Tag Archives: New York City

VADA/Conte/Donaire vs USADA/Rigondeaux for the Cleaner Than Thou Crown

Nonito Donaire will be fighting Cuban Olympic Gold Medal legend Guillermo Rigondeaux at Radio City Music Hall in New York City this Saturday, April 13th. On paper, Rigondeaux has no chance but a puncher’s chance, and he’s not a big puncher though he is a skilled and shifty boxer. The bottom line is that he’s too small and still on a professional learning curve, a baby as it were.

Filipino vs Cuban

Filipino vs Cuban

Nonetheless, the boxing world has been agaga over Cuban Olympic boxers even though most of them simply never got further than where Rigondeaux is, a WBA strap holder for a short while with few wins of any significance on his ledger, currently a mere 11-0, 8 KO, with 59 pro rounds in the bank. His achievements are certainly admirable at a certain level, but nowhere near the top mark that  Cubans typically seem to think they rank. The best of the modern Cuban pro boxers has to be Juan Carlos Gomez, the well credentialed cruiserweight champ and heavyweight contender, yet he had numerous personal issues that set him back, including disputes with managers and promoters, drug use, suspensions, lack of training.

Most noteworthy is that Cuban fighters didn’t get rich like they were promised when they were lured into the pro game. Few want to see them box save some few other Cubans and the ever diminishing remnants of boxing aficionados due to their boring, light punching amateur styles, often showing no heart or guts in the ring and needing plenty of referee intervention and dubious points decisions to keep them going.

It’s always a nice promotional PR stunt with a lot of political push when they get signed, Fidel Castro giving up ever more of his tired, his poor, and his hungry, capitalism starved fighters to come to America to set the world afire, but then? Into the virtual void of “Who Cares” they go.

The reasoning behind making this specific bout is that of convenience, both fighters being promoted by Top Rank, both highly rated, and both in need of a “big” fight, particularly Rigondeaux who has somewhat languished in spite of his heralded amateur success and obvious talents. Donaire  is wanting to silence the unceasing hordes of moaning critics littering the antisocial internet who insist he has been ducking the Cuban, the Mexican, the (insert nationality of your choice here).

In spite of  the positives for making the fight within Top Rank, it almost didn’t come off after stalling too many times to keep up with. Frankly, Rigondeaux  hasn’t looked pleased that he finally landed his signature big bout, perhaps upset with his manager and promoter and his purse, but that has been a longstanding problem with too many Cuban stars. Pro boxing is a cutthroat business and few pro fighters are pampered like the Cubans were used to in Cuba. Fighters in America have to be a star attraction to achieve the pamper level that Cubans were massaged with under the Castro regime.

Rigondeaux can last the 12 round distance if he shows up to spoil and run, but he won’t improve his future earnings with that strategy, see Timothy Bradley for how that works. He’s has to risk going out on his shield and really taking to Donaire in a controlled, clever way, fighting at a level much higher than he ever had to before.

Does Rigondeaux have the desire and the will to endure the big hurt Donaire is guaranteed to hit him with? Does he have the creativity and natural attributes to come up with a strategy that can really take it to Donaire offensively while protecting himself defensively?

Nobody knows what Rigondeaux has in him yet, not even Rigo, but wait, there’s the hope of a new development coming into this fight for him.

Donaire may somehow be weakened after the divorce from his ex-con BALCO trainer, Victor Conte. His tap of the majic swill elixirs that turn run of the mill store clerks into supermen able to leap over multiple divisions and rated fighters with a single bound has been turned off. Donaire may be in his Clark Kent mode for this fight.

Yes, folks, the sad truth is the boxing business has welcomed discredited trainers from the BALCO illicit performance drug operations that netted multiple felony convictions into their sordid, unseemly fold, a perfect fit if you study up on the history of boxing. Indeed, these n’er do well PED pushers have wormed their slimy hooks into top ranked fighter training camps everywhere. New supermen have been resurrected in the form of Nonito Donaire, Andre Ward, Andre Berto, Juan Manuel Marquez, Jorge Arce, Zab Judah, Brandon Rios, and too many others to keep up with. Give Conte and his hunched assistant Angel “Memo” Heredia your sickly, anemic, low testosterone count weaklings and voila, Showtime and HBO will come calling with big money in hand just to see their newly hulked out frames do a cartoon style seek and destroy on their opponent.

