June 15, 2016

Soapy Smith and the proposed Corbett-Mitchell boxing bout of 1893.

Mitchell and Corbett fight
January 26, 1894
Courtesy Heritage Auctions
(Click image to enlarge)

he most talked-about proposed prize boxing contest of 1893 was the anticipated bout between James "Gentleman Jim" Corbett and English champion James Mitchell. It would be Corbett’s first defense of the heavyweight boxing title since his defeat of John L. Sullivan the previous year.
    Mitchell was widely acknowledged as the best barroom fighter in the world, but despite several attempts he could not entice Corbett to a brawl outside of the regulated boxing ring. The famed fisticuffs match was originally set to take place in December 1893 at the Columbia Athletic Club in Roby, Indiana with a $45,000 purse. Governor Matthews of Indiana had warned the planners that he planned to have them all arrested if they continued with their plans for the slugfest, and that if necessary he would "call out the state militia" to stop the fight. In a boxing contest scheduled at the Club on September 4, 1893, the Chicago Tribune reported (September 6, 1893) that Matthews sent 700 soldiers to surround Roby arena and point a Gatling gun at its front door. In order to assure a peaceful outcome to the situation, the athletic club's president, Dominic O'Malley, agreed to postpone the fight scheduled that week. No fight was ever fought in the club again. By November the Columbia Athletic Club was dissolved and the Roby arena abandoned.
    The Jacksonville Club of Jacksonville, Florida was the next proposed location for the fight. Soapy Smith, Bat Masterson and other major sports of Denver offered up a higher purse of $25,000 if the the prizefighting managers would choose Denver, Colorado as the location for the fistic-exchange. This is just one of several times Soapy worked behind the scenes and just behind the ropes of the sport of boxing. The offer was published in the St. Paul Daily News on November 13, 1893, as follows.

Denver Wants It.

DENVER, Col., Nov. 13—A company of enthusiastic sports have a project started to get Corbett and Mitchell to settle their contest in this city [Denver] for a purse of $25,000.

Among the leaders in the scheme are Bat Masterson, Reddy Gallagher [Denver boxer and occasional tough for the Soap Gang], Bob Austin [Arcade saloon] and “Soapy” Smith. Chief of Police Kellogg was appealed to to allow the fight to take place here, but he refused to commit himself. The police board will be visited to-day to find out what position the will take.

    Although the purse amount was heftier, anything above an "exhibition" about boxing was illegal in Colorado, and it appears that Soapy, Bat and the others were not successful in getting the police board to allow the fight. 
    The gloved fight took place at the Duval Athletic Club in Jacksonville, Florida on January 26, 1894. Jim Corbett won with a knock-out in the 3rd round.

Sources and additional information:
1. Kansas City Stories
2. Box Rec
3. Chicago Tribune

Soapy Smith's Scheme: The Corbett-Fitzsimmons Fight

Soapy's involvement in boxing: pages 97, 194, 275, 406.

"He pretended righteousness as he leveraged to his advantage the greed of his fellow man, who himself awaited the opportunity to cheat him."
Alias Soapy Smith


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