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Boxing Historian
Wyatt Earp c. 1870

Earp, the legendary gunfighter,
became a boxing referee
after building his Wild West legend

Wyatt Earp's
boxing scandal (1896)

 By  Christopher James Shelton

I.N. Choynski (circa 1896):  “If Christ would come to San Francisco, he would find his ministers, of all denominations, eating the juiciest steaks, drinking the choicest wines, wearing the costliest garments, and visiting the houses of those who give princely entertainments. If Christ came to San Francisco, he would say, ‘Father let me pass this wicked city, where suicides, failures and hypocrisy abound, and where people pawn the diamonds of their wife in order to get themselves nominated for an office which pays no salary, but has a lot of cabbage (graft).’” 
(12/2/1896)  Champion Bob Fitzsimmons  vs.  Sailor Tom Sharkey   
Location:  San Francisco, California.  There are approximately 14,000 fans.  It is the largest crowd for a San Francisco bout since Champion John L. Sullivan fought George Robinson in 1884. It is scheduled for 10 rounds. Fitzsimmons is a 2-1 betting favorite.  There is major gambling action as to whether Sharkey can survive 6 rounds.
Woman Sportswriter:  “There are but two things in this world which will command $10 a seat – grand opera and a fight – the alpha and omega of human emotion. To a woman, the most interesting thing at a fight is the men outside the ropes. The superior male animal, without the varnish, with all his brute instincts on exhibition, is an instructive, if not an attractive spectacle.”
Brooklyn Daily Eagle:  “Over ten thousand people saw the fight, among the spectators being a number of women.”


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Woman Sportswriter:  “It had been advertised that many women would see this fight. There were a few sandwiched about, some in a sub gallery, shadowed by seats and closely escorted; a closely yelled pair in a lower box and another feminine couple minus their hats, in another box. Perhaps it was in their honor that the floors were remarkably clean, some of the ushers in evening dress and the whole place uniformly quiet until the big fight began.”


The two corner men/managers debated who should referee the bout. No matter the referee name suggested the other would dispute. Sharkey’s manager, Lynch, offered the name of his famous friend, Wyatt Earp. Fitzsimmons manager, Martin Julian, questioned whether Earp had experience. Lynch lied and stated Earp had refereed several bouts, including Los Angeles, San Diego and Arizona. Julian hesitantly agreed on Earp.


Tom Sharkey

  Tom Sharkey


Four hours before the bout, several East Coast patrons and local San Franciscans, approached Martin Julian to warn him that Wyatt Earp has been paid off and that he will not allow Fitzsimmons to win. The next 3-4 hours are chaotic.  Martin Julian wanted Earp dismissed as the referee.  Dan Lynch vehemently disagreed.  The referee dispute continued until fight time. Fitzsimmons entered the ring to polite applause.  Sharkey entered the ring to a thunderous ovation, especially from $2 back seat crowd.  The boxers shake hands. Referee Earp has been handed a certified $10000 check for the winner.  With pugilists and the referee inside the ring, Martin Julian climbs through the ropes.  Julian confronts Earp that he knows it is a fixed fight. Earp insists it is not true. Julian speaks to ringside reporters, for the public record, that he has been informed that Earp has been paid off to guarantee a Sharkey victory.


