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A short story by Charles B. Cory

The Amateur Championship

Title:     The Amateur Championship
Author: Charles B. Cory [More Titles by Cory]


A committee from the Phoenix Athletic Club and one from the Prescott Club had met, and after considerable discussion had arranged a match to decide the Amateur Championship of Arizona.

As the Phoenix and Prescott clubs were far and away the foremost athletic organizations in the Territory, the contest was looked forward to with a great interest, especially as an intense rivalry existed between the two cities.

"Let the contest be fair and square on both sides," said Smith, the chairman of the Phoenix committee. "Let each club send its best man, who is strictly an amateur, of course, and a member of the club, in good standing, and let the best man win."

"Them's my sentiments exactly," responded Johnson, the chairman of the Prescott committee. "Fair play and honors to the best man, say I! I did think of sending a young fellow I know in our club who took some sparring lessons in 'Frisco last year, and is quite clever; he's a gunsmith by profession, but the trouble is he has been teaching the boys during his spare time when he could get away from the shop, and that makes him a professional, doesn't it?"

"It does," said Smith, "and I am glad to find you are as particular as I am in such matters; let me tell you, it is a pleasure to meet a man like yourself who tries to be fair and square, and to take no advantage of anybody. Let's take something."

During the next few days there were anxious meetings of the committees in charge of the arrangements. A certain man well up in sporting matters went to 'Frisco as a committee of one, representing the Prescott Club, to hunt for talent; at the same time a brother of the chairman of the Phoenix committee, who kept a bar-room in Chicago, received a letter which caused considerable discussion between him and his partner, and several interviews with a certain short-haired, thick-set individual who frequented his place.

"What I want," said the letter, "is the best man you can get. Some one who is a sure winner, and can punch the stuffing out of this amateur duck from Prescott. Don't make a mistake, and do not spare money. Get a star, as the boys will bet all they have on him, and we do not want to take any chances."

The following week the chairman of the committee of the Phoenix organization received a letter from his brother in Chicago, which informed him that for two hundred dollars, and expenses, they had secured the services of a well-known professional, but one who had never been West, and who, they were sure, could "lick" anything which could be produced, professional or amateur, on the Pacific Coast. He had commenced training, and they could rest easy, and bet as much money as they wanted to.

Meanwhile the Prescott Club's representative had made a rich find in San Francisco, in the shape of an Australian professional who had just landed and was therefore not likely to be recognized. He had a record of numerous victories in his own country, and cheerfully undertook, for the sum of seventy-five dollars, "to knock the bloomin' head off any bloomin' duffer," anywhere near his own weight, that might be brought against him.

Things went along merrily, letters were exchanged between the chairman of the two committees reporting as to the progress of their representatives.

"Our young man," wrote the Prescott leader, "is doing very well, and I hope great things from him. Naturally we want to win, and have secured the best man of good amateur standing in our town to represent us. He is a drug clerk, and his mother objected pretty strongly at first, but she has been talked over. There will be a party of at least one hundred of us go down with him, and I hope you will have front seats reserved for us. Most of the boys feel inclined to wager a little on the success of our representative, but he himself does not feel very confident of the result. Upon my return I found quite a strong feeling in favor of having the young gunsmith represent us, but, after my conversation with you, could not for a moment countenance any such proceedings on our part."

Two nights following, the Prescott chairman read the following letter in answer to the one which he had sent:

Chairman of the Committee
for the Prescott Athletic Club,
Prescott, Arizona:

DEAR SIR: I am glad to hear that there is considerable interest taken in the forthcoming match. Boxing is a noble art, and this coming contest will no doubt help to boom both our clubs. There is a great interest taken here in the match, and I warn you our man is getting himself in the very best condition possible. He is nervous, of course, this being his first appearance in an affair of this kind. He is a clerk in a bank, who has lately been engaged by my friend Robinson, and therefore does not get as much time for exercise as perhaps would be wise, but Robinson is an enthusiastic sport, as you know, and has arranged to let him get off several hours each day. We look forward to a great contest, and I certainly feel that the winner may fully consider himself the Amateur Champion of the Territory. We shall take great satisfaction in reserving the one hundred seats you ask for. I think you will find all the money ready for you in the way of bets that you will want. Our population is made up a great deal, as you know, largely of miners and ranchers, and they are inclined to bet recklessly. I cannot close without congratulating the Prescott Athletic Club for the energy and enterprise they have shown in this matter. May the best man win!

