Friday, 19 May 2017

1886 - Prize Fight

As a crowd of well-known Hamilton ‘sports’ gathered in the downtown Hamilton, they were joined by a reporter from the Hamilton Spectator. Whether that reporter had been informed of the purpose of the gathering, his counterpart was not present and maybe not have been informed of what was about to transpire.
The following is the account of the event as reported in the Spectator of August 3, 1886:
“In the faint gray of dawn yesterday, groups of men emerged from the houses and streets of the city and climbed the James street 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.
“Presently the crimson in the eastern horizon brightened into gold, and suddenly the sun loomed majestically up and poured a flood of light over the city that lay peacefully nestled at the foot of the mountain. The bright light of day seemed to have an awakening influence on the two or three score gathered on the mountain brow. They talked louder and with greater confidence, and some began to inquire, in a bustling way, how much longer would they have to wait anyway. There was evidently some difficulty about money, for the half dozen or so sports who appeared to have the thing in charge, eagerly and rather sullenly, discussed among themselves whether it was worthwhile going on with it before such a small crowd. It was finally decided to go on, and the crowd was invited to enter a large barn nearby. Most of the crowd did so, and each person who went in, was obliged to show a red ticket for which he had paid one dollar.
“But the event did not take place in the barn. The invitation into that convenient edifice was merely a bluff to draw money from several persons who waited to see the show for nothing. The crowd filed out again. Presently two men drove up in a buggy and told the crowd to follow them. They drove up the stone road running south from the Mountain View Hotel, and, about a quarter of a mile from the hotel, alighted, tied the horse to a fence, and crossed the field to the left. A straggling procession followed them. There was another field to cross, then a wooden shed was entered; and here, in a small, cleared space, surrounded by trees, was gathered a group of men with eager, expectant faces. It looked like a prize fight. Stakes were driven into the ground and ropes stretched from stake to stake until a 24 foot ring was completed. It certainly was to be a prize fight. Yes, it was a prize fight.
“While by far the majority of Hamilton’s citizens were in bed, a stubbornly-contested fight was fought in a 24 foot prize ring with two ounce gloves, according to Queensbury rules. It was a 10 round battle. The principals were Jack Dempsey, of Detroit, Mich., and Enoch Taylor, of Hamilton. Dempsey is the man who fought with Harry Gilmore near Detroit early this year and was badly beaten by the redoubtable little Canadian.
“Taylor is a young Englishman,  a mechanic, who works regularly at his trade of file making, but who is also well known in local pugilistic circles as a semi-professional and a very expert sparrer. Yesterday’s work proved him to be not only a capital sparrer, but a gamey little man, with good staying powers.
“Nearly a hundred men were gathered about the ring, nearly all of them fairly competent judges of sparring; but, each one who was asked as referee, refused point blank. Another long delay occurred on this account. Then the men stripped and declared their intention to fight anyhow, and leave the decision to the crowd. At length, an east end merchant, who is a strong admirer of this branch of sport, reluctantly consented to officiate as referee and as this was the only preliminary that remained unarranged, the fight proceeded.
“The men were not well-matched in size and weight. Dempsey is 5 feet 6 inches high, and weighs about 130 pounds; Taylor is only 5 feet 2 inches in height, and on Saturday weighed exactly 110 pounds. Taylor, who is 22 years old, is a younger man than Dempsey by at least two or three years. Both men went into the fight handicapped – Dempsey with a stiff right arm, one of the lower bones having been broken in a fight some six weeks ago; and Taylor said to the SPECTATOR reporter (who, by the way, was the only newspaper man on the ground), ‘I haven’t had half an hour’s training for this fight. My brother is the only person in Hamilton I care to spar 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.”
“Both men stripped to the buff. Dempsey appeared to be in better condition than Taylor, his skin being pinker and his muscles apparently harder. Dempsey’s right forearm was purple and sore-looking, but for the first four rounds, it didn’t seem to bother him much. Taylor wore dark blue breeches, and Dempsey linen ones. Taylor’s seconds were his two brothers, who seemed to understand the business thoroughly; Fred Bell, a sparrer of local celebrity seconded Dempsey.
“At the outset, it looked very much as if Dempsey were going to have it all his own way. He looked so much bigger than his adversary, and his reach was much longer, that the odds appeared too great in his favor. In the first three rounds, Dempsey had a decided advantage. He forced the fighting, and his tactics appeared to wind Taylor. This he nearly succeeded in doing in the second round. One of his tremendous body blows caught Taylor just above the belt. Taylor gasped and uttered a long groan, and twitched as if 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 have laid him out. Time was called at this critical juncture, and Taylor had a chance to recover his wind.
“In the next round, Taylor guarded his body carefully, and fought on the defensive, Dempsey forcing him several times to the ropes. First blood was drawn from Taylor in this round : he received an ugly cut on his left temple. Though the fighting was in Dempsey’s favor throughout the greater part of the third round, it was evident that Taylor was rapidly pulling himself together, and when time was called, he turned tables on the big fellow and forced him on to the ropes near his own corner. There was very hard in-fighting in the fourth, and before it was over, blood was flowing freely from a cut on Dempsey’s under lip. After this, the fighting was very savage, but most of the heavy punishment was received by Dempsey. Each round was repetition of the last until the close; Taylor pounding Dempsey in the face until it was covered in blood – a sickening sight; Dempsey aiming savage body blows at Taylor and countering rather lightly, evidently getting in distress towards the last, while Taylor appeared to grow fresher with each round.
“When the fight was over, Dempsey’s face, neck and breast were covered with blood and his neck 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. It was noticed that after the fourth round, Dempsey used his right very little. The reason was explained when the fight was over.
“After he and Taylor had shaken hands, Dempsey said to his antagonist : ‘Say, I’ve been fighting you ever since the fourth round with a broken arm.’ This was true. His right forearm which was still weak from the last fight, was broken into places by a blow which he aimed at Taylor’s neck, but which Taylor dodged and took on the head. The arm was terribly swollen. Dempsey had said nothing about his misfortune, but had fought six rounds with his arm useless before him.
“The fight resulted in a draw, the referee deciding that Dempsey had had the advantage in the first four rounds, and that Taylor had not shown sufficient superiority in the following rounds to outweigh this advantage. 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.
“The fight proved that Taylor is more than a match for Dempsey in science, and can hit as hard. If the fight had been to a finish, Taylor would undoubtedly had won it. Even if Dempsey had complete use of both arms, it is probable that Taylor with his superior skill, would prove more than a match for him.
“If it had been arranged that the winner should get 60 per cent of the receipts, and the loser 40 per cent; but as the fight resulted in a draw, the receipts were divided equally.”1
1  “In the 24 Foot Ring : Prize Fight Near Hamilton Yesterday.”
Hamilton Spectator.   August  03, 1886.

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