The person who resolves the dispute is the champion. Fitzsimmons felt the crowd was against him and would blame him if the bout does not take place. Sharkey has suspicious bandages wrapped around his hands. Champion conditions if Sharkey’s bandages are removed, over the objection of Lynch, he would accept Earp as referee, over the objection of Julian.
Round 1:  Sharkey bobs head and gloves – steps forward and throws right to head – misses – throws left to head – misses. Sharkey backs – bobs head and gloves – steps forward and lands left to body – backs. Sharkey bobs head and gloves – steps forward and throws left to head – misses.  Champion counters with high left jab to head – misses. Sharkey pauses – bobs head and gloves – charges forward to throw a left punch. Champion expects and throws short left jab that lands to face – follows with right that lands to jaw – Sharkey knocked to ground. Sharkey rises – a bit dazed as he covers up – backs.  Champion steps forward – a couple left feints – Sharkey bobs head and attempts to cover.  Champion throws left half hook that lands to jaw – Sharkey flops backward to ground – slightly tangled in lower ropes.  Fitzsimmons assists Sharkey until the Irishman staggers back to his feet.
Woman Sportswriter:  “At the end of the round there were two sleek, shining bodies, glazed with sweat and shining in the fierce light. Sharkey was heaving like a draught horse and seemed much the wearier of the two, Fitzsimmons looking about him all the time and on his feet.”
Round 2:  Champion is anxious to begin round.  He paces and fidgets as he waits...  Bell sounds…  Champion steps out – feints left to head – follows with left that lands to forehead.   Sharkey attempts to step forward and throw a right to head – misses wildly – Fits steps back to easily evade.
A.P. reporter telegraphing live:  “The button is pressed again and they begin to dance about to the quickstep: Fitz came over three quarters of the way, and after feinting tries the left at the head. Sharkey ducked and caught him around the legs.”
Round 3:  Sharkey bobs head and gloves – springs forward as he attempts to club top of head with left – misses – throws desperate right to top of head – misses as Champion evades. An aggressive Sharkey steps forward and lands a left to body.  Champion counters with a right punch that lands to face.  Sharkey throws right to head – misses while stumbling.  Champion head bobs and steps away. Sharkey regains balance – bobs head and gloves – steps forward to throw left – Champion stops foe with left jab that lands to head. Sharkey bobs head and gloves – steps forward to throw left – Champion easily lands left jab to forehead instead. Sharkey bobs head and gloves – madly charges forward and lands left to body – tries to follow with right but loses balance.  Champion attempts to evade and throw left jab – misses.  Sharkey charges forward and lands illegal right to crotch – crowd boos.

Bob Fitzsimmons

Bob Fitzsimmons

San Francisco Chronicle:  “The suspicious blows were, however due to Sharkey’s style of swinging. Being so short, he hit in a circular way at Fitzsimmons and when that wily boxer ducked away from him blows that were aimed high at the body struck far below the mark.”
Round 4:  Sharkey bobs head and gloves – charges forward and throws left to head – misses as the Champion evades – throws right to head – misses as the Champion evades – throws left to head – misses as the Champion evades.  Sharkey steps forward aggressively and pushes the Champion backward onto his butt (no knockdown).


Sharkey is tired and attempts to land a cheap shot left to head. Champion evades while on the ground.  Sharkey throws an illegal right to head.  Champion evades and rises to his feet.  Champion grabs and holds the out of control Irishman. The crowd is yelling with mixed frenzy.  Sharkey’s supporters mistakenly believe the illegal push was a knockdown. Champion’s supporters are angry at the fouls and attempt to illegally hit someone who is on the ground.


Round 4 (cont’d):  Sharkey bobs head and gloves – steps forward – Champion awaits and lands an over the top left hook to head. Sharkey bobs head and gloves – charges forward and grabs the Champion in a clinch.  Sharkey holds and bulls the Champion back to ropes – tries to illegally pin and punch – lands right to lower body – lands right to lower body.  Champion lands a short left jab to head and escapes the Irishman’s hold.
Brooklyn Daily Eagle:  “In the fourth round, Sharkey pushed Fitz over on the floor and before Bob could get up, made a couple of vicious swipes at him. Fitz cleverly clinched and avoided damage, but it was a clear case of a foul on Sharkey’s part.”
Round 5:  Sharkey’s face is covered with blood.  His left eye is partially closed. Fitzsimmons determinedly steps forward with bobbing head and gloves.  Champion throws a right at the bobbing head – misses.  Champion steps forward to throw a left – Sharkey rises from his crouch and lands hard left jab to head – his supporters roar.  Champion feints a left to head.  Champion throws and lands a left to face.  A confused Sharkey attempts to back. Champion aggressively steps forward with a right that lands to jaw – Sharkey knocked to ground – tangled in lower ropes. (This is the 3rd knockdown of Sharkey with no published account that referee Earp has initiated any sort of ‘10’ count). Champion protects Sharkey from slipping out of the ring as he assists the Irishman to his feet.
Woman Sportswriter:  “In the fifth round Sharkey fell through the ropes clumsily and Fitzsimmons helped him back.”
Brooklyn Daily Eagle:  “In the fifth, Sharkey did more mean work, grabbing Fitz around the legs and trying to throw him….  A poke on the nose and a left swing on the jaw sent Sharkey down. He rolled under the ropes and would have gone off the platform had not Bob courteously hauled him back.”
Play by play account:  “That Sharkey was losing steam was evident.  He clinched at every opportunity, striking interlocked, contrary to agreement.” 

