LEADVILLE'S BOXING TRAINER
Billy Irwin served as Leadville’s Fire Chief from 1907 to 1909. At this time he was also Leadville’s boxing promoter and he arranged a number of matches that took place in Leadville. The two boxing clubs that he managed at this time were the Cloud City Athletic Association (1906-1908) and the Eagles Athletic Club (1908-1910). During his service as Fire Chief he made arrangements for Leadville’s two firehouses to serve as training quarters for the Leadville boxing matches that he promoted. Some of the Leadville matches that Chief Irwin promