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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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Star Power: Ryan Garcia and Oscar De La Hoya at West L.A. Gym

David A. Avila

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Star-Power-Ryan-Garcia-and-Oscar-De-La-Hoya-at-West-LA-Gym

Under gray skies and very cool temperatures Ryan Garcia arrived with his father and a couple of others at the Westside Boxing Gym on Monday.

Waiting anxiously were about 100 people comprised of mostly videographers and photographers who had already surrounded Oscar De La Hoya who arrived earlier.

Golden Boy greets the Flash.

Garcia (19-0, 16 KOs) has a fight coming soon against Nicaragua’s Francisco Fonseca (25-2-2, 19 KOs) on Friday Feb. 14, at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. The Golden Boy Promotions show will be streamed by DAZN.

“I’m ready for this fight,” Garcia said quickly.

Some say it has been a rather quick road for the fighter from Victorville known as the Flash. But if you ask Garcia, it has been too slow.

“I think he (Garcia) will be world champion this year,” said De La Hoya, CEO of Golden Boy Promotions.

Years ago, De La Hoya arrived with the same hoopla but his travel to the top seemed even faster. By his fifth pro fight he was matched with Jeff Mayweather. Yes, those Mayweathers. At the time Mayweather had fought 27 professional fights and had only two losses. De La Hoya stopped him in four.

In his eighth pro fight De La Hoya met Troy Dorsey, a tough Texan who had formerly held the IBF featherweight world title and who would later win a super featherweight world title. De La Hoya stopped him in one round.

Two years after winning the Olympic gold medal in Barcelona, the Golden Boy met WBO world titlist Jimmi Bredahl at the Olympic Auditorium and after dropping him several times finally stopped him in the 10th round. It was De La Hoya’s first world title and he was 21 years old.

Garcia is now 21 and ready to test the loaded lightweight division waters. For a while he was fighting at super featherweight, a division loaded with talent. But lightweights are the Maginot Line when it comes to boxing’s big hitters. Everybody can punch in the 135-pound limit lightweight division.

When Garcia met Romero Duno last November in Las Vegas many expected the speedy Victorville fighter to get his come-uppance. Instead the lanky slugger lit up the strong Filipino fighter and dropped him into the ether world.

It was mesmerizing stuff.

Now he’s back with a load of credibility after shutting down detractors with his devastating knockout win over Duno. It wasn’t supposed to be that easy. Just like it wasn’t supposed to be that easy when De La Hoya raced by world champions like Secretariat did in the Kentucky Derby decades ago. It’s not supposed to be that easy, but for some it truly is.

Garcia seems to be headed for a journey so remarkable that he has other world champions like WBC titlist Devin Haney eyeing him for their next challenges. It barely results in a yawn for the fighter who will be facing a very credible foe in Fonseca next month.

“I’m not even the champion and he’s calling me out,” said Garcia with a whatever kind of look.

Other fighters and promoters can see what Garcia represents and want to get a slice of it too. Its intangible yet most of the boxing world can sense something is coming and Garcia might be part of it.

That’s called star power and it’s difficult to explain. Some have it, many want it and others have no chance of ever attaining it.

Time will tell how far Garcia’s star power will venture.

One man lived that life and, in a sense, still lives that life and that is De La Hoya. Even he senses a déjà vu moment with Garcia.

“It’s why we made him one of the richest young prospects in boxing today,” De La Hoya said.

Expect several thousand ardent fans of Garcia to fill the seats on Valentine’s Day. How else can you explain it but, star power.

Photo credit: Al Applerose

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The Much Maligned Boxing Judge

Ted Sares

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The-Much-Maligned-Boxing-Judge

Identifying bad judges is pretty easy, but that’s not the purpose of this essay. To the contrary, the emphasis here is on fine judges and the many ways they can be unjustly labeled.

