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This Day in Boxing History: Terrible Terry TKOs Little Chocolate

Arne K. Lang

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Terrible Terry

On Jan. 9, 1900, Terrible Terry McGovern and George “Little Chocolate” Dixon locked horns in the arena of the Broadway Athletic Club in New York City. Contested at 118 pounds, the bout between the exalted little gladiators – both of whom would enter the International Boxing Hall of Fame with the inaugural class of 1990 – was the first big fight of the 1900s and, in hindsight, the loudest example of a “changing of the guard” fight since Gentleman Jim Corbett upset John L. Sullivan in 1892.

Little Chocolate

George Dixon was born in 1870 in Halifax, Nova Scotia. In those days, the maritime province of Nova Scotia had the largest population of blacks of any province in Canada, many of whom were descendants of former U.S. residents who were assisted in escaping to Canada by British sea captains after supporting the British in the American Revolutionary War.

In 1870, at age 17, Dixon turned up in Boston where he had his early fights. In his 12th bout, he was matched against a railroad brakeman. The match was scheduled for 12 rounds but went 14. The referee was unable to determine a winner after 12 and ordered two additional rounds. He was still unable to separate them after the extra sessions and the bout went into the books as a draw. There would be three rematches that produced the same result, the last of which went 26 rounds. (In this era, draws were endemic. Some veteran fighters finished their careers with more draws than wins and losses combined.)

It was in Boston that Dixon hooked up with Tom O’Rourke. A plasterer by trade, born and raised in Boston, O’Rourke exploited his political connections to become one of the most influential people in boxing, serving the sport as a matchmaker, manager, and promoter.

For a time O’Rourke controlled all four of the leading boxing clubs in New York. He managed the two leading black fighters of the 1890s, George Dixon and Joe Walcott, and promoted several fights involving the great black lightweight Joe Gans. But the pragmatic O’Rourke was an equal opportunity employer who would join the rush to find a Great White Hope when Jack Johnson won the heavyweight title.

O’Rourke brought Dixon to London in 1890 where he laid claim to the world featherweight title with a 19th round stoppage of Nunc Wallace. For the remainder of the century, Little Chocolate, as he came to be referenced, was recognized as the world featherweight champion, notwithstanding two losses, both on points, in bouts billed as world title fights. As a weight class, the featherweight division then had no fixed boundary. His bout with Wallace had a ceiling of 114 pounds. In subsequent title fights, he weighed as high as 125.

Dixon’s fame grew with each successful title defense and he came to be seen as invincible. Terry McGovern burst his bubble.

Terry McGovern

Ten years younger than George Dixon, Joseph Terrence McGovern was born in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, but his parents moved to Brooklyn before his first birthday and he grew up in that city, America’s fourth largest before it was folded into New York City in 1898.

The McGoverns lived in South Brooklyn in an area heavily populated by Irish immigrants, many of whom found work on the waterfront of the heavily polluted Gowanus Canal. It was a hardscrabble neighborhood but a close-knit neighborhood with a strong sense of community.

McGovern’s father died when Terry was 14. Three years later, after working as a newsboy and in a lumberyard, McGovern, carrying 110 pounds, made his pro debut in Brooklyn in a 10-round fight against an equally inexperienced opponent. Terry was disqualified in the fourth round (details are vague). The following year he was disqualified again, this coming in the 11th frame of a 25-round contest with Tim Callahan. These would be his only losses heading into his 1900 fight with George Dixon.

McGovern fought Callahan, a top shelf fighter from Philadelphia, three times in a span of four months. Their second meeting, which went 20 rounds, was ruled a draw. Terry knocked Callahan out in their third encounter. A left to the body followed by a right to the jaw put Callahan down for the count in the 10th round.

After one of these three fights — there are conflicting reports as to which one – McGovern’s contract was purchased by theatrical producer Sam H. Harris. The Broadway magnate sold a piece to his frequent collaborator George M. Cohan, the astoundingly prolific playwright, songwriter, and actor, and entrusted the day-to-day affairs of Terrible Terry to Joe Humphries, New York’s most prominent ring announcer. As was true of George Dixon, McGovern now had influential people in his corner.

