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Corbett v Fitzsimmons...The First Great Heavyweight Title Grudge Match ..

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Post by TRUSSMAN66 Mon 01 Nov 2021, 8:26 pm

Going away this weekend so if anyone is interested I'll post this now.....

Well known fact Corbett was bitter after this fight because he thought he deserved a return against Fitzsimmons "fluke of a win"....Of course it wasn't a fluke and he didn't get a return because the Brit despised him and the feeling was mutual....When Fitz died in 1917 it wasn't lost on anyone that Sailor Tom Sharkey led the eulogies and Corbett's the dethroned champion was seemingly lost in the post...

Part of the rancour was the fact Corbett had only fought twice in five years since taking the title from the great John L (Sharkey draw and a stoppage of Charley Mitchell)......Like most Heavyweight champions of the following era he'd milk the title in lucrative Exhibitions and stage appearances.....Notable articles of the era have Ruby Rob goading the "Overrated Dude" and the "Running Man" and trying everything to get Gentleman Jim in the ring....

In response Corbett would claim 'Fitzsimmons' wasn't worth his time...Corbett later admitted Fitzsimmons irritated him and Fitzsimmons admitted he hated the way Corbett dismissed him...

Eventually though Corbett relented and the fight was scheduled in the fall of 1896.....Sadly trying to find a State where Boxing was legal....Rows over percentages of the gate and the film rights (Enoch Rector was producing a film of the fight to be distributed in theatres at a later date) and the untimely death of Fitzsimmons sparring partner led to interminable delays...

However St Patrick's day 1897 was finally announced with Carson City as the venue.....$5 standing tickets...$10 seating...with gates opening at 9am for the fight which was scheduled to start at noon (Queue of a thousand were outside when they opened and though the arena was barely a third full it did better than expected with the cold weather and location).....Onlookers commented that Tom Sharkey seemed to be everywhere shouting that he would "Take any wager that he would whip the winner...."

The day before the fight the 'Carson Daily Appeal' printed that during the prefight meeting things got tense between Corbett and Fitz and Corbett remarked that if his handlers had not held him back he would have punched the Brit then and there.....

The day of the fight there was a row about the ropes....Corbett's team saying they were too slack and they were eventually tightened.....Fitzsimmons had been up early and seen out walking "A good walk gets the blood going you know" he commented to an interested observer....

To the fight........Corbett 6ft 1 and 190 pounds was a couple of inches taller and a stone heavier than his challenger and was a 2-1 favorite.....After a feeling out process of a couple of rounds Corbett went into the ascendancy badly cutting the Englishman and dispatching him to the canvas with a series of shots in the 6th (On Youtube).....However after being battered early the Englishman according to the 'Hoosier State Chronicle' took control from the 10th round onwards...(Indiana is the Hoosier State)...Some extracts from the Hoosier Chronicle..

"In the 10th Corbett landed a left to the jaw that staggered Fitzsimmons and drove him into the ropes while the crowd hissed... but by the end of the round Fitzsimmons condition was improving while Corbett was appearing to lose all strength"...

"In the 12th round Fitzsimmons followed Corbett landing left and right on his body the round ending with Fitzsimmons fighting strong"......

"Round 13 Fitz made Corbett dance some....They both fiddled around the ring....Fitzsimmons bloody nose seemed to be bothering him...Fitzsimmons landed a big left to Corbett's body staggering him while falling into him.....Both Men laughed at eachother when they escaped the clinch"

The fateful 14th.... "Corbett up to this point had been getting the better of the fight....His generalship had been far superior but he was tiring badly and lacking the stamina Fitzsimmons showed..The latter had been punished fearfully in the preceding rounds but was still strong and game to his core"....."Then the fateful blow landed Fitzsimmons sent a right hand to the face that turned Corbett around, Corbett raised his guard and quick as a flash Fitzsimmons shot his left glove on Corbett's body below the heart.....The blow would have shivered a plank and Corbett's face paled instantly...He tried to rise but......."

So ended the first Heavy title fight captured on film a 124 years ago....Both would go on to lose to Jeffries twice and sadly both died way too young especially Fitz....

To the film.....Well that was controversial in itself.........It premiered in the 'New York Academy of Music' two months later where patrons could pay 25 cents to watch it and it proved very popular in theatres everywhere making around a $1m gross......Though it was banned in many Cities because Corbett's high cut briefs showing some of his buttocks was considered lewd and an affront to decency...

Sadly Enoch who made the film never saw a dollar...Apparently he was down for a cut of the Net profit and there were only Gross profits (Go figure)..

Anyway there goes the first modern Heavyweight title grudge fight and my favorite fight.....


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Post by 88Chris05 Tue 02 Nov 2021, 12:03 am

Great stuff again, Truss. Some interesting things in there I wasn't aware of. The fight certainly gave us one of the most fabled quotes in the sport's history, by Mrs. Fitzsimmons as you allude to: "Hit 'im in the slats, Bob!"

Fitzsimmons had a point when he said that Corbett was overrated, as I've nibbled a few ears over how I view him as one of the most overrated fighters in history...But I guess that's old ground and not for here. For balance it should be noted that Fitzsimmons turned down big money for a possible rematch (more than he made for defending against Jeffries eventually, by all accounts). I guess opinion will be split on whether that's because he simply detested Corbett and wanted to lord it over him, or because he felt he'd got away with one in their fight and didn't fancy his chances in a return.

But no doubt the razzmatazz and profile of the fight - much of that down to Corbett, admittedly - was a great breakthrough for boxing at a time when the sport was still struggling for mainstream acceptance. Astonishing to think that a little over twenty years later, by the time of Dempsey's accession, the Heavyweight title was being referred to as the greatest and richest prize in all sports.

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Post by Derek Smalls Tue 02 Nov 2021, 1:21 am

Very good to see this article, Corbett really was a bit of an obnoxious one and it's heavily ironic his nickname was 'Gentleman' !
It is hard to imagine a time when the champ could basically fight as little as he wanted and engage in crass money-making exercises, however The Great John L set the trend surely and engaged in plenty of dubious exhibitions and borderline panto.
I firmly believe that John L would have not lost a round against Corbett had he been able to fight Corbett in his preceding years. I'm not saying Corbett wasn't an intelligent fighter as his reputation says but to credit him with the advent of scientific boxing is plainly absurd.
One more thing, Fitz would have described himself as Cornish ,not English!!
Good article, clap, Sir.
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