Currently we have WADA, VADA, NADA, and USADA all vying for a piece of the drug testing pie as slimy illicit drug testing cartel business operations merge with the sleaze of boxing. Do a web search on the dirty drug testing business after the recent upset by Sam Soliman over long time WBA middleweight champ Felix Sturm to see dozens of sordid press releases and updates all these many weeks later as both parties sling back and forth the kind of stuff you see slung by apes in zoos, and this just one fight!

One thing is for sure, these little banties are gonna be blood dripped bone dry in a head to head fight between VADA and USADA to see which operation is the sleaziest in the land. Nonito Donaire was extracted minutes before an early morning sparring session for example.

What kind of idiotic program is that?

Regardless, the new news is the same as the old news of hundreds of years prior with new fighters taking the most risks being ill advised or otherwise set up by neferious boxing “advisors.” The human condition never changes.

Ahem….is the time ripe for old school Panama Lewis glove tampering cheats to make a return to even up the balance on the PED ledger, ya think?

Tyson Fury–Madison Square Garden–Steve USS Cunningham–Look Out!

Look out United States of America, Tyson Fury, Britain’s most beloved and hated man-child and most congenital twitterer comes to New York City’s storied Madison Square Garden venue to take on Steve USS Cunningham in a 12 round IBF eliminator donnybrook. The good news is that he will have to pass through Homeland Security screening.

And the bad news? The bad news is that in spite of informing the public that he is coming after USS Cunningham with the intent to knock him out, Fury will pass seamlessly through screening and find a taxi to take him to Madison Square Garden, so what then you ask?

Fury With Friends

Perhaps a reflection of the reverse story backdrop that played out weeks ago in sunny London would be instructive. Grizzled southpaw contender Tony Thompson sicced his Tiger on British heavyweight hopeful David Price to take him down for the abrupt stoppage that left British pints full of tears that mournful Saturday night. Steve Cunningham is not as large, grizzled, and scary as Thompson, but he’s quick, moves well, and jabs well and still hungry for respect in his new heavyweight division.

But can Cunningham really take down the heavyweight hopes and dreams of the young mountainous man-child  Fury?

Fury has big ambitions planned when he intends to introduce his “little” 18 year old cousin Hughie Fury to the world by way of his pro boxing debut at the Madison Square Garden venue. Both Furys are trained by Peter Fury, keeping this Irish Traveler family tight in the spilled blood bonds of the often treacherous sport of boxing. This card will be their first step towards consolidating the heavyweight championship belts between them as The Furious Two, the new dynamic duo tapped to replace the Klitschko brothers when they retire.

Here is an entertaining Youtube video of Fury reprising his best devil may care, sly tongued, young, lean and hungry Cassius persona. Twinkles fall like stars out of his eyes as he showers the camera with his gift of self promotional gab. It’s a good time to be Britain’s biggest, brightest, undefeated heavyweight star with a bountiful future all laid out in front of him as you can see:


Mr. USS Nice Guy Helping Others

Mr. USS Nice Guy in Assistance

Steve Cunningham is coming off a disputed split decision loss to his old nemesis, Tomasz Adamek in an IBF eliminator. The 6-9 Fury will be substantially larger with greater reach than any previous opponent of Cunningham. He has a busy offense, quick hands, can box outside and especially loves mixing it up inside, and moves very well for a big man. More unsettling, Fury has become a switch hitter, boxing orthodox or southpaw as the mood strikes, a completely southpaw fight against Martin Rogan as I recall.

That’s a really tall order for Cunningham to be sure, but USS has been a staple in Germany for a number of years and had good sparring against many of the tall heavyweights who dominate modern divisional ratings. You can bet a championship fighter of his caliber has a plan mapped out to surprise Fury, but it best be better than the tepid game plan he showed against Adamek. Feather jabs alone just won’t cut the mustard at this level, so we shall just have to see what the fighters bring.

Tyson Fury fights tend to be interesting because of his palpable charisma and busy, animated style. I daresay he will attract a raucous crowd who have heard the noise and want to check out the reality. That’s Saturday, April 20th, Madison Square Garden, that’s where the action will be. 

Filipino Flash Finally Returns–Nonito Donaire vs Omar Narvaez

It’s taken awhile for the hottest little man in boxing today to sort out his managerial conflicts with his promoter, Bob Arum, but perhaps sanity has finally smoothed the rough waters to allow Nonito Donaire a stellar return to defend his freshly won WBC/WBO belts against Argentinean legend, the undefeated Omar Narvaez.