McGovern’s first eight fights went the distance, but as he matured he became a knockout machine. Prior to meeting Dixon, he reeled off a string of 13 wins by KO, 11 coming within the first three rounds. The most eye-catching of these knockouts was a first round stoppage of England’s previously undefeated Pedlar Palmer. Their brief encounter played out in a makeshift arena in the little village of Tuckahoe, New York, 16 miles from midtown Manhattan.

The clever Palmer, who had one of boxing’s best nicknames – “Box o’ Tricks” – arrived in New York with great fanfare. Terrible Terry blew right through him. It was the first title fight under Queensberry rules that ended in the first round and it was a rousing performance by McGovern that had every bit the wow factor as Mike Tyson’s 91-second annihilation of clever Michael Spinks in 1988.

After this fight, reporters exhausted every synonym for typhoon to describe McGovern’s fighting style. He was a thunderstorm, a Krupp cannon, and a Gatling gun all rolled into one, said the prominent referee and pugilistic authority Charley White. But in the eyes of many, Terry, not quite 20 years old, was too wet behind the ears to defeat George Dixon. Lore had it that Little Chocolate had engaged in more than 800 bouts and had been knocked down only once. “More money was bet and won on Dixon than any half dozen fighters of his time,” noted a writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The arena of the Broadway Athletic Club was relatively small, holding only four thousand. But 4800 squeezed their way in to see the fight, slated for 25 rounds, and at least half as many huddled outside in the cold, unable or unwilling to meet the steep price demanded by scalpers who did a brisk business.

The Fight

Dixon started strong. For four rounds, said a reporter, Dixon showed all of his marvelous old-time speed and proved superior when fighting at long range. During the battle, which lasted one second short of eight full rounds, Dixon staggered McGovern half a dozen times. But the Irishman stayed tight to his game plan which meant working the body to wear his adversary down.

In round seven, McGovern became a head-hunter. One of his punches appeared to break Dixon’s nose. It bled profusely. And then in the next round he battered Dixon all over the ring, knocking him down five times (some reports said eight) before Tom O’Rourke threw in the sponge. “It was,” reminisced New York Evening World sports editor Robert Edgren (who would be one of McGovern’s pallbearers), “the fastest and most sensational encounter at that weight that has ever been seen in this country.”

Postscript 1

Reporters wrote about the battle as if it were George Dixon’s final fight. To the contrary, he went on to have 76 more ring engagements, 48 in England, before retiring in 1906. During his career he answered the bell for an alarming 1744 rounds.

Thirteen months after his final fight, George “Little Chocolate” Dixon, once hailed as the greatest little man the sport of boxing had ever seen, died alone and destitute in New York’s Bellevue Hospital. The cause of death was said to be alcoholism. He was 37 years old.

Postscript 2

Twenty-three months after dethroning George Dixon, Terry McGovern lost his featherweight title to William Rothwell, a little known fighter from Denver who took the ring name Young Corbett II. Rothwell knocked him out in the second round in Hartford, Connecticut. It was a massive upset. Terry fought off and on for the next five-and-a-half years, but mostly in little 6-round fights where no decision was given.

McGovern went broke too. He squandered a good portion of his ring earnings backing slow horses at Coney Island racetracks. In 1907, Sam Harris arranged a series of benefits for him, the first of which was held on Jan. 23 at Madison Square Garden. McGovern was then a patient in a sanitarium in Stamford, Connecticut. He was in and out of sanitariums during the last 10 years of his life.

On Feb. 20, 1918, Terry wasn’t feeling well and checked himself in to Brooklyn’s Kings County Hospital. Two days later he was dead. The cause, depending on the source, was pneumonia complicated by nervous exhaustion or Bright’s disease complicated with acute indigestion.

In common with George Dixon, Terry McGovern was 37 years old when he drew his final breath.

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Fast Results from Las Vegas: Tyson Fury Overcomes Doughty Otto Wallin

Arne K. Lang

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LAS VEGAS, NV — Otto Wallin proved to be a more formidable opponent than Tyson Fury’s last victim, Tom Schwarz, by a long shot. One could sense that this wouldn’t be a walkover for the Gypsy King when Wallin backed Fury into a neutral corner in round two and got off a good volley of punches.

