Bob Fitzsimmons

The Fighting Blacksmith

World HeavyWeight Champion 1897-1899

Described as a comical figure, although I'm sure not to his face. Fitzimmons was a misshape of a man with spindly legs yet the body of an heavyweight from the waist up, looking much older than he was he had receding red hair and a face covered in freckles, he was probably the most unlikliest heavy weight boxer ever.

 

He had several nicknames not many of them can be repeated but the nicest one was Ruby Robert.

 

Born in Helston Cornwall, England on 26 May 1863 his family emigrated to New Zealand while he was still a child. It was here that he earned a reputation as a formidable fighter, being taught to box by a Norfold Gypsy Jem Mace, he then progressed to another protege of Mace's Larry Foley who ran a Sydney based gym-saloon, a quick learner he was only beaten once in eight years, aged 28 he headed for the United States in an attempt to further his career. Weighing in at just 11st 4lb he was prepared to take on all comers, people soon learnt that he packed one hell of a punch for someone so light.

 

Fitzsimmons decided that to be anybody he had to be the heavy weight champion, seeing the Corbett v Sullivan fight he wasted no time in issueing a challenge to Corbett however it would take him five years to get Corbett in the ring.

 

During this time he destroyed Maher whom Corbett had named has his successor. However he still couldn't get Corbett into the ring, by this time everyone was taking great pleasure in taunting Corbett.

 

So Ruby Robert took on Maher again and beat him easier than the last fight, finally Corbett had no choice but too fight Ruby Robert, the fight was scheduled for Carson City, Nevada the bad feeling between the two was now at boiling point, Corbett violently tweaked Fitzsimmon's nose in a hotel lobby and then to further inflame the situation Corbett asked his brother to sign the register for Fitzsimmons due to the fact that he was only semi literate. Fitzsimmons lost it and had to be restrained, there was too be no handshake when these two guys entered the ring. The champion was taller and 15lb heavier, he was faster and had a fabulous array of punches, for five rounds Corbett toyed with Ruby Robert in round 6 a glorious uppercut lifted Fitzsimmons off his feet and he slumped to the ground, Corbett stood over him waiting to go in for the kill, the referee refused to start the count until Corbett retired to his corner Corbett then started to berate the ref for not starting the count all this gave Fitzsimmons time to recover. By the 10th round the tide was beginning to turn and by round 14 Fitzsimmons landed a punishing blow to Corbett's solar Plexus Corbett dropped to his knees, Corbett said it was a lucky punch, it certainly was because Ruby Robert was now heavy weight champion of the world.

 

No Rematch

Like Corbett before him Bob Fitzsimmons ignored pleas for rematches he wanted to cash in on his new status. He too went onto the stage it would be two years before he could be tempted back into the ring.

 

Instead of a return fight with Corbett, Fitzsimmons decided to fight James J Jeffries, a man mountain that Corbett had used has a sparring partner and punchbag. The fight was scheduled to take place at Coney Island Athletic Club on 9 June 1899.

 

The Champ was confident that he could beat this plodder so on the eve of the fight he went out with friends staying out late, he was heard to brag that Jeffries extra 50lb in weight would mean that he would hit the canvas that bit harder. Unfortunately it was Ruby Robert who was too come down with a bump.

Fitzsimmons hit the challenger with everything he had, and then some. He even landed his famous solur plexus punch and Jeffries just shrugged, Fitzsimmons was well ahead on points but a knock out was never going to come, finally in the 11th round Jeffries hit the champion with a left hook followed immediately with a right uppercut, Jeffries was now the new world heavy weight champion.