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Death of Former Champion
Recalls Colorful Rise of Bank
Clerk to Kingship of Ring

Learned First Boxing
Tactics at Olympic Club
Early Bouts Under Ban of
Law Were Career Highlights

Special to The News
_ BAYSIDE, N.Y., Feb. 18. - The
death today of James J. Corbett
ended one of the most colorful
careers the fight industry has ever
_ "Gentleman Jim's" life was onne of
_ Mr. Corbett's father, a livery stable
keeper, had intended his boy for the
priesthood "or some genteel business
like banking." Instead he became
"Gentleman Jim" - the colorful
heavyweight prize ring champion of
the world who boasted he "could lick
any man in the world."
_ Mr. Corbett was destined to be-
come a champion who could pound
the mighty John L. Sullivan to the
floor, but he also was to introduce a
new chapter in the history of prize
fighting. His refinement and his
efforts "set an exaple" for Ameri-
can youths and made him a unique
and towering figure in the history
of a sport which previously had been
in disrepute in America.
_ The boy begain boxing when he
was 12 years old - in school yards
from which he was twice ecpelled;
in livery stables and in firehouses.
_ In the early 80s, which he was
obediently trying to become "a gen-
teel banker," Mr. Corbett joined the
Olympic Club and took his first
boxing lessons. In four years he had
advanced to be the first middleweight
and then heavyweight amateur
champion of the club.
_ It was Jack Dempsey (the Nonpa-
reil) who gave Mr. Corbett the
thought that he "could lick any man
in the world." A practice bout with
Dempsey - 30 minutes without an
interruption or rest - showed the
youth, who then weighed 160 pounds,

James Corbett
James J. Corbett

that he could stay with the cleverest
boxer of the day.
_ The entire west - wilder than it is
today, although the fighters had to
cross state lines, fight in barns and
sometimes on boats in order to
escape the law - rose in admiration
when Mr. Corbett settled an ancient
grudge with Joe Choynski, in a fight
on a barge at Benicia. Choynski
wore skin-tight gloves, "having lost
hi own pair." Corbett wore five-
ounce gloves, and fought with a bro-
ken thumb through 28 rounds, finally
to knock out his opponent with the
left hook he had perfected.
_ Later came his historic fight with
Peter Jackson. A few words, Mr.
Corbett's own, furnish a fitting de-
scription of the match; "In the 50th
round I loosed a left-hand hook as
Jackson was letting the right go for
my head... That is the only inci-
dent of the 10 periods from the 50th
to the 60th that I regard as impor-
tant." And in the 61st round the
referee called the bout "no contest,"
three seconds before Jackson col-
lapsed from sheer exhaustion.
_ shortly after this fight, John L.
Sullivan, touring the country in his
play, "Honesy Hearts and Willing
Hands," met Mr. Corbett in an ex-
hibition bout on a San Francisco
stage. Mr. Corbett decided to fight
the most aggressive, hard-hitting
champion America had ever seen.
_ In 1892 the match was arranged,
and sportsmen the nation over, in-
cluding Mr. Corbett's friends, bet
heavily on the Boston strong boy.
The match, in New Orleans, was the
first ever arranged under the pro-
tection of the police.
_ Mr. Corbett fought cautiously dur-
ing the early rounds of that fight,
yet in the third round he had suc-
ceeded with five blows in breaking
the bigger man's nose.
_ In the 21st round, with Sullivan
badly worried, Mr. Corbett followed
home a left hook with a smacking
hard right to the jaw, and an ex-
world's champion rolled on the floor.
The betting had been 5 to 1 against
Mr. Corbett.
_ That night, while his friends were
celebrating with champagne, Mr.
Corbett drank milk, and a new leg-
end was established. "He drinks
milk because he wants to set an ex-
ample to boys," the amazed sport-
ing world learned.
_ For five years Mr. Corbett reigned
as undisputed champion, and con-
tinued to build up the "Gentleman
Jim" reputation that was his whole-
some pride. He gressed well - like
the banker he might have become.
He strove for an appearance of cul-
ture and refinement, and, having
set himself an ideal, tried to live
up to it. He was a new type of

_ _ _ _ Loses Title

_ In 1894 Mr. Corbett appeared as
an actor in "Gentleman Jim" at the
Drury Lane Theater in London.
Henceforth he was to divide his
interests between the ring and the
stage. He had an unusual trait in
prizefighters, a good actor. Even
other actors admitted it.
_ In 1897 he lost his heavyweight
championship to Bob Fitzsimmons
in a moment of what he termed
"accidental carelessness." The knock-
out punch was a blow in the pit of
the stomach, and the "solar plexas
punch" became a phrase known
from one end of the country to th
other. He was never again able to
regain the title.