Wyatt Earp

San Francisco Chronicle:  “It seemed as if Sharkey could not help fouling. Not once but a dozen times he wrestled the Australian, butted him with his shoulders and grasped his legs as he tried to hurl him over his head…. Fitz let the sailor have his left and right in the jaw, knocking him through the ropes in a very bad condition. So close was Sharkey to the edge of the platform that he looked as if he might fall off. Fitzsimmons with the coolness of an old ringster, reached out and caught him and pulled him into the ring.”
Round 6:  Champion throws a right to foe’s bobbing head – misses.  Champion throws a left to head – misses the ducking Irishman. Champion lands a left to head.  Sharkey charges forward and grabs the Champion around the legs. Champion is enraged at the persistent illegal tactics against him. Champion steps forward to punch.  Sharkey backs. Champion continues forward. Sharkey surges forward and clinches.
Woman Sportswriter:  “At each round and during it and all the time the crowd yelled madly, with hats and arms in air. It was like 10,000 maniacs, each man yelling for his favorite and his money. As the rounds reeled off, with Sharkey still in the ring, the men who bet on his endurance went mad with joy.”
Round 7:  Sharkey bobs head and gloves – charges forward. Champion awaits with a left jab feint – lands right to head – lands left uppercut to jaw – lands right uppercut to jaw. Sharkey continues to foolishly step forward. An enraged Sharkey surges ahead and grabs the Champion with a wrestling clinch. Both boxers grapple while attempting to punch. The bell sounds.


Champion releases his clinch at the conclusion of the round.  Champion turns his back on the Irishman as he returns to his corner.  Sharkey illegally charges an opponent that is not looking and throws right to the back of head.  Champion evades. Sharkey illegally throws a left to head – misses…. (There is no published account of referee Earp having issued a single warning to Sharkey for these repeated cheap shot fouls).
A.P. reporter telegraphing live:  “Fitz is after the marine like a tiger. Sharkey won’t let go of a clinch. Fitz is looking for a good opening to jab that left in. He finally finds it and lands both hands. Sharkey gets the better of the mix-up. He is fighting foul. Fitz is not as fast in this round and the sailor lands frequently.”
Brooklyn Daily Eagle:  “Fitz swung his right repeatedly for the jaw, but in some manner Sharkey escaped. The left jabs always connected, though, and Tom was decidedly on the wane. Bob himself was none too strong and seemed to be a bit tired when the round closed.”
Round 8:  Champion lands a straight left jab to head – Sharkey wobbles backward.  Champion pursues and lands a right to the top of his crouching foe’s head. Sharkey backs near the ropes. Champion throws a left hook to head – misses. Sharkey bobs head and evades.  The Irishman is desperate as he clinches around the waist.  Champion attempts to shake himself free.  Sharkey will not let go of his hold.  Referee Earp intervenes.  Earp is unsuccessful as he fails to separate the boxers.   


Round 8 (cont’d):   Earp finally pushes the boxers apart. Sharkey staggers toward the center ring and halts. The outmatched Irishman attempts to be defensive and protect his face.  Champion lands a left jab to stomach.  Champion lands another left jab to stomach and backs.  Sharkey wobbles forward though he is unable to defend himself.  Sharkey attempts to keep his gloves upward. Champion steps forward and lands hard left to exposed stomach – Sharkey’s gloves drop.  Champion follows with a right uppercut that lands to chin – Sharkey collapses to the ground.


The crowd is in pandemonium. Referee Earp is not offering a count.  Sharkey noisily writhes on the floor as if fouled. Twenty seconds have elapsed with no count or signal.  The San Francisco crowd roars its approval at the apparent knockout. Sharkey stops moving.  Champion Fitzsimmons raises his gloves in triumph. 


Champion waves his glove in acknowledgment of the appreciative crowd. Sharkey’s corner man, Lynch, enters the ring and shouts conversation with referee Earp. Several seconds pass.  Lynch shakes his fist in triumph but no one notices. Another 30 seconds elapse before it is announced to the crowd that the Champion has been disqualified.  Sharkey is declared the victor. Chaos ensues.  Boos and hisses shower from all directions. Fitzsimmons entered the ring favored to win, but not the crowd favorite.  Referee Earp frantically waves his hands toward the hostile, threatening crowd.  Earp receives hate and invective, threats and curses, “FRAUD” and “FIX” and “CHEAT” are shouted at him.  The famous gunfighter is frightened as he wisely exits. Sharkey still lay on the ground.  This is usually the moment when a boxing mob attempts ‘humanity’ by quieting and showing concern for a fallen or injured pugilist. But with referee Earp gone, shouts and curses, boos and hisses, are aimed at Sharkey and his corner men.
Woman Sportswriter:  “It was a lame conclusion. Sharkey fell over like a collapsed balloon. He writhed in pain, where a moment before he had been fresh and strong. They carried him out – the man who had been like a lion, while Fitzsimmons friends shouted that he was shamming, and the sailors supporters swore he was not, until for a moment it looked like a hundred fights all over the house. Fitzsimmons paced about the ring shaking his fist, spitting his rage, and the crowd stood up in its chairs, everybody talking at the top of his voice, with the decision in doubt because no one would listen. The referee had vanished like the Arabian Genie.” 



Tom Sharkey post bout comment:  “I am certain that Fitzsimmons fouled me deliberately to save himself from defeat. It was getting too plain to him that I was gaining in strength, while he was going down hill, so to speak, so he thought he would lose on a foul.”
Bob Fitzsimmons post bout comment:  “He fouled me at every clinch. I appealed eight times, and then, seeing that it was no use protesting, I quit and went in hitting my man just where I wanted to. In the fifth round Sharkey clinched and caught me round the hips. The referee deliberately stuck his fingers in my face, cutting my eyelid with his nails.”
Referee Wyatt Earp:  “Julian came to me before the fight and said he had been told I was fixed. I am a friend of Lynch to be sure, but I know Sharkey only slightly. I first met him the night before he fought Corbett. Fitzsimmons I met four years ago, and was introduced to him by Bat Masterson, the best friend I have on earth. If I had any leanings they would be toward Fitzsimmons, for I know that Bat Masterson, who is in Denver tonight, had every dollar he had on Fitzsimmons.”
W.H. Naughton (boxing writer):  “If Fitzsimmons struck Sharkey a foul blow last night I did not see it. But even at that I would scarcely like to go on record as saying that the punch on which the fight was given the sailor was not foul.”
San Francisco Chronicle:  “It was Bob Fitzsimmons hand that struck the $10,000 blow last night, but the referee – none other than Wyatt Earp, who is better known in gun fighting circles than to pugilism – called it a foul and gave the trophy of battle, a certified check for a little fortune, to the sailor fighter who lay hopelessly knocked out in his corner of the ring.”
Brooklyn Daily Eagle:  “Then Fitz got up to finish the job in a workmanlike manner. A right half arm jolt under the chin sent the sailor’s head to one side. A left hook similarly applied sent him over backward. Then came the much disputed foul. Very few of the immense crowd could be convinced that Fitz had been unfair and it is almost certain that if a foul were committed, it was unintentional.”
San Francisco Chronicle:  “There was pandemonium of shouting from the short enders who hadn’t looked for anything beyond winnings on the rounds and a fierce, long sustained deep-throated yell of ‘fraud’ ‘job’ ‘robbery’.”
Martin Julian:  “This man Sharkey, who they claim was so badly knocked out, actually took the check out of the referee’s hand and stuck it in his belt directly after he fell down.”


For several hours following the bout partisan dispute is fierce.  By the following day, the tide has already turned against Sharkey. Though sports media acknowledges that Fitzsimmons has lost, no one calls Tom Sharkey the new champion. The days that follow increase any anger and outrage against the Irishman. Sharkey insists he is Champion, but his voice is slipping from minority opinion to sole pathetic whine. The news spreads across the nation and world that a heavyweight Championship bout has been “fixed”, an intentional fraud committed, and that it’s unresolved who possesses the title.



Post bout legal issues:  A ‘stop payment’ is placed the night of the bout on Sharkey’s certified $10,000 check. That is supposed to be impossible as Sharkey/Lynch were waiting to cash it the moment the bank opened. But they underestimated Martin Julian, who called the President of the bank, informed him an injunction would be placed on the check that morning in court, because a scandal had ensued that would likely place people in jail. The president personally placed a hold on the cashier’s check before the bank opened.

The decision is made to allow the legal system decide the winner or at least who is entitled to the money. Testimony for the record is offered in the lawsuit.  Sharkey’s trainer, Australian Billy Smith admits in Judge Sanderson’s court that a ‘fix’ was in and names the four who planned the scam: J.J. Groom, J. H. Gibbs, Danny Lynch and Tom Sharkey. Wyatt Earp agreed to the scam in which he would disqualify Fitzsimmons on a body punch. Earp was to be paid 25%, or $2500, for his necessary participation in the fraud.


Several days following this testimony the legal system fought back. The Los Angeles based District Attorney decides that the testimony offered is proof than an illegal prize fight has taken place and that everyone involved may be arrested. Judge Sanderson dismissed the lawsuit by ruling that courts do not resolve civil legal issues involving criminal activity.


Tom Sharkey returns to the bank with his cashier check and demands payment with all sorts of threats. He is told that nothing can be done. Sharkey asks if he can have any of the funds. He is told that 15% is placed under some sort of legal injunction. Sharkey waives this amount, collects $8500, before he leaves the bank a happy and relieved man. 



  McLoury Brothers & Billy Clanton

The McLoury brothers & Billy Clanton


Wyatt Earp gained fame on October 26th, 1881, Tombstone, Arizona, when he was charged, along with Doc Holliday, for the murder of three ranchers.  The incident would be forever remembered as the “Gunfight At The O.K. Corral”.  The consensus was that Morgan Earp, badly wounded, and Holliday, opened fire on Frank McLoury and an unarmed, Tom McLoury.   Sixteen-year-old, Billy Clanton, was killed in the ambush while an unarmed Ike Canton successfully fled.


  No one believed that Marshal Virgil Earp was aware those he deputized that day would use their law enforcement status for a triple homicide.  The consensus was that Wyatt Earp was innocent while Doc Holliday was guilty, but the decision was they should both be acquitted because one side was former Confederates while the murderers were pro-Union transplants.  Virgil Earp was the law enforcement hero of his family.  He was a quiet, tough, honest, mean figure.  Hollywood movies, and directors that suck at their jobs and are contemptuous of truth, would alter this good family man into a minor character of a story for which he was the leading figure. 


Virgil Earp and Sheriff John Behan were the two highest ranking law enforcement officers on that fateful October, 1881, day.  Wyatt Earp had lost a sheriff’s election to John Behan so that he earned his money as a minority owner of a gambling house.  Frank McLoury was visiting Tombstone for business.  He had refused Virgil Earp’s demand to turn over his gun temporarily until his exit.  Sheriff Behan had intercepted Marshal Earp and pleaded with him for the opportunity to speak with McLoury before any confrontation.  Marshal Earp declined.  It had been Marshal Earp who had foolishly cut his police staff from six officers to two.  Virgil Earp was an honest, hard-headed man who had arrested his brother, Wyatt (not a law enforcement officer), days earlier for assaulting an unarmed, Tom McLoury, with a gun.


