Clash of the Little Giants

George Dixon, Terry McGovern and the Culture of Boxing in America, 1890–1910


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About the Book

In the late 1890s, when boxing rivaled the popularity of baseball, George Dixon and Terry McGovern were among its most famous practitioners. Their paths first crossed in 1900 in what is widely considered the most significant featherweight bout in history. Both men were fighters who died young under distressing circumstances. Both were products of a burgeoning industrial society and a cult of masculinity, at a time when prizefighting’s adherents and opponents were in a constant tug-of-war. This book tells the full story, with a fascinating cast of characters including imperious manager/promoter Tom O’Rourke, World Welterweight Champion Barbados Joe Walcott, and Tammany Hall bigwig Timothy “Big Tim” Sullivan, whose invisible hand made New York the epicenter of boxing in the 1890s.

About the Author(s)

The editor-in-chief of The Sweet Science on-line boxing magazine, Arne K. Lang taught sociology at the University of Nevada–Las Vegas, the University of Nebraska, and Tuskegee. A leading authority on the history of boxing and the history of American sports gambling, he lives and writes in Las Vegas, Nevada. This is his fifth book.

Bibliographic Details

Arne K. Lang

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 194
Bibliographic Info: 25 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2022
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8873-2
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4700-5
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii
Introduction 1
1. George Dixon Coming of Age 13
2. George Dixon’s Boston 20
3. George Dixon: Champion of Three Continents 26
4. Coney Island: Sodom by the Sea 38
5. Young Griffo and the Kentucky Rosebud 47
6. Eastern Precincts and a Wild Goose Chase 52
7. The Horton Law and the Broadway Athletic Club 55
8. Highs and Lows on Opposite Coasts 59
9. Terry McGovern: The South Brooklyn Comet 64
10. 1899: The Year of the Deluge 71
11. Tom O’Rourke and the Other Guy 84
12. Dixon vs. McGovern: The Championship Fight 96
13. Terry McGovern: High Times and a Shocking Reversal 102
14. George Dixon’s Second Act: A Career on the Skids 115
15. Terry McGovern After the Fall 123
16. Little Chocolate in the Autumn of His Years 137
17. Terrible Terry’s Psychopathology 140
18. Funerals and Monuments 143
19. Necrology 146
Appendix I. Key Fights in the Boxing Career of George Dixon 157
Appendix II. Key Fights in the Boxing Career of Terry McGovern 160
Chapter Notes 163
Bibliography 177
Index 181

Book Reviews & Awards

“There is no fluff in this book. Its 155 pages of text are engagingly written and packed with absorbing information. It is well researched, smartly laid out, and thoroughly documented with an index, a bibliography, chapter endnotes, and appendices…The author’s background as an accredited sociologist and experienced boxing historian makes him uniquely situated to explore the cultural aspects of boxing and offer fresh insights into the sport’s development. The book is a valuable addition to our knowledge of a neglected area of study and should be of considerable interest to those interested in boxing history.”—International Boxing Research Association