Narvaez is the former WBO Fly and Super Fly champ with 21 successful title bouts to his credit, almost 2/3rds of his 35-0-2, 19 KO career record. Most of those bouts were in Argentina with a smattering in Spain and France, but this is his biggest bout yet and in the Holy Mecca of boxing, Madison Square Garden at WaMu Theater in New York City.

Narvaez is considered something of an exotic whose fights are not widely available for boxing fans to view. I have seen his last two fights against tall southpaws William Urina and Cesar Soto, so that’s 24 rounds of excellent preparations for Donaire who is coming in with 5 big KOs in his last 6 fights. Narvaez is 1 KO out of his last 6 fights, so he’s going to need every ounce of experience he can muster to beat Donaire.

Donaire vs Darchinyan

Donaire vs Darchinyan

 Having seen Donaire in his big fights and having compared their records, it becomes apparent that Narvaez has been fighting 2nd tier contenders compared to Donaire who has been in against big names, dangerous fighters who had good chances at beating him.

Donaire has big height and reach advantages over Narvaez, 5-7 ” to 5-3 ” according to boxrec. Donaire is only 28 years old compared to the veteran 36 year old Narvaez who has logged well over double the rounds at 299.

Omar Narvaez

Omar Narvaez

Narvaez can claim a rare victory over the currently undefeated Joan Guzman as an amateur in the 1996 Olympics, so now that he is entering the twilight of his career, what better way go out 15 years later with a bookend of modern day legend, Nonito Donaire. If nicknames have any say, Narvaez “El Huracán” has been the plague of the Phillipino people through the ages, but of course they call them typhoons in Asia.

Though an interesting novelty bout of southpaws on paper between the #1 ranked superfly and banty, Donaire is coming off an unexpected easy KO of Mexican legend, Fernando Montiel in his last bout, so if he is in his usual healthy well trained state, it’s likely to be an early end. A short spunky fighter with footwork and combinations could cause some problems though.

That would be Omar Narvaez at his best, but is his best good enough to dethrone the new WBC/WBO Banty champ?

Perhaps we should watch and find out.

The Lucky 13 Draw of Luck McCarty

The Lucky 13 Draw of Luck McCarty

By Bobby Mac

March 16, 2010


The date is March 17, 1892, the 5 yrs before Bob Fitzsimmons buried a left hook up the gut of James J Corbett to claim his World Heavyweight Title in Carson, City, Nevada.

Tucked in a tiny enclave so obscure that it’s scarcely remembered today, Driftwood Creek, Nebraska, another legend of the ring and future heavyweight champion of the world was born, Luther “Luck” McCarty.

How many future heavyweight champs are born on the same day as such a momentous heavyweight title bout have there been? What are the odds you ask?

Well, the short answer is only this one lucky young man, yet this wouldn’t be the first time the luck of the draw favored young Luck McCarty.

His father, Anton P. McCarty, was reputed to be an Indian, standing well over 6 feet and well over 300lbs, a big man even by modern standards. With his mother standing 6 foot and a stout 200lbs, it was obvious that young Lute as he was known back then, well, Lute was gonna be a mighty big boy. Even his older sister was big and strong and athletic enough to tour as a woman’s punch bag champion.

Luther’s Ma passed away shortly after he was born, so Pa moved the family to Sidney, Ohio as his new base of operations where he could make the rounds as a travelling medicine man, selling snake oil remedies and other assorted and sordid medicines to the local populace while accompanied by a troupe of “entertainers.” Pa was known by his Indian name of Chief White Eagle and his business had a name, The White Eagle Medicine Company. White Eagle dressed in full Indian garb as part of the performance and walked through the transfixed audience to sell his cure-all elixirs.

Young Lute’s job was to raise and care for the snakes that were the source of the home remedies which may be where he developed his cool, calm and collected ring demeanor that stood him in such good steed during ring combat. He was mature enough to have been married to a local girl named Rhoda and had a baby daughter named Camelia by age 18 when he first left home to pursue a boxing career.

He hadn’t yet stopped growing and filling out before people really started to take notice of this young, strapping, handsome cowboy who as much at home breaking broncos as he was busting up grown heavyweights. His official record grew to an astonishing 15-0-1,15 KO, before his 21st birthday, perfectly positioned to enter the front end of his prime years.

This was no tomato can record either. He was matched hard early and often against some of the big names of the era. Sure, he was raw still and didn’t always look the most polished, and the few bouts that went the distance were often criticized by the papers the next day, but, regardless, his swelling audience and accolades quickly buried any criticism before the ink was dry.

Wait a minute, you say. Who is this Luck McCarty? Never heard of him, so how could he be heavyweight champion of the world?

