James J. Corbett vs. Charley Mitchell

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1894-01-25 : James J. Corbett 184 lbs beat Charlie Mitchell 165 lbs by KO in round 3 of 0

  • World Heavyweight Title
  • Winner was paid $20,000.
The new champion Corbett had not carried his title well on the days he held it since dethroning long-reigning champion John L. Sullivan. He had been drinking heavily and was going up against one of the best fighters who mobbed the roped square at that time, Charlie Mitchell. Mitchell had previously held John L. Sullivan to a 51-round draw in France and was hoping to capture the title against Corbett. After Mitchell used his savvy tricks and experience to get the better of "Gentleman Jim" in round one, Corbett landed a right to the body that stopped Mitchell in his tracks and hurt him badly. Late in the round, after Corbett dropped Mitchell, Corbett was complaining to referee Kelly that he wasn't counting fast enough. After the bell sounded to end the round, Mitchell hit Corbett and instigated a fight. The seconds finally pulled the fighters apart to prevent a riot. When the gong sounded to begin the third, Corbett was all over Mitchell and knocked him cold with a picturesque right hand to the chin. Corbett had retained his title, regardless of the handicap drinking put him in before the fight.
Source: "The Roar of the Crowd" by James J. Corbett

Another description of this bout can be found in the Ring Magazine: October 1933, p. 24.


From The Daily Huronite (26 January 1894):

How Corbett Won and Mitchell Lost the Great Battle at Jacksonville
The Details of the Much Advertised Mill, It Was Easy For the Champion
Duval Club Unmercifully Scorned For Lack of Enterprise In the Arrangements

For the first time since he has been acknowledged head of the pugilistic fraternity of the world, James J. Corbett has defended with success the title which he won by defeating his predecessor, John L. Sullivan. Pitted against the boasted exponent of the manly art in England,

America's brawny representative has proven his fitness for the place of honor which his sinews and muscles won for him and the tail of the British lion has been severely stepped upon by the foot of the mighty bruiser from the West There is exultation in the land, and Charles Mitchell is groveling in the dust of defeat, heaping imprecations on his ill luck, and mingling with them vain regrets of his inability to whip his victor. The British pugilist has attended his pugilistic funeral, and henceforth he will remember with permanent grief the time and place of his first defeat. It was all Corbett's battle, though Mitchell made a show in the first round.

The Fight By Rounds
The men entered the ring and time was called at 2:50 pm.The referee ordered them to shake hands, but neither responded. Then the fight began.

First Round
Corbett led with left on Mitchell's chin. They clinch. Exchanged body blows and Jim reaches Charlie's left eye, heavily. Mitchell reaches the ribs. Another exchange and Mitchell clinches. Mitchell gets in on Corbett's neck, and Jim lands right and right again. Just as time called good body blow. Honors easy in first round. It looks as if it was to be a wicked fight.

Second Round
A wild exchange and a clinch. Corbett uppercuts his man as they come together. Mitchell lands hard on ribs, and as Mitchell came in Jim caught him on head, staggering him. Corbett uppercuts Mitchell again and lands with right on Charlie's ribs, Mitchell reaching Jim's chin as a sharp rally, with Corbett having all the best of it. They are going to get at it. Mitchell got in twice on Corbett's neck. Corbett knocks him down twice in succession Jim floored his man clearly and knocked him down again as he assayed to arise. The gong saved Mitchell.

Third Round

Mitchell rather groggy. Corbett rushed at him swung right and left heavy on Mitchell's neck. Charlie went down. He took the full time to arise, and then Corbett rushed at him like a tiger. Mitchell clinched. Corbett threw him off and floored him with a stiff facer. Again he took all the time to rise, and when he advanced towards Corbett the latter swung his right with deadly effect on Charlie's nose. Mitchell reeled and fell on his face, helpless. Corbett wins easily.

The referee counted 1, 2, 3, 4,5,6, 7,8,9, Mitchell is knocked out. The referee declared Corbett winner of the match and champion of the world. Mitchell's face was covered with blood. He was carried to his corner in a helpless condition. Time of fight nine minutes.

Morning Of The Fight
All Jacksonville Was Up At An Unusually Early Hour

This city was up and doing earlier than it has been for many a day. It had been fairly lively all night long, for many of the sports were so late in getting ready for bed that they were afraid they might miss something, so they remained up and made themselves very much in evidence throughout the small hours. The rush toward the arena began at an early hour. It was long before the time set for the contest when streams of buggies, carriages and all sorts of vehicles began to drift out toward the arena. The price of transportation went up with the increased demand. Hard times in the North have made visitors fewer in number this year than for a decade.

