It is often said that pugilists, like gamblers and sailors, are superstitious. The coloured boxers are particularly so for some of them have been known to back out of a contest at the last moment because they ran up against a bad omen. Big Jack Johnson who is matched to fight Tommy Burns never enters the ring before hiding a rabbit’s foot in the colours he wears around his waist.
Joe Gans always put a lucky pocket silver piece, which he won in his first mill, in his belt just as he climbed into the ring. Joe Walcott once a giant killer never failed to have a miniature horseshoe tucked away in his breech coat.
John L Sullivan in all his battles wore a pair of green trunks, in the belt of which was a talisman which his mother gave him when he first entered the professional arena. Game Jack Dempsey, the Nonpareil would not agree to tackle the easiest kind of a match unless he had on his famous black tights in which he had won some sixty battles. But the tights lost their charm the night that Fitzsimmons knocked Dempsey out and also broke his heart.
Charley Mitchell the former, the former English champion, had a mortal fear of meeting a cross eyed woman on the day or night of a fistic encounter in which he engaged.
(The image comes to mind of friends of his opponent searching the streets and propositioning any cross eyed woman the came across to come and have real up close and personal encounter with poor old Eye Eye what’s up Charley ).
He always insisted that such a woman meant sure defeat. The night he was to meet Sullivan for the second time in Madison Square Garden Mitchell met a cross eyed red haired woman in Fifth Avenue and almost collapsed. He dashed back around the corner crossing his fingers several times. Sullivan as it turned out was in no condition to go to the Garden and there was no fight.
“It was that infernal cross eyed woman that queered the whole show” exclaimed Mitchell as he left the Garden. In disgust, for he believed that he had John L out of shape and was ready to beat the big fellow down and out.
When Jack McAuliffe was lightweight champion he always wore a pair of dark blue trunks. One night they were partially burned in a small fire at McAuliffes home and he was heartbroken. At last he decided to have what was left of the trunks made into a new pair which he wore in his memorable battles with Jem Carney, Young Griffo and Billy Myer the Streator Cyclone.
Bob Fitzsimmons is a believer in dreams. Long before he won the championship from Corbett at Carson City he predicted the victory. He said he had a dream in which he won decisively ..Fitz has since declared that he never won a fight without first having a lucky dream. Fitz also had what he said was a lucky charm that protected him from injury. It was the tip of a kangaroos ear and the Cornishman wore it beneath his belt in all his ring battles.
There are a great many pugilists who refuse to sign articles or agreements to fight on a Friday, “ Hangman’s Day” they call it. Among them are Tommy Burns, Jimmy Britt, Abe Attell, Billy Mellody, Dick Hyland, Kid Goodman, Sailor Burke, Packey McFarland, Owen Moran, Bill Papke, Hugo Kelly and Battling Nelson.
Some fighters are superstitious in regard to “Jonah” seconds. They dodge the handlers who have been behind losers. Some seconds seem to have a streak of bad luck and as a result they find it a difficult matter to get a job behind a good man. In some cases inexperienced seconds are preferred to “Jonah’s” John L Sullivan seldom acted as an adviser that his man did not lose. He was behind Dempsey when Fitz beat him; behind Mike Cleary when Mitchell bested him; with Joe Lannon when he was defeated by George Godfrey; with the late Spider Weir when he was knocked out by Australian Billy Murphy; and behind Peter Maher when Fitz put him away the first time in New Orleans. Sullivan like many fighters is a poor picker of winners.
Tommy Burns liked nothing better than to find a horseshoe when training for a battle. The horseshoe has made a hit with other pugs who usually nail one over the door of their training quarters.
Meeting a funeral is always regarded as a direful thing by pugilists. Sullivan met a funeral the day he was beaten by Corbett at New Orleans and he said then and there that he would meet his Waterloo. Other boxers are superstitious about lucky and unlucky corners in the ring. Some of them always try to enter the ring first so that they can secure what they believe is the “lucky chair”. It was often been the case that in a dispute over the favourite corner the matter has been settled by the turn of a coin