Yours, etc.,



There was a great crowd packed into the ring of the Phoenix Athletic Association on the evening of the contest. Seats were at a premium, and the fight had been the principal subject of conversation for days. The two principals had met and been introduced to one another, just before going to the scene of the contest. Both were dressed for the occasion, and I tell you they were sights! The bank clerk had on a collar so high that he could hardly turn his head, a high silk hat, long black frock-coat, and an immense white rose in his buttonhole.

The Prescott drug clerk was still more gorgeous. Besides a buttonhole bouquet and high collar, he sported an eye-glass, and smoked a cigarette while in the presence of his opponent.

"'Ow's yer bloomin' 'ealth?" remarked the drug clerk. "Hi 'opes as 'ow yer fit."

"Ah-h-h, go arn," answered the embryo financier, using only one side of his mouth, "don't try ter jolly me, yer sage-brush dude, or I'll give yer a poke right here."

Several members of the committee hastened to interfere, and put a stop to all further danger of trouble by hurrying the principals off to their dressing-rooms to prepare for the contest.

In the ante-room Smith hugged Robinson, and nearly wept with joy when they were alone.

"Did you take a good look at the stiff?" he gasped. "Why, our man will punch daylight out of him in two minutes after the gong sounds! Why, I say this is wrong--it is too easy; I really feel sorry for these Prescott chaps!"

Robinson chuckled and muttered something about "fools and their money being soon parted," and then the two worthies repaired to the ringside.

Smith was to be Master of the Ceremonies, and climbing upon the raised platform he crawled through the ropes, and after looking about him for a moment, raised his hands to enjoin silence.

"Gentlemen," he said, "I must beg you all to stop smoking. The contest which is to be held here to-night is to decide the Amateur Championship of the Territory of Arizona. Nothing is more calculated to incite among our younger men the love for athletic sports than such competitions, when conducted in a fair and sportsmanlike manner. I must beg of you not to allow yourselves to be biased towards indulging in any unseemly noise in case your favorite should be worsted. What we want is a fair field and no favoritism, and while we hope our boy will win, none of you, I am sure, would wish in any way to feel that either man was given any undue advantage. The men will fight with 3-oz. gloves, Marquis of Queensbury rules, three minutes to each round, with a minute's rest between. A man down to get up inside of ten seconds or be counted out. No hitting in the clinches. Many of you are acquainted with the gentlemen who are our representatives this evening, but for the benefit of those who are not I will introduce them."

Waving his hand towards the Prescott pugilist, he said:

"This is Alexander Harrington, amateur champion of the Prescott Athletic Club, who is, I may say, by profession a popular druggist in the town from which he comes. [Considerable applause.]

"And this," he continued, pointing to the man who represented the Phoenix Club, "is J. Francis Livingstone, a young man who has shown himself to be a good exponent of the noble art, and who is deemed to be the amateur champion of the Phoenix Athletic Association. As he has only lately arrived, and is not very well known to many of you, I may add that he is a personal friend of our Vice-president, Mr. Robinson, and is employed at his bank. [Wild enthusiasm.] As there can be no question as to the amateur standing of the gentlemen, I will again beg of you to treat both men with equal favor, and will ask the Referee to call time!"

The seconds at this climbed down from the ringside, shoving their stools out under the ropes, and the two athletes, throwing aside their bath robes, stood up in their corners, each stripped to the buff, with the exception of tight trunks and canvas shoes. A roar of admiration and astonishment went up as the bank clerk first exposed himself, and Robinson grinned at Smith across the ring as the splendid exhibition of muscle was exhibited. It was evident that the bank clerk had not devoted all his time to banking; he was apparently as fit as a race-horse, and the muscles of his back and arms twisted and rolled about like snakes, at every movement.

But Robinson's expression altered somewhat as he glanced at the drug clerk. That individual was somewhat shorter than his opponent, but if the banking representative was well developed, he of the pharmaceutical persuasion was magnificent.

Both men had been fanned and washed, their gloves carefully tied on, and they now stood rubbing their shoes on some powdered rosin which was scattered about the corners, eyeing each other intently. What they thought will probably never be given to the public, but there is no doubt that each must have experienced a feeling of surprise at the physical condition of his opponent. This did not affect them in the least, however, as they were both as anxious to begin as bull-dogs, and when time was called and the gong rang, they danced to the middle and commenced sparring for an opening, grinning with confidence.

For the first minute or two nothing was done. Forward and back they moved, their arms moving in and out, each with his eyes fixed on the face of his opponent, watching closely for an opening. Then the bank clerk jumped in and led one, two, without effect, for his first blow was neatly guarded and the second brought a vicious cross-counter in return, which grazed his nose as he got back out of the way. In came the drug clerk with a rush, and they closed just as the gong sounded which ended the round.