Well, my friend, listen up to what the New York Times had to say about young 20 yr old Luck McCarty barely a year after his pro debut.


Youthful Heavyweight with Terrific Punch, Who Is Expected to Regain Title.

June 2, 1912, Sunday

Luther McCarty, the youthful giant who surprised the world by tumbling Carl Morris to the ring floor, is not the fortunate child of a lucky punch, as some have intimated. Rather he is the embodiment of all that goes to make the ring champion, the possessor of speed, hitting ability, an aptitude for learning the finer points of the fistic sport, and one of the gamest men who ever laced on a glove.

It wouldn’t be the last time he garnered notice from the NY Times either. After all, he was still in his debut year when he fought a prime era great black contender, Jeff Clark. Folks tend to straighten up and take notice when a big rawboned kid from nowhere bursts through the ropes to fight era contenders.

What’s more, the kid appears to have had a sense of humor and destiny, fighting Jeff Clark as Walter Monahan, Jack Johnson’s sparring partner.

Midway through his 2nd year of boxing, young “Walter” went on a tear, fighting future Johnson challenger and conqueror, Jess Willard, and Johnson challenger Al Kaufman who had gone the 10 round distance against Johnson, but was blasted out of the ring by Luck in the 2nd round. Then it was on to Fireman Flynn who was fresh off his title challenge to Johnson, knocking him out in two bouts in between knocking out the White Heavy Champion, Al Palzer, for his belt. Then he whipped Frank Moran a year before he challenged Jack Johnson. In that torrid 8 month period, Luck whipped 4 of Johnson title challengers it took Johnson almost 6 years to fight, and Luck hadn’t even turned 21 yet.

Great, you say, sign him up, but still never heard of him, so how could he be the champ?

Fair point, but consider that boxing was as fractionalized then as it is today. The white and black heavy champions were making big money and considered “separate but equal” by some. Here is McCarty’s diamond studded belt which was valuable enough to be legally attached by a lawsuit later on for example.

The NY Times again:

January 5, 1913, Sunday

The most meteoric in the history of pugilism aptly describes the career of Luther McCarty, whose decisive victory over Al Palzer at Vernon on Wednesday last has made him the most-discussed personage in all fistiana. Heralded everywhere as the white heavyweight champion of the world, he has the distinction of reaching the loftiest pinnacle in the boxing world in less than two years after he first climbed through the ropes.

It don’t get any bigger for a 20 yr old kid until Mike Tyson stormed the ropes in 1986 some 73 yrs later.

Lute quickly accepted a $2000 per week vaudeville offer in New York City, an act where he dressed in cowboy gear and entertained the crowd with rope tricks and banter much like his Pa’s medicine show did.

A chip off the Big Chief’s block he was.

Speaking of White Eagle, he was always the entrepreneuring entertainer with the sharp eagle eye for opportunity and was quickly besieged by reporters for interviews. Big Chief let it be well known that Luther was not undefeated since he’d never whipped his Pa yet!

With that cat let out of the bag, the Chief was quickly snapped up for a travelling vaudeville circuit and reportedly made more money in a month than he made in a year of being a Indian medicine man. Luck’s good luck was contagious.

But Lute was still a country boy at heart, and when he took time off, his hobby was horses and the mountains.

One of his favorite pastimes was to pack into the mountains for a week or so, shooting game to eat and soaking up the vast isolation like a sponge to cleanse himself of the maddening crowds that were now packing his fights. Maybe a dream or two about challenging the great Jack Johnson in between roping elk, chasing off grizzlies or other wild cowboy pursuits.

The Johnson fight appeared to be all but officially cinched. Here’s what was printed before Arthur Pelkey challenged him in Calgary, Canada, a homecoming to the source of Luck’s debut fight. Note that Jack Johnson is well into his legal problems that ultimately caused him to flee the US for Canada and then Paris, France.

Luther McCarty Willing To Meet Johnson

White Champion Ready To Face The Black Title Holder

Johnson’s statement that he would fight Luther McCarty of Nebraska, white champion of the world, providing he could get permission from Judge Carpenter’s jurisdiction of the court…

Johnson’s proffer of a fight was immediately transmitted to Billy McCarney, manager of Luther McCarty, the white champion, who is training in Calgary, Alberta, for his match there on May 24, with Arthur Pelkey of New England, for the white heavyweight title.

“McCarty has signed for no battles after May 24…he would gladly declare everything except this Pelkey match off on the spot if assured a meeting with Johnson. Further, I want to say that right now McCarty is Johnson’s master, and would beat him sure.”

