To Boxing in the Klondike - Rounds 1-5
Both fighters are as fresh as when they first
stepped into the ring. Woods plays a tattoo on Burley's head but
partial blocks limits the effect. Jabbing, Woods lands left after
right after left on Burley's increasingly reddened face. Burley tries
for a jaw but misses. Woods comes back with an uncharacteristic wild
swing that is easily avoided by Burley as he steps back allowing the gloved
fist to whistle by.
...was Millett a man of Burley's class?
Despite the enthusiasm between Grand Forks
and Dawson City to see Millett and Burley mix it up, the DAAA wanted to
make sure Millett wasn't going to embarrass himself and the club again.
Millett told Boyle he would go four rounds
with anyone in the Yukon to prove his measure. Boyle proposed George
Paris, Woods' trainer, and Millett accepted.
But then people close to Millett told him
a fight with Paris would be the same as fighting a "preliminary", which
is something no fighter of Millett's class would do.
When Boyle came around with the papers to sign,
How this matter was resolved was never recorded.
Paris had left town with Biddy Bishop and Billy Woods after the big fight
never to return. But there was Millett, on September 27, ready to
fight. But alas, Burley was not able. He had an inflamed eye
that needed to be lanced.
Entering the ring with Dr. Lachappelle to back
up his claim, Burley announced that he was willing to fight anyways.
However, he begged that all bets be called off.
Millett stepped forward offering to wait three
days so that an honest and fair match could be held. Referee Frank
Slavin thanked both fighters and announced that all in attendance could
stay to enjoy the preliminaries and then come back for the main bout in
The well-orchestrated cancellation was accepted
When Millett and Burley did meet, it was Burley
who was victorious. Although Millett had the better technique, he
was predictable and lost his energy quicker. Burley just waited until
he repeated his left swing-duck-short right hook routine and laid him out
with a powerful and measured right hook with a beautiful follow through
landing Millett on his back covered in blood.
That final punch was typical of the fighting
styles of the day. Strong men who left themselves unprotected as
they wound up for a knockout blow. But it was the intelligent fighter
who would soon dominate these dinosaurs and the sport of boxing.
With limited opportunity to fight Outside,
Burley would soon be a victim...
Burley takes the initiative with a light left
to Woods' face and blocks his retort ... twice. Woods is three-times
lucky as a good, hard left lands on the jaw. Burley lands a left
to the face, but at the same time he is caught by a hard right to the nose.
More punches to Burley's face leaves his mouth bleeding badly.
Biddy Bishop, as an example, was always looking
for improved methods in fighting. He schooled Woods in the proper
stance, the innovative punch, the appropriate combinations.
During this fight with Burley, Bishop introduced
his new invention to the world: The spray bottle. In an interview
before the fight he claimed all fighters would soon be sprayed with a fine
mist of cold water as they returned to their corners ... and he was
A year after this fight, in 1905, Burley met
his match in Jack "Twin" Sullivan in the third yearly premiere fight.
Sullivan was thinner, shorter and didn't have the reach Burley had, but
he beat him with all the latest tricks.
Sullivan's elbows would be pulled in to protect
his body and then the forearms would shoot out to strike a blow with all
his weight behind it. He would land punches on a rush, plant his
feet, stand straight and let off a volley of jabs to the ribs from close
quarters. Just when Burley had figured out his style, Sullivan would
become a different fighter completely.
The Yukon World newspaper lamented the passing
of an era when Dawson City boxers had a chance of being contenders.
By far these Yukoners had more stamina, more strength and more pluck than
the big-city boxers who came up to try them on.
But Joe Boyle and the DAAA, ever attuned to what
the fight crowd wants, scored a coup by hosting...
Round 13 to 16
Burley settled into a patient defence to survive
all 20 rounds. Woods kept hitting him in the face and Burley kept
taking the punishment. Between rounds, Burley no longer spoke to
his seconds in his corner. Still standing at the sound of the twentieth
bell would be the only victory he could hope for.
...the Middleweight Championship of the World.
The Dawson Amateur Athletic Association needed
one more high-profile fight to earn enough money to keep the club running
for another winter. Why not bring the middleweight champion of the
world to Dawson City?
"Philadelphia" Jack O'Brien agreed to meet
Jack "Twin" Sullivan and Dawson City nearly burst with the anticipation.
Nick Burley, however, would have been crushed to learn that he came within
one win of being the one to step into the ring with the world champ to
fight for his title.
Three weeks before the fight, fans met O'Brien
at the docks and found him to be extremely quiet and withdrawn and full
of praise for his opponent. He had met Sullivan twice before and
won one on close points and the other was a draw.
