No. 499
Crime, Eccentricity, and the Sporting Life in 19th Century America.
November 26, 2020

Fight of the Century!

On St. Patrick’s Day, 1897, “Ruby” Robert Fitzsimmons challenged “Gentleman” Jim Corbett for the heavyweight boxing championship of the world.
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Fight of the Century!

The Great
Corbett - Fitzsimmons
Championship Bout!

Carson City, Nevada, March 17, 1897 – Much of the world had its attention focused on Carson City, Nevada, where “Gentleman” Jim Corbett would be defending his heavyweight championship against “Ruby” Robert Fitzsimmons. Billed as the "Fight of the Century," there was bad blood going in. Corbett had been refusing Fitzsimmons’ challenges for several years and at one point had nearly retired without defending his title, but Fitzsimmons had raised the necessary cash and Corbett finally accepted the challenge. Finding a venue for the fight had been a problem too. The sport was denounced as barbaric from pulpit and podium and most states had outlawed prizefighting. But Nevada hit hard by the Depression of 1893 and the falling price of silver welcomed the crowds and their money.

The date set for the fight was March 17, St. Patrick’s Day. In Carson City that night, Bob Fitzsimmons, the skinny, freckled, New Zealander, kissed his wife, Rose, and entered the ring a solid underdog. Much of the fight resembled the animation above with the two men evenly matched. Then In the sixth round, Corbett had Fitzsimmons bloodied, on his knees, but it was not enough.

In the fourteenth round, Rose came to the ropes and shouted, “Hit him in the slats, Bob." Fitzsimmons punched Gentleman Jim at the bottom of the rib cage, knocking his wind out. The Gentleman hit the canvas and ten seconds later Ruby Robert Fitzsimmons was the heavyweight champion of the world.

The Animation

The animated picture above comes from the Cincinnati Post, March 18, 1897. Their coverage of the fight included a strip of images across the bottom of the page:

fight1

The Post urged their readers to construct a kinetoscope to view the images.

Kinetiscope
 

Before now, only a handful of industrious, 19th century, Cincinnati boys, who actually built a kinetoscope, could see Corbett and Fitzsimmons duke it out round after round. But now, with the miracle of digital animation, everyone can see it without lifting a finger. That’s progress.

Winsor McCay, cartoonist and animation pioneer, was a freelance artist in Cincinnati at the time. It is possible (but unverified) that the animated fight was his work.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Cincinnati Post, March 18, 1897