Horse racing always had a strong appeal for me. You won't find many Australians who are not affected that way. I had a bit of luck at the old Brighton track on Coney Island, when I played three tips given me by Snapper Garrison, who was one of the best riders on the American turf in thois days. I had only time to run out between shows at Nibblo's Gardens, where I was doing a turn, but the run enriched me by over 7,000 dollars.
This success whetted my appetite for the turf, and on my return to England I set myself up as a bookmaker, and became a member of Tattersalls. I varied this employment with a tour of England, Scotland, and Wales with Charles Mitchell, who had agreed to train me for all my future bouts. Mitchell had retired from active competition in the ring, or otherwise I might have had a profitable bout with him. Mitchell still thrived on his draw with John L. Sullivan in Chantilly, France, and always said that I could lick Sullivan. I was offered a contract to show at the old Aquarium in London, and when my offer to knock out any man inside of four rounds failed to bring many responses, I increased the odds, and offered £100 to any two men who could stay four rounds.
This brought me some very amusing experiences. Instead of getting light, fast men who might have led me a dance for four rounds, the highways and byways were combed for giants. They began trotting in men who were so big that they could hardly get in through the doors. One night an Irishman who came from Billingsgate Fish Market, where they make them tough, said that he and an Englishman would take the hundred pounds from me. Their combined weights must have gone over 500 pounds. Their strength must have been tremendous, and they had every reason to believe that they could stretch my length on the floor.
The Englishman was the first in the ring. One blow in the pit of the stomach failed to knock him off his feet, but it made him double up and hobble around the ring like a cripple. He emitted huge exclamations, and was finally led away. Enter the Irishman. He was a wild one at that. I was a mere stripling along side him. We shook hands. I hit him with every punch I had in the first round, but he stayed with it. He was certainly a game one, for he had no defence, and I hit him at will. In the second round I sent him to sleep.
When the Irishman woke up, one of his attendants said, "He was too much for you."
"Too much, no be jabbers,' replied the wobbly Irishman. "If Oi hadn't lost me senses he'd niver a-knocked me out."
While I was showing at the Aquarium, Sandow, the strong man, came there to make his first appearance in England. We were counter-attractions, and, despite the sensation Sandow caused, I continued to draw bigger houses. Peter Jackson, the great Australian coloured boxer, paid a visit to England, and every one went to see the two of to in the ring. I welcomed the chance to meet Peter, as he had refused to box me before I had left Australia. The National Sporting Club, which had just been organized, and which was to play such a prominent part in the sporting life of England, signed Jackson and myself for the opening fight in that historic building. We agreed to fight 20 sounds on May 30, 1892. Immediately after I had signed to meet Jackson, Sullivan returned to San Francisco from his tour of Australia, which, as I had predicted, turned out a financial failure. Sullivan was in need of money, and this prompted his return to the ring. Physically he was far from the man who had been the fear of the gladiator of boxing five and ten years before.
Then came the famous triple challenge, which was flashed around the world. Sullivan aimed the challenge at Jim Corbett, Charlie Mitchell, and myself. He stipulated a purse of 25,000 dollars and a side bet of 10,000 dollars. I read of the challenge in London and immediately rushed to a telegraph office to dispatch a cablegram of acceptance. I followed this trip with a visit to a steamship office and arranged bookings on the first steamer for New York. Charlie Mitchell agreed to accompany me. He was not interested in Sullivan's challenge through the fact that he was finished with the ring. This left the issue between Corbett and myself. Reaching New York on December 26, 1891, I wired Sullivan again, and received an immediate reply. He refused to fight me as long as I was matched with a negro. Sullivan drew the colour line not only for himself, but would have no dealings with another man while he was signed with a negro. I got in touch with Parson Davis, who was managing Peter Jackson, and who happened to be in Chicago. Davis agreed to a postponement of our bout. They were anxious that I should meet Sullivan, as they felt sure that I would win, and that it would make our bout in London a greater attraction than ever. It would also give Jackson the chance he was seeking of fighting for the championship. Sullivan would never entertain a challenge from Jackson.
One other bridge had to be crossed before I could complete terms for a bout with Sullivan, and that was the bridge that snapped. I had to get the consent of my backer, George Peisse, who was in Monte Carlo, for a postponement of my bout with Jackson. Peisse would not hear of a postponement. He cabled that Sullivan was simply bluffing again, and urged me to go ahead with my bout with Jackson. This came as a distinct disappointment to me. I believed that Sullivan was in earnest about his return to the ring, and I was confident that I could beat him.
As the world knows I had to pass up the chance of a bout with Sullivan, and Corbett went into the ring to win the world's championship. As the date of my fight with Jackson was still some time off I did not return immediately to England, but went showing with Mitchell. We appeared in Pittsburgh, Chicago, Brooklyn, and Philadelphia. In Detroit I formed the Slavin Vaudeville Company, with Billie Thompson as manager, and featured the California Athletic Club with a four-round exhibition between Mitchell and myself. After a long tour the company broke up in Buffalo, and Mitchell and I visited Toronto, Guelph, Ottawa, and Montreal. I had sent Billie Thompson on to New York to book the Miners' Theatre, in the Bowery, for one week, but Thompson went to the races and while there Corbett's manager slipped in and secured the house. Mitchell and I decided to take in Corbett's show and see what he looked like. I was at the box office buying tickets when I noticed Mitchell over at the bar making trouble with a fine looking chap. It was Corbett. Mitchell was very offensive and Corbett backed away from him. I forgot about my tickets and seized Mitchell by the back of the neck and started to run him out of the place.
"Go easy here," shouted someone in my ear. I felt a gun prodding me in the stomach. It was concealed in the pocket of a little fellow by my side.\
"Easy on that stuff here," I warned him. "I'm getting this man out of here." Out we went. We never went back to the Miners' to see Corbett. I would have liked to see him perform as there was a great deal of talk about the new style of fighting he was introducing. While Corbett went on with his preparations for the championship bout I returned to England to begin training for my fight with Jackson, which was to provide the most startling upset of my whole career.
The Advertiser (Adelaide, South Australia), March 24, 1926.