BY AL SPINK
One by one the old army of pugilists who helped make ring history from the time of its real beginning in America are passing.
The first Jack Dempsey, the only John L Sullivan, Bob Fitzsimmons, Charley Mitchell, Peter Jackson, Jack Burke, Gus Ruhim, Stanley Kotchell and Mike Donovan are only a few of the names I can recall of the great fighters who in the last two decades havo crossed the divide. Now comes word that Frank Slavin, former heavyweight champion pugilist of England and Austialia, is lying seriously ill and next death's door in a hospital at Victoria, B.C.
Slavin in his day was a contemporary or Sullivan, Jackson, Burke and that crowd. Slavin in his early fighting career in Australia was known as the "Sydney Cornstalk," and he was a finely built fellow standing six feet two inches and weighing about 200 pounds.
Born at Matiland, New South Wales, on January 5, 1862, Slavin came to this country in 1891 and on April 30 he made his first bow to the American public when he appeared in friendly bouts on the stage in Madison Square Garden, New York, with Jim Daly and Charles Mitchell as his opponents. He boxed four friendly rounds with each of them.
Slavin at that time was in his thirty-first year and had already won his spurs as a great fighter.
Slavin's first real trial came when he met Jack Burke, the "Irish Lad," at Melbourne, Australia, on July 16, 1888.
Burke had fought draws with Mitchell and other famous fighters, and it was thought he would take the measure of the "Sidney Cornstalk."
But Slavin fooled them all and after a draw fight which lasted eight rounds, he was given another trial with the "Irish Lad."
This second meeting of Slavin and Burke took place at Melbourne on February 4, 1889, and Slavin knocked Burke out in the third round.
It was on December 23, 1889, or nearly a year after he had finished Burke, that Slavin was matched to fight Jim Smith for the championship of England under the old London prize ring rules with the bare knuckles and all that.
In the fourteenth round when Slavin had Smith nearly out, Jem Carney's gang of Birmingham toughs, who were behind Smith, cut the ropes and jumping into the ring assaulted Slavin with their short walking sticks and knuckle dusters.
Behind Smith was a crowd led by George Alexander Baird, well known at that time as the profligate Squire Abingdon Baird, who died alone a little later in an obscure hotel at New Orleans while touring America with Charley Mitchell.
Joe Vessy. an honorable English sportsman, was the refere at this fight, and he not only gave the decision which made Slavin champion of England but he saw that Baird was expelled fiorn the Pelican Club of London for his complicity in the affair.
Later Slavin beat big Joe McAulife in London and then he took Charley Mitchell's measure, after which he came to this country. Here he outboxed Jake Killam and others and then on his return to England he met Peter Jackson before the National Club for the championship of England and $10,000 a side.
That was the great Peter's last real fight, and he knocked Slavin out in the tenth round.
Reno (Nevada) Evening Gazette, July 24, 1922.
Copyright © 2007 Larry Slavens. All rights reserved.