 Marshal Earp had no idea of the planned murder ambush by his brother and Doc Holliday.  The sad irony is that the intent of Virgil Earp with the unusual display of guns was meant to deter violence.  Wyatt Earp, amoral at best, did not likely know of this plan to kill under the shield of law enforcement immunity.  There were two bullets simultaneously fired, not three, and Wyatt would not have left his Marshal brother unaware and dangerously exposed.  Virgil Earp had his arm outstretched, pointing a cane, not a gun, when he ordered:  “Lay down your arms.”  Marshal Earp was shot during the 30 second massacre.  Of the eight men involved, or nine if the nearby Bill Clairborne is included, only Ike Canton and Clairborne who fled, and Wyatt Earp, were not shot. To his credit, despite future San Francisco fame as a ‘wounded gunfighter’, Virgil Earp always stated that October 26th, 1881, was the worst day of his law enforcement career.


  In his decision to acquit both Wyatt Earp, who was innocent, and Doc Holliday, who was guilty, of murder charges, Judge Spicer publicly tongue-lashed Virgil Earp for his decision to deputize his brothers and Holliday.  Tombstone citizens felt similar so that Marshal Earp was suspended and eventually fired because of the incident.  Two months following the verdict, Virgil Earp, was ambushed with two shotgun blasts that left him permanently paralyzed.  Soon after, the still wounded, Morgan Earp, who should have been convicted for murder, was ambushed and shot dead while shooting pool with brother, Wyatt.


  The ambush was intended for Wyatt, too, with a shotgun blast narrowly missing his head.


Wyatt, Virgil and Morgan Earp


The next phase of Wyatt Earp’s fame, along with Doc Holliday, was one of 1882 revenge.  Earp believed a man named Indian Charley was involved in the ambush of his brothers.  Holliday and Earp shot a man five times in the back, a Hispanic named Florentino Cruz, in a case of mistaken identity.  Holliday and Earp entered Tucson and shot another man in the back five times.  The murder of former deputy sheriff, Frank Stilwell, brought murder charges against the pair, and three others, Earp and Holliday successful fled to the border with a posse in pursuit.  Somehow, with Eastern people treating this lawlessness as heroic, they displayed less class and honesty than Arizonans themselves. 


Tucson was not the ‘Wild West’ where people could simply enter and murder indiscriminately.  Tucson citizens were outraged along with the media.  The Tucson Daily Star published an angry editorial about Earp and Holliday:  “Their paths are strewn with blood.”  Doc Holliday was eventually arrested for vagrancy in Colorado and charged with five murders.  It was the Frank Stilwell killing that was most prominent.  Wyatt Earp pleaded with his respected and famous lawyer friend, Bat Masterson, to request Colorado’s governor to ignore Arizona’s extradition request.  Masterson had great respect for Earp from their days as Kansas law enforcement officials.  Masterson despised Doc Holliday, and likely thought he deserved the hanging awaiting him in Tucson, but convinced the governor that Holliday would not receive a fair trial.



James J. Corbett

James J. Corbett

The final player of the 1896 boxing scandal is former undefeated Champion, James Corbett. He had decided it was premature and a mistake to have surrendered such a prestigious and lucrative position as Heavyweight Champion. Corbett had made it clear pre-fight that he wanted an opportunity to face the winner and Champion in order to regain his title.


Corbett, no fan of Fitzsimmons, offered his opinion, without having seen the bout, that he believed the disqualification of Fitzsimmons by referee Earp was legitimate. Corbett told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle the day following the bout that he believed Fitzsimmons felt the fight was slipping from his grasp, and as he landed a left hook to chin, simultaneous landed an intentional knee to groin so fast that spectators could not witness this devastating foul. The main problem with this theory is that none of the principals, or referee Earp, had suggested that Fitzsimmons landed a knee to groin.


Corbett’s timing to reenter the ring, along with a desired resolution of the scandal, proved fortuitous for boxing. With utter refusal by both public and media to acknowledge Sharkey as Champion, and no legal recourse for Sharkey, an unprecedented decision in the history of sports resolved the matter and lessened the taint of scandal:  James Corbett remains undefeated Heavyweight Champion. History was re-written so that Corbett never ‘retired’ for stage acting and simply received a break from boxing. Corbett was more than willing to accept this arrangement, since it placed him back into a power position, but it was understood that his first defense must be against Fitzsimmons. A previous guaranteed $25,000 purse for a 20 round bout would be accepted by both pugilists.