Wallin opened what became a very nasty gash over Fury’s right eye in round four. Fury pawed at it continually throughout the fight which went the full distance. Fury seemed to think that the cut resulted from a clash of heads, but the replay indicated otherwise. Near the end of round six, Wallin rubbed the cut with the laces of his gloves, earning a stern but silent rebuke from Fury and referee Tony Weeks who did not deduct a point.

Fury prefers to fight off the back foot until he has his opponent hurt, but with the cut he fought with more of a sense of urgency, pressing forward. The fight turned messy over the final third as the contest turned into somewhat of a hug-fest.

Wallin, who came in undefeated (20-0), landed some hard shots in the final round, but by then he needed a knockout to win. The final scores were 116-112, 117-111, and 118-110. The 118-110 tally was overly severe, distorting the fact that this was a hard fight for the Gypsy King  who improved his ledger to 29-0-1.

The promoters say the rematch with Deontay Wilder, the second bout of a planned trilogy, is set for February but Wallin may have wrecked those plans. It would seem that Fury will need more time to heal that cut.

Co-Feature

Based on raw numbers, it figured that the fight between defending WBO world 122-pound champion Emanuel Navarrete and Juan Miguel Elorde would be competitive. Both had identical records (28-1) and both were riding long winning streaks; 23 straight wins for Navarrete and 18 straight for Elorde. But the son of Filipino boxing legend Flash Elorde was out of his league. Navarette, who is a big featherweight, was too strong for him. Near the end of round three, Elorde received a standing 8-count when he landed against the ropes, which kept him upright. Twenty-six seconds into the next round it was all over, with referee Russell Mora halting the bout to protect Elorde from taking more punishment.

The victorious Navarette, from Mexican City, was making the third defense of the title he won from Isaac Dogboe. Las Vegas hasn’t been good to Elorde whose lone prior defeat came at nearby Mandalay Bay in a 4-round contest.

Other Bouts

In a mild upset, Jose Zepeda, won a 10-round unanimous decision over Jose Pedraza. A 2008 Olympian for Puerto Rico and former two-division belt-holder, Pedraza declined to 26-3.

Zepeda (33-2), a native Californian who entered the ring draped in the Mexican flag, did his best work early and late. In the middle rounds it appeared that Pedraza was taking control with superior marksmanship but he couldn’t sustain it. The seventh round was furious as were the waning moments of the 10th. All three judges had it 97-93.

In an 8-round featherweight bout, Isaac Lowe, a fellow Traveler and stablemate of Tyson Fury, remained undefeated with an 8-round unanimous decision over Mexico City’s Ruben Hernandez. The scores were 78-74 and 77-75 twice.

Lowe, who showed good boxing skills but isn’t a hard puncher, improved to 19-0-2 (6 KOs). Hernandez falls to 25-5-2.

In the first walk-out fight, Guido Vianello, a 6’4″, 240-pound heavyweight from Rome, Italy, improved to 5-0 (5 KOs) at the expense of Cassius Anderson,  a 35-year-old former Toledo U. linebacker, whose corner pulled him out after the fourth round. Vianello knocked Anderson down in the first few seconds of the fight, but Anderson wasn’t of a mind to leave that quick.

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Fast Results from The Big Apple: Haney, Hunter, and Serrano Win Handily

Arne K. Lang

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Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Promotions was at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden tonight with a 10-bout card that produced no surprises. In the featured bout, 20-year-old lightweight Devin Haney stayed on course for a hoped-for showdown with Vassiliy Lomachenko with a dominant performance over Russia’s little-known Zaur Abdullaev. The fight was stopped after four one-sided rounds with Abdullaev apparently suffering from a fractured cheekbone.

Haney (23-0, 15 KOs) was far more athletic. Abdullaev, who brought an 11-0 record into his U.S. debut, had trouble handling Haney’s speed and was simply overwhelmed by Haney who was the far busier fighter.

