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Mike McCoole, last of the type of Mississippi river rough and tumble fighter, heroic figure in the annals of the American prize ring, was known throughout the country from the Pacific to the Atlantic coast as a brawny claimant for the title in the years following the retirement of Joe Coburn.

 Article dated 27th March 1910

Mike McCoole

Mike McCoole, last of the type of Mississippi river rough and tumble fighter, heroic figure in the annals of the American prize ring, was known throughout the country from the Pacific to the Atlantic coast as a brawny claimant for the title in the years following the retirement of Joe Coburn.

At one time the idol of the whole Mississippi valley section, this great pugilist fought some of the hardest battles of the days when bare knuckles upon the green were in vogue. Mike McCoole was born in Ireland, but at an early age arrived in America, and during his first occupation as river boatman became noted from Cairo to Natchez as a quick and ready user of his "dukes".

Standing over six feet, bulky and powerful, McCoole in his early encounters displayed the same sledge hammer ability and thorough gameness which afterward distinguished him in the ring. McCoole’s first battle in the regular roped arena was with William Hastings known as "Dublin Tricks" which was fought at twelve mile island, near Louisville, Ky, McCoole winning in twenty nine rounds, time thirty one minutes.
McCoole fought Tom Jennings May 2nd 1861, winning again in thirty seven rounds and taking thirty three minutes. McCoole’s reputation now spread throughout the river regions and the West and he was looked upon as a man fit to cope for the title.

Meets Joe Coburn

Joe Coburn, who had advanced to the Championship notch, was regarded as a fitting antagonist for McCoole and a match was made between him and the scientific Joe. Of the events of this battle, and of McCoole's defeat, we refer the reader to sketch of Joe Coburn, After this, McCoole went Into one of is periodic seclusions, making St. Louis his residence, but at length the championship again became open to the lists, and McCoole and Bill Davis arranged to fight for the title. The battle took place at Rhodes Point, Mo., Sept. 19, I860, and McCoole won In thirty-four rounds.

McCoole was now champion, and feeling that he had but few equals In the prize ring of the day, looked about him for an antagonist of celebrity, whose defeat would add to his reputation. Just such an antagonist offered himself in the person of Aaron Jones, whose proximity to the "English championship In his fight with Sayers and his subsequent challenge to the English champion had carried his name throughout the United States as a fighter of more than ordinary scientific acquirements McCoole matched himself with the gallant Aaron, and the battle took place Aug. 31, 1867, McCoole winning again In thirty-four rounds.

McCoole was now the hero of all the valley and river section, and St. Louis was proud to claim him as her own.June 15, 1869, McCoole fought Tom Allen at Fosters Island, Mississippi River, for $1,000 a side and the title.

Wins Fight on Foul.

Allen, who had lately arrived from England, where he had something of a reputation, found In America verdant fields for the exercise of his calling, Allen was a Birmingham man and pretended to belong to the same school of boxers that had produced Tom Sayers, Jem Mace, Tom King, etc. McCoole won the fight in the ninth round on a foul, but when considered Impartially from all angles he narrowly escaped a whipping in this battle, as Allen displayed a style of fighting that made the burly Mike appear to have gone backward in the art of self-defense. McCoole once more sought one of his periodic retirements and did not again appear In the ring until 1873, when the natural antagonism of McCoole and Allen and the recollection of their first unsatisfactory meeting Induced McCoole to make a match with Tom and fight him again.

At this time Allen, although he had been defeated by Jem Mace and others, had upon the general retirement, death or absence of all first class pugilists, claimed the title for the second time, and his battle with McCoole Sept 23, 1873, was one for the championship, After this fight McCoole, rankling under final defeat, returned to St. Louis and drifted again to the life of a river boatman, He lived for many years afterward at different points on the big river and died a quarter of a century ago, a forgotten champion.

The Dubuque Herald, Iowa 25 September 1873 

The Mill Batween Tom Allen and Mike McCoole, 

Allan the Winner in Seven Rounds, Occupying Twenty Minutes. 

A Beastly Display of Muscle and Science

At half past 9 o’clock this morning the steamer Continental, with 1,000 persons on hoard, left for the great prize fight. The day was clear and cool, and left nothing to he desired. The boat went 12 miles up the river to Choutean's island, where a landing was effected, and the ring pitched in a grove where the men were completely shaded from the sun. McCoole won the toss, and selected the southeast corner. The seconds were Arthur Chambers and Pat Shepard for Allen; Tom Kelly and Dublin Tricks for McCoole. There was considerable discussion about a referee, and after a delay of nearly an hour, Jack Looney was selected, and consented to serve. Dick Roach, of Chicago, was umpire for Allen, and Dan Ryan for McCoole.

At 2 :25, McCoole entered into the ring, and was loudly cheered as he seated himself in his corner. In a very few minutes, Tom Allen's silk cap came sailing into the ring, and Allen himself came after it. He wore while flannel drawers and while stockings, with blue trimmings. his shoes were of calf skin and laced half-way up. He had trained till there was not a pound of superfluous flesh on his body, and his muscles stood out like whipcords. His hands and face were the colour of leather and the brightness and clearness of his eyes and the freshness of his completion were the subject of general remark. He had a confident and j a u n t y air and danced a jig while the referee question was being decided. When McCoole came to strip, the disparity in the size of the two men was astonishingly evident.

Allen fought at 175 pounds, Having come down from 210. McCoole stood at 200 in ring, and had trained himself down to 160. McCoole wore white drawers and stockings, and his sash was of green. Both men looked in magnificent condition, and were fine specimens of humanity. McCoole looked a little flabby, and seemed to have- too much flesh on his face. His skin was nut-brown in color, and his short hair and brown face made him look like an old man. When the men met in the centre of the ring, McCoole wanted to bet his opponent $1000 that he would win the fight. Allen said that he had only $800, but would put that up and did so.

