on points purely by tricks of the trade which were only fully understood at its conclusion.
A trick he played upon Jeffries upon the occasion of their first contest was less successful . When fighting for the championship a young boxer is usually nervous. Fitzsimons reasonably assumed this and dallied in his dressing room while his challenger waited amid the din of the ring. Fitzsimmons was permitting the sickening sense of chance to sink utterly in. To most young fighters the experience would have been demoralizing . Jeffries however was the exception to the rule. That night he won the championship.
In these trickeries of the ring, however we are forced back to the one inevitable master of them – McCoy. For it may be said that he expanded beyond the mere domain of trickery. He was inventor on a large scale and a large manufacturing plant in addition. The game of fighting was not brutality with McCoy, he was the student of a nicely adjusted science.He studied his blows as a musician might his scales – and he planned to win. The means were details with him. With each opponent fresh and, until then, untapped deceits would burst forth to dazzle and defeat them.