Now to name a few of today’s best boxing judges is to risk excluding others and that’s admittedly unfair but space is limited. Quickly coming to mind, however, are these judges, all currently active: Julie Lederman (pictured), Steve Weisfeld, Glen Feldman, Dave Moretti, Glenn Trowbridge, Joe Pasquale, Max DeLuca, Hubert Earle, Benoit Roussel, Burt Clements, Tom Shreck, Don Trella, Gary Ritter, Patricia Morse Jarman, Pat Russell, Pinit Prayadsab, Raúl Caiz, Jr., and, of course, the South African legend Stanley Christodoulou.

Boxing judges, unlike referees, are far easier to criticize because the average fan can score a fight using whatever criteria he or she selects and the view from a TV is pretty good. This contributes to the relatively high number of maligned boxing judges.

Being a boxing judge is a thankless endeavor where attention is received only when something controversial and/or negative occurs. And once a judgment is made about a bad job, that judgment influences future perceptions. This is known as “confirmation bias.” Thus, when a boxing commentator like the outspoken Teddy Atlas launches into a tirade over the judging in a particular fight, he may be engaging in confirmation bias—a kind of “See, I told you so.” Those who might criticize based on one poor performance may feel their suspicion of botched judging confirmed. Thus, the tagged judges’ reputation may be unfairly tarnished in the future.

Out-of-town fighters going to Texas to fight are aware of the risks based on the post-fight rants of Paulie Malignaggi, Atlas and many others. If so, the solution is to use out-of-state judges or avoid Texas altogether.

However, even if the elite judges make one “questionable” call in the eyes of fans and certain boxing commentators (or have an off day) they can be labeled as “bad” judges while simultaneously serving as a dart board for Bob Arum’s selective and quite nasty criticism.

No judge is perfect. They deal in a subjective world. Even the legendary IBHOF member Harold Lederman was harshly criticized for his scoring in the Maurice Harris vs. Larry Holmes fight in 1997. And even his daughter Julie has served as a target for some of Arum’s especially vicious criticism.

“She is the best judge in our household”—Harold Lederman

“You have people who are concentrating for three minutes, looking at nothing but the gloves, nothing but the punches. These other people are judging from TV, they’re judging from twenty rows back and they don’t see the effect of the punches all the time.”—Dave Moretti

“It’s easy to criticize boxing judges. But it’s not that easy to have a sound basis for the criticism. One needs to see the fight the judge saw to be in the position to rightly criticize. Critics should temper criticisms in light of the situations boxing judges are in when judging fights. And judges should likewise understand criticisms from the boxing public, however baseless these may seem.   Epifanio M. Almeda (PhilBoxing.com)

All it Takes Is One Bad Apple

In the recent Jesse Hart vs. Joe Smith Jr. fight in Atlantic City, a somewhat under-the-radar judge got it terribly wrong. Two judges had it for Smith, 98-91 and 97-92, but the judge in question shockingly had it 95-94 for Hart. He was scorned, tagged, labeled and God knows what. The criticism took on the form of a tsunami.

Bob Arum had this to say: “That judge should be banned from scoring a fight — and I promote Hart. How can you ever score that fight for Jesse Hart? It was a terrific fight, good for boxing, good action fight, and then you have a damn judge who screws it up.”

Al Bernstein added, “…He should never be allowed to judge again….”

A look at his past record as a judge since 2015 doesn’t reveal anything untoward. But he has now been tagged—perhaps justifiably so– and if he somehow gets through this and slips up again, there will be one very loud “we told you so.” It’s the nature of the beast; It is what it is.

The Pod Index

Matt Podgorski (a former boxing official) came up with a method to evaluate the performance of judges worldwide by determining the percentage of instances his or her scores are consistent with the other two judges working the same fights. He calls it the Pod Index. “Boxing and MMA judges are often evaluated based on whether or not they have had a controversial decision. This is a poor way to assign and regard professional judges,” said Podgorski in an interview with former RingTV editor Michael Rosenthal.

Matt’s Disclaimer: “We are not claiming that judges with low Pod Index scores are bad judges. The Pod Index is simply a measurement of round by round variation compared to other judges.”