This meant that Tom Sharkey was not the heavyweight Champion, because the Fitzsimmons/Sharkey battle was not a title bout. This meant that neither Bob Fitzsimmons (1896) nor Peter Maher (1896) had been heavyweight Champions because their previous title bouts were not. This means that the last heavyweight Champion from Ireland remained Paddy Ryan (1880-82). 



(3/17/1897)        Champion James Corbett vs.  Bob Fitzsimmons  
Location: Carson City, Nevada.  Because of the many delays, often because of law enforcement, and mutual venomous remarks, it has become one of the most anticipated bouts in American history.  The crowd was a smaller 5000 persons.  It was the first filmed heavyweight title bout.  It would be released as a movie in its entirety. ‘Moving Pictures’ averaged 1-3 minutes in length.  This film would dramatically alter the new art form.  It would ultimately be the #1 movie in America released at an unprecedented 97 minutes in length.  Following the referee’s instructions, the Champion attempts to shake hands, but an angry Fitzsimmons refuses.
Round 6:  Fitzsimmons has both gloves outstretched as he attempts to force the Champion backwards. Champion pushes forward and slips under the outstretched gloves with a right that lands to jaw. The boxers clinch. Fitzsimmons breaks the clinch and backs. Champion steps forward and lands a right to chin.  Fitzsimmons backs.  Champion steps forward with light left jab to face.  Champion follows with a harder right that lands to head.  Boxers clinch and wrestle before separation.  Champion bobs gloves as he steps forward with a left, right combo that lands to chin.  Fitzsimmons is unsuccessful with defense blocks.  Champion lands a right, left, right punch combination to head – Fitzsimmons unsuccessful at grabbing his foe - falls to the ground onto his butt.  Referee Siler pushes the Champion back  ‘1,2’.  Referee Siler pushes the Champion back – ‘3,4’.  Fitzsimmons alert as he temporarily rests – ‘5,6,7’.  Fitzsimmons rises to feet.   Champion steps forward.  Fitzsimmons lands a left to jaw. Fitzsimmons follows with a right to head that grazes. Champion backs.
Round 14:   Champion pushes the challenger backward and extends a left jab to face.  Fitzsimmons surges forward with an attempted body shot.  Champion wraps his arm around Fitzsimmons’ head and pulls the smaller Englishman into a clinch. An annoyed Fitzsimons presses his arm into the Champion’s neck.  The boxers separate from their clinch.  Champion throws a left to head – misses – wraps his arm around Fitzsimmons’ neck. The boxers separate from a brief clinch.  Fitzsimmons steps forward with a short left that lands to the Champion’s jaw.  Champion’s head is snapped back as he is rocked backward several steps.  Fitzsimmons steps forward and pushes the Champion backward.  Both stalk one another. Champion steps forward to throw a left punch to head.  Fitzsimmons quickly leans forward with a left punch that lands to body - Champion drops to his knees before falling flat onto the ground.  Referee Siler pushes an anxious Fitzsimmons backward.  Champion is winded and cannot breathe.  The count begins: ‘1,2’. Champion is desperate and unable to rise. Fitzsimmons attempts to sneak through the referee: ‘3,4’. Champion begins crawling across the ring. Fitzsimmons bounces on feet as he hovers over the Champion: ‘5,6,7’.  Fitzsimmons prepares a right punch once the American’s knees are off the ground.  Champion attempts to crawl toward the ropes so he can pull himself onto his feet: ‘8,9’.   Fitzsimmons recognizes the Champion is too far away from the ropes to beat the count.  The Englishman lowers his gloves and relaxes.  Champion surrenders by collapsing flat onto the ground: ‘10’.  Referee Siler waves hands. Bout over.   KNOCKOUT!


James Corbett post bout comment:  “I made a mistake in not keeping away.  Fitzsimmons, I knew to be a terrible puncher, but I never calculated on his being able to reach me….  He whipped me fair and square.”