The hackmen of Jacksonville, therefore, prepared to accumulate as much wealth as possible to tide them over a hard summer. Two, three and four dollars was asked and paid for a trip to the arena. The price carried with it the privilege of a return ticket, but there was no earthly chance of finding the original vehicle, as the avaricious just snapped up everything that had the price of a ride and let the majority of those whom they carried out get back to town the best way possible. The jam around the doors of the arena was dense at times, but there was plenty of room for all and no discomfort was experienced by anybody.

The betting in the morning was strong in Corbett's favor, the general impression being that the little Englishman would stand no show against him. This "general impression," however, did not exist to any large extent among the members of the Mitchell party. It did not bother Mitchell himself either. He was just as cool and confident before the fight as he has always been. Mitchell, in fact has never shown the slightest nervousness or anxiety over the result. He has always acted as though he was the person least interested in the fight. He climbed out of bed shortly after 7 o'clock, happy and cheerful and announced promptly, "I want my breakfast, and I want it pretty quick." He; went through a short series of light exercises, was rubbed down and then turned his attention to his breakfast, which consisted of mutton chops, a little steak, a small amount of potatoes, toast and tea. This over, Mitchell went quietly in his room waiting for the time to come for his departure for the ringside.


The champion Comes Up From Mayport Early In The Morning
Down at the ferry landing at Mayport a large crowd gathered to speed the parting guests on the way with cheers and good wishes. It was a motley gathering of people of both sexes and both colors. When finally the tall, lithe form of the champion, in a close fitting business suit, appeared at the head of his delegation, there was a loud cheer from the assembled throng at the station, a compliment which Corbett gracefully acknowledged with a nod of the head. There was happiness written all over his face, and as the train slowly steamed away the disappearing crowd in the distance enthusiastically waved their kerchiefs and hats and gave rousing cheers for the sake of patriotism.

The trip up the river was uneventful. Down at the landing here there were carriages in waiting and a reception committee made up of sports,gentlemen, ragamuffins and pickaninnies. Across the river at South Jacksonville a self appointed escort of enthusiastic people had put the champion aboard the ferry. When the boat landed on this side of the river Corbett and his retainers walked with a quick pace to the carriages, and then they were driven post haste to the St. James hotel, running the gauntlet of hundreds of eyes as they made their way to their rooms. Once in the rooms only the most intimate friends of the champion were allowed to enter, and Corbett carefully made preparations for his trip to ringside.

Dempsey and Hall Demanded a better Place to Fight In

Jack Dempsey went over to the ring to inspect the arrangements. He found the floor in a shaky condition, and the posts not padded, He emphatically told the officers of the Duval club that unless the matters were remedied there would be no fight, as Corbett would not enter the ring in that condition. Jim Hall went over to inspect the ring on behalf of Mitchell, and heartily approved of the alterations suggested by Dempsey, and intimated as Dempsey had done, that it would be wise action on the part of the club to get a move on itself if it cared to see his principal in a fight. This put the club almost into a fit, and it started to do things with what passes for a hurry in this land. The nearer the contest comes the worse seems to be the management of the Duval club. Its members seemed more than ever to justify Mitchell's caustic comment "There ain't a man in it with brains enough to have a headache." It is gelling tickets at all kinds of prices and charges are openly made that it has not hesitated to sell the desirable seats of the arena several times over. This means that the mill between Mitchell and Corbett will be the wind up of a long series of petty rows and fights among the audience.

Promptly at 12 o'clock the doors were opened, and the crowd, which had by this time swollen to fully 500, made a wild surge through the doors. They carried the one lone ticket taker entirely off his feet, and before he regained a standing position at least 20 men had passed into the arena to view the fight without the necessity of going to their pockets for something which they probably did not contain. The workmen had not finished padding the posts, and fully a dozen of them were placing pillows around them. The pillows, however, were much too short, and a space of fully 30 inches was left between the bottom of the pillow and the floor of the platform. It made an ugly place for a man to strike his head upon if he should happen to be knocked against it.

While one gang of men were working on the resin on the floor of the ring, another was laboring to stretch canvas from the roofs to the sides of the edge of the arena. There was a feeble effort to keep out the rain which came down in fearful spurts but was death to the hopes of the men who had discovered the mode of entrance to the arena. It effectively prevented them from slipping over the edges of the arena. Referee John Kelly came into the grounds later, carrying a small unpretentious looking bundle, but it contained that that without which there would have been no fight here. It was in fact a bundle of banknotes, consisting of several $1000 bills, a lot of $500 and a whole chunk of smaller denominations, the whole aggregating $20,000. The purse which will belong to the winner.

