The Klondike Weekly, Dawson City, Yukon Territory

Plant a Tree for a Living Legacy

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Boxing in the Klondike

Part 2 - Rounds 6-10

To Boxing in the Klondike - Rounds 1-5

Round 6

     Burley is tired but showing terrific spirit.  Lefts and rights are delivered by both ... some land yet most are blocked.  Then Woods sends a hard left to the stomach, the first body hit for some time.  "A little low," Burley comments.  "Didn't mean it," says Woods as he sends a punch to his jaw.  "All right, old pal,"  Burley replies blocking the swing. questioning the integrity of Joe Boyle.

      As a director of the DAAA, Boyle was involved in bringing Choynski to Dawson City to fight Burley in the very first major fund-raising fight for the club in 1903.  Personal funds were thrown in with the the DAAA's budget to help promote this fight which would draw the world's attention to Dawson's own Nick Burley.

     It is difficult to understand why Burley would then refuse to allow Boyle to be the referee in this fight with Choynski.  And he chose to object while in the ring before an audience of 2,500.

     Boyle's brother, Charley, was helping with Choynski's training at his Gold Bottom camp.  Burley thus accused Joe Boyle of not being able to be an impartial referee.

     It was pointed out to Burley that no other qualified referee was available and so, after discussing the matter with his financial backer, Burley decided to accept Boyle.

     Even so, Burley defied the 2-to-1 odds and handily beat Choynski in the second round.  It may have been a hard left to the jaw that signalled the beginning of the end, but nobody considered it a lucky punch.

     It was plain to see that both fighters were evenly matched, but Burley's youth and hard punches gave him the edge quickly.  They traded hits, but Burley's punches hurt more.

     After a clean knockout, Burley waited several minutes for Choynski to recover enough to shake hands.  Choynski was carried to his dressing room where he was heard to complain he didn't have enough time to acclimatize to Dawson's Spring weather (the fight was June 25).  Yet he was gracious in receiving Burley's wife when she visited with Frank Slavin to express her sorrow.

     Choynski retired from boxing the next day.  A thumb that he had sprained previous to the fight would take too long to heal and he was already too old.

     Questioning Boyle's fairness was the only misstep Burley made that night.  Boyle probably accepted this challenge as just theatrics and mind-games going into an important fight.  But he could be forgiven if he was frustrated since he was involved in another controversy just 10 minutes previous.

     While officiating a preliminary bout between two Dawson "scrappers", Boyle allowed hitting in a clinch, which was a serious and fundamental breach of the Queensbury Rules.

     The offended fighter refused to continue and lost by default.  He gave a speech blaming Referee Boyle and was cheered.  However, the sports writers for the local newspapers, having more knowledge of such things and a night to research further, supported Boyle 100 percent.  Queensbury Rules do allow punches in a clinch when the other fighter is obviously trying to avoid a beating.

     Strict adherance to the Queensbury Rules helped dignify the brutal sport of boxing in Dawson City...

Round 7

     Woods left and right for the head landing the left.  Woods left to head and Burley left to the jaw.  Woods left and right to the jaw.  They spar with little effect, both chaffing.  Woods left to the face.  Woods left and right to the face.  Woods left to the face.  Woods left to the face.  Burley sends in a left to Woods' nose to make it bleed even more.  It is going to be a very long night.

...which is exactly what the Marquis of Queensbury had in mind.

     The sport of boxing is at least 6,000 years old.  Murals of ancient Egypt show "rings" that were either circular or squared.  From there the sport spread to Crete and then to Greece where boxing gloves and rules were introduced and it joined the 23rd Olympiad in 688 B.C. as a regular sport.

     The Roman Gladiator Period brutalized the sport and it was abolished along with the Olympics by Roman Emperor Theodosius after the 291st Olympiad in 393 A.D.

      It wasn't until the 1700s in England that boxing was revived by James Figg, the "Father of Modern Boxing" and by Jack Broughton, who established rules against fouls.

     About 50 years before Dawson City was to embrace this "British" sport, the Marquis of Queensbury modernized the rules and re-introduced the padded glove.  Boxing had gained a new respectability and, in the same year of 1904 when Nick Burley and Billy Woods met for the big fight, boxing was again accepted as an Olympic sport.

     Once it was too warm for the skating rink in the DAAA arena, which stood where the parking lot behind Diamond Tooth Gertie's is now, the boxing programmes would commence.

     Before each fight, the refereee and both fighters would declare their acceptance of the Queensbury Rules.  The referee would then declare his understanding of the latest interpretations of the rules as per pre-fight negotiations.  One referee, by the name of Leroy Tozier, would go as far as to admonish the audience against offering its own interpretations throughout the fight.

     If it weren't for the Queensbury Rules, boxing would be bare-fisted, impromptu events between drunken patrons of rough drinking establishments.  Instead, they had gentelmen, like Burley, who could afford to identify themselves to the Dawson City census takers as...

Round 8

     They spar with little effect.  All momentum is gone as they settle into a routine looking for that one knockout punch.  Finally, a Woods' left lands on Burley's face and Burley responds with a left and a right to the head.  Woods left to the face and Burley comes up with another two rights on the face.  Burley is kept in his place with a staggering left to his jaw but manages a light right to the face and two hard lefts.  Woods ends the round with two lefts to the body.


     Not much more is known of Burley.  All we know is that he was born in Austin, Nevada, May 17, 1875.  As a 20-year-old novice, his manager put him up against first-class fighters and he never stood a chance.

     It wasn't until he moved to Dawson City that his boxing career progressed at a more appropriate rate until he was within striking distance of a championship fight that would give him the middleweight title.

