My second fight with Martin Costello proved the most romantic of my long career. Only two score of men witnessed this "fight to a finish," one of the smallest crowds that ever attended an international match. The utmost secrecy had to be maintained by those on the inside so that the police would not be tipped off. Care also had to be exercised that the general public, craving for details of the match, did not get in the know and pack the scene of combat, making arrest for the promoters and principals a certainty. Costello and I went along with our training. We finished our specified six weeks but still we waited.
Daughtary came to my quarters one evening and told me to be ready to leave three nights later at 11 o'clock.
"We'll travel all night," he said.
He gave me no further information. At the appointed hour a large furniture van, drawn by four horses, called for me. My trainer, Jack Barnet, Boland, and I climbed in and we found Daughtary, my uncle, and 14 other wealthy sportsmen inside.
"Make yourself as comfortable as possible," advised Daughtary. "We've got a long ride ahead of us, so don't get. weary before we get there."
"Where are we going?" I asked.
"You'll know soon enough," was all the reply I got.
We struck alone the Brighton road and soon overtook another furniture van which carried Costello, Mitchell, their seconds, and 11 other sportsmen. The two vans jogged along together until daylight when they halted on the outskirts of Morediallock (Mordialloc-- ed.), about 30 miles from Melbourne. There were no signs of any one or anything for miles and it seemed an ideal spot for our purpose.
Daughtary was undecided as to where the ring should be pitched and, while we were surveying the place, a third van drove up. It was laden with the best of eats, wines, liquors, and cigars. Breakfast was prepared by two cooks who were brought along, and it proved so tempting that Costello and I both ate a great deal more than we should have. The long ride had made us ravenously hungry. The 24-foot ring was pitched and everyone was a keyed up over the prospect of two real bouts far from the maddening crowd. Costello and I were stripped and ready to duck under the ropes when six helmets flashed in the morning sunlight on the brow of a nearby hill.
"That's done it," said Daughtary, as he caught sight of the familiar helmets.
Beneath the helmets were six stalwart officers of the law, mounted on well groomed horses. Their swords dangled at their sides and rifles rested in the sockets of the saddles. The officers galloped over to the ring. Immediately afterwards ten other officers raced up in support.
"Hello. what's going on? Up rather early aren't you?" enquired the square-chinned sergeant.
"Come and have something to eat!" invited Daughtary with a smile.
"No thanks." retorted the sergeant as he dismounted. "What are you going to have, a fight?"
"No, a hop, step, and jump," laughed Daughtary. "Here are the competitors." Daughtary pointed to Costello and I.
"Well, we'll be staying here all day," said the sergeant. "You might as well go hack to Melbourne. We've got information that you intend to stage a fight."
Back to Melbourne we went. Every one was disappointed, but Daughtary was determined that he would beat the law and pull off the fight inside the confines of the Colony of Victoria. Three days later Daughtary took the party outside the Flemington race track, but once again the police surrounded us and we had to return to Melbourne. The police certainly kept extremely close tab on us, but Daughtary could not learn, where the leak was.
"Well, you haven't pulled it off yet?" laughed the sergeant, as he marched up to us at the race track.
"No, but I will," said Daughtary defiantly.
"No, you won't, not in that Colony of Victoria." the sergeant warned.
A week later Daughtary made arrangements to have us fight in a billiard room in a 16-ft. ring. He put the proposition up to Costello and I.
"Suits me," I said.
"But it doesn't me," blurted out Costello.
And that ended that chapter of the fight. In another week the fight was on again.
"To-morrow night I want you to go on a rail trip," Tom Gurney, another of the sportsmen in the party, instructed me. "Not far, but pack a grip."
"All right," I replied. "But I'm getting sick of the whole thing.
Halted by the police at every turn, Daughtary finally abandoned all hope of staging the fight in Victoria. He chartered a special train to carry the party across the border into New South Wales. The train was made up of three sleepers and two first-class coaches. At 4 o'clock in the morning the train made its first stop, and we were all called from our berths. When I got out I noticed the sign on the station, 'Albury, N.S.W.'
A number of buggies and traps were awaiting us at the station, and we drove until we were two miles beyond the limits of Albury. The ring was quickly pitched by men Daughtary had picked up in Albury, and by the time the morning light was strong we were ready to set for the international matches. No decision had been made as to which fight should be first. The party had no particular fancy, so Daughtary told us to toss for it. Young Mitchell represented the United States, and I was the Australian choice for the coin-tossing. I won, and, as I was irritated and anxious to get after Costello, I chose to enter the ring first. There was no fuss about preliminaries. Every man in the party was a true sportsmen, and their whole desire was to see good fights, no matter which man won. C. J. Turner, editor of The Melbourne Sportsman, was the referee, and, after giving us a few instructions, turned us loose. It was a glorious morning. The air was fresh and invigorating, and, as both Costello and I were in the peak of condition, we stepped out at the gong and slugged away willingly. Costello stayed close to me most of the way, in an effort to block my blows before they gained too much power. At times he tried the running tactics which made a farce of our previous meet, but I had added to my own speed, and rounded him up quickly whenever he made a break. After the fifth round Costello began to slow up. My punches had been reaching his body with such force that he lost a lot of his early speed. In the seventh round I feinted to his head with my left, and as his hands went up I plunged my right into the pit of his stomach. Costello collapsed with a sickening groan, and lay on the turf like a dead man. He was counted out. There was absolutely no move in him, and he was carried from the ring.
The best efforts failed to revive him, and I had fears of a fatality. I had hit Costello with what we called in those days "a punch to the pit." It was later greatly used by Bob Fitzsimmons, and was known as the "solar plexus." After many minutes, which seemed like hours to me, Costello showed signs of reviving, much to my relief, but it was hours before he was able to stand on his feet. It was a fortunate thing for me that I decided to fight first. Boland and Mitchell stayed in the ring for 49 rounds, and waged the most terrific fight I have ever seen. They were evenly matched physically, and fought as close grips all the way. Seldom did either break ground to avoid punishment. They just stood there toe to toe and banged away from one bell to the other. Both boys were badly marked at the thirtieth round, but they were game and kept on. After passing the fortieth round they became leg-weary, and had little power left in their blows. In the forty-ninth Boland and Mitchell were tottering about, ready to drop from sheer exhaustion. Daughtary called Referee Turner over and ordered him to stop the fight and call it a draw.
"I'll give a hundred pounds to each boy for his wonderful showing," said Daughtary, as he clapped, his hand heartily. "It's the greatest fight I've ever seen."
On returning to Melbourne I was so pleased with myself that I issued a challenge to meet any man in the world. I was prepared to meet even the great John L. Sullivan, if the match could be arranged, despite all the stories which were told of his ferocity and terrific hitting ability.
The Register (Adelaide, South Australia), March 17, 1926.