The Corbett-Mitchell fight is logically the outcome of the downfall of the 12- years idol of the pugilistic world. Mitchell had fought a draw with Sullivan when Sullivan was in his prime. Before Mitchell and Corbett met each other in the ring. Mitchell equally with the San Franciscan was a formidable claimant for the laurels which Corbett wrested from the pride of Boston in New Orleans a year ago. When Corbett was proclaimed the champion he had to face a torrent of challenges It was a public cry that Corbett should meet the handsome English lad first and the conviction settled itself in Corbett's mind that a fight with Mitchell That was inevitable. A. long prelude of cross firing in the press finally brought the men together. An agreement was prepared early last summer and the month of December selected for the date. The articles of agreement included a stake of ?10,000 each, to be posted by the men and invitation to the then three leading clubs in America, to bid against each other for the honor of the battleground. Even before the match was made Mitchell had signed a promise with Charley Noel to give New Orleans the preference, but fighting got a black eye in the Crescent City by the Hall-Fitzsimmons fiasco and Coney Island was left to wrestle with Roby for the consent of the fighters. Judge Newton came out victor in the competition but prize fighting became an issue in New York politics. Mayor Boody signed the death warrant of Coney Island. and then Governor Matthews prepared a shroud for the club and its backers, and Mitchell and Corbett turned their eyes southward for money and a battle ground.

They dickered with the Olympic club of New Orleans, made their demands decisive, and finally lost the opportunity to fight without annoyance and police protection. Then from among a mass of offers the pugilists picked out the one from Jacksonville for serious consideration. J. E. T. Bowden, one of Jacksonville's first citizens was east when the death knell of the Coney Island was sounded. He rushed back here, consulted the Florida statutes, found no prohibition against boxing contests, sounded the oldest and the best and most influential citizens, and found bucking on both sides and the

Duval Athletic Club Was Born
Then the commissioner of the club went East met the backers of the pugilists, talked business to them and obtained their signatures to articles of agreement. Under the agreement the club offered a purse of $4O.OOO and acceded to a demand of the pugilists for $5,000 to cover training and incidental expenses. The Coney Island's original offer was $40,000 for the fight. Executive interference sliced the purse in two. After making the match the Duval club proceeded to advertise it broadest. Then telegrams began to pour into Jacksonville protesting against the contest. Governor Mitchell

He ranged himself in stern opposition The impolitic management hero bid open defiance to the authorities, and then commenced the long newspaper warfare between Jacksonville and his excellency, culminating in the marshaling of the troops hero and the institution of the action for an injunction. The club won the legal tilt, the state gracefully yielding, and the most interesting match which pugilistic history records was permitted to proceed to its finale. The fight was under Queensberry rules, with 5 ounce gloves, with a referee selected by the club and with no limit to the number of rounds.

Corbett's training was done at Mayport, a small fishing station unknown to the world at large until the advent of the pugilist and his party, and situated about 20 miles from Jacksonville and 7 from Pablo Beach, the summer resort of Floridians. The hamlet of Mayport is but a straggling one, possessed of few if any natural attractions, but a spot well fitted for a pugilist's training. The Atlantic stretches out its broad bosom to the eastward, leaving a broad and unbroken beach of firm white sand, and the wide river St. Johns courses past it to the west. Of the few cottages of which the hamlet can boast, the Corbett party secured four, and under their roofs and on the broad firm beach the champion took his daily practice at boxing, wrestling and running. With Corbett has been Billy Delaney, his trainer, the same who made him fit to whip Sullivan; John McVey, the wrestler; Dan Creedon, the Australian aspirant for Fitzsimmons' scalp; Professor John Donaldson, New York's expert boxing instructor; Dan Tracey, W. A. Brady, Corbett's manager, and "Kid" Egan, private secretary to the pugilist.

Corbett has trained hard and faithfully since he arrived in Florida and his appearance prior to his departure from his quarters fully justified the assertion of himself and his friends that he was fit to do battle for anything within the gift of man.

Mitchell Quarters More Retired
Mitchell, the English pugilist, was in a sense more fortunate than his opponent in the selection of training quarters, for the place which he picked out is far from Jacksonville, and, consequently, Mitchell has been subjected to fewer visitors. His quarters were located on Anastasta island, reached by the Jacksonville, Tampa and Key West railroad, and with him have been Billy Thompson, his manager: Jim Hall, Tom Allen, exchampion: Bat Masterson and Steve Brodie. Mitchell's course of training has been practically the same as that followed by other pugilists preparing for an encounter, but in all of his training he has been singularly methodical and painstaking and has evidenced that intensity of purpose which has marked his career. His time has been divided between punching the bag, boxing with Jim Hall and long runs on the beach. Barring the spraining of a muscle in his ankle, Mitchell has been free from troubles during his weeks of preparation and was in excellent trim for the fray when he arrived hero from Anastasia island.