On February 1st, 1897, it finally happened in Cleveland, Ohio. After being knocked down in the 1st round, Peter Jackson fouled James J. Corbett with a low blow early in round three. Referee John O’ Brien ruled the foul blatant enough to disqualify Jackson, making “Gentleman Jim” the new world heavyweight champ. Jackson’s reign lasted 32 defenses and ten years and seven months, each of which will be records in the PPU for a considerable time.
ROLL CALL OF CHAMPIONS, END OF 1897
HEAVYWEIGHTS, James J. Corbett (45-5-2, 11 KO’s): Corbett defended his heavyweight title twice more in the year with wins over Dick Matthews (UD 15) and Bob Fitzsimmons (TKO 11). Peter Jackson will be first up for Corbett as 1898 begins, as Jackson gets the automatic shot for winning Contender Of The Year based on his previous achievements. The retainer of the belt then gets Tom Hyer in another automatic title shot after that.
LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHTS, Joe Choynski (41-3, 39 KO’s): Choynski made five defenses this year against some rather inferior competition, but some fighters in the middleweight class are moving up to the light heavy division to try and rest the title away from him in 1898.
MIDDLEWEIGHTS, Jack Dempsey NP (46-8-1, 27 KO’s): Dempsey has now tied Paddy Duffy’s record for most PPU title reigns at four, defeating Charles McCoy for the title in May. Fred Morris took the champ to a draw in September, which triggers a mandatory rematch early in 1898.
WELTERWEIGHTS, Tommy Ryan (42-4-2, 34 KO’s): Ryan is now a three-time crown holder, knocking out Dick Sandall in New Orleans in November to win the title back.
LIGHTWEIGHTS, Young Griffo (41-5-2, 13 KO’s): The Aussie great has had no problem adjusting to the lightweight division, making three successful defenses in 1897. He’s already signed on to fight Ryan in a title vs. title bout in early 1898, as Griffo attempts to be the first fighter in PPU history to win titles in three different weight classes.
FEATHERWEIGHTS, Ben Jordan (13-2, 5 KO’s): Defeated Oscar Gardner to win the title for the first time in the Bronx in just his 15th bout this past November.
BANTAMWEIGHTS, Jimmy Barry (21-2, 9 KO’s): Captured the title against Ike Weir in Atlantic City this past March before decision wins over Billy Plimmer and Casper Leon. The win over Leon was a split decision, so he has to face Leon again in his next defense.
FLYWEIGHTS, Jimmy Anthony (21-2-1, 13 KO’s): Defeated Eddie Avery before knocking out Erasmus Keifer* twice (TKO 15, TKO 7) in his first two defenses in his second reign as champion.
TOP 10 POUND FOR POUND
1. Peter Jackson (#1 heavyweight)
2. Bob Fitzsimmons (#2 heavyweight)
3. James J. Corbett (heavyweight champion)
4. Jack Dempsey NP (middleweight champion)
5. Young Griffo (lightweight champion)
6. Jack McAuliffe (#3 lightweight)
7. Tommy Ryan (welterweight champion)
8. Joe Choynski (light heavyweight champion)
9. George Dixon (#1 featherweight)
10. George Lavigne (#1 lightweight)
AWARDS (COTY and POTY now get automatic title shots in the new year)
Fighter Of The Year: James J. Corbett (1st award)
Contender Of The Year: Peter Jackson (1st award as a contender, 8th overall)
Prospect Of The Year: Tom Hyer (#5 heavyweight contender)
Rookie Of The Year: Terry McGovern (6-0 bantamweight)