Jim Corbett's Innovations

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Jim Corbett's Boxing Innovations

From a Tacoma News Tribune (Tacoma, WA, USA) newspaper article of August 18, 1919 (earlier he had become part-owner of the Tacoma baseball club [1]):

How Jim Corbett Changed Boxing Styles
"Jim Corbett's advent in pugilism brought as great a change in ring tactics as came about when electric light succeeded gas for illuminating purposes."
Such is the declaration of Tommy Ryan, long ranked as one of the greatest middleweights that ever lived and certainly one of the most remarkable students and teachers of boxing.
"The ring game owes more to Corbett than it does to any living man," added Ryan. "And I say that in full knowledge of the fact that John L. Sullivan helped to popularize the ring pastime and that a hundred other great men during the last 40 years have boosted the game from the one time barroom diversion to a clean, scientific and manly exhibition.
"Corbett was one of those kids who was wild about boxing from the first day that he ever saw a glove. He had early benefit of some expert teaching and learned a lot from those masters. But it was something that Corbett put into the game itself--the Corbett personality and the Corbett methods of science--that will make his name remembered as long as boxing lasts and make his fame enduring.
"Jim Corbett revolutionized the fistic world.
"I don't think that any greater commotion was ever caused than that which Corbett created on the night that he fought Sullivan. Only the old-timers will remember that fighters 30 or 40 years ago were fellows who made a specialty of looking as rough and as tough as they could. They wanted to, by personal appearance, live up to their reputation of bruisers. They spurned everything that was dandified and balked at dressing up.
Sartorial Effect Amazes
"But on the night that Jim Corbett, the 'dude from the Pacific Coast,' took on Sullivan he nearly knocked dead a thousand or more of the veterans who saw him as he walked toward his dressing room. The youngster touted as a possible conqueror of the 'unbeatable Sullivan,' wore a suit of 'ice cream' clothes, a natty straw hat, a silk shirt, a necktie that must have set him back $3 at the very least, a pair of fashionable tan shoes and silk socks to match--and he carried a cane. That was the climax--the cane. Those who saw it and Corbett gasped at first and then when they recovered their voices, exclaimed:
'Huh, a fighter. Why, Sullivan will scare that fellow with one look.'
"But those familiar with ring history know to the contrary.
"For a long time after he won the championship the sporting public of America looked upon Corbett as some strange individual. First of all, it couldn't connect with the idea that a college man and a 'lily handed bank clerk' was a real fighter. They couldn't get it into their heads that a man could be a warrior and at the same time be a gentleman in every sense of the word. They assumed that all fighters had to be rough and gruff and profane and hard drinkers. But Corbett gradually convinced them all that it was possible for a man to be decent, to be clean and to be immaculate in attire?and still be a heavyweight champion of the world.
Style of Boxing Changed
"The style of boxing which Corbett flashed in New Orleans on the night he fought John L. was a radical departure from anything ever seen before in the ring. At that time he was at his superlative best. He had speed, was panther-like in his movements and was scientific to a bewildering extreme. He showed the lighting world that it wasn't necessary for a man to possess a punch of tremendous power to win victories; demonstrated that a light hitting fighter who had perfected his speed and built up a great defense had just as much of a chance to win a decision by knockout as had the heavy hitter. And very quickly those youngsters who had loved the boxing game, but were always afraid to venture into it because they had no punch, took to the sport?and boxing immediately boomed in a remarkable way.
"Prior to Corbett's time, the so-called 'nice people' thought that boxing was a brutal and vulgar sport. They were right, too. But Corbett changed these ideas by changing the manner of boxing--and the mannerisms of boxers. He made it a manly and clean sport. Soon the highbrows took it up and boxing boomed all over the country. It became a fad that grew in popularity year after year until now it challenges baseball as the major pastime of Americans.
"And to Jim Corbett belongs the glory."