The following essay was published in the “The World Of Sport” column in The [Troy] Daily Times on December 15, 1896.
Pugilistic champions of other days and of the present time passed in rapid review before a crowd of 2,500 sports in the Broadway Athletic Club last night. There was a rare galaxy of them.
Jem Mace [James Mace, born in 1831-died in 1910], who was champion of England thirty-five years ago, and Mike Donovan [Michael J. Donovan, see below, b. 1847 – d. 1918] were the stars of the occasion. The kaleidoscopic entertainment was arranged for their benefit and they will divide $2,400 between them.
Preceding Mace and Donovan, however, there appeared more than one man who has played a larger part in fighting and done more to make ring history. There were champions of a quarter of a century ago and champions who in this day are prepared to defend the titles to which they lay claim.
Well known men and well known faces abounded. Thomas E. Byrnes, ex-superintendent of [New York City] police was present, witnessing a boxing entertainment for the first time since he left the police ranks. Then there were Bob Pinkerton [co- manager of the Pinkerton Agency, 1848-1907], H. K. Knapp [Harry Kearsarge Knapp, 1864 – 1926, thoroughbred racing executive], Harry Buermeyer [a rower call the “father of American athletics,” 1864-1926], Phil. Dwyer and his understudy, Colonel Abe Daniels; H. G. Crickmere [Henry G. Crickmere, 1839-1908], secretary of the Westchester Racing Association; Al Johnson [baseball executive Albert Loftin Johnson, 1860-1901], Frank Simpson [football coach Frank William Simpson, 1871-1929], Jockey Taral [Hall of Fame Jockey Fred Taral, 1867-1925], Dave Holland, Jack Lawrence [John Lawrence, ca. 1823-1896], who trained [American Bare-knuckle Heavyweight Champion] John Morrissey in his day; George E. Smith, better known as “Pittsburg Phil” [George Elsworth Smith, gambler and thoroughbred horseman, 1862-1905], Ed Kearney, Jr., Gottfried Walbaum [operator of Saratoga Race Course], Ike Thompson, Al Smith [probably future New York Governor Al Smith, 1873-1944], Dan Noble [19th century gambler and boxer], Ed Stokes [possibly Edward C. Stokes, later Governor of New Jersey, 1860-1942], Ed Gilmore [19th century boxing promoter], Timothy D. Sullivan [Timothy Daniel Sullivan, Tammany Hall leader, 1862-1913], Tony Pastor [Antonio Pastor, variety performer and theater owner known as the “Dean of Vaudeville,” (1837-1908] and Citizen George Francis Train [traveler and entrepreneur who inspired Jules Verne’s novel Around the World in Eighty Days, 1829-1904].
It was 10:30 o’clock when the real stars, Jem Mace and Mike Donovan, appeared. Both veterans wore long white flannel trousers and were stripped above the belt. “Parson” Davies [Charles E. Davies, Chicago sporting man, manager and promoter, 1851-1920], master of ceremonies, explained that the bout was friendly, and that no decision would be announced.
Donovan was decidedly more active on his feet and proceeded to dance around the Englishman in rapid style, at the same time tapping him with his opened gloves. Mace, in spite of his sixty-five years, was by no means slow and used his left constantly.
In the second round Donovan got in an extra hard slap and Mace stopped to remove his upper row of false teeth, which he carelessly threw to his seconds. Jem was a bit tired toward the end of the third round and said, breathlessly: “Don’t go so bloomin hard, Mike!”
The fourth round was the wind-up, and the old fellows went at it in lively fashion. Mace held his own and all the crowd yelled “Draw! Draw!” when it was all over. John L. Sullivan [first heavyweight champion of gloved boxing, 1858-1918] and “Jim” Corbett [James John Corbett World Heavyweight Champion, and the only man who ever defeated John L. Sullivan, 1866-1933] received an ovation during the evening.”
Note: During his professional boxing career Mike Donovan, later known as “Professor” for his teaching prowess, fought John Shanssey in a bout refereed by Wyatt Earp in Cheyenne, Wyoming in the late 1860s. At the end of his career he became a boxing instructor at the New York Athletic Club where he taught Theodore Roosevelt and his sons how to box.
Illustrations, from above; Professor Mike Donovan (on right) helping his son train in boxing, ca. 1910s; and a portrait of Jem Mace.
This essay has been edited and annotated by John Warren. More stories about the history of boxing can be found here.
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