Monday, May 27, 2024

Wyatt Earp Was Seen As A Bad Man of the Squared Circle

If you like first-hand accounts of historical events as much as I do, you'll enjoy this from The Los Angeles Herald, Volume 34, Number 104, 13 January 1907:



George Siler and Tim Hurst Among Notable Ring Officials

Wyatt Earp Bad Man of the Squared Circle

Good, competent boxing referees are scarce nowadays. Of the men active in presiding over the championship glove flights during the last ten or fifteen years George Siler of Chicago is practically the only one still in harness.

Siler's most recent engagement was in the Gans-Nelson battle at Goldfield, Nev., when he declared the colored man winner on a foul in the forty-third round, much to the satisfaction of a majority of the spectators.

Siler has refereed many fights. Some were private affairs at which there were comparatively few spectators because of the obscure reputations of the principals, while others attracted the attention of sporting men all over the world.

Because of an almost perfect knowledge of the rules of the ring, coupled with rugged honesty and cool-headed judgment, Slier has come to be regarded as the best boxing referee in America if not In the world.

Much of his fame has been earned by presiding over heavyweight contests, several of them for the championship, when Corbett put old Cullivan out at New Orleans, nearly fifteen years ago, John Dully was the referee. When Sullivan was reeling around the ring In front of the storm of jabs and punches that Corbett rained upon him he turned to Duffy with a fierce glare.

"I can't see him at all," growled Sullivan. "He's too young and fast for me."

Duffy, who had always admired Sullivan, nodded his head and said:

"That's right, John. Shall I stop It?"

"Stop nothing:" replied the fading champion.

John L. Game

"I'm here to get my medicine from a better man. So you live up to the rules."

When Duffy counted Sullivan out In the twenty-first round he was crying like a schoolboy.

Timothy Hurst, the American League baseball umpire, was another excellent referee, Tim got into the game with both feet when the late James C. Kennedy made him the official referee of the Empire Athletic Club at Maspeth.

lt was at this place where Hurst presided over the never to be forgotten Walcott-Levigne fight, probably the most sensational mill ever seen in this country. Hurst refereed the Sharkey-McCoy mill at the Lenox Athletic Club and showed his shrewdness to a marked degree. The fight was going against McCoy, when suddenly in the eighth round, the kid put his hands over his stomach.

"He fouled me, Tim!" wailed McCoy.

Hurst was purple with rage as he began to count off the seconds.

"One, two! You miserable faker!" he yelled, as he paused between counts. "You can't fool me with that bunk business! Four! Why, you cur! Get up and fight like a man! Five! Six! I'm going to count you out, sure! Seven! Eight! You coward! I can lick you myself! Nine!"

"Now take the beating that is coming and don't depend on me to help you escape it!"

Sharkey knocked the Kid out in the tenth round.

Honest John Kelly was another well known referee, but he was always in hot water. Kelly, once a National League baseball umpire and a good one too, went down to Jacksonville to referee the Corbett-Mitchell fight.

When John got into the ring he saw in the crowd some of the toughest customers in the world. They had guns In their hip pockets and were well supplied with whisky and money which they bet on Corbett. Kelly was introduced to the mob and looked nervous.

Corbett Fouls Mitchell

Corbettl, trained to the hour, had a personal grudge against Mitchell and was ready to fly off at a tangent. Mitchell knew this and was also fully aware that he was in for a good beating, as the Englishman at that time had entered the back number class.

So as soon as the fight was under way Mitchell began to apply all sorts of vile epithets to Corbett, which soon made the latter fairly crazy with rage. In a sharp mixup in the second round Mitchell fell to the floor. Corbett, a perfect wild man, landed a punch on the Englishman's head while the latter was still down, committing a clean cut foul.

"Foul! Foul!" yelled the men In Mitchell's corner and the crowd leaped up in an uproar.

All eyes were on Kelly. He saw whisky bottles and guns brandished on all sides and he lost no time in arriving at the conclusion that no foul had been committed. This ruling saved Corbett and also the money that had been wagered on him. Kelly told some friends afterward that he was lucky to get out of Jacksonville alive.

Referee Saves Corbett

It was the Corbett-Sharkey fight at the Lenox Athletic Club several years later that gave Kelly a black eye in the estimation of ring followers. When Corbett, beaten to a standstill, had his second, Con McVey, Jump into the ring In the tenth round to save him. Kelly should have decided Sharkey the winner then and there on a foul under the strict wording of the rules.

Kelly, however, became rattled and surprised the crowd by stating that although Corbett had lost, all bets were declared off. There was something queer about this fight, and direct charges were made that it was a fake. But nothing was proved even after an Investigation by Big Tim Sullivan had been held. Kelly was accused of having had a bet for himself on Corbett, but this was believed to be idle gossip. The decision caused no end of discussion and resulted in Kelly's finish as a referee.

Wyatt Earp -- Bad Man of the Squared Circle

Probably the rawest judge of a ring contest that ever rendered a decision was Wyatt Earp, who was known as a gunfighter and a bad man generally on the coast.

Earp refereed the Fitzsimmons-Sharkey fight at San Francisco. When Fitz lost on an alleged foul, which was pronounced highway robbery by close observers. Earp got into the ring with a cannon In his hip pocket. He had received instructions to give the fight to Sharkey and he was there with the goods when the proper time arrived.

When Sharkey fell to the floor in agony, Earp declared him the winner and then jumped out of the ring amid the wild scene. But nobody had the nerve to Intercept him. Little has been heard of Earp since.

-- end of article in The Los Angeles Herald, Volume 34, Number 104, 13 January 1907. 

If you like history as much as I do, I hope you'll appreciate how Old West and turn-of-the-20th century newspapers reported what they saw taking place. In this case how they viewed great referees versus how they viewed a crooked referee like Wyatt Earp. 

We sometimes forget that the people who Hollywood has made into American heroes were actually looked at much differently in their time. 

I guess that's why I find it so interesting how Hollywood can take a person like Wyatt Earp, someone who was a con artist and crook, a man who was arrested as a pimp and horsethief, a chronic liar, a man who stole school funds, a man charged with murderer but evaded justice, a fraud in all sorts of ways, a man considered a "Bad Man" and "Notorious" in his day, and allow film studios and screenwriters to turn him into something that he never was -- a legendary hero of mythical proportions.

And by the way, if Hollywood would like to do a true-to-life movie. I think a movie of the 1899 Sailor Tom Sharkey vs Charles Kid McCoy fight and referee Timothy Hurst having to shame boxer Kid McCoy to "Get up and fight like a man" during that long count would be great.

Tom Correa 

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