After the customary hand shaking the battle began. Seven rounds were fought And the fight lasted twenty minutes. Allen came off without a scratch or a bruise of any consequence. McCoole was very badly punished, and was taken from the grounds bruised and gasping. His upper lip was completely cut. through ; his left eye closed ; his right eye nearly shut; his nose broken, and his face mashed all up. Allen was game and lively all through the fight, dancing; about like a rubber ball, and dodging all punishment, while McCoole stood up and took his blows like a sand-bag. Allen walked all about him while doing his work, and in reply to an attempt to trip him by Kelly, made a blow at that gentleman, and said he could whip any man in the ring. Kelly said he couldn't whip him in an hour for .$1,000.

Both men walked promptly up to the scratch at the call of time. McCoole stood with his left guard well extended, and his right well up. Allen struck a formidable attitude, holding both hands well down und drawn in. In this hostile attitude they eyed each other for a moment, and a little feinting and sparring ensued. Allen led with his left, and landed a blow on McCoole's left eye and one on the forehead, McCoole returning on the ribs. A furious exchange followed, and terrible fighting ensued, Allen punishing the giant severely about the lace, and finally fought him down amid cries of "foul " "foul" it being claimed that Allen struck McCoole alter he dropped. The foul was disallowed, but first blood was claimed and allowed for Allen. Time, 2 minutes.

When time was called the men hastily came to the mark. Allen again led with his left , and planted a terrific blow on McCoole's breast. McCoole endeavored to counter, but the attempt was a failure. Allen then planted two left-handers on his opponent's left check. Both fought to a close. Some good short-arm, fighting was indulged in. McCoole followed Allen all around the ring, the lad from Albion keeping cunningly away from him.Another rally followed. McCoole forced Allen to the southwest corner. Terrific exchanges followed, and Allen fell to avoid.

McCoole came up blooding fearfully from the cuts in his lace, his right eye was evidently closing fast, and he had apparently lost confidence in himself, as did not appear to be able to defend himself either from Allen's terrific onslaught or to return the blows which were showered upon him. McCoole rushed at Allen, and planted a heavy blow in his ribs. Allen retaliated, planting one blow on the cheek and two in succession on the mouth.A terrific struggle followed. Both men faced ouch other with determined pluck. Allen’s movements were as agile as those of a feather, and he constantly grinned. McCoole rushed at Allen, but the latter dodged his furious deliveries. A sharp rally followed, and both men broke ground. Allen planted three consecutive blows, one on the nose and two on the mouth, McCoole returning on the ribs. Both men fought to a close, and Allen achieved a strategic fall. Time, 3 minutes.

As the men were carried to their corners it was evident Allen had the fight in his own hands. McCoole was bleeding profusely, and the long hair on his huge breast was matted with gore. Allen did not bear signs of a scratch, and smiled confidently us he assisted his seconds in the rubbing down process.

On Allen coming to the mark, Kelly rushed up to Tom and exclaimed: "You’ve got resin on your hands," claiming a foul at the same time. Allen smilingly rubbed his palms, and stepped up to the referee, denying the allegation. Loony ordered the men to fight on. Allen as usual led off with his terrific left, and planted a terrible blow on McCoole's check. The latter tried to counter, but failed. A sharp exchange followed, and Allen fought McCoole to the ropes and knocked him down by another fearful left-hander on the jugular, McCoole being carried to
his corner a bleeding mass of corrupt humanity. First knock-down claimed and allowed for Allen .

McCoolites were greatly depressed at the result of this round 'and the horrible manner in which their favorite was being punished. Cries of "foul" were raised by Allen's friends, it being claimed that he was struck while down.

This was the most hotly contested round of the battle. Upon going to the scratch, Allen's body bore signs of McCoole's body blows, while the latter was terribly mangled about the face. he was bleeding profusely from the effects of Allen's handiwork. Allen forced the fighting, and planted blow after blow on the giant's already damaged frontispiece. He stood the storm, and tried to stay the terrible attacks of his adversary, but all to no purpose, for Allen slashed away right and lefty at the lump beef that bore no evidence of ever having been the face of a human being. Allen finally dropped to avoid a blow, and McCoole endeavored to fall on top of him, but Tom adroitly glided away. McCoole and friends, seeing that, bar accident, their man was bound to lose, endeavored to create a disturbance, but it was quickly checked.

Allen once more led off with his cunning left And got in the most wicked blow of the fight on McCoole's mouth, the blood spurting out in a clotted stream. This round was merely a repetition of the former one as regards McCoole, and punishment. During the bout Tom claimed that Tricks endeavored to trip him up, and remarked that if it was done again he would suffer. Kelley retorted that if Allen hit him, Kelly would go for Tom. This brought up Allen's dander, and he asserted that he could lick any man in the ring for .$1,000. This banter was meant for Kelly, and that worthy asserted that Allen couldn't whip him in an hour for $2000.

"When time was called McCoole presented a horrible appearance and seemed scarcely able to hold up his hands. Hisleft, eye was closed and a terrible cut under the right eye. His upper lip isalso cut and his nose is broken. Before toeing he mark Allen said "it is a sin to send that man up to be punished. If you don't take him away I will disfigure him for life ; he is the gamest I ever met." The crowd also yelled "take him away, take him away." The round was gone through with , but Allen retrained from striking his opponent further. The fight, had not lasted 19 minutes, and when time was called for the 8 th round Tom kelly threw up the white hankerchief in token of his principals defeat.