Prize-Fighting In My Day

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Prize-Fighting In My Day

Do not even begin to describe to me the recent pugilistic matches, because I wish not to hear of them. The fist-fighters of to-day are like babies wheeled about in their perambulators. The great fighters of my youth—Sullivan, Corbett, Kilrain, Kid Ithaca—fought without boxing-gloves and hurled blows that would slay an ox. As an intrepid boy-scribe for the old Mercantile-Onion, I covered my first heavy-weight fisticuff demonstration in 1885, and it remains the most exciting fight I have ever witnessed. The contenders were Alfred "The Strong-Man" Talmadge and Patrick "The Gentle-man Who Hits Other Gentle-men" Reid, two leviathans who drank pain and dined on agony for break-fast. They were vying for a purse of $50 in gold and a fine Guernsey milking-cow.

The match was 88 rounds of solid punishment. In round one, Talmadge and Reid emerged from the corners with bare fists flailing, and soon the face and neck of both men ran crimson with blood and tissue. This continued for 17 rounds, when Talmadge went down, but managed to get up before the final count.

"Vivisection" is the only word that can be used to describe the next 70 or so rounds, as Talmadge managed to flense most of the skin from Reid's torso with his formidable fists. But Reid, ever the trouper, held his ground.

By round 87, both men were near collapse. As Reid's handlers administered a draught of brandy to him, a large object hidden under a piece of broad-cloth was dragged close to his corner. The crowd gasped. A green-horn, I was perplexed and did not know what to expect.

At the sound of the bell, Talmadge charged from his corner, and Reid kept close to the object. As Talmadge laid into Reid once more, Reid gave a sign, and his handlers uncovered the object. It was a large, oaken cup-board. Reid lifted the cup-board into the ring and, with all of his remaining strength, hurled it at Talmadge. The cup-board hit Talmadge with the force of a cannon-shot and flattened him upon the canvas. Talmadge never stirred again, and Reid was awarded the $50 purse and the cowess.

There were also many excellent cock-fights and bear-baitings around this time, which I will relate to you in a future column.