Saturday, 25 June 2011

Secret Boxing Match - 1886

“In the faint grey of light of dawn yesterday, groups of men emerged from the house and streets of the city and climbed the mountain steps. When the summit was reached, they waited around for upwards of an hour, glancing suspiciously at one another and exchanging remarks under their breath. Their talk was evidently about a fight that was going to take place and which they had come to witness.”
                             In the 24-foot Ring : Prize Fight Near Hamilton Yesterday
                                Hamilton Spectator. August 3, 1886

          When the crimson sky in the east brightened into gold, the sixty or seventy men gathered on the mountain brow began to grow restive. A difficulty over money had prevented the fight’s organizers from proceeding.
          Finally, the crowd was invited to enter a large barn in a nearby field, with each person obliged to show a red ticket for he had previously purchased for a dollar.
          However, the fight did not take place in the barn. As noted by the Spectator reporter observing the proceedings noted, “the invitation into that convenient edifice was merely a bluff to draw money from several persons who wanted to see the show for nothing.”
          After the crowd filed out of the barn, two men in a buggy dove up and told the crowd to follow them.
          The Spectator man later wrote that the route taken led the party off the beaten track, “they drove down up the stone road running south from the Mountain View hotel, and about a quarter mile from the hotel, alighted, tied the horse to a fence and crossed a field to the left.”
          After another field and some woods were crossed, the party came to an area where a space had been cleared for the fight. The reporter observed that “stakes were driven into the ground and ropes stretched from stake to stake until a 24-foot ring was completed.”
          When the fight was about to begin, nearly one hundred men were present, but each one who was asked to act as a referee for the fight refused point-blank.
          The fighters then declared their intention to go on with the match anyway, leaving it up to the crowd as a whole to decide the outcome of the match. Given that decision, an east end market gardener reluctantly agreed to accept the duty of refereeing the fight.
          The match was then ready to begin.
          The combatants were not well-matched in size.
          Jack Dempsey, of Detroit, was the larger of the two at 5 feet, 6 inches in height and 130 pounds in weight. The other fighter, Enoch Taylor, a young Englishman currently living in Hamilton, was only 5 feet 2 inches in height and 110 pounds in weight.
          Just before the start of the match, Enoch Taylor was interviewed by the Spectator reporter.
          “I haven’t had half an hour’s training for this fight,” he claimed. “My brother is the only person in Hamilton that I care to spare with for practice, and I haven’t been able to practice with him on account of an accident that happened to his hand two or three days ago. If I’m beaten, it’s because my wind won’t hold out – that’s all I’m afraid of.”
          After both men, in the words of the reporter, “stripped to the buff,” the fight began. It seemed that Dempsey, despite being handicapped by a broken bone in his right forearm, would have things very much his own way.
          In the Spectator writer’s account of the match, he wrote : “ one of his (Dempsey’s) tremendous body blows caught Taylor just above the belt. Taylor gasped and uttered a long groan and retched as f about to vomit; he staggered back and reeled, but recovered just in time to dodge a blow that would have landed on his jugular and probably would have laid him out.”
          After the third round, Taylor seemed to recover his wind and his determination, inflicting a deep cut on Dempsey’s lower lip.
          The action was savage for the rest of the bout, with Taylor seeming to get fresher with each passing round.
          At the end of the match, the two combatants were described in some detail by the man from the Spec : “when the fight was over, Dempsey’s face, neck and breast were covered with blood and his face was puffy and bruised; the only mark on Taylor’s face was the cut on his left temple, but his chest and sides bore the marks of hard punishment.”
          Enoch Taylor was more closely examined a few minutes later, and it was discovered that one of Dempsey’s harder blows, aimed at his opponent’s body, missed, and connected instead with Taylor’s head. Taylor’s right forearm, which already had one minor broken bone, was found to have two broken bones, causing him to be unable to use his right glove at all.
          The ultimate decision on the fight was that it was a draw.
          As described by the reporter, “both men took the decision philosophically. With the assistance of their seconds, they dressed hastily; the stakes were drawn, and the crowd had dispersed before the mists had rolled away from the hillside.”

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