-Milwaukee Free Press. May 17, 1913

Here’s a publicity photo taken before the Pelkey fight showing the still maturing Luck in the absolute pink of condition.

Yes sir, Luther McCarty surely was the luckiest young man in a America, so much so that he had developed elaborate rituals with his Manager, Billy McCarney. Thirteen was the lucky number chosen as the basis of these rituals, or rather, it seems that the number imposed itself on the team.

As Billy McCarney explained it, there were 13 letters in each of their names as well as in other members of his camp. It was in Luck’s 13th bout that he was propelled to stardom with a big showy KO over undefeated White Hope Carl Morris.13 bouts later he had knocked out Palzer for the White Heavy Championship on the first day of the first month of the 13th year, commonly referenced as January, 1st, 1913.

Moreover, McCarty had gotten exactly $13,000 for that bout. The number 13 started figuring so obviously in the career of Luther McCarty, that Billy McCarney had pins of number 13 made for the team to wear. Soon travel and housing arrangements started to be made with an eye to maintain #13 in room and sleeping car numbers and such as Calgary, Canada, and the correct spelling of his next opponent, Arthur Peltier, both names having 13 letters. The fight starting time was manipulated by McCarney to start in the newly innovated military time of 13:00, which seemed to buoy young Luck in the ring.

So the coffers of young Luck had been overflowing with bountiful good fortune when he decided to take a few days off from training for a horseback ride into the nearby mountains of Calgary. Reports get murky here, but apparently he took a nasty tumble off his horse, not a healthy thing to do even in pastoral conditions much less in the in the high altitude of the Rocky Mountain wilderness where the difference between good judgment and bad could mean the difference between life and death.

What is certain is that the fight against Arthur Pelkey at the Tommy Burns Arena went on as scheduled. However, as happens far too often in the murky history of boxing, the sequence of events that followed the first sounding of the bell differ widely before the fatal conclusion of the bout where everyone finally comes around to full agreement.

They met in the ring and had scarcely commenced to fight before falling into a clinch when young Luck collapsed in a heap on the canvas. Other reports indicate that McCarty had taken a right hand over the heart that caused “valvular” damage. Yet another indicate that Pelkey had landed a straight left hand that snapped McCarty’s head back, breaking a cervical vertebra and causing a fateful hemorrhage. No time is ever given at the point of his collapse in that first round, perhaps because time itself was suspended in horror as the spark of good luck drained out of the fearless cowboy.

Or perhaps time was simply lost in the ring chaos that broke out once it was apparent that Luther McCarty was down for the rest of the ages to follow. Spectators stampeded the exits.

Arthur Pelkey was arrested on charges of manslaughter by authorities at his training facilities hours later and had his bail posted by former champion Tommy Burns who was the promoter of this Calgary bout. The very next day, Tommy Burns Arena burned down in what was thought to be a case of arson. Four grueling days later, Pelkey was cleared of the manslaughter charges by the Coroner’s report.

By all accounts, Arthur Pelkey was a broken man from the moment that McCarty collapsed in front of him.

Offers by theatric promoters flooded in to put him on stage, no doubt in recreation exhibitions of this bout, all of which he seems to have refused. It wasn’t until the following year that he was able to step back into the ring, losing his title to a formidable era contender and Jack Johnson sparring partner, Gunboat Smith. Reportedly Pelkey didn’t want to fight again, but was forced into it because of legal fees incurred to defend himself in the aftermath of this tragedy.

Arthur Pelkey had begun his career as a polar opposite to the young phenom of Luck McCarty. He turned pro in Boston, Massachusetts at the advanced age of 26, doubtless recruited by era advertisements and the clarion calls of newspapers scouring the land for a Great White Hope to restore the purity of the Heavyweight Title.

Pelkey had lost his first two bouts, but hard work combined with his natural size and strength had led him to the top of his profession as champion with an official record of 18-3-1, 15 KO, a solid contender making good. But this was no dream he was living anymore, but a nightmare.

He could no longer defend himself in the ring, losing almost every bout after this fight, usually getting knocked out after a beating. Arthur Pelkey’s record is stacked with a who’s who lineup of up and coming Hall of Famers and era contenders who wanted and needed the eminence of his name on their records to bolster their own as happens in boxing. His fine record tumbled to 22-20-3, 17 KO with a staggering 15 KO losses.

Pelkey settles in Ford, Ontario to become a police officer and city councilman and seems to have recovered a semblance of redemption before tragedy befalls him one last time.