Bob Fitzsimmons post bout comment:  “I never saw such a clever man in my life.  He got away from me time and time again when I thought I had him dead to rights.  I knew I could wear him out, and so I kept coming right along until my opportunity arrived.”
Brooklyn Daily Eagle:  “The fight has removed the bogus ‘Gentleman’ fighter from public view.  Hereafter if Corbett fights, he will not be accepted at his own estimate.  The man who spat in Fitzsimmons face while the latter’s arms were held, the ‘Gentleman Jim’ who taunted John L. Sullivan with unprintable epithets when Sullivan was at his mercy at New Orleans, the self styled ‘Gentleman’ whose everyday language reeks of the slang of the slums, will hereafter be known for what he really is - a common bruiser… (Fitzsimmons) triumph is not popular because of any regard of his personality.  He will be accorded a moderate amount of respect because he laid low a braggart, who has irritated great masses of people by his vast conceit.”




Bat Masterson, a 20th century New York sportswriter, published a letter from Wyatt Earp.  It was dated December 24th, 1909, from Parker, Arizona.  Earp was hoping to publicly explain that he did not need the $2500 that was his profit from the 1896 disqualification.  “At the time of the Fitzsimmons-Sharkey fight, I owned and raced a stable of thoroughbreds on the tracks at Oakland and Ingle Side.  I was living at the Baldwin Hotel, and occupied a fine suite of rooms for which I paid promptly….  Take my tip, Bat, and never referee a prizefight.  It’s a thankless job, and you’ll be sure to make enemies no matter how fairly and honestly you may act.”


New York Times (7/23/1911):  “Earp’s Faro Plan Fails….  Marshal who disqualified Fitzsimmons arrested in raid….  (Los Angeles, California, July 22nd).  Wyatt Earp, Arizona Marshal of early days, who in 1896, as a prize fight referee disqualified Bob Fitzsimmons for a doubtful foul and awarded a decision to Tom Sharkey, was remanded to prison to-day for failure to produce $500 bond for his arraignment on a ‘get-rich-quick’ charge.  Earp and his two companions, Walter Scott and E. Dunne, who are also in jail, will plead next Tuesday.  J.Y. Peterson, a realty broker, told detectives that Earp had unfolded to him a scheme to break a faro bank which Earp was operating as an employee.  According to Peterson he was to appear in the gambling room with $2,500, and by means of marked cards was to be permitted to win $4,000, to be shared with Earp, Scott and Dunne.  Peterson pretended to acquiesce in the arrangement, but when the big winning was to have taken place detectives whom he had previously informed raided the place.  The faro outfit was confiscated.” 

Down goes Frazier! 'The Sunshine Showdown'
Last of the bare-knuckle championships
Death of an Irish pugilist
Sharkey-Corbett: A battle of unbeatens
200 years ago ... without gloves
The final interview of legend Al Fenn, manager of Zora Foley

Johnson vs. Jeffries, the 100th anniversary
Sonny Banks, who died fighting, would have been 70

Wyatt Earp's boxing scandal, 1896




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 Christopher James Shelton is a product of the American West Coast. He has lived in Los Angeles and San Ysidro, California, Tijuana , Mexico, and currently resides in Phoenix, Arizona. 

Shelton was the editor of CHEEERS Soundboard, the first solely written/produced mental health recovery center newsletter in America.  He has several credits as researcher/writer/interviewer for CyberBoxingZone including: “Scandal In San Francisco (1896).” “The Last Bareknuckle Championship Bout (1889)” and “The Art and Science of Daniel Mendoza.”

  His research discovery credits include 19th century pugilists George Godfrey, Professor Hadley, Tom Hyer, John L. Sullivan and Jake Kilrain.  Family interviews, mixed with historical research, include lightweights Jack Britton and Billy Hawkins. 

Shelton conducted the final interview with legendary Phoenix manager Al Fenn, and asked candid questions about George Foreman and H.I.V. with former heavyweight champion Tommy Morrison.  HIs favorite historical article, “124-year-old woman challenges John L. Sullivan for the title," recounts the life story of a feisty 19th-century female slave named Sylvie Dubois.


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Christopher Shelton's own amazing story

Contact Christopher Shelton


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