Fistic History: Notes From 1896
Another year passes in Professional Prizefighters Union, and the burning question as 1897 looms is a simple one: will anyone dethrone Peter Jackson before he retires?
ROLL CALL OF CHAMPIONS AT THE END OF 1896
HEAVYWEIGHTS, Peter Jackson (39-0-2, 33 KO’s): The champion began to show his age this year, only making two defense. In his most recent defense he faced James J. Corbett a sixth time, with the two fighters trading knockdowns in a 15-round draw. That will trigger an automatic rematch with Corbett in early 1897, with many fight followers wondering if the seventh time could wind up being the charm.
LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHTS, Joe Choysnki (36-3, 34 KO’s): After stunning Bob Fitzsimmons to win the Light Heavy title at the start of the year, Choysnki has defended the title against meager competition five times in 1896, all wins coming by way of knockout, four of the five coming within three rounds or less.
MIDDLEWEIGHTS, Charles McCoy (27-3, 23 KO’s): McCoy stopped Jack Dempsey NP (KO-10) to win the middleweight title in May, successfully defending the belt against Charley Johnson (KO-14) with Johnson ahead on the scorecards at the time of the stoppage. McCoy fights Light Heavyweight champ Joe Choysnki in what’s becoming an annual ritual of “title vs. title” bouts as of late.
WELTERWEIGHTS, Joe Walcott (30-1-1, 21 KO’s): Walcott turned back four challenges to his title during the year, all coming by way of stoppages.
LIGHTWEIGHTS, Young Griffo (38-5-2, 11 KO’s): Griffo became the first fighter in PPU history to hold two titles simultaneously in two different weight classes when he beat Bobby Dobbs in January to win the Lightweight title. After vacating the Featherweight belt, he’s since turned back the challenges of Billy Dacey, Arthur Chambers, and Joe Gans to prove he’s not a one-hit wonder after stepping up in class.
FEATHERWEIGHTS, Cal McCarthy (32-6-1, 11 KO’s): McCarthy lost to George Dixon to fill the vacancy in the Featherweight division in February, but Dixon lost the belt to Johnny T. Griffin in his subsequent defense. McCarthy then beat Griffin to win the title a second time in August, and defended the title successfully against Fred Bogan in December.
BANTAMWEIGHTS, Ike Weir (37-8-4, 14 KO’s): Weir defeated Jack Hare to win the Bantamweight crown a second time in a division that saw Hare, Pedlar Palmer, Tommy Kelly, and Chappie Moran all holding the belt at one point or another during the year.
FLYWEIGHTS, Eddie Avery (22-8-4, 12 KO’s): All of Avery’s fights in 1896 were against Walter Croot. He captured the title from Croot in March in a spilt decision, drew in the automatic rematch in July, then won the automatically triggered re-rematch against Croot in November (DQ-11).
POUND FOR POUND TOP 10
1. Peter Jackson (heavyweight champion)
2. Bob Fitzsimmons (#2 heavyweight)
3. Jack McAuliffe (#2 lightweight)
4. Young Griffo (lightweight champion)
5. Jack Dempsey NP (#1 middleweight)
6. James J. Corbett (#1 heavyweight)
7. Joe Walcott (welterweight champion)
8. Tommy Ryan (#1 welterweight)
9. George Dixon (#1 feathweight)
10. Joe Choynski (light heavyweight champion)
Fighter Of The Year: Peter Jackson (7th such award, 4th in a row)
Contenders Of The Year: Bob Fitzsimmons (3rd award)
Prospect Of The Year: Yankee Sullivan (#29 heavyweight contender, 3rd straight award)
Rookie Of The Year: Battling Nelson (6-0 lightweight)