Co-Features

Amanda Serrano, who has won more titles in more weight classes than Carter has pills, added the WBO world featherweight title to her dossier with a lopsided decision over fellow Brooklynite Heather Hardy. This fight appeared that it would end early; Serrano’s punches were harder and cleaner. But Hardy, seven years older at age 37, refused to fold and actually did some good work in the middle rounds. The scores were 98-92 and 98-91 twice.

Serrano improved to 37-1-1. It was the first pro loss for Hardy who fell to 22-1.

In a 12-round heavyweight contest, Michael Hunter won his sixth straight, improving to 18-1, with a 12-round unanimous decision over previously unbeaten Sergey Kuzmin (15-1). Although Hunter is on a nice roll, this was not the sort of performance likely to win him any new fans. His best moment came in round five when he knocked Kuzmin flat on his back with a left hook, but from that point on, he seemed content to out-box his Russian adversary who had a 37-pound advantage but was conspicuously slower.

All three judges had it 117-110. After the bout, Hunter expressed a desire to fight Alexander Povetkin on the Joshua-Ruiz II card in Saudi Arabia on Dec. 7.

Other Bouts of Note

It was a mixed bag for 32-year-old Azerbaijan heavyweight Magomedrasul Majidov who won his pro debut with a fourth-round stoppage of Ed Fountain but didn’t look all that impressive. More was expected of Majidov, a three-time world amateur champion who scored three wins over Anthony Joshua as an amateur. Fountain (12-7) lost his fifth straight.

Kazakh welterweight Daniyar Yeleussinov, a two-time Olympian and 2016 gold medalist, looked sensational while advancing his record to 8-0 (4) with a vicious first-round knockout of Reshard Hicks. Yeleussinov, who is trained by his father, knocked Hicks to the the canvas twice, the second of which left Hicks face down, forcing referee Ron Lipton to end the bout without the formality of a count. It was the first pro loss for Hicks (12-1-1), a 34-year-old ex-G.I. from Killeen, Texas.

Uzbekistan super bantamweight Murodjon Akhmadaliev improved to 7-0 (6 KOs) with a fourth-round stoppage of Columbia’s Wilner Soto (22-7). This was a stay-busy fight for the 24-year-old former Olympian who was originally slated to challenge WBA/IBF title-holder Daniel Roman who had to withdraw because of a shoulder injury suffered in sparring. Akhmadaliev toyed with the overmatched Soto for the first three rounds before unleashing the heavy artillery.

Photo credit: Ed Mulholland / Matchroom Boxing USA

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The Avila Perspective, Chap. 64: New York, L.A. and Las Vegas Fights

David A. Avila

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Three of the Big Four promoters in prizefighting are showcasing young and old talent in the next two days from New York City to Los Angeles.

Las Vegas speedster Devin Haney (22-0, 14 KOs) headlines a Matchroom Boxing card at Madison Square Theater in Manhattan when he fights Russia’s Zaur Abdullaev (11-0, 7 KOs) on Friday Sept. 13. DAZN will stream the boxing card live.

Dripping with talent, Haney has passed all of the tests so far in his brief and meteoric career including rumbling with Mexican tough guys like Juan Carlos Burgos and obliterating Antonio Moran.

But like all prospects and young contenders, the big question always is can he take a punch?

Abdullaev only has 11 fights and though he has seven knockouts, he has yet to face quality opposition. But his backers say he can fight and that’s all anyone can hope to see.

The fight native New Yorkers and followers of the female fight world want to see is the world title clash between Brooklyn’s undefeated Heather Hardy (22-0, 4 KOs) defending the WBO featherweight strap against Brooklyn’s Amanda Serrano (36-1-1, 27 KOs) in a 10 round semi-main event. It’s going to be a dog fight.

The WBC Diamond belt will be another reward for the winner. Both girls will be tested for PEDs in accordance with WBC rules. For years female prizefighters were virtually untested.

Los Angeles – Munguia, Ryan Garcia and Franchon

WBO super welterweight titlist Jaime Munguia (33-0, 26 KOs) of Mexico meets Ghana’s Patrick Alottey (40-3, 30 KOs) in a world title challenge on Saturday Sept. 14, at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California. This Golden Boy Promotions card will be part of the Mexican Independence Day weekend celebration and also Munguia’s last foray in the 154-pound weight class.