Gentleman Jim Corbett
"Gentleman Jim" was loved by famous people of
many lands. He is shown above with Sam Ber-
nard behind Joe Weber, noted comedian; Lillian
Russell, internationally famous beauty, and Weber's
partner, Lew Fields. Years after Mr. Corbett had
lost his championship he came within a whisper
of winning it back in his fight with Bob Fitzsimmons.
The end of the fight is shown in the lower picture.


Long Illness From Glandular
Trouble Induced Heart
Death Comes While Fighter
Is In Coma From

By United Press
_ BAYSIDE, N.Y., Feb. 18. - "Gen-
tleman" James J. Corbett, most col-
orful heavyweight champion boxer
ever known, died at his home here
_ His death at 2:10 p.m. came
peacefully after a long illness due
to a glandular disorder which in-
duced heart disease.
_ His wife and two lifelong friends,
John and Dennis Kelcher, were at
his bedside when the not unexpected
end came.

Death Expected

_ His physicians this morning had
declared that his death was but
hours away. He had been in a crit-
ical condition since Jan. 30.
_ Dr. G. Willard Dickey, his physi-
cian, had made a routine call this
morning and administered a nar-
cotic, which induced a deep sleep for
several hours. Dr. Dickey was not
present when the old-time champion
passed away.
_ The last sacraments of the church
were administered several days ago.
_ "Well, my darling is gone," Mrs.
Corbett called out to her friends,
bravely endeavoring to retain her
_ "He died in my arms. He died
beautifully - without a word," she
told the United Press a few mo-
ments after she left the room, with
tears in her eyes. "I am trying to
make myself believe he is better off."

Funeral Sunday

_ It was believed that funeral serv-
ices would be held, probably Sunday,
at St. Malachy's Catholic Church, a
favorite chapel of New York actors
and others in public life.
_ Burial probably will be in the
Cypress Hills Cemetery.
_ Joe Smalley, another of the ex-
champion's old-time friends, was also
at the Corbett home when he died.
He told newspapermen that at 1:30
p.m. Mr. Corbett appeared to go into
a coma and that there were slight
convulsive movements at intervals,
each weaker than the last, until
2:10, when the end came.

Three Champions Mourn
Gentleman Jim's Death

By United Press
_ LOS ANGELES, Feb. 18. - Jack
Dempsey, Jess Willard and Jim Jef-
fries, three men who came to the
heavyweight championship after Jim
Corbett, commented sadly here to-
day on Corbett's death.
_ "We have lost one of the greatest
champions, one of the finest gentle-
men we ever had," Dempsey said.
_ Then Dempsey related an incident
that preceded the fight in which he
won the heavyweight title from Wil-
lard at Toledo.
_ "Corbett came to me before the
fight," Dempsey said. "He told me
to stay away from Willard. He told me
not to let him wrestle me around
because it was a hot day and those
tactics would tire me. He realized
our styles differed and told me the
safest thing to do was to
knock Willard out as quickly as
possible. His strategy worked."
_ Mr. Jeffries lauded the sports-
manship and shrewdness of Mr. Cor-
bett, recalling his fight with "Gen-
tleman Jim" in San Francisco in
_ "We argued for days about the se-
lection of a referee," Jeffries re-
called. "We squabbled over six to
a dozen names without getting any-
where. Finally, I said to Jim,
'We'll pick a man tomorrow or we
don't fight.'
_ "Maybe you're right, Jim," I re-
_ "The next day I told him I had
selected his own brother Harry to
referee the fight. He said that
would never do and we finally agreed
on Eddie Graney, who was the man
we both wanted."
_ "Jim and I got along fine. He
was one of the finest fellows I ever
knew. He never looked for the best
of it."


By United Press
_ CHANDLER, Ariz., Feb. 18. - Jim
Corbett was "the most colorful figure
ever to grace the prize ring," Gene
Tunney, retired heavyweight champ-
pion, said in tribute today when he
learned of Corbett's death in New
_ "A great figure has passed on,"
Tunney said sadly. "I mourn with
the friends of sports and with Mr.
Corbett's personal friends. I have
known him since I began my box-
ing career. He always has been an
inspiration to me."


