Sydney Stadium

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Description

Hugh MacIntosh ushered in a new era in Australian Boxing when he leased a Chinese market garden site at Rushcutters Bay, on the corner of New South Head Road and Neild Avenue. Here he built the Sydney Stadium to promote a world title fight between Tommy Burns and Bill Squires on 24th August 1908. Burns won this first major competition (although there were a few earlier exhibition matches) by a knockout in the 13th Round. The early big fights proved to extremely popular and profitable.

On 26th December 1908, Tommy Burns accepted an offer of 6,000 pounds to defend his Heavyweight title against Jack Johnson; the first African-American to try for a world title in the class, in a match at Sydney Stadium. This fight provoked a huge amount of interest in Sydney for a number of reasons; there was an increasing interest in all things American in Australia, due in part due to the visit of the United States Great White Fleet to Australia, as well as the novelty of Johnson being black, and a prevailing fear in some quarters that if Burns were defeated, it might signal a weakness in what was seen as the Anglo-Saxon Race. This interest encouraged a huge crowd to pay to watch the fight.

According to the Australian Encyclopaedia, Johnson was to receive 1,500 pounds but when he saw the full house on the night of the fight he demanded more money. MacIntosh forced Johnson to enter the ring at gunpoint. The fight was stopped by police in round 14 when Burns was knocked out, though the referee awarded the fight on points to Johnson.

The Stadium was roofed in 1911 and in 1912 was acquired by the sportsman Reginald "Snowy" Baker and his brother Harald. In 1914, Stadiums Pty. Ltd. was formed with Baker, Richard Lean, and the Melbourne based financier and gambler John Wren (1871-1953) as the chief shareholders.

World War restrictions closed the Stadium in 1916, and it reopened at the end of the War. Boxing matches continued to be held at the Stadium until the 1970's, although by the 1950's it was also being used for music and stage productions, and for over half a century was an important part of Sydney's popular culture.

The Stadium was demolished in 1973, to make way for the overhead section of the Eastern Suburbs Railway. It's former site is marked by a plaque.


Inside the stadium