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William “Billy” Irwin

  • At this time scarcely, a state in the union allowed public prize fighting within its borders. In Colorado many counties and municipalities did not sanction boxing either and thus many of the prize fights of this era were fought clandestinely and not adequately recorded. The two oldest photos in the William J. Irwin photo collection indicate that he began training as a boxer at the age of ten (1879) and began participating in matches at the age of 15 (1884). Therefore, the above “Boxing Record Sketch” showing no boxing activity between 1884 and 1892 is actually only his “known” record (1892-1906).


  • Billy Irwin’s encounter with the Montana Kid (03-11-1895) was not a scheduled and gloved ring match but instead it was a saloon bare knuckle match. According to the newspaper report of Billy’s encounter with the Montana Kid: “A little impromptu affair occurs in a saloon (Cripple Creek) in which Billy is victorious.” This is recorded as a “Newspaper Win” (NWS-W) for Billy Irwin.


  • Billy Irwin’s match with Billy Tennis took place at the Wheeler Opera House, Aspen January 17, 1898. According to the newspaper account: “When it seemed apparent that he (Tennis) would be knocked out (5th round) the police officers again interfered and stopped the fight.” This is recorded as a “Newspaper – Win” (NWS-W) for Billy Irwin.


  • Billy Irwin’s first encounter with Dago Mike probably took place in Aspen in 1898. According to a Denver Post article dated April 18, 1899. “Dago Mike tried sometime ago to stop Irwin in six rounds but failed.” This is recorded as a win for Billy Irwin.


  • Billy Irwin’s 3rd encounter with Reddy Coogan took place circa 1899. According to a clipping (2-10-1901?) from Billy Irwin’s scrapbook (referring to the Irwin-Coogan match of 02-12-1901) the Leadville Miner newspaper stated: “Billy Irwin of Leadville and Reddy Coogan of Denver have fought two battles before. The first was 20 rounds and resulted in a draw although Irwin’s friends claim he had a long way the best of it. The next was also 20 rounds. Both men were fighting at the finish but Coogan was given the decision.” This is recorded as a loss for Billy Irwin.

  • Billy Irwin's second encounter with Coogan should have been a "Newspaper Win" for Billy. This knockout was not legitimate for,. according to the New Castle Nonpareil newspaper dated August 25, 1898: "The decision should have not gone to Coogan as he fouled his opponent a number of times - besides, the gloves he wore had been tampered with by his seconds, the result being that Irwin might as well have gone up against bare knuckles."  

  • The only "legitimate" knockout of Billy Irwin was by young Corbett in four rounds in which Billy did most of the leading and fought on the offensive, Young Corbett was 10 years younger than Billy and two years later Corbett would be the World Featherweight Champion.

  • From 1895 - 1900 Billy Irwin heald the Colorado Featherweight Champion Title ( See Essay 10) ... arguably the Colorado Lightweight Champion Title ( See Essay 12) ... the Bantamweight Champion Title which he lost to Dego Mike, 13 years younger, in 1900 ( See Essay 14).

  • In the Boxing Record Sketch (preceding page) the Poole- Irwin match (July 10, 1894) is recorded as a draw. Arguably however, it could or should be listed as a newspaper win for Billy Irwin.


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