Up through the ropes came the seconds with the activity of a lot of monkeys, and the two men were hurriedly seated upon stools and each was fanned furiously with a towel by one second, while the other bathed his neck and face with cold water. A hum of conversation arose.

"Who is the blooming duck?" whispered the druggist to his principal second. "'E ain't no bleeding dude, I can tell yer."

But before the man had time to reply, the gong sounded the call of "time," and the men sprang forward to the middle of the ring.

There was no sparring this time--they went at it biff, bang, right and left, sending in their blows with all the power of their muscular bodies. The Referee, almost dancing with excitement, shouted to them to "break away," and tried to part them when they clinched, but they were no sooner separated than they closed again, fighting with the energy and tenacity of bull-dogs.

Just before time was up, the drug clerk swung his right and caught the gentleman of finance fair and square on the nose, with the result that Prescott was awarded first blood and first knock-down, amid great excitement.

During the one minute's rest the seconds did wonders. The men were sponged and rubbed, while fanned constantly with a large towel, water was squirted on their heads and the back of their necks, and at the sound of the gong each arose from his stool looking as fresh as at the start.

_Round 3_ opened as though it would be a repetition of the hurricane style of fighting of the previous round, but after a clinch or two and giving and receiving a few good blows, the men kept apart and fought more warily. Each had evidently become satisfied that the other was not quite the easy victim he had expected; and as this conviction gradually dawned upon them they dropped the rough and tumble style and fought with more skill and caution, each watching and waiting for an opening, hoping for a chance for a "knock-out," but none came, and the round closed with honors even.

During the intermission Watkins, the sheriff, who was acting as Referee, talked earnestly with a friend, and from time to time looked hard at the drug clerk. He turned towards the time-keeper and seemed about to say something, when the bell rang and the men were again in the middle of the ring.

_Round 4_ had commenced.

They were both fresh and eager, but business was written all over their hard faces,--they were not smiling now. Round and round they moved, constantly facing each other, their arms moving back and forth like a machine. Now and then one or the other would make a quick feint or move, and the other would spring back with the agility of a dancing-master.

Suddenly the financier thought he saw an opening, and let go his left, but was short, and received a counter in return which sounded all over the place; then they went at it hammer and tongs and kept the Referee very busy separating them, and making them fight fair. Questionable prize-ring methods were resorted to by both men, and the knowledge shown by these amateurs of the little unfair tricks of the professional prize-fighter was astonishing. The bank clerk took especial pains to stick his thumb in his opponent's eye whenever they clinched, and the compounder of drugs used his head and elbow in a way which is frowned upon by advocates of fair play.

The men were fighting hard and fast when the round ended. Every man in the crowd was on his feet yelling like a hyena, as they went to their corners. Referee Watkins walked to the side of the ring, and raising his hand to enjoin silence, stood waiting for the uproar to subside. At last, when he could be heard, he addressed the crowd as follows:

"Gentlemen, I am sorry to stop this fight, but I must do it. These men are supposed to be fightin' for the Amatoor Champeenship of the Territory. Whether this is a put-up job or not, I do not know, but I do know that the Prescott man is a professional pug, lately arrived from Australia. I suspected him from the first. From the way he acted I was pretty blamed sure he was no drug clerk and my friend here, Jim Sweeney, swears he knows him, and that he was called the 'Ballarat Boy' when he saw him fight in Australia, some seven months ago. I can't let this thing go on, and have honest men lose their money. I am not dead sure in my mind that the other man isn't a ringer; he is a damned sight too good for an amatoor; but that cuts no ice. This fight stops right now. It's a draw, and all bets are off."

There was a tremendous row, but the pugilists were hurried off to their respective dressing-rooms, and the crowd slowly left the building. On the steps outside, Johnson, the chairman of the Prescott Athletic Club, met Smith, and, going up to him, he offered him his hand.

"Smith," said he, "I want to tell you how pained I am that the affair ended as it did. You, of course, do not for a moment suspect that any of us knew our man was a professional. How he could deceive us I cannot understand. Why, I was never more fooled in my life!"

Smith shook hands heartily. "Don't say a word, Johnson; the best of us are often deceived, and the more pure our motives are the easier it is to fool us."

"That's so."

They walked on in silence for a short distance.



"Pity they stopped it; it was a lovely scrap while it lasted."

"That's what it was," said Smith.

[The end]
Charles B. Cory's short story: The Amateur Championship