Arthur Pelkey contracted a strange “sleeping sickness” that was sweeping Canada and died at a very young 36 yrs of age, having secured a draw against Young Peter Jackson 3 months prior.

The White Heavyweight Championship Title had fallen into the shadows by then with Jess Willard and then Jack Dempsey having regained the “official” Heavyweight Title. Pelkey was quickly forgotten in the heady days of the Roaring 20s, but Luther McCarty remained an arcane talking point among boxing historians, most of whom rated him quite highly.

Chief White Eagle had buried young Luck in Piqua, Ohio in a ceremony attended by thousands. The remains of his estate went to his young wife, Rhoda, and his daughter, Camelia. Reports vary as to what was left after the vultures had picked through it, but it was estimated anywhere from $10,000-65,000, a small fortune in 1913 and a blessed relief for his small family.

Jack Johnson was convicted of violating the Mann Act and fled the country shortly after the Luther McCarty tragedy, passing through Canada on the way to Paris.

Few stars have ever streaked across the sky as brightly and fallen so tragically as did Luther McCarty. Lute’s Lucky 13 had turned into a very unlucky year by the end of 1913, but oh what could’ve been a classic between he and Jack Johnson had he not taken that fateful ride into the mountains.

Such is the luck of the draw sporting men live by.

113th Anniversary of Corbett vs Fitzsimmons, The First Ever Blockbuster

by Bobby Mac

March 17, 1897

I really never got why Hollywood and the rest of the assorted cinema and boxing worlds have never accorded proper respect for the Great, Great, Great, Grandpappy of modern filmed spectacle, the 1897 Heavyweight Title Shootout at The Race Track Arena, Carson City, Nevada with young champion James J. Corbett going against the grizzled veteran champ, Bob Fitzsimmons.

Bob Fitzsimmons

Bob Fitzsimmons

This was “The Fight” long before trifling embellishments such as Century or Millennium needed to be tacked on for distinguishing marketing purpose. It was only the 3rd ever heavyweight championship defense held under those wildly popular new fangled rules drawn up by the Marquis of Queensbury, so public interest was immense.

Noted university professors with boxing experience re-enacted telegraphed round by round descriptions on theatrical stages before rapt crowds. After the dustup was settled, the public got the shocker of their lives months later that changed everything, Thomas Edison’s first ever release of his film of “The Fight.”

The Fight begot all the subsequent cinematic blockbusters that followed and became the lucrative boxing industry prototype for subsequent filmed matches as a supplement to live gate and print media sales. This decades before “Closed Circuit” and “PPV” would be developed. The Fight became a huge theatric hit after it’s debut at the Academy of Music in New York City, May 22nd.

Requested bookings quickly exceeded Edison’s fledgling Veriscope Company capacity, so by fall near a dozen new companies had been formed with territorial distribution rights. They toured the US with improved film footage and newly upgraded Veriscope projectors to show The Fight in big cities and small towns.

New companies were also formed overseas so The Fight could be distributed and seen in Great Britain and Europe, making it the first big international film. Previous cinematographic releases had been novelty “shorts” of only a few minutes or even a few seconds duration, mostly of everyday street scenes or historical re-enactments.

It wasn’t until 1903 release of The Great Train Robbery that box revenues could approach those generated by the real life action and drama of Bob Fitzsimmons and James Corbett’s ringmanship on that sunny 1897 March day.

My goodness, The Fight predated the concept of movie theaters by a decade for a reference point. Without The Fight, the development of movies, movie audiences, and movie theaters would have been much slower to less acclaim.

The Fight was the blue print for the ballyhooed Ali/Frazier Fight of the Century much later that featured two modern era Hall of Fame quality stars with competing claims to the greatest prize in sports, The Heavyweight Championship of the World.

Gentleman Jim was unmarked, undefeated, and played the young, handsome, fleet footed, fast handed, loose lipped dandy full of braggadocio to the battle hardened, quiet, hard working slugger of Ruby Robert 73 yrs before Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier ever became an item.

Jim Corbett

Jim Corbett

The Fight had actually been scheduled to be filmed in the fall of 1895 Dallas, Texas before fainthearted Texas legislators passed a law outlawing boxing. The month before, Corbett and Fitz had hooked up badly in a Philadelphia hotel while on the exhibition circuit and bad blood boiled over, giving impetus to the showdown in Texas. The cancellation setback turned out to be quite fortunate for all involved parties and boxing given the primitive state of cinematography that was still in experimental development.

