Monday, May 3, 2010

Boxing History in Las Vegas

During the early 1960s Las Vegas became a major capital for championship boxing matches. The Convention Center held most of the early title matches, like the Patterson and Liston bouts.

In the late 1960s Caesars Palace began promoting outdoor boxing on the southside of their property. Thru the 1970s most all major Vegas boxing events took place on the south-west side of Caesars, and later closer to the I-15 freeway either outdoors (as seen above) or later, within a permanent indoor arena located in this same general area.

Following the opening of the new MGM Grand, in 1993, most championship Las Vegas boxing events have been held in MGM's Arena.

Most Caesars' boxing events were held in the back part of Caesars' property (see red star) though some other 1980 events were held outdoors in the location indicated by the yellow star.

Fight Town: Las Vegas - the Boxing Capital of the World


Before the late 1890s, boxing matches consisted of basic bare-knuckled brawling. In 1892 a prizefight was held between the first U.S. heavyweight champion Jim Corbett and John L. Sullivan. Titled 'The Battle of New Orleans' - the fight was held using Queensbury rules which stated boxers must wear gloves during a championship match.

Photo shows the outdoor Carson City event. Motion picture cameras were set up in a ringside camera shed and later shown in theaters through-out the country.

On St. Patrick's Day 1897 a championship match, labeled 'The Fight of the Century', was held in Carson City, Nevada between Bob Fitzsimmons and Jim Corbett. The fight was filmed by the Edison Picture Company and was one of the first major sporting events played nationally in early movie theaters and nickelodeons.

The total expenditures to hold and relay this fight were over $2,700,000. $1,300,000 of that money went to wire services and telegraph companies for the live reporting of the event. Fitzsimmons won the championship and the combined purse of $38,000. Bets made on the fight were likewise huge. One San Francisco bookmaker alone distributed over $150,000 in gold the day after the fight.

Joe Gans is considered to be one of the greatest boxers of all time. He boxed as a lightweight champion and fought from 1891 to 1909. Gans boxing career was filled with 9 losses, 120 wins of which 89 were knockouts. He died at the age of 36 from TB.

One of his biggest boxing matches took place in the once-thriving Nevada mining town of Goldfield, located halfway between Carson City and Southern Nevada (northwest of Las Vegas).

These two photos show Goldfield at the turn-of-the-century (left) and after 1906 (right) when the town's main street was filled with opulent buildings and the Goldfield Hotel.

Nine years after Nevada's Fitzsimmons versus Corbett fight, a championship match between Joe Gans and Oscar Nelson was held in Nevada, this time located in the once famous mining town of Goldfield (population 30,000 in 1906). The fight took place on Labor Day, September 1906.

The purse for the match, between Oscar Nelson and Joe Gans, was $33,500 . Over 100,000 boxing fans attended. The fight was held outdoors, in sweltering heat and lasted nearly three hours and 42 rounds.

Nelson was disqualified for a "vicious foul" and Gans remained the Lightweight Champion of the World. Film clips of both the 1897 and 1906 boxing matches can be seen in the video player below - along with a few clips of Goldfield, Nevada.

Spectators on the roofs of Goldfield.

The Gans-Nelson fight is commemorated by this marker in current day Goldfield.

Early Nevada Boxing Films

1. Fitzsimmons versus Corbett in 1897 Carson City, 2-4 Goldfield Nevada, 5. Gans versus Nelson in 1906 Goldfield.

Floyd Patterson and Las Vegas

Floyd Patterson was the 1952 middleweight gold-medal winner at the Olympic Games. His manager was Cus D'Amato, who later managed Mike Tyson. In 1956 Patterson knocked-out Archie Moore in the fifth round and became the youngest world heavyweight champion, at the age of 22 - being the first Olympic gold medalist to ever win a professional heavyweight fight.

Patterson went on to defend his title several times - but when he fought Sweden's Ingemar Johansson, in June 1959, he lost the match. Johansson became the first European to defeat an American, for the title, since 1933. A re-match was held in June of 1960. Patterson knocked out Johansson in the fifth round and became the first man to regain the undisputed world heavyweight title.

A third Patterson-Johansson fight was held in March 1961 and Floyd won by a knockout in the sixth round.

In September 1962 Patterson fought Sonny Liston, in Chicago, and received the third fastest knockout in boxing history. A major re-match was held in Las Vegas on July 22, 1963. Liston knocked out Floyd again in the first round.

Patterson went on to fight the rising young Cassius Clay (another Olympic Champion, from 1960) but lost that November 1965 fight. He and Ali had another re-match in September of 1972 at Caesars Palace where he suffered another defeat. He retired that year, at age 37 with a record of 55 wins (40 by knockouts) and 8 losses. He was the first boxer to ever regain the championship title.

El Cortez casino owner Jackie Gaughan hosting Floyd Patterson in Las Vegas.

Patterson, Liston and Ali Boxing Videos

1. Patterson Versus Ali in Vegas Part One (Sinatra and Dino in the audience), 2. Patterson-Ali Part Two, 3. Patterson-Ali 1972 at Caesars Palace Part One, 4. Patterson-Ali 1972 Part Two, 5. Patterson Versus Liston

Boxing Posters

Boxing Items from Amazon

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The Best Boxing Videos Ever

1. Mayweather-Mosley Promo, 2. Ali-Bugner 1972 at Caesars, 3. Forman-Lyle at Caesars, 4. Leonard-Hearns at Caesars, 5. Holmes-Norton at Caesars, 6. Hagler-Leonard at Caesars, 7. Ali-Spinks at Caesars, 8. Hearns-Duran at Caesars, 9. Holyfield-Bowe at Caesars, 10. Holmes-Frazier at Caesars, 11. Ali-Holmes, 12. Tyson-Spinks, 13. Hollyfield-Tyson, 14-16. Oscar-Mayweather, 17. Mayweather-Mosley 28 minute HBO Special, 18-23. Assorted Mayweather HBO Specials (40 minutes and 51 minutes), 24-33. Assorted Ali-Liston and The History of Boxing.