On June 17, 1892, James J. “Gentleman Jim” Corbett arrived in Asbury Park to begin training for “The Fight of the Century” against world heavyweight boxing champion John L. Sullivan. William Brady, Corbett’s manager, chose a cottage in Loch Arbour for the fighter’s residence and training headquarters. His arrival “started a pugilistic craze among the Summer boarders, and merchants have added boxing gloves to their stocks in anticipation of a lively demand.” Corbett, a native of San Francisco who had traveled extensively, said of Asbury Park, “This is the finest country I was ever in, and I am delighted with the place. Mr. Brady could not have selected a more desirable place for my training quarters. The air is very fresh and invigorating.”
Corbett “…rises about seven o’clock in the morning, and after breakfast takes a five-mile spin back in the country, accompanied by [his trainers]. Corbett is very fond of hand ball…he believes that this sport is very necessary in order that sprightliness may be obtained. The boxer does very little ocean bathing, believing that this weakens, rather than strengthens a person in training.” To generate revenue to offset training costs, Corbett’s manager staged boxing exhibitions starring Corbett at theaters in Red Bank and Long Branch over the summer.
Corbett was not training to face some palooka. John L. Sullivan, the “Boston Strong Boy,” had been heavyweight boxing champion of the world for ten years, and had defended his title 35 times, winning 32, with two draws and one no-contest, prior to facing Corbett.
On September 7, 1892, Corbett, considered by many to be the first “scientific” fighter, defeated John L. Sullivan after 21 rounds in New Orleans to become the new heavyweight boxing champion of the world. It was Sullivan’s first defeat, and the end of his pugilist career; he never fought again professionally, although he continued to perform exhibition bouts. Of Corbett, Sullivan said, “If I had to get licked, I’m glad I got licked by an American.”
An aspiring thespian in addition to champion pugilist, Corbett would return to Asbury Park in 1892 to star in a theatrical release based on his life called “Gentleman Jack.” He would return again in 1897 to train for his title defense against “Ruby Bob” FItzsimmons, who would unseat Corbett as world heavyweight champ.
Fields, Armond. (2001.) James J. Corbett. McFarland & Co., Jefferson, N.C.
June 15, 1892. The Evening World (New York), p. 4.
June 17, 1892. The Shore Press (Asbury Park). Jim Corbett Arrives. P. 1.
Image credit: James J. Corbett by Elmer Chickering, Boston. b&w film copy neg. Library of Congress image public domain.