Munguia’s lack of defense has made every fight a 50/50 proposition and even this fight against the shorter Alottey could test the Mexican’s chin. The Ghanaian fighter has 30 knockouts on his resume with all wins taking place in Africa.

Ryan “The Flash” Garcia will bring his army of fans to the outdoor arena once again. The last time he fought at Dignity Health Sports Park it was called the StubHub Center and he slugged it out with the very tough Puerto Rican Jayson Velez in May 2018. That night the slender fighter won by decision.

For about a year Garcia has been working under the tutelage of Eddy Reynoso in San Diego and the change was immediately visible. The head trainer for Saul “Canelo” Alvarez has tweaked Garcia’s defense and head movement. He has also polished the vast offensive weaponry the 21-year-old possesses. He’s still learning.

Garcia (18-0, 15 KOs) faces Philadelphia’s Avery Sparrow (10-1, 3 KOs) who walked into a press conference in the Golden Boy Building with singing artist Usher. The big question most are asking is if Usher will be present at the fight on Saturday. That’s not Garcia’s query.

“Avery can fight and he’s got skills. He’s no pushover,” said Garcia, adding that the lightweight division is growing with young budding talent. “The new generation is here with Teofimo (Lopez), Devin (Haney), I’m excited and want to be in the best fights to show that I belong with these other fighters.”

Also on the boxing card will be women’s WBC super middleweight titlist Franchon Crews (5-1) who was scheduled to face WBC heavyweight world titlist Alejandra Jimenez who was dropping down in weight for the fight. But the Mexican fighter was allegedly unable to obtain a visa and could possibly be replaced by former foe Maricela Cornejo (13-3, 5 KOs).

Crews defeated the classy Cornejo for the world title a year ago in Las Vegas and the Mexican middleweight had sought a rematch. Cornejo was recently posting photos of herself in Israel on her social media accounts. If she does accept the fight it definitely shows Cornejo has confidence and that’s a big plus. One of the remarkable things from their first fight was watching Cornejo clapping and congratulating Crews in earnest after their fight. It was a sincere gesture and made me appreciate Cornejo even more.

Las Vegas – Fury, Navarrete

England’s Tyson Fury, the lineal heavyweight world champion, meets Sweden’s Otto Wallin in a battle of undefeated heavyweights at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on Saturday Sept. 14. ESPN will show and stream the Top Rank fight card.

Fury (28-0-1, 20 KOs) who defeated Wladimir Klitschko for all of the titles back in November 2015, then dropped out of the boxing world for a few years. He has returned to activity and is changing the boxing landscape with both his charisma and fighting skills. His fight against Deontay Wilder last December was one of the more memorable heavyweight world title fights in the last 30 years.

Wallin (20-0, 13 KOs) is a southpaw who can crack as almost all heavyweights can. He’s represented by Mark Taffet, the former HBO executive who leads the career of female star Claressa Shields. That should say a lot about the big Swede’s talent.

Also on the card is Emanuel Navarrete (28-1, 24 KOs), the WBO super bantamweight titlist who fought just last month in Los Angeles against Francisco De Vaca and knocked him out in three rounds. He defeated Isaac Dogboe for the title last December and then stopped him in the rematch last May. He’s an angular looking fighter with long arms, incredible stamina and knockout power. He will be meeting Juan Miguel Elorde (28-1, 15 KOs) of the Philippines in another world title fight.

Fights to Watch

Fri. 6 p.m. PT DAZN – Devin Haney (22-0) vs Zaur Abdullaev (11-0), Heather Hardy (22-0) vs Amanda Serrano (36-1-1).

Sat. 3:30 p.m. PT DAZN – Jaime Munguia (33-0) vs Patrick Alottey (40-3), Ryan Garcia (18-0) vs Avery Sparrow (10-1), Franchon Crews (5-1) vs Maricela Cornejo (13-3).

Sat. 4:30 p.m. PT ESPN+ – Tyson Fury (28-0-1) vs Otto Wallin (20-0), Emanuel Navarrete (28-1) vs Juan Miguel Elorde (28-1).

Photo credit: Ed Mulholland / Matchroom Boxing

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