     We also knew that he never drank anything at breakfast, drank ale with dinner, went to bed at 11 p.m. and took an hour nap before lunch.

     And we knew he was good friends with Frank Slavin.

     He and Slavin fought many times and Burley won many times against the former champ.  Slavin was getting on in years and even in his prime was known as "too affable and easygoing" to win the important fights.

     It was Burley who had beaten Slavin in a fight July 3, 1902, that convinced him to retire.  Although he knew he was roundly beat by the first round, Slavin stayed on his feet until the fifth round "only for the purpose of giving the patrons of the contest the worth of their money".
     There was bad blood between them the last time they fought, but all was forgotten as both paid tribute to the other in centre ring.

     Slavin and Burley would meet in the ring again, however, in exhibition fights in Caribou and Grand Forks a year later.  These two fights were one month before Burley's career-making fight against Choynski, the first of the premiere fights, but Slavin didn't defer to him one bit.  Both friends took a serious beating and were dead on their feet at the end of the five-round bouts.  After the first fight, they even charged at each other to settle a score over a comment Slavin had made.

     Yet after Burley's fight with Choynski, it was Frank Slavin who seemed the proudest.  He told anyone who would listen that he was going to organize a trip to the birthplace of modern boxing and challenge the British champion as Burley's manager.  But Slavin couldn't afford it and interest in Burley was never the same after slurring Joe Boyle's good name.

     In fact, it took a lot of negotiations to get into the ring with Woods the following year.  Goodwill for the local boy was gone and now it was...

Round 9

     He has taken enough hits to destroy a lesser man, but Burley keeps taking the punches while avoiding even more.  His own jabs into Woods' face draws more and more blood.  His boxing shorts are now red with it.  This is Burley's round:  He neatly blocks a jab to the head and a swing for his body.  He teases a left toward the stomach and quickly changing positions delivers a blow to the head instead.  He ducks and comes up to effectively block another thrown punch.  A reporter covering the fight for the Yukon World calls the sparring "pretty".

...all business.

     Nick Burley made sure everyone knew he wanted to fight the winner of the Woods-Millett mill in that second premiere fight in 1904.  He was there at ringside challenging Woods who stood alone after only three rounds of boxing that ended in Millett's flight to his dressing room in disgrace.

     Woods' manager, Biddy Bishop, was prepared for the challenge and authorized Referee Sugrue to announce acceptance.

     But it would not be so easy.  Hours of tough negotiations were ahead for the DAAA, Bishop and Burley.  Clearly Burley would be at a disadvantage managing his own fight while going toe-to-toe with the most savy and successful manager of the day.

     Burley had to concentrate on protecting himself as if he were actually in the ring.  One major contention was imposing clean breaks from the clinches.  Burley knew that Woods had trained his quick powerful arms to pump immediately on breaking from a clinch.  Bishop knew that his fighter's short stature and his skill hitting after a clinch was a devastating tool that he didn't want to give up.

     Burley also demanded a 60-40 split of the winnings, which the aggressive Bishop considered little incentive to fight hard.

     In the end, the legendary manager gave in to all of Burley's demands.  He had an eye on an offer to travel to Fairbanks to fight Tanana's best boxer, but decided to stay put.

     Once the DAAA got involved, after the two fighters arrived at an agreement, matters changed significantly.  First, the prize money would be split 75-25 to ensure good entertainment for the audience.  As well, the loser would receive nothing if the fight was not decided on merit.  Second, each fighter had to put up $500 to assure they will show up ready to fight at the appointed hour.  The DAAA also put up $1,000 in case it didn't hold up its end.

     The DAAA wanted to ensure that this fight would not disappoint the boxing patrons as the last Woods - Millet fight did.  Biddy Bishop sensed the mood and put up another $1,000 of his own money guaranteeing Woods would not lose on a foul.

     Besides back-room dealings, boxing fans were making deals of their own...
     Burley leads with a light left to the head and Woods comes back with a hard right swing to the head while a followup left is blocked by Burley.  Woods cleverly ducks hard left for the head then steps in with a right and left to the face.  Both are blocked yet a left, right, left to the face has considerable effect.  Burley takes even more punishment but stays clear headed as he lands several punches on Woods' nose causing even more bleeding. replace Woods with Millett.

     After all, they started to ask the morning after, why should Burley automatically challenge the winner of the fight?  Shouldn't his main concern be finding the most interesting opponent?

     They all remembered the excitement leading up to Woods' last fight with the west coast champion and the disappointing finish in the third round as Millet lost on a foul.

     Surely the results would be the same if Burley, being a big man, fought the smaller Woods.  And besides, it must be tough on Woods to fight a taller opponent since it would be too easy to hit below the belt and find himself losing on a foul.

     There were other forces at play as well.  The Grand Forks residents had not lost faith in Millett and pulled together $1,000 for side bets against Burley.  Burley may have been the local boy, but they had all seen Millett train and knew he could win.

     Then there was Millett, himself, who was desperate to clear his name.  He wanted to go back to San Francisco with a win under his belt to prove his loss to Woods was a fluke.  He liked his chances with Burley since they were both fighters who stood up straight and hit high.

     As for Burley, he liked the idea of pocketing the $1,000 side bet he knew he would win from the "Forks Sports".

     On July 7, just 30 minutes after signing with Woods, Burley and Millett agreed to meet in the ring September 27.  But first, Joe Boyle had to be satisfied with one thing...

To Boxing in the Klondike - Rounds 1-5

To Boxing in the Klondike - Rounds 11-18


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