1894-01-25 James J. Corbett w co 3 (finish) Charlie Mitchell, Duval AC, Jacksonville, Florida, USA - WORLD

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1894-01-25 James J. Corbett w co 3 (finish) Charlie Mitchell, Duval AC, Jacksonville, Florida, USA - WORLD. Referee: John Kelly. Scheduled for 20 rounds or more in five-ounce gloves, Mitchell (158) made a reasonable start, despite being inactive for such a long time, before being knocked down in the second round. Fighting like a madman, Corbett (184) proceeded to hit at the downed Mitchell and had to be pulled off, many believing he deserved to be disqualified at that point. The third session saw Mitchell battered down three times and counted out on the last occasion, but even then the referee had to hold Corbett back.

Following the fight, Mitchell announced his retirement, while Peter Jackson, the holder of the Police Gazette championship belt, was reported as the obvious man to meet Corbett, having already defeated the best of four continents. However, the fight most people were hoping for was Corbett v Bob Fitzsimmons, the middleweight champion who was now looking to add the heavyweight title to his collection.

On 18 June Fitzsimmons met Joe Choynski in an eight-rounder at The Theatre, Boston, Massachusetts; the contest being stopped by police in the fifth with the middleweight champion well on top. Announced as a draw under the terms of the Articles, Fitzsimmons then successfully defended his middleweight title against Dan Creedon on 26 September while continually pushing for a fight with Corbett. Eventually contracts were signed on 11 October for a finish fight to take place in Jacksonville, Florida no earlier than 1 July 1895, but with deposits in place a local Government Bill prohibiting boxing there was passed in early 1895. Under the terms of the contract if the fight in Jacksonville fell through there was a clause that allowed it to go out to best purse offers. Following all of the problems encountered, Dallas, Texas was chosen as the next venue with 31 October 1895 being the date, but when the Governor there refused support it was quickly transferred to Hot Springs, Arkansas, the men being due to box sometime in November. Unfortunately, for all concerned, the Governor of Arkansas issued a statement to the effect that he would not allow the staging of an event that was brutal and morally wrong, which was followed by the Sheriff of Hot Springs giving his blessing to the bout. But when the Governor called all parties concerned to a meeting on 7 November to tell them that if they defied him they would be in serious trouble the fight was finally called off.

By now there was so much animosity between the two fighters that it was almost impossible for them to agree on anything and the fight was cancelled indefinitely. A few days later, immediately following a first-round kayo victory for Peter Maher over Corbett’s sparring partner, Steve O’Donnell at the Empire AC, Manhattan, NYC, New York, on 11 November, Corbett jumped into the ring and announced his retirement. At the same time he awarded his title to the winner. Scheduled for 25 rounds, Maher had been quick out of the blocks, having O’Donnell down three times in the opening session from rights and lefts to the jaw before the latter was counted out by Tim Hurst after just 1.30.

A short while later, Corbett admitted that he had been wrong in reacting in this peculiar fashion, but, angry with Fitzsimmons for allowing himself to be talked out of their prospective fight in Hot Springs and continually making derogatory remarks, he decided on teaching his rival a lesson.

Out of action, apart from a couple of exhibitions since breaking his left hand during a sparring session in December 1894, Fitzsimmons was matched against Maher, who was now calling himself the champion of the heavyweights.