“There was no occasion for surprise in the announcement from the police department that a prize fight had been fought just outside the city limits a few nights ago. The scarcity of events of this character is the only feature that should excite wonder. When the reforming busy-bodies killed legitimate boxing in this city several months ago the ‘Advertiser’ expressed the belief that brutal private encounters would succeed the more scientific form of the sport.”
– Trenton Evening Times, 1902
“The long-pending prize fight between John L. Sullivan, the noted pugilist, of Boston, and John Flood, of this city, was decided last night on Hudson River, nine miles above Yonkers. The men fought on board a barge.”
– Jackson Citizen Patriot, out of New York, 1881
“The fatal ending will have the effect of putting the lid down tight on boxing contests in western Canada … In discussing the case tonight the crown prosecutor said all prize fighting is illegal under the statutes of Canada.”
– Plain Dealer, 1913, in reporting on the mid-fight death of Luther McCarty
“The rumor went on to state that after the dark glove artists had exchanged a few sanitary wallops in the twelfth of the argument which was being carried out in a scow on the St. Louis river, an obdurate minion of the law in the person of Sheriff Carlson of Douglas County, Wisc., stepped in and clogged the whole works, the bout being called a draw at this point.”
– Duluth News-Tribune, 1909, on George Gunther and Walter Whitehead’s illegal prizefight
“The action of the state’s attorney of Chittenden County in prohibiting boxing bouts within the city limits of Burlington, following the distressing affair in which an under-classman of the University of Vermont lost his life during ‘Proc’ night festivities, is natural enough, but it is not necessary to give the sport of boxing a black eye because of one unfortunate accident.”
– Rutland Herald, 1920
“Joe Choynski and Jim Corbett fought this morning on a barge off Dillow’s Point, near Benicia. Corbett wore two-ounce gloves and Choynski skin-tight driving gloves, as the others had been lost.”
– Philadelphia Inquirer, 1889
So the sport has come full circle, or perhaps a few circles. From a vicious taboo often driven from dry land, or to places beyond the realm of sovereignty, and through various “golden ages,” to where we sit now: a hollowed-out alcove of the sporting realm.
Various catalysts along the way have pushed boxing into the spotlight, or yanked it from the good graces of the average citizen. Violent political conflicts, financial stagnation and decline, civil unrest and even social reform have all affected the momentum of pugilism in ways obvious and abstract. It endured, however, and still manages to stimulate deeply suppressed surges of fancy on occasion.
The above quotes are a reflection of our roles in boxing — past, present and future.