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robert.snell1@ntlworld.com

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.

The Resin On The Glove

Notice the ”Kid” for instance ,lithe and amiable, strolling around the ring, immediately prior to the   engagement . There are little heaps of resin scattered about the canvas stretched floor, and the “Kid” wipes his feet in them, kicks them playfully without the least apparent preconceived intent in the world. He smiles at his friends and pleasantly receives their applause. But the resin becomes gradually “accelerated” in the direction of his corner, if there was none already there.

The gloves have been chosen and the seconds crowd about their men, carefully pushing the horsehair padding away from the center.They bend over to fix them on the principle that accidents will sometimes happen – in fact they always happen in the “Kids” corner. Before he has an opportunity to assume them they drop regularly into that resin heap – drop there and are squeezed and twisted into it where they are picked up and finally assumed. And a resined glove may be made to cut like a knife in the hands of McCoy.In fact, it often has cut like a knife, and in nicely calculated places too. This is but a single one in the sum of tricks McCoy has practiced.

There was a time in which Jim Stewart suffered at his master hands. Stewart was inexperienced, but in every way a stronger and heavier man, and in clinches his weight would become a factor. So the crafty McCoy set himself to circumvent this as the guile’s Stewart pleasantly advanced to receive the instructions of the referee upon interpretations of the rules before the contest. It became a question as to what would be considered permissible in clinches.

McCoy stepped close to the confiding Stewart and without warning heaved the full weight of his shoulder at the inside biceps muscle of the giant. If you tap your own very gently with your clenched hand you may faintly and afar off experience the simple Stewart sensations.McCoy’s blow was paralyzing .

“Is that permissible?” asked he quickly, and before there could be an answer McCoy had located a particular nerve at the back of Stewarts neck ( MCoy has studied his anatomy ) and with a rough jerk of the arm had almost wrenched the youthful fighters head off. “Or that?” asked he.

Stewart now thoroughly fearful sounded the loud note of alarm “I won’t have any of that in the clinches” he protested. “I won’t stand for any rough work in the clinches at all.We’ll break clean”. This was exactly the condition for which the lighter and less muscular “Kid” had been striving. He had in addition so cowed Stewart that the fight was won before it was well commenced. And McCoy at that time was long past his prime.

The McCoy – Choynski contest was another example of a gentle aid to chances, more ingenious than legitimate. The two men had met on several occasions and McCoy felt that, saving ill luck, he could defeat his opponent. An accident however had enabled Choynski to deliver a blow from which the “Kid” experienced a trouble of recovery.Each was straining desperately toward the end of a round and both men were exhausted. McCoy had posed himself for a blow when the gong clanged. At the sound Choynski dropped his hands, but McCoy ( summoning every reserve of force within him ) drove home a desperate blow. It was a foul, but he had calculated with lightning rapidity that it would be impossible for any onlooker fairly to tell if it were intentional. Choynski crumpled beneath it, but McCoy’s calculation had been correct.Choynski never recovered thoroughly from that blow and was beaten as the result of it.

The Craft Kid

It was McCoy too who introduced the ingenious practice of putting a heavy layer of bicycle tape upon his hands. Then th “Kid “ in dressing gown would pleasantly argue in the centre of the ring as to the desirability of that tapes removal – would argue till the tape had become so hardened like iron. He would then smilingly take of as much of the tape as was possible. But bicycle tape has the unfortunate quality of adhering when heated, and the final strand would stay on.

McCoy would grimace helplessly and his opponent would usually overlook the last and most dangerous strand of all. McCoy’s knuckles would however be protected with hands like iron, which a trick of the trade had made possible.