I was absolutely disgusted with my showing against Jackson, and this put thoughts into my head of retiring. The incentive of a bout with Sullivan was gone, so I took over three hotels and operated a "book" as well. I had practically decided to have nothing more to do with the ring, when Jim Hall, an Australian light-heavyweight, readied London looking for a bout. The first thing I knew I was matched with him. We appeared at the National Sporting Club in 1895, and once again I made a showing that made me wild with my self.
"Take him out, he's drunk," they shouted in the seventh round.
I was staggering about like a sailor on his first night ashore. I had not been hit hard, but there was no use for the bout to continue, and the referee stopped us. I could faintly remember Billy Bevan, who was one of my seconds, passing a sponge over my face during the rests between the first three rounds. There was a peculiar odour to it. The club doctor was called to my dressing room, and he stated that I had been doped. These two defeats at the National Sporting Club had so depressed and humiliated me that I decided to leave the country. I booked passage on a steamer to South Africa. In the meantime Frank Craig, a great negro fighter, better known as the "Harlem Coffee Cooler," had defeated several English heavyweights. He challenged every one but me. I left London for Southampton, to catch my boat for South Africa. The morning after I received a telegram, from Charlie Mitchell. It read:
"Craig has issued challenge to you. Thinks you have left country. Shall I match you? Names side bet of £500."
I did what most boxers would do. Accepted the challenge. It is funny that no matter how many times a boxer makes up his mind to quit he always hag a hankering to go back. The lure of the crowd, the keenness of battle, the smacking of gloves, and the association with sports men, and the money all pull you back. Jim Jeffries went back and so did John L. Sullivan. But they were old pitchers that went back once too often. And so I went back, but it was not to take another punch on the chin or be beaten by dope or liquor. I went back to redeem myself, and show the sporting public of England that I could still fight. Craig refused to put up the £500 side bet, but he managed to scrape up £200. We agreed to fight 10 rounds at the Stadium, Oxford street, on April 16, 1894. I had lost some of my prestige, and Craig had been bowling over most of the other leaders in the heavyweight ranks, so that the betting was practically even. Some called Craig to win. This was one fight I did not intend to lose. It lasted just one minute and 15 seconds. I hit Craig three times, and he was a sick man for a couple of days. This restored me to public favour, and I canceled my trip to South Africa, and toured Scotland and Ireland with Jem Mace. America, which had claimed me twice before, loomed up like a profitable field, so I crossed the Atlantic, and was matched with Peter Maher, the wild fighting Irish champion. If there was any one who liked fighting better than two Irishmen it was Peter Maher. We were to have settled our differences at the Granite Club, Williamstown, New York, on May 3, 1890. The purse was to be 5,000 dollars.
Boxing was hitting the tough spots at this time in New York, and both Maher and I were arrested on the morning of the fight. We were lodged on similar charges to those laid against McAulliffe end me in England, about to participate in a prize-fight. It was claimed that jealousy on the part of another boxing club had much to do with our rest in gaol. The Granite Club was crowded, and the fans waited impatiently until 11 o'clock for our appearance. Then they went home, calling down all the wraths in the world on the Irishman and Australian who had disappointed them. We had money to furnish bail, but the police wanted to get through with the case that night. The prosecuting attorney, however, was out trying to round up witnesses, and there was no chance to proceed. When word came that the Granite Club was empty we were allowed out on our own recognizances. The case was never called again. Peter and I were engaged to fight four rounds at Madison Square Garden, New York, two weeks later. The police came out with the announcement that no one need go to the fight with the hope of seeing any real fighting. The minute the principals began to hit hard, they said, they would stop it. This had a bad effect on the "gate." but about 1,300 fans turned out, and they saw one of the hardest four-round bouts that has ever been staged there.
"Ha, ha. I've fixed you," said one of the police officials from the ringside, as he looked about the sparsely settled garden. Before the fight had gone far this official who had done all he could to hurt the fight, was shouting like a wild man. He got more "kick" out of the fight than anyone else. Whenever Peter Maher was in the ring there was no chance or time for stalling. It was just a case of fight. Someone had to fall. So three times I fell that night. And to make things equal Peter went down three times. It was a furious affair, and no decision was given.
