1890 Letter to Johnny Murphy Foreshadowing Bout versus "Little Chocolate" George Dixon
Talk about the calm before the storm! Here, a student of boxing called Joe Clarke, who apparently worked for the Boston Globe, writes a letter to featherweight Johnny Murphy inquiring about taking boxing lessons twice a week after Murphy's upcoming fight against African-American George "Little Chocolate" Dixon at the Gladstone Club, in Providence, Rhode Island, has concluded. Seems like a routine request, but the upcoming fight - which was part of Dixon's plan to lay claim to both the bantamweight and featherweight World Championships - proved to be anything but routine. Murphy was said to have been involved with some nefarious characters, and before the fight, Murphy's manager almost attacked Dixon's manager, but Lightweight Champ Jack McAuliffe stepped in to prevent mayhem - for a while. During the fight itself, Dixon, who as a bantamweight was the first Black World boxing champ of any division, was forced to fight from the center of the ring because if Dixon came near the ropes, racist fans of Murphy would hit Dixon's legs with blackjacks and slug shots. Soon a riot broke out. Amazingly, Dixon kept his composure and won in a decision after 40 rounds. Framed at 11.5x14.5", includes the letter (with a repaired tear), an oval, 6.5" tall B&W photo of Murphy, and Murphy's business card (with a tiny smudge), which states, "Good for One Lesson in Boxing. Prof. Johnny Murphy." This item is especially noteworthy because the innocence of the contents: the polite letter, the fun business card - which playfully calls Murphy a professor, and the photo of the nattily dressed "professor" - (boxer), stand in stark contrast to the riotous events to follow.