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"THE SYDNEY CORNSTALK"

LIFE STORY OF FRANK P. SLAVIN.

CHAPTER II.

American fighters invade Australia. I meet Martin Costello in first international bout of its kind. Knocking out a strong man.
Copyright Miller Services, Limited.


Frank Slavin.

During the middle 80's American boxers began to cast their eyes towards Australia. They had heard that "down under" they would find a profitable field. This was of particular interest to the heavyweights, due to the fact that Sullivan was riding roughshod over every thing in the States. However, it takes courage to cross an ocean and invade a strange land for the first time. It remained for Martin Costello, familiarly known as "Buffalo," a heavyweight, and "Young" Hurget Mitchell, a welterweight, to be the first fighters to visit Australia. They arrived in Sydney in November, 1886, and their appearance aroused much interest. Their visit was instrumental in bringing Australia to the front rank of pugilism, as it proved that the "Cornstalkers" were just as good in the ring as the representatives of any other country. As a result of the visit of Costello and Mitchell, many exchanges of fighters took place in subsequent years between Australia and the United States. Costello and Mitchell broadcast challenges to meet any men at their respective weights in Australia. Of course Costello was the great drawing card. All down the ages the big men have been the ones to give the fight fans their greatest thrills, and, as Costello was press-agented as a second Sullivan, excitement ran high in Sydney.

First International Match.

Australia was very anxious to have Costello beaten in his first match, but the boxing executives were in a quandary as to which of their heavyweights was best fitted to do the trick. Larry Foley was engaged to promote the match; and he finally settled on me as the best man to put "against Costello." We signed articles to meet on a Saturday night late in December, 1886, in Foley's Arena. I trained faithfully for the bout as I had a desire to visit America and meet Sullivan. I figured that if I could dispose of Costello my chances of meeting Sullivan would be greatly enhanced. Foley's Arena was jammed long before the hours of the fight, and thousands of people waited outside to get the details round by round. I was installed as the favourite due to my punch, and also to the fact that I was fighting before my own people. Costello's unquestioned defensive skill was not overlooked, however. Some of my more ardent backers bet that I would win by a knockout inside four rounds. Although it was my first international match, one in which the honour of my country was at stake, I decided to get my man quick; I never did have much consideration for feeling out tactics. I always liked to get things over as quickly as possible. Costello had apparently decided to do the same thing, with the hope, no doubt, of profiting by my inexperience, thereby , confusing me.

A Furious Round.

All through the first round we stood toe to toe and battered away at one another. It was the most furious round Sydney fans had seen up to that time. Neither of us gave ground in the second; but in the third I slipped a hard right hook over. Costello's guard and staggered him. He hung on for the rest of the round, and I could not measure him for the fatal blow. In the fourth round Costello resorted to long-range work. He danced and ducked, and made me look foolish when my blows missed their target. The rounds went by very fast, and I kept shouting at Costello, "Stand still and fight." But he had discovered that I was too strong for him, and had determined to make a foot race of it. In those days in Sydney there was a rule that any fight in progress at midnight on Saturdays should be called a draw. When we got to the twentieth round Costello began to taunt me.

"We've got another hour to go to midnight," he jibbed.

"Stand still and fight," I roared back at him,

Costello did not stand still but kept one eye on the clock that ticked away to the left of the ring, and the other on me.

"Half an hour to go," he informed me as the backed away into a corner.

With the midnight hour drawing near, the crowd became furious and shouted for a knockout. I did everything I could to land a solid punch on the fleeting chin of Costello. "One minute to go," he shot at me.

"If you'll come near enough they won't need the referee to count you out; that clock will do it when it strikes 12," I hissed at him.

A Draw and Another Challenge.

It was the thirty-ninth round. I was still chasing Costello, and he was still running like a wild rabbit. I would have given my share of the purse to have been able to ticket him with a knockout blow. The bell for the end of the round sounded a few seconds before midnight, and the bout was declared a draw. I issued a challenge to meet Costello in a second bout at the earliest possible date. I intimated that I would like to fight to a finish, but would meet him under any condition he named. Costello, however, would not accept my challenge. My fight with Costello convinced me that I had little to fear from anyone, so I went to Melbourne to see if I could set a match with Peter Jackson. Peter, however, refused to meet me. I then put on exhibition bouts, agreeing to knock-out anyone in four rounds.

Melbourne was talking a great deal about Professor Miller, who had a reputation of being a strong man as well as a good fighter. I went to my uncle, P.J. Murphy, a well-known sportsman in Melbourne, and asked him if he could arrange a match between Miller and myself.

"What?!" exploded my uncle. "He'll knock your top off."

"All right, I'll see if I can interest someone else," I calmly told him.

The match was arranged, and my uncle made a special trip to tell me that he was betting on Miller. He assured me that I was in for a good tanning.

Miller had all the confidence in the world when he entered the ring. He had the support of the whole of Melbourne. Even my uncle was against me. It was a very short fight. Miller had no chance to show his great strength. The first ring swing I let go sent his head back with such a snap that I thought his neck was broken. He was out for the night.

"I'll throw a chair at you," cried my uncle through the ropes.

"Don't try it or I might put you alongside Miller," I laughed back at him.

Costello Again.

Melbourne soon forgot about Miller and I was taken to its heart. My uncle decided to take a pride in his nephew, and he joined the boys who were anxious to back me against the pick of the Commonwealth or the world. Costello had been able to pick up very little money in Sydney so he came on to Melbourne and, to my surprise, issued a challenge to me. He let the whole of Melbourne know that he could lick me and that I had been lucky to obtain a draw in Sydney. I at once accepted the challenge

"I want to use small gloves," argued Costello when we got together talk over terms.

"Don't let that stop the fight," I informed him. "I don't care what kind of gloves we use. None at all will suit me best."

We agreed to fight to a finish for a purse of £100. Jack Doughtary, a millionaire sportsman, of Melbourne, put up the purse, and in order to make a real day of it he offered another purse of £100 for a bout between Young Mitchell and Martin Boland, the best welterweight in Australia at that time. It was against the law to stage fights to a finish in the colony of Victoria. Eight rounds was the limit, so it was impossible to have the bout in Melbourne, or any other city or village where there were law enforcement officers. We had to get out in the country. Doughtary and his friends instructed Costello and I to go into strict training for six weeks. They said they would give a three days' notice as to when and where the match would be held.

The Register (Adelaide, South Australia), March 16, 1926.