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Thursday, April 14, 2011

1898-04-14 Joe Walcott D-PTS25 Mysterious Billy Smith [Park City Theater, Bridgeport, CT, USA]

1898-04-15 New York Evening Journal (New York, NY) (page 9)
A Rattling Battle, with Chances Constantly Changing.
Negro Fighter Butts His Antagonist, but Referee Austin Says Nothing.
The twenty-five-round fight between "Mysterious" Billy Smith and Joe Walcott was declared a draw. Sam Austin, an experienced referee, gave the decision. Joe Humphreys announced it.

It was at Bridgeport, Conn., last night, held under the auspices of the Horizon A. C., of which Jack Rose is the manager. Many of the spectators disagreed with the verdict of Referee Austin, conscientious as Austin is always, and capable as he is, as a rule.

It was a bout of longer duration than is on the carpet in the boxing events of the present day. Both contestants had faithfully trained for the fray. Each side was sure of winning. When gray-haired O'Rourke brought his black man into the arena, he was, apparently, so sure of winning that he took with him only one assistant--a able (sp?), but very old racetrack tout, who is known as "Papa Joe," and perhaps older than O'Rourke.

When Smith emerged from his dressing room he had four men with him. What they all were needed for it was not easy to see, but they were all there when Billy took his seat in a corner, fanning, sponging, rubbing, and whispering. It may be that Smith had two much help. Everyone remembers the saying about too many cooks.

Before these stars went on, there was a preliminary bout between Max Roth, of New York, and Billy Needham, a brother of Danny, lightweights, which ended in as clean a knockout as was ever seen. Needham cracked Roth in elegant style, at the opening of the bout, but only for a brief period. After that Roth sailed in, and after knocking his man down twice, let go a right-hander on the jaw, which sent Needham down and on his face, thoroughly sleepy, at the expiration of two minutes and forty seconds.

Walcott Uses His Head.

The Smith-Walcott affair was different. It lasted longer, and there were variations in the appearances of things. Smith had all the better of the first few rounds. In the sixth round Walcott used his head three times in palpable offence, but the referee tolerated it. It looked as though Austin wanted to give each man, both of whom have had reputations as foul fighters, a chance to redeem himself. If that was Referee Austin's purpose it was generous on his part. No doubt that if either one of these hitherto notorious foul fighters had been disqualified for foul methods, his career would have come to a comma, if not a period. Anyhow, the referee let Walcott continue.

At the same time it may be said that if the referee had disqualified Walcott in the sixth round nobody who had eyes on the black man's head and apparent intentions could have sincerely objected to a disqualification.

Billy Smith, this man who has the reputation of being one of the foulest fighters in the world, fought fair and square. In every clinch he used left and right for all they were worth at close quarters, but when told to "break" his hands were at two points of the compass so quickly that it was impossible to take exception to his methods.

It was a hard fight. Both men were trained to the hour, and both fought for all they were worth. It was a hammer and smash affair, and neither yielded an inch. Sometimes one would be ahead and then the other.

Smith Ahead for Six Rounds.

Smith certainly was ahead for six rounds. The crowd appreciated that, and let William know it. Then came the butting by Walcott, and the crowd said nothing. They did not like it, but preferred, perhaps, to let the black man have every chance.

From the eighth round to the fifteenth matters were very even. Walcott did land some tremendously stiff body blows, but in the clinches--and they were allowed to fight with one arm free--Smith did good work with his right on the face. Perhaps he would have done better by going for the wind, but as it was he damaged the negro.

In the sixteenth round Walcott planted a couple of beauties. One left hook on Smith's jaw was a rattler. Smith was hurt by it. After a mix-up in which Walcott used his head, Smith called the attention of the referee to the foul act, but Austin paid no attention to the claim, and the crowd laughed at Smith.

Later on Walcott razzle-dazzled Smith by half a dozen hard body punches. Smith stood them all well, and came out for the twenty-fourth round full of vigor. He crashed into the black man in that round and the twenty-fifth.

Walcott was always there, and ready with a return, if not the initiative blow, but he perceptibly weakened in the last two rounds.

It was great boxing, most of the spectators said. When Announcer Humphreys made it known that the referee called it a draw a great shout went up. There were a few hisses from the friends of Smith, who had fought as fairly as any man ever did, but it is impossible to please everybody. As the referee had passed over that sixth round and let the play proceed, he could do nothing else than make it a draw.

1898-04-17 Bridgeport Herald (Bridgeport, CT) (page 9)
"Mysterious" Billy Smith has demonstrated beyond the shadow of a doubt that he is as fair a boxer as ever scraped the sole of a shoe in the resin of a prize ring. He did this Thursday night when he and Joe Walcott met in a twenty-five round contest in Bridgeport under the auspices of the Horizon Athletic club. Smith has made a great many friends by his ring work on that night. Sporting men had lost confidence in him in a great measure, fearing that he would foul and lose their money bet on him. But by his behavior in the ring Thursday night he has regained their confidence and in the future Billy Smith should have no difficulty in finding plenty of men to back him for any amount.

