1897-03-17 Bob Fitzsimmons w co 14 (finish) James J. Corbett, Racetrack Arena, Carson City, Nevada, USA - WORLD

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1897-03-17 Bob Fitzsimmons w co 14 (finish) James J. Corbett, Racetrack Arena, Carson City, Nevada, USA - WORLD. Referee: George Siler. Right from the start Corbett’s skilful boxing had Fitzsimmons (167) bleeding, especially from stiff left jabs, and when he was put down with a right to the jaw in the sixth it looked as though the end was not too far away. After getting up at the count of ‘nine’ (Corbett and his manager claimed it was at least 13 seconds), Fitzsimmons started to go for the body and by the end of the tenth the champion looked tired out, so much so that the odds had shrunk to evens. Corbett (183) still had something left, but it was not enough. In the 14th session, with the champion sufficiently weakened, Fitzsimmons, feigning a southpaw stance, drove in a tremendous left hook under the heart. Lifted off his feet by the sheer force of the punch, Corbett went crashing down to be counted out. It was a blow that Fitzsimmons had perfected over a long period of time and it gained fame as the ‘solar plexus punch’, a left hook to that region of the body. It was Robert H. Davis, the author and reporter, who coined the phrase, but according to Joe Choynski it was a punch to the liver which paralyzed Corbett.

Immediately following the fight, Fitzsimmons announced that he was retiring to go on the music halls and was resigning the title. Several times during the next few months he reiterated this, but no one seemed to take it seriously. It later transpired that when Corbett had asked for a return he was told by the new champion’s manager, Mrs Fitzsimmons, that her husband would be going on a theatrical tour and would not fight again for at least two years.

Two days after Fitzsimmons’ victory over Corbett, on 19 March, Sharkey again laid claim to the title, stating that the championship was his until his colours were lowered. Following that, on 27 April, it was reported that Peter Jackson had challenged Corbett for the vacant title, but with the Australian not in the greatest of condition it came to nothing.

Meanwhile, Fitzsimmons continued to state that he had retired and on 4 October sent letters out to all the leading newspapers, formally relinquishing the title.

Regardless, there were many who felt that Fitzsimmons was bluffing, for whatever reason. On 26 January 1898, Charles Kid McCoy challenged either Corbett or Fitzsimmons to a bout to decide the world championship, stating that if the challenges were not accepted he would be claiming the title. While Corbett ignored the challenge, Fitzsimmons at first accepted before stating that he would only box McCoy if the latter beat Maher first. With Fitzsimmons continuing to posture about retirement, McCoy claimed the title on 9 March after the champion had failed to cover a forfeit, the New York Herald reporting that McCoy would be fighting Gus Ruhlin for the championship.