News of this slashing fight spread rapidly, and Peter and I became good drawing cards, and we made a short tour. The promoters always said we would give exhibition bouts, but they were nothing of the kind. They were real fights. In one of our first bouts I went to Peter and said,
"Look at my nose. The skin is off it; now don't hit it."
"All right," agreed Peter.
But once we were turned loose in the ring Peter made a rush for me and socked me a powerful right on my skinned nose. It hurt, and I fought back at him just like a man who had a grudge fight. Then came my second fight with Jake Kilrain, which I have already related. It was my good fortune to run into Joe Boyle, who had been manager of the Hoboken Club when Kilrain and I fought there in June, 1891. Boyle agreed to manage me, and we remained pals for many years. Boyle later became one of the big men of the Yukon and after the war, was very much interested in European affairs. He attained the rank of colonel, and two years ago died in Europe. Boyle, who was a Canadian, thought it would be a good idea to make a tour of eastern Canada. He got Jim Hall to go along, and we arranged exhibition bouts in Montreal, Quebec, and Toronto. Unfortunately for us we were billed to appear in Montreal on January 20, 1897 which was the night of the annual banquet of the Mayor. No counter attraction was wanted by the civic authorities. About 8:30 o'clock that night I ordered my cutter and drove to the Summer Gardens, where the fight was to be held. It was a beast of a night I with a fine snow falling. I was surprised to and the place in total darkness, and hundreds of people huddled around the doors.
"There he is," I heard someone exclaim, and immediately there was a rush in my direction.
"What's the matter?" I asked. "Can't you get in?" I tried the doors and found them locked and after visiting my hotel to see if I could find Boyle, I drove to Martin Costello's saloon. Almost immediately after, Boyle came in.
"What have you done?" I demanded of Boyle.
"I've done nothing," he replied. "The civic authorities have stolen the owner of the building and the keys as well so that we could not go ahead."
We took action, and were awarded damages.
Our next effort to give an exhibition in Quebec City was also doomed to failure. All arrangements were allowed to proceed, but the night of the show 20 provincial police officers, mounted, and with swords showing, stood guard at the entrance, and refused any one admittance. Mayor Peraunt felt almost as badly over the treatment meted out to us as we did ourselves, and he headed a subscription list to help defray our losses.
"I'm not going to let you boys go away thinking that this is the way everyone in Quebec acts," the Mayor said in making the presentation to us. "This purse will prove to you that there are a lot of good sports in the Province"
"This is no place for us," I told Boyle, "We'd better head somewhere else."
"We'll go to Toronto; that's my home town, and we ought to do better," commented Boyle.
We went on to Toronto. February 14 was the only open date that suited us but it was the night before the Canadian amaetur boxing championships. The promoters decided to go ahead. Two days before the fight an injunction was taken out by the amateur body, and we were once again prevented from putting on our show.
"What kind of a country is this, Joe?" I queried. "When I was here before everyone treated me well, and I dined with Mayors and politicians, and I had a good time. Now everyone seems to have their back up. I think we had better go back to the States."
Boyle thought we could pick up some money by exhibiting in St. Thomas, Guelph, Brantford, and other small towns but all we got was enough to carry us on to the next place. It was a hand-to-mouth existence. I soon had my fill to the ears, and I told Boyle that I was going to cross the border, so we shifted to Rochester, New York, where Boyle and I organized a boxing club in the skating rink owned by the M. Bartholemew Brewing Company.
"We've got to open up with a good show, I remarked to Boyle.
"Get some good man to go on with me in the main event. Boyle tried everywhere to follow our instructions, but he met with disappoinyment on every hand. We heard that ther waa a big negro barber in Rochester who was touted as a real comer, so Boyle endeavoured to get him in the ring, but he refused the tempting offer. Boyle and I were about as discouraged as a couple of clams at a clam-bake, when a telegram came to me from San Francisco.
"Will you fight Johnson in San Francisco for 5,000 dollars. Transportation for two. Wire reply at once." That's what the wire said.
"I don't know who this Johnson is but the offer looks good to me so let's go," I flung at Boyle.
"They say go west, young man, so I'll with you, Frank," replied Boyle.
The Register (Adelaide, South Australia), March 26, 1926.