To Boxing in the Klondike - Rounds 1-5
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.
...by 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...
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
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
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
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
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
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...
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".
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.
...to 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