Nowadays, sports have their set of rules and regulations that don’t really leave any room for grey areas except maybe in some extreme conditions. But back in the old days, rules were basically created as they went along, as some incidents happened and they showed some flaws in the systems.
Who were the fighters?
The fighters were two Americans: Andy Bowen and Jack Burke. Andy Bowen had a rather unathletic constitution and was known for taking 3 to 4 punches before he was able to land one shot. He had a history of long fights, as in 1890, he fought a 43-round match against Charley Johnson.
Jack Burke was the lightweight champion of Texas but was generally considered to have been less experienced than Andy Bowen. He was actually the trainer of another boxer who was supposed to go against Andy, but after that guy dropped off, Jack took his place. As he was only 24 years old, he lacked a lot of experience.
Both men weighed 134 pounds, so from that perspective, none of them had an advantage. Still, Andy was under pressure, as the fight was taking place in his own hometown, and losing there would have brought shame to him and the community living there. So what happened on that night?
All through the night
On April 6th, 1893, the two fighters entered the ring. No one would have ever thought that this night would go down in history as the longest boxing match in history. The two men entered the ring at 9 pm and would only finally finish at 4 am, which means it technically spread over two days.
Jack liked to taunt opponents and quickly gained the advantage, as early as the first round. All rounds would last three minutes each. Jack even made Andy stagger by the time they had reached round 25. But Andy was known very well for being tough, even being nicknamed “Iron”.
By round 48, Andy used a furious attack and put Jack down. The match would continue, though, as even if Jack was still on the floor, he couldn’t be counted out, as the time expired before that could happen. We’re sure everybody wished Jack would have stayed down a little more, for everybody’s sake.
How did it end?
By the time the 108th round (!!!) came along, the referee, named John Duffy, noticed that both men were pretty close to falling off their feet due to exhaustion, and back then even the shoes were a different quality and not from a well-known brand. The battle went for so long that some people left, while others stayed, but fell asleep in their chairs, as the fight kept going on for hours.
Finally, John said that the fight would only go on for two other rounds. If by the 110th round, nobody would manage to win, then he would simply declare the fight as being a “no contest”. Anticipation was running high as both men clearly wanted to win after seven hours. No punches were thrown, so John declared the fight as being a “no contest”.
In fact, the fight was later declared as being a draw. John figured that announcing a draw would make the audience ask for their money back or ask for a rematch since at the end of the day, they had paid to see someone win. The prize money, $2500 were split between the two men since probably nobody wanted to put them together in a ring ever again!
During the game, both men lost 10 pounds, each. On top of that, Jack had broken every bone in his hands. Following the fight, he was actually bedridden for a month and a half. Just two months later, Andy returned to the ring and fought 85 rounds. Jack also returned and continued boxing for another couple of years, now more experienced.
Just a year later, Andy was having a fight with George “The Kid” Lavigne. George knocked him down and Andy hit his head on the hard surface. He didn’t regain his conscience and the next day, at 7 am, being only 27 years old, Andy died from a fracture on his skull. George was arrested but finally set free as there wasn’t any wrongdoing.