The Fight of the Century—in Illustrated Wrappers

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524. SILER, George & Louis M. Houseman. [Wrapper title] The “Fight of the Century” Being a Review of the Worlds Championship Contest between Robert Fitzsimmons and James J. Corbett at Carson City Nev March 17th 1897. Written by Geo. Siler (Referee) and Lou. M. Houseman. To Be Sold at all Exhibitions of the Veriscope and for General Distribution. Copyright Applied for by Dan A. Stuart—George Siler and Lou. M. Houseman. Chicago: W. J. Jefferson Printing & Publishing Co., 175 Monroe St., [1897]. [3] 4-51 [1] pp. (pp. 32-50 unnumbered). 8vo (24.2 x 16.7 cm), original printed illustrated wrappers showing a central scene of the boxers in the ring, printed on pink paper and heavily illustrated with photomechanical woodcut reproductions (some signed by Blomgren Brothers, Chicago) and photo reproductions, some full page. Wrappers have mild insect damage with some loss, especially to spine area. Interior is very fine. Very rare. No copies at auction in over thirty years and only one copy of this edition reported on OCLC. (The other two are same imprint but 96 pp.)

     First edition of one of the rarest works relating to boxing. The text is a detailed account of preparations for the contest, descriptions and depictions of the fighters, an illustrated, detailed round-by-round and blow-by-blow account of the fight’s fourteen rounds, commentary by various individuals, including referee Siler, and long discussions of the Marquis of Queensbury rules and how they will be applied. Among the prominent images are four full-length views of the contestants, the stadium and ring constructed for the event, the fight in progress, and the consequences of the final knock-out blow. The entire match was underwritten by Dan A. Stuart of Dallas, Texas.

     This fight is a celebrated event in the history of boxing because it was only the second official heavyweight fight ever. The fight ended suddenly after Fitzsimmons landed a huge blow to Corbett’s midsection, what became famous as the Solar Plexus Punch. At the time of the fight, Corbett was recognized as the world heavyweight champion, the title Fitzsimmons won here and held until June 9, 1899. Adding to its importance, it was the first fight ever filmed in its entirety, in this case by Enoch J. Rector and narrated by Nellie Verrill Mighels Davis, the first time a woman reported a prize fight. When released to theaters, it was the longest movie ever shown.

     “Bob” Fitzsimmons (1863-1917) is the first recognized three-division world champion. He began his boxing career in New Zealand before moving to the U.S., where he spent the rest of his life. He is rated as among the top ten best punchers of all time. James John “Gentleman Jim” Corbett (1866-1933) is called “The Father of Modern Boxing” because of his attempts to apply scientific principles to the sport as opposed to mere raw power. Despite his intense desire for a rematch, Fitzsimmons would never agree to one because of his intense dislike of his opponent. After his boxing career, Corbett had some success as an actor. His most famous fight was his defeat of John L. Sullivan to win the heavyweight title. Siler was the most respected referee of his time and an icon in the history of early modern boxing. Stuart was a Dallas, Texas, businessman who sponsored boxing matches such as this one. One of his famous endeavors was a match between Fitzsimmons and Peter Maher on an island in the Rio Grande opposite Judge Roy Bean’s establishment in Langtry, held there so that it would technically be in Mexico and thereby avoid Texas’ anti-fighting laws and the Texas Rangers sent to stop it.


Sold. Hammer: $2,600.00; Price Realized: $3,185.00.

Auction 23 Abstracts

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