Where There’s a Will…

Today in History, February 21: 1896 – It was illegal. The Governor of Texas called a special session of the legislature specifically to make sure it didn’t happen in Texas. The Governor of Arkansas threatened to enlarge the state penitentiary to hold anyone that was involved. The Federal Government ruled that it would NOT happen in Indian Territory. No other state would step up to allow it. But the promoters were tenacious…and Judge Roy Bean had a reputation for making money. The World Championship Boxing champion from 1895 had retired…after watching his sparring partner being dropped within seconds by a young up-and-comer Irish boxer named Peter Maher. So the challenger, Australian Bob Fitzsimmons wanted to fight Maher. In an attempt to find a place for the “prize fight”, which was illegal in the US and Mexico, So Judge Roy Bean and other promoters arranged for the viewers to meet in El Paso, where they would be taken to a secret location for the fight. Would it be on a barge in the Gulf? A special train left El Paso and stopped at Langtry, Texas. The entire party…fighters, promoters, audience, soldiers, Texas Rangers, soon found themselves at a ring Bean had set up on a sandbar in the middle of the Rio Grande River…where the Army, the Rangers and the Mexican Federales could not stop it. Within seconds, Fitzsimmons, bruised by a quick attack by Maher, blitzed in return and took Maher down, becoming the World Heavyweight Champion before the Edison Kinetoscope could even be set up to film the event.

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