Just been reading this on my lunch break
On this day in 1885, the first heavyweight boxing title fight in which 3 ounce gloves were used was fought between John L Sullivan and Dominick McCaffrey. It was also the first title fight to follow the 3-minute round format. After the seventh round, of a six round fight, Sullivan was crowned champion, in a fight that shaped modern boxing.
McCaffrey had earned the right to fight the defending champion after an impressive fourth round victory over Charley Mitchell, a british boxer, in Madison Square Garden. So in February 1885, fight organisers planned the fight between Sullivan and McCaffrey. After hopes of staging the fight in the Garden were dashed, it was moved to Cincinnati’s Chester Park race track.
The stage was set for what would be a historical night in boxing history. However, things didn’t go entirely to plan for John Sullivan. Shortly after making his first public appearance in Cincinnati, the heavyweight was arrested and brought before a judge. The reigning champion was only released after convincing the judge that the fight would only be a mere sparring session and that neither fighter planned on hurting the other. Reluctantly, the judge released Sullivan, and the fight went ahead.
McCaffrey, had trained harder for the fight and because of his smaller build, he felt he would need to use his superior technical ability to beat Sullivan. McCaffrey bragged to the reporters at the time “I’m ten times the fighter he is”, and mocked his opponent whose only training for the fight was losing nineteen pounds to reach the weight requirements.The challenger playing to the media, resembling a modern day Conor McGregor.
So under the watchful eye of Billy Tate the fight took place and it was no surprise that Sullivan dominated the opening exchanges using his 44 pound advantage over McCaffrey. As the fight progress though McCaffrey came into his own and Sullivan was left to resort to more of a wrestling style, illegal under the new rules. By the fourth round both men showed effects of fighting under the summer sun, McCaffrey continuing to take the worst of the fighting as Sullivan dropped him for a third time.
At the beginning of the “final” round Sullivan tackled McCaffrey to the floor and Tate stepped into stop the bout, and to rescue McCaffrey from any more punishment. Sullivans hand raised in victory. With neither of the two fighters happy with the referee’s interventions, both fighters agreed to fight an unofficial seventh round, without a referee present. Even after the unofficial round, Sullivan was still crowned champion having knocked McCaffrey out with a straight right hand
McCaffrey never left the fact he lost the fight get to him and often bragged that he lasted longer in the ring with the champion than any previous fighter had, even if it was on unofficial round. Even though other fighters had lasted more than seven rounds with Sullivan, under the new rules, McCaffrey had lasted the longest timewise. Something he took great pride in.
Even though the fight was labeled as a World Heavyweight Championship bout, Sullivan could only claim the US Championship as his opponent was an American citizen. A title he would hold until 1892.
But what effect did the effects of three ounce gloves have on boxing? Prior to the introduction of gloves, fights were bare knuckle, and hitting to the head was less common. This was mainly down to the fact that there was a greater risk of injuring a fighters hand if he connected with an opponent’s head.
The introduction of gloves has also led to a reduced amount of cuts in boxing, however the British Medical Association has found that the introduction of gloves has not reduced the risk of of brain damage. If anything brain injuries have increased since 1885, as the introduction of gloves has allowed fighters to hit harder to the head.
The inaugural fight of World Heavyweight boxing under the Queensberry Rules, happened on this day in 1885.