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Thursday, June 10, 2010

1883-10-02 Charley Mitchell D-PTS7 William Sheriff (Queens, NY, USA)

1883-10-03 The New York Herald (New York, NY) (page 4)
Mitchell and Sheriff Spar Seven Rounds at Flushing.
Three Hundred Disgusted Ten Dollar Spectators.
"Pier No. 39 East River, at three o'clock this afternoon," was the information vouchsafed to all who cared to ask yesterday morning for the "tip" to see the glove fight between Charles Mitchell and his fellow countryman, William Sheriff. These English pugilists have been in the country for some months; they came here with the reputation of being the best obtainable specimens from that hotbed of the prize ring, the "Brummagem" district. Mitchell had conquered everybody, and was imported for the purpose of pulverizing John L. Sullivan. He made a beginning by stopping Mike Cleary, who was a "coming man" because he defeated a pugilist who had been beaten by nearly every one he met. Mitchell was then accommodated by Sullivan, and his English and Cleary reputation vanished into thin air. Next he was matched against the Maori to fight with the bare knuckles, but that affair fizzled out, and the match with Sheriff was made. The latter has been bidding for American notoriety since his arrival last July, aiming his challenges at Sullivan, but failing to get recognition took up with smaller game. The agreement was to have a select party of fifty spectators, twenty-five a side, and fight in private. This was a bluff to catch the gentlemen who would not patronize an out and out prize fight, with all its brutal accompaniments, but would attend anything very select. The bait took capitally, and yesterday afternoon, instead of the modest half hundred assembled at pier 39, there were five times as many. The tariff was $10 a ticket. That was of course an additional indication that it must be a good fight. Having seen to it, by the aid of five scrutinizers on the gangplank, that no one got on board minus his ten dollar passport, and having waited the arrival of any late comer, the hawsers were taken in and the boat steamed up the East River bound for Flushing Bay. The crowd on board as an eminently respectable one, a sprinkling of bankers, a goodly representation from the Stock Exchange, men known in arts, sciences and literature, and here and there a little of the leaven of the prize ring. The only incident of the trip was the hailing of the steamer by a steam yacht after passing through Hell Gate and the taking on board half a dozen holders of ten dollar tickets.

The fight was not the sole topic of conversation, but when touched upon it was evident that the speakers had made up their minds that something memorable was about to be witnessed. It cost only a matter of $2 to see Sullivan pulverize his opponent at Madison Square Garden, and five times that amount of fun was to be witnessed on this occasion to make up for the additional outlay. More scrutiny of tickets took place on disembarking at the scene of the fight, and then there was a rush for eligible positions by the ring side. The orthodox stakes and ropes were already set up on the turf, and around these the augmented crowd of three hundred took up their positions. They were not kept long in suspense, for soon Mitchell forced his way to the ropes and stepped inside, attended by Billy Madden and Joe Coburn, and hardly were they inside before Sheriff, with Arthur Chambers and Billy Edwards, followed. Harry Hill was referee, and as timekeepers there were Barney Aaron and Mike Coburn--altogether an array of pugilistic talent within the squared circle which presaged business. Sponges and buckets of water to wash off the blood which was about to flow, bottles of brandy and other mysterious compounds to revive the exhausted gladiators were also provided, and among the spectators were a sufficient number of disciples of Esculapius to attend to the about-to-be-fractured limbs.

Amid a silence almost painful in its intensity the men stripped, revealing their muscular development, brought to a state of perfection by a course of abstinence and severe work. Time was called at twenty minutes past five o'clock, and, with the alacrity which bespeaks the buoyancy of a well trained man, they stepped to the "scratch" and shook hands with their glove-guarded fists, while the seconds went through the same symbol of fraternal regard. Everything pertaining to the traditions of the ring were scrupulously carried out, and then the seconds withdrew and the men stood alone in the centre of the ring while the spectators nerved themselves to witness the first knockdown blow. They waited ten seconds while the men squared away and made weaving motions with their arms. They waited twenty seconds, thirty seconds, and still the two men kept weaving their arms about. Then the champion of all England gathered himself together to deal the paralyzing blow. He thought better of it; he would allow Mr. Sheriff yet a few seconds longer before he sent him to sleep, so he drew back a few steps and smiled. Mr. Sheriff seemed grateful for Mr. Mitchell's kindness, and he in turn consumed several seconds in making threatening demonstrations toward the champion of all England. Then Mr. Mitchell playfully tapped Mr. Sheriff on the nose and jumped back and smiled again. Now they sparred until they recovered their wind, suffering from the effects of the introductory movements, and having done so Mr. Mitchell approached closer to his antagonist. The nervous motion of his arms and the rising muscles on his thighs as he grasped the turf with his spiked shoes to get a good purchase for the delivery of a double distilled thunderbolt bespoke no good to his bullnecked adversary. Like an arrow he shot his clenched fist toward and landed it on Mr. Sheriff's face, but it did not seem to inconvenience the latter very much. The spectators looked on, watching in silence this profound display of sparring. Where was the blood-stained cestus, where the knock-down blows and the knocking out for which they had paid their $10? Neither one nor the other did they see in the first round, at the completion of which the men walked to their corners as fresh as daisies and were sponged and rubbed down as if they had just emerged from the most trying ordeal. The second round was a repetition of the first, and the third was likewise. Twelve minutes in the ring and still the gloves preserved their spotless purity, and neither of the men had visited mother earth. Another round of three minutes and people began to inquire what kind of a game this was. Ten dollars for a Sunday school picnic is an expensive frivolity the gentlemen gathered on the Flushing greensward are averse to indulging in. In the fifth round excitement rose to fever heat, because Messrs. Mitchell and Sheriff, the creme de la creme of English pugilists, delivered two blows each in rapid succession. Now the men were warming to their work and they were actually going to fight. But the trying ordeal necessitated sparring for wind and with now and again a tap, the round ended, and after a minute's interval the do-or-die gladiators stood up for the sixth round. They worried through that in the same way as the others, and at the end of it had performed all the articles of agreement called for.


Harry Hill, who, like everybody else, expected to see a fight, was nonplussed. This was a new revelation to him, and he was at a loss what to do. The lookers-on relieved him of his trouble by displaying their first sign of boisterousness and demanding that the men should fight it out. Another round was ordered and sparred through and still the cry arose, "Fight it out." The defalcation was now in Mitchell's corner, Madden, his second, declining on account of a weak wrist to allow Mitchell to go on. This was Sheriff's opportunity, and his advisers and seconds loudly demanded the continuance of the encounter, while Madden called for a decision from the referee. That official, with a rare sense of humor, put the climax to affairs by announcing that "Mitchell had the best of the fight, but my decision is that it is a draw."

It was now rapidly getting dark, and as the men put on their coats to leave the ring the befooled three hundred freely expressed themselves on the subject of prize fighting in general and Messrs. Mitchell and Sheriff in particular. "Call that a fight? Why, you will see better in New York every night for ten cents. It is a dead swindle to take $10 for such a show," exclaimed an athletic stock broker. Nothing could be done after that but make for the Flushing Railway station, the only ones left behind being the pugilists and those interested in the division of the spoils.

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