"When Boxing Mattered,"Chapter Two - The Gay Nineties - Blog #0002

Updated: Aug 24, 2020

Corbett, Fitzimmons and Jeffries

The Sullivan-Corbett fight, the first heavyweight championship fight that took place under the modern rules with gloves, created quite a stir. The Great John L had been beaten by an educated bank teller? Impossible! Not really. Every boxer has his reckoning day and Sullivan had been beaten fair and square in New Orleans on September 7, 1892 at the “Tournament of Champions” in which lightweight champion Jack McAuliffe knocked out Billy Myer in five rounds and featherweight champion George Dixon knocked out Jack Skelly in eight.

In 1897, a skinny but broad shouldered former blacksmith knocked out Gentleman Jim in Carson City, Nevada to become the new heavyweight champion of the world. He may have been skinny, but he is considered one of the hardest punchers in boxing history. He lost the title to a much larger man, James J Jeffries, later famous as the man who Jack Johnson beat in the first “fight of the Century.”

The light heavyweight division did not exist in the Nineties, but there were some pretty fair middleweights, among them the aforementioned Bob Fitzimmons and Nonpareil Jack Dempsey. The very colorful Kid McCoy claimed the middleweight crown in 1895. McCoy may have been the source of the quote “the real McCoy.” Married ten times and became a minor movie actor.

As the 1890 decade rolled in, Jack McAuliffe was the lightweight king. He had won the title in 1886 and he retired in 1892. After McAuliffe's retirement the title remained inactive until 1896 when the title was won by George "Kid" Lavigne in a 17 Round KO against Dick Burge. Lavigne's victory, the first fought under the Marquis of Queensberry rules, was considered by boxing promoters of the time as the first officially recognized world Lightweight Championship. McAuliffe retired undefeated.

George Dixon held the World Featherweight Title from 1891 to 1897, Known as “Little Chocolate” in the racist era in which he ruled, Dixon was rated as the number one featherweight of all-time by Ring Magazine editor and founder, Nat Fleischer. He had previously ruled as bantamweight champ.

More excerpts from this book in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!

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