James J Corbett

Gentleman Jim

World Heavy Weight Champion 1892-1897

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Jim Corbett was born in San Francisco, California on September 1 1866 he died on 18 February 1933. He was 6' 11/2" tall weighed in at between 173-190lbs and he held the heavy weight championship of the world for 5 years between 1892 and 1897, winning 11 losing 4 drawing 2. The number of fights Corbett had seem today to be quite small in number, however it should be noted that some of his fights lasted 60+ rounds.

 

The very first heavy weight champion to fight under the Marquis of Queensberry rules, it was Gentleman Jim who single handely brought boxing out of the bar rooms and elevated it into a noble art founded on science. Gifted with an analytical mind he soon realised that technique and ring craft would overcome brute strength.

 

An Irish American his love of fighting soon got him expelled from two schools, he started work as a bank clerk but yearned for the ring, it was this early career though that got him his nickname, used to dressing in white collar and tie for work and schooled in good manners, in reality Jim was no gentleman with two wives and a renowned serial womaniser.

 

The left hook is attributed to Jim Corbett during a fight with Joe Choynski he injured his left hand, causing him considerable pain whenever he used the left jab, he very quickly improvised by arcing the punch and hitting with the inside of his glove, thereby inventing the left hook. He beat Choynski in the 27th round.

 

Longest Day

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Probably Corbett's greatest fight was against Australia's Peter Jackson. The fight over 61 rounds was held at the California Athletics Club in 21 May 1891. Jackson was a mountain of a man and in fact most fighters avoided getting into the ring with him, widely regarded as the Black Heavyweight champion of the world. Jackson had a deadly right hand and Corbett had his work cut out keeping out of reach of it. It seemed at one time during this fight that Jackson would win when he connected a couple of times with his right, however Corbett survived and then looked like winning the bout himself when he knocked Jackson down in the 28th round, but the bell came to his rescue, finally after four hours in the ring the referee declared a no contest by this neither fighter could lift their arms.

 

The Jackson fight was the turning point for Corbett he enjoyed celebrity status and soon found himself in the ring with the mighty John L Sullivan although this was a sparring match and they both wore evening dress it led to the two men meeting in the ring in New Orleans with the World Title at stake.

 

Some say Sullivan never wanted to fight Corbett, he was getting past his best and was making a good living on the stage. however a $10,000 prize made sure he would. Sullivan started as favourite however it was probably the biggest mismatch in history Sullivan was too slow and ponderous for the younger man and Corbett had no trouble evading Sullivan's punches and picking him off with his own.

 

Sullivan fought gamely for 20 punishing rounds but in the 21st he was caught by a wicked right which put him down for the count.

Corbett was champion of the world he was immediately challenged by Bob Fitzsimmons but Jim was in no hurry to defend his title he wanted to cash in on it.

 

Soon he was appearing on stage and film he was one of the first sportmen to make money through endorsements, he fought several exhibition bouts over the next few years but only defended his title once against Englishman Charley Mitchell, Corbett destroyed Mitchell and then annouced he was considering retiring from the ring.

 

He said that Irishman Peter Maher should be the next champion so Bob Fitzsimmons knocked Maher out in the first round, He once again challenged Corbett and this time Gentleman Jim had no excuses.

 

The fight took place in Carson city in 1897 and Fitzsimmons luckily survived an overly long count to then land a punch into the solar plexus in the 14th round that finally ended the career of Gentleman Jim Corbett.