So, with the Dallas fight cancelled, early in 1896, Thomas Edison cinematographer guru, Enoch J. Rector, found himself following Ruby Robert and Peter Maher on through Langtry, Texas, picked up and guided by the legendary frontier judge Roy Bean who wanted to put Langtry on the map with a title fight. The party crossed over to a tiny sand spit smack dab in the middle of the mighty Rio Grande. That’s Rio Bravo for you Mexican aficionados.

Bird's Eye View of No Man's Land, Rio Grande

Bird’s Eye View of No Man’s Land, Rio Grande

The cagey Judge Bean had matched them on an international no man’s territorial boundary where the Mexican and American law enforcement held each other at bay in what surely had to have been boxing’s first Mexican standoff.

Peter Maher was one of a plethora of turn of the century great fighters that have been forgotten by the passage of time.

Maher was the Irish middleweight and heavyweight champ before immigrating to America in the big Irish wave that swept over US shores. Maher had freshly defeated another forgotten fighter, Aussie Steve O’Donnell, for a dimly remembered claim to the world heavyweight title.

O’Donnell, who was also of Irish extraction, had came to America to fight black contenders Frank Craig and Old Chocolate George Godfrey back to back, and then on to the great Jake Kilrain twice among others and had been undefeated in his American debut.

Apparently in a pique of hysteria over the cancelled Fitz defense, the overly dramatic Corbett had announced his retirement and bestowed his title on the winner that Maher promptly claimed via a neat one minute first round KO of the overwhelmed O’Donnell.

Somehow, Bob Fitzsimmons managed to stay in the Edison contact loop and finagled a title challenge against the new heavyweight claimant, Maher, whom he had knocked out in New Orleans some 4 years previous.

Now, with Enoch Rector impossibly set up with his bulky Edison Veriscope on a here today, adios mañana pile of sand in the middle of a river of legend all set to film the first ever championship boxing match between the champion Peter Maher and challenger Bob Fitzsimmons, the Irishman against the Cornishman with history poised in the making………and then………

…….and then fickle Mother Nature put the drizzle on filming.

Not that it mattered much since in the time it took for a gentleman to light a fine cigar, poor Maher became his own 1 minute victim of the early exit via the murderous punching Fitz. Alas, boxing’s first championship KO highlight reel was lost to a common twist of fate, so we are left to imagine which punch Ruby Robert selected from his vast arsenal.

Rector pulled up sandy stakes and salvaged his ill fated Texas misadventure with the filming of a bull fight up the river in Juarez, Mexico, before returning to Thomas Edison’s legendary Black Mariah Studio for further brainstorming and development.

Championship fights were too few and far apart back in the unsanctioned outlaw days of boxing, not to mention financially out of reach for the average American who followed most of boxing by way of newspaper coverage or attending local bouts. Exhibitions came to fill a needed gap across America. They were steady, legal work that the boxers could supplement irregular fight schedules, and the best boxers could travel now to gain bigger exposure.

Exhibitions also provided cover for the genuine matches since one could substitute for the other as needed depending upon the presence or absence of law enforcement.

Gentleman Jim and Ruby Robert were the lionized ring legends of the day who toured the country to appear in countless exhibitions and plays in between their official dustups. In short, they were their own traveling mints, making silly money at every stop which is how they became to be wooed by the bullish industrial icon and inventor, the no nonsense deaf-genius otherwise known as The Wizard of Menlo Park, Thomas Edison.

Thomas Edison didn’t need Hollywood and Q-ratings to tell him Corbett and Fitzsimmons could establish public interest in his newest development. No sir, these were self made men of considerable swagger, intuitive action, and reach who conquered their moment in time like few before or since.

Luckily, in a rare, prescient moment in boxing history, both Corbett and Fitzsimmons agreed to the filmed fight for a $10,000 guarantee and 15% share of the profits for each thanks the reconciliation of an era promoter named Dan Stuart. Of course the old problem that caused the first cancellation still remained, the venue.

No problem once Nevada entered into the mix. With a smooth talker like Dan Stuart painting visions of well heeled hordes of spectators flooding the state with heavily laden pockets, Nevada officials gave back what the Texas Legislature had taken away by passing a law legalizing prize fighting.

Carson City, Nevada was chosen for parity after Fitzsimmons had been infamously disqualified by referee Wyatt Earp in his last fight against popular California Irishman, Sailor Tom Sharkey.

Not sure what it was with all those great Irishmen running amuck in boxing back then. Something in the whiskey they drank I guess.

But what about the fighting of The Fight you might ask?