S.F. Sports Leaders and
Aides of Ex-Champion
Join In Sorrow
Former Associates Pay
Tribute to Outstanding
Figure of Boxing

_ Deep concern over the passing of
James Corbett was expressed here
today by friends and former asso-
ciates of the one-time champion.
_ Before young Corbett, who is at-
tempting to carry his name to new
honors, and Jackie Fields clash at
Seals' Stadium Feb. 22, the crowd
will be asked to pay a brief me-
morial tribute to his namesake,
James J. Corbett.
_ This became practically certain to-
day when Chaplain Leslie C. Kelly
of the State Athletic Commission
learned of "Gentleman Jim's" death.
_ "I shall recommend that at the
Young Corbett-Jackie Fields fight,
just before the main event," he said,
"The crowd stand bareheaded for
10 seconds while the referee counts
off the bell."
_ Some of the comments follow:
_ TOM SHARKEY, who fought Cor-
bett twice - He was a great fellow, a man
who did everything possible to put
boxing on a high plane. May his
soul rest in peace.
_ TIM McGRATH, Sharkey's man-
ager - Jim's death is a severe blow.
He was a real credit to the game, a
gentleman at mall times. San Fran-
cisco never produced a better ath-
lete. His name will go down in ring
of the State Athletic Commission -
I deplore the passing of James J.
Corbett. He was one of the exam-
ples of the fact that it is possible
for a man to be a boxer and at the
same time a gentleman and a worthy
and laudable citizen.
_ JACK KEARNS, manager of
Jackie Fields, welterweight cham-
pion, and Mickey Walker, who held
the welter and middleweight titles. -
I think the boxing game has lost one
of the finest and cleanest athletes it
has ever had. Jim Corbett was cor-
rectly called "Gentleman Jim" be-
cause he was a real gentleman in and
out of the ring. His loss is particu-
larly felt here in San Francisco,
where he was born and raised.
Jackie Fields and Mickey Walker
join me in expressing our regret at
boxing game.
_ JOHN KITCHEN JR, the man
who succeeded to Corbett's amateur
heavyweight laurels in the early 90s
- It is a pitiful thing that a man of
the caliber of Jim Corbett has to
pass. Corbett's death marks the
passing of a great master. He was
the daddy of them all in the boxing
game. And he was a credit to the
fistic art.
_ WILLIE RITCHIE, former light-
weight champion and a licensed
California referee - Jim Corbett was
my friend, and I can hardly find
words to express my regret at his
death. Jim and Mrs. Corbett visited
my home several times during his
theatrical tours and he help me
with my boxing. He was a real
friend and gentleman. It was Jim
Corbett who took boxing out of the
saloons and raised it to it's highest
level. I am wiring my sympathy
to Mrs. Corbett today.
secretary of the Seals baseball club
and promoter of the Stadium Ath-
letic Club - Because he was a base-
ball player himself before entering
the ring, and because of his brother,
Joe Corbett, a famous pitcher of
the early days, Jim Corbett was
closer to baseball than any other
fighter. We knew and respected
Jim Corbett as a gentleman and a
true credit to the sport of boxing.
He visited the local park many times
on his trips here before the death of
Lou Hardy, our former ground-
keeper, who was the real discoverer
of the fistic talents of "Gentleman

Corbett, 12, Wins First Bout,
Expelled From St. Ignatius

_ Jim Corbett's first fight took
place in the old "mint yard," across
the street from the mint, back in the
days when St. Ignatius school and
college stood where the Emporium
now stands.
_ And from that time on until he
became a world figure. San Fran-
cisco was the cradle of his career.
_ That first fight was with "Fatty"
Carney, a schoolmate at St. Ignatius.
Corbett was 12. Carney was older
and bigger. In his autobiography,
"Gentleman Jim" tells at length of
the battle he had with himself to get
nerve for the ordeal.
_ The fight caused his expulsion
from St. Ignatius, but it showed him
that he knew, almost instinctively,
the technique of self defense. He
became more interested in boxing
meeting friends at impromptu
matches in his father's livery stable
and, finally, as a representative of
the Olympic Club.
_ Walter Watson, instructor, took an
interest in him and worked hard
toward his development as a ring
_ But he showed that he was a great
deal more than a stylist when, one
day, he went in the ring at the club
with Jack Dempsey, the Nonparell.
Dempsey wanted some exercise. He
got it when Corbett traded punches
with him for a half hour without
_ Another San Francisco boy, Joe
Choynski, brought him to fame
throughout the boxing world with
a fight that has become something
of a mythical battle of ring gods -
the 28-round contest on the Benicia
_ That ring epic followed years of
boyhood antagonism. The two had
clashed before, just because they
didn't like one another, but they
had never finished the thing. When
the two met a fight started without
a purse or a promoter. Their grudge
was due to a natural opposition.
_ Even at the time of their first
fight, in a barn near Sausalito, Cor-
bett was the gentleman boxer, the
amateur, the white collar guy.
Choynski was the opposite.
_ After that Corbett fought for
money, but he never changed from
the type of man his San Francisco
boyhood had made him.

The San Francisco News 1933
FEBRUARY 18, 1933


Historic boxing newspapers and articles