Steve Farhood

farhood

2017 International Boxing Hall of Fame inductee Steve Farhood is a lot of things: analyst, writer, historian, commentator, and an unofficial judge for Showtime fights. If he were an official judge, his Pod Index score would undoubtedly be at or near the top. Steve seldom gets it wrong. He may be the best “judge” in boxing.

Ted Sares can be reached at tedsares@roadrunner.com

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Jeison Rosario’s Upset Crowns This Week’s Edition of HITS and MISSES

Kelsey McCarson

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Jeison-Rosario's-Upset-Crowns-This-Week's-Edition-of-Hits-and-Misses

Jeison Rosario’s Upset Crowns This Week’s Edition of HITS and MISSES

There’s was plenty of quality boxing action available for consumption this weekend in the U.S., particularly on Saturday evening because of the competing cards put forth by the PBC on FOX and Top Rank on ESPN crews that have become chief rivals over the last year.

But what were the biggest HITS and MISSES seen during all the action? That’s what you’re here to find out.

HIT – Jeison Rosario’s Stunning Upset for two 154-pound Titles

Nobody expected Rosario to dethrone unified junior middleweight champion Julian Williams on Saturday night at the Liacouras Center in Philadelphia, but the massive underdog overcame the situation anyway to vault himself to the top of the junior middleweight division. The thing that saved Rosario was his stunning power. He appeared to be out-boxed by Williams early in the fight, but that changed just as soon as it became apparent Williams was slinging only his fists while Rosario was working with sledgehammers. Now the division has become more crowded than ever at the top with all roads amazingly leading to Rosario, the little known 24-year-old from the Dominican Republic who now owns the WBA and IBF titles.

MISS – Chris Colbert’s Fail to Impress

Junior lightweight prospect Chris Colbert was given a great chance by the PBC to impress fight fans on national television on the undercard of Williams-Rosario, but the talented 23-year-old didn’t make the most of the opportunity. Sure, Colbert was taking a step up in competition by taking on former world titleholder Jezreel Corrales for a vacant interim belt, but Colbert mostly came across as a talented fighter who just doesn’t seem quite capable of putting it all together yet. Colbert won the fight, but it wasn’t interesting or noteworthy in any way. Judging by how the PBC has worked in the past, he’ll get plenty more chances to shine, but I’m not sure anyone but the people who stand to gain monetarily from the fighter’s success will be looking forward to it.

HIT –  Eleider Alvarez’s Epic KO of Michael Seals

Former light heavyweight titleholder Alvarez scored the early leader for knockout of the year against Seals in the main event at Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York. The fight was fairly lackluster until the explosive ending in the seventh round. It was an important victory for Alvarez, who was coming off losing his title to Sergey Kovalev via decision last February. Alvarez is 35, so it was imperative for him to get back to action and remind people he’s still a viable contender in the 175-pound ranks. And there’s no better way to do that in boxing than by thunderous knockout.

MISS – Felix Verdejo’s Fresh Start Starts Stale

Verdejo is still only 26 years old, but after defeating Manuel Rojas in a lightweight bout at Turning Stone, the once highly regarded prospect doesn’t appear to be any closer today than he was yesterday to living up to the tremendous promise he once possessed. To be completely fair to Verdejo, it was only his first fight under new trainer Ismael Salas and the fighter still has time on his side. Still, there appears to be plenty of work to do if Verdejo is ever to become a world champion. In fact, he didn’t look all that materially different from the fighter who was knocked out in 2018.

HIT – Floyd Mayweather Wins Prestigious BWAA Award 

I honestly had some concern that Mayweather wouldn’t win the BWAA’s Fighter of the Decade award before it was announced on Friday via press release. After all, Mayweather lost the previous decade’s top honor to Manny Pacquiao in 2010, and Sports Illustrated had just named Andre Ward its Fighter of the Decade winner the week prior. It’s only one person’s opinion, of course, but I think there would have been something wrong with Mayweather not picking up the honor at least once in the last two decades. After all, he’s quite easily the generation’s best overall fighter and he’s transcended the sport to mainstream celebrity status, too. Congrats to Mayweather for winning the well-deserved honor.

Photo credit: Stephanie Trapp / TGB Promotions

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