The fighting was in essence a reprisal of the plot line of the best selling novel of the day, Ben Hur, with two bitterly competitive rivals going at it mano a mano to the bitter end minus the stuntmen, swords, chariots, horses and Jesus. Instead, The Fight featured the presence of legendary lawmen and gunslingers Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson who oversaw operations to insure a fair shake.

Bat Masterson was the dapper timekeeper captured forever on film in his famous bowler hat tending the ring bell. Wyatt Earp showed his hand again by riding shotgun for James J with “associates” he had assembled for this moment. Fitz had secured his own guns to oversee his interests, so needless to say, everyone was fare thee well hardwared for a fair contest, lending quite a bit of prefight tension in the air.

Both men enter the ring in their robes, pacing about as officials and seconds dicker over last minute setup and instructions. Then the first glimmer of recognition occurs as both fighters are made aware of the presence of the camera and thereby the audience, so they stride over for a look see. Sunny Corbett smiles supremely as he starts to preen a bit whereas the deadly Fitz blinks and then glares into this new intrusion into his world and both go to their corners.

It’s on!

Corbett is the bigger man moving around the ring like an agile big cat, coming in and out of range with a blizzard of feints, flurries, and grapples that never allow Fitzsimmons to get set long enough to get his punches off. Fitz is applying steady pressure, trying to walk his man down and feint a counterpunch, but Corbett is just too fast of hand and foot and too strong and starts to wear the old man down.



Finally, the 6th round, and they trade heavily near a corner with Fitzsimmons being wobbled and having to grab Corbett on his way down. Corbett seems flummoxed by this development, no doubt made aware of the guns of Fitz’s corner, so he pleads to the referee, George Siler, as Fitzsimmons lets go.

Grabbing the ropes, Fitz straightens himself while on one knee to which Corbett leaps in to pummel him, so Fitz wisely holds his position on his knee. He feints another rise, and then comes up quickly and the fight resumes.

Perhaps Corbett was discouraged that he had let his golden opportunity slip away, or perhaps he thought he had the fight wrapped up and grew careless in his confidence. Some say he had gotten too far into the finer dissipations of great champions preceding him, fine wine, food, and women, but whatever the reason, the old man started to slowly reel him in and walk him down by increments.

Then in a quicksilver flash of the first filmed phantom punch, Ruby Robert shot a left hook to the body and Gentleman Jim dropped like a common sack of potatoes, writhing in paralysis!

The Fitzsimmons punching techniques were hotly contested in his day, but the boxing experts concluded it was a legal punch and assigned it a new, scientific name, the solar plexus punch.

Corbett tried to drag himself to the ropes for assistance, but he was too deep in the count. Whatever claim James J Corbett had on the Heavyweight Title of the World transferred to Bob Fitzsimmons in that fateful 14th round.

It was the same punch Fitz had knocked out Sailor Tom Sharkey with in California that Wyatt Earp had disqualified him for. Fitz had sued to impound those stakes, but the presiding judge ruled that prizefighting was illegal and he had no authority. This time Fitz had dueling guns in his corner to offset the favoritism for the champion, so the lions share along with the championship belt was his to keep.

And, fair play, even Corbett’s main man, Wyatt Earp declared, “I consider that I have witnessed today the greatest fight with gloves that was ever held in this or any other country.” Gentleman Jim was not so easily placated though, going after Fitzsimmons when he recovered, his bad blood still boiling over.

The reported profits from the film were an astounding $120,000 after Corbett and Fitzsimmons’ share of the revenues had been settled.

Corbett lobbied heavily for a rematch, but Fitz, perhaps remembering the cancellation and all the profane insults he and his wife had endured trying to get Corbett into the ring, would have none of it. Instead he embarked on a series of exhibitions and plays as Champion for two years that were guaranteed purses with less danger of being filled with bullet holes.

Viewers with sharp eyes and curious natures however recalled a Mountain of a Man in Corbett’s corner that sterling day. That Man, dwarfing all around him, was none other than the soon to be great, another James J out of the Corbett stable of fighters, James J. Jeffries.

Two years later, Jim Jeffries would brutally pound the belt off the heroic Fitzsimmons in a classic Big Man against little man matchup the old man was never destined to win, but oh what a hellacious battle he put up.

Jeffries would go on to rule his era with an iron fist, but he and subsequent champions, the boxing fraternity, and the visual media, all owe an incalculable debt to those men playing their parts to perfection in bringing us the first filmed classic, James J. Corbett vs Bob Fitzsimmons.