The death at Vancouver has been announced of Francis Patrick Slavin, known in Australia as "Paddy," and in other parts of the world as Frank Slavin, was born in West Maitland on January 5, 1862, and, in the late 'eighties and early 'nineties of last century, was a notable figure in the prize ring both in Australia and England.
His reputation was made first in Queensland, where as a bare-knuckle fighter, he was apparently unbeatable. He came to Sydney in the 'eighties and fought a number of battles, both with and without gloves, his most notable achievements including the defeat of Jack Burke, a noted American pugilist of those days, known as "The Irish Lad."
As Burke had fought several draws with Charlie Mitchell, at that time considered to have strong pretensions to the world title, "Paddy" was well in the limelight, and his chances of making money-- though in those days purses were microscopic compared with the huge sums earned nowadays by the top-notchers-- were enhanced by his winning the Australian title from Mick Dooley. This he did at the famous old White Horse Hall, run by the late Larry Foley, in 1868.
Shortly after that success, Slavin went to England, and at the National Sporting Club fought the late Peter Jackson, the negro boxer, considered by many as the greatest heavyweight of all time. The contest has been described by those who witnessed it as the greatest fight between heavyweights they ever saw. Slavin showed a wonderful pugnacity and gameness, but was knocked out in the tenth round.
About this time the Australian was engaged to fight Jem Smith, the English champion, but the authorities, looking askance at the match, it was decided to have the fight in Bruges, Belgium. Supporters of both parties crossed the Channel, but those of Smith included a gang of roughs. The battle was fought in the open air, and when Slavin was plainly getting much the better of it these roughs broke the ring and attacked Slavin with sticks and other weapons, so that the fight had to be abandoned. London "Punch" of that date published a cartoon dealing with the occurrence, and some scathing verses about British "sportsmanship."
Slavin subsequently went to the Klondyke, where he failed to make a fortune, and then settled in Canada.
After his return from the Klondyke, Slavin amassed a modest fortune by speculation, but lost it all through further speculation. He was well over 50 when he enlisted with the Canadian forces during the war, and later rose to the command of a unit. He returned to Canada in broken health, but was understood to have recovered. From that time little has been heard of him in Australia, though at least once his death was erroneously reported.
Northern Star (Lismore, New South Wales, Australia), October 26, 1929.
VANCOUVER, B.C., Oct. 17-- Frank Slavin, aged 67, famous heavyweight of the John L. Sullivan era of pugilism, died in Shaughnessy Military Hospital today after an illness of more than a year.
Slavin, whose real name was Sydney Cornstalk, was born in Maitland, N.S.W., Jan. 5, 1862, about four years after Sullivan was born in Boston.
Slavin begin his professional fighting career. In 1885 and during the next twenty-two years fought most of the topnotchers, including Jem Smith, Jake Kilrain, Peter Jackson, Bob Armstrong, Frank Craig and Jim Hall. Slavin always claimed that the only reason he was not heavyweight champion was because Sullivan would not meet him.
Slavin went to the Yukon during the stampede in 1898 and enlisted as a private in the Canadian Expeditionary Forces and served at the front in France during the WorId War when he was 54 years old. After the war he did considerable prospecting, but was stricken with a serious illness in 1928.
New York (New York) Times, October 18, 1929.
Note: the Times has it wrong; Francis Patrick Slavin's nickname was "The Sydney Cornstalk" because of his height.