The contrast between this contest of Smith's and Walcott's and the fifteen round draw they fought in Boston in 1895 was so great as to be remarked by everyone familiar with the two fights. No more foul boxing contest ever occured than the one in Boston between Smith and Walcott and yet at the contest in Bridgeport Thursday night there was never a fairer fight. Smith went out of his way to be free from all semblance of doing anything like dirty work. Walcott was clean also, with the exception of one back heel turn he gave Smith and a few butts in the breast.

There was little money bet on the fight, and what little there was was even. The men began the contest warily for the first minute, each one realizing that there would be a hard fight ahead and each was cautious about making a mistake. Smith got in the first blow, a left on Walcott's wind. The colored man followed him close and Smith was on the defensive much of the time, but he acted wisely in doing this, for every time Walcott made a lead and came close enough Smith would come in close and plant left and right on his stomach and kidneys. At infighting Smith was par excellence. Walcott had no chance to turn an ace at this work with Smith. For fifteen rounds Smith landed two blows to one on Walcott, principally on his wind. They were not taps of affection either, many of them, but hard hooks and swings, for Billy is not much on straight jabs. And right here I want to note something which I think will be found true if ever the time comes to demonstrate it. It is this: Any man with a good stiff straight jab can put Joe Walcott out of business. With such a jab as George Siddons has with his left Walcott would be easy. Smith is more on the style of a full arm, swinging, knockout fighter, effective, and terribly so, if he lands but he misses frequent opportunities for straight leading that would assist him very materially in outpointing his opponent.

Smith was tired at fifteen rounds and then Walcott was sent in to rush him. He followed his instructions well and for eight rounds had the best of the contest. He landed a ripping right swing on Smith's jaw about the twentieth round that sent Billy groggy and it looked as if he would go out. But Billy showed great head work in this trouble and managed to keep away until the gong sounded and the minute rest brought him around all right, though weak. For two rounds he then danced around Walcott, the colored man being unable to catch him. There were those in the house who urged Smith to "stand up and fight and not run away," but Smith very wisely turned a deaf ear to such foolish advice, although the referee was inclined to push him into the center two or three times. Smith would have been an idiot to have followed such instructions at that time. He showed that he had a good head on him in keeping away from Walcott for the next two rounds, thereby getting his strength back. When the twenty-fourth round came Smith met Walcott half way and this round and the last one were his easily. In the last round Smith went at Walcott with only one idea in his mind, that was to knock the negro out. He landed a right on Walcott's jaw that nearly sent him to the floor and followed up the advantage so swiftly that Walcott clinched hard to avoid further punishment. The negro kept away from Smith after that as well as he could but received some terrific blows in the stomach before the gong sounded. I have not much doubt that Smith would have put Walcott out in about two more rounds if he had kept up the pace he set in the last round, for the negro was very groggy and winded when the gong sounded.

The decision of Referee Sam Austin, a draw, was the only fair one that could be given. It was received with general approval and not a hiss.

There was not the slightest trace of brutality about the contest, no blood being drawn except when Walcott backheeled Smith and hit him on the nose as he was recovering.

The preliminary bout between Billy Needham and Max Roth was short. Roth put Needham out after two minutes and forty seconds with a right hand smash on the jaw.

Joe Humphries officiated as announcer and Al Russell of Hartford held the watch. Johnny Pollock of the Evening World kept time for Billy Smith and Jim Lavalle acted in the same capacity for Walcott.

The exhibition was a most meritorious one in every respect and showed the "knockers" of legitimate boxing that boxing contests when properly conducted are as wholesome as football or any other sport. I trust we will have a rest now for a time from "knocker's" row on the terrible brutality and demoralizing effects of sparring exhibitions. People who witnessed the contest formed only one conclusion and that was that it was one of the best exhibitions of boxing ever seen in Bridgeport.

* * * *

I want to make mention of the fact here that seconds should be made to keep their mouths shut at the ring side while the men are sparring. This is meant for Tom O'Rourke direct, without any gloves or mittens on, who was in Joe Walcott's corner. During the first half of the contest he could be heard repeatedly calling to his man to do this or that and flinging out remarks intended to make Smith mad so that he would lose his head. I really think that O'Rourke cast those remarks out for the sole purpose of making Smith mad so that he would do something rash. But it failed. Smith was too much of a gentleman this time to give an ear to the remarks. Finally the referee told O'Rourke that it would be as well to stop making remarks. Smith's seconds did not have a word to say except on two or three occasions and they were promptly called to order by the referee. We do not want any partiality shown at these exhibitions. O'Rourke may be more influential in some respects than any of Smith's seconds, but when he is in a corner at the ringside he is on the same level and what governs one second should apply to all. We will not stand for making meat of one and fish of another in this respect, not in Bridgeport. It will be a good idea for referees to take a tip from this in the future for this little thing has caused more or less comment among sporting men and they want to know why O'Rourke was not called to order sooner.

Dick Howell.

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