Yet he took great pains to point out that a
Sullivan win July 4 may strip him of the world title, but Sullivan would
have one more fight before he could rightfully call himself the champion.
As well, he brought news that the winner will
be encouraged to meet Los Angeles' Marvin Hart for the heavyweight
title. These exciting developments had made Dawson City the centre
of the boxing world's attention for the next three weeks.
The day of the fight arrived and all of Dawson
City was there. The camps on the creeks were half empty as everyone
wanted to savour this world-class entertainment.
And entertaining it was.
It was boxing at its most perfect. Perhaps
not as much drama as the the fight between Woods and Burley, but the skill
and latest techniques demonstrated was an education for all in the sellout
But what amazed the usually sophisticated Dawson
crowd more was the pace. The hits, blocks, side steps and weaving
came blinding fast and no more than one clinch per round stalled the action.
Side bets were placed among those in the crowd that both fighters could
not last past the tenth round. Then the fourteenth round. Then
Yet O'Brien and Sullivan were just as fresh
at the sound of the bell at the end of the fight as when they first entered
the ring. The crowd had been eerily quiet throughout the fight as
nobody knew who was ahead on points. The concentration of the crowd
was broken at the end as an ovation exploded in praise for the stamina
and skill of the two athletes.
As the crowd had guessed, the fight was called
a draw. The two boxers agreed to meet again August 8 to determine
the winner. The DAAA could not have
been happier. They were assured another sellout crowd and finally
an end to its money problems. But then...
Burley's face is swelling rapidly. His
lips are opened and bleeding in several places. Woods lands several
hard rights and lefts to the face and Burley spits out blood. More
hits to the face, all of them hard. Burley looks tired but is unwilling
to allow Woods a knock-out punch. But finally a vicious, hard right
to the jaw drops the big man. The fight would have been over had
it not been for the sound of the bell as the referee counted "nine".
...the fight was cancelled.
A city clergyman informed the DAAA he would
press charges under the criminal code of Canada if it proceeded with the
fight. The best lawyers in town offered their free advice saying,
as one, that boxing was legal in Canada.
But the directors felt they could not afford
a legal fight. The match was cancelled and $860 was paid to O'Brien
and Sullivan in forfeit. Its expenses to that date were unrecoverable
and the anticipated $2,000 profit would never be seen. The DAAA's
financial problems were now worse then ever and its future was in doubt.
The townfolk were depressed, and not just the
fight fans. Everyone realized how important the DAAA was to the young
people in town. Whenever the curling and ice rinks were closed for
a day or two, there was a marked increase in numbers of youth hanging about
the dance halls and saloons on First Avenue.
The DAAA did survive into the winter for inexpensive,
wholesome fun. And it survived, barely, for many years to come.
And there were boxing matches held there again, but never again would it
see the prime, world-class entertainment of the past three years.
The DAAA was shy and its reputation damaged.
Local boxers with any ambition left town.
Dawson City was just too far away from the everyday improvements in the
sport. The innovators and risk takers were fighting two and three
times a week to hone their craft against the best in the business.
Frank Slavin left town with Sullivan to travel
the world. Slavin would lecture on the Yukon and Sullivan would speak
on the importance of physical fitness. Then they would give a boxing
performance and then on to the next country.
Nick Burley left Dawson City for Fairbanks
where he was to meet the Alaskan champ, Billy Bates. He lost when
he broke his ankle in two places.
His last correspondence warned other fighters
away from Fairbanks. The boxing arena would only sit 500 people and
it was impossible to cover expenses. He was on his way to Nome and
then points south to take one more crack at his career, which was getting
short at the age of 30.
Despite the numerous fighters he taught and
entertainment he provided to the folks of Dawson City, his parting didn't
even rate a mention in the Departures feature of the local newspapers.
Woods started where he left off ... a left
jab to the jaw. A left and right to the chin sends Burley to his
knees clutching Woods around the waist. He rises weakly and tries
just one more punch. A flurry of hits to Burley's face sends him
down for a three count. Impossibly, Burley rises again. A left,
right, left to the jaw finishes the proud athlete. He drops helplessly
to the mat and lies on his left side as Referee Sugrue counts to ten.
All eyes are on the victor. Will the bloody taste of violence boil
his success in adrenalin and spew forth in a triumphant cheer? No.
Just moments before, these two men were committed
to the destruction of the other. Now as the crowd watches, Woods
kneels beside his fallen opponent and, with a respect only the two gladiators
could know, picks him up and carries him to his corner.
To Boxing in the Klondike - Rounds 1-5
To Boxing in the Klondike - Rounds 6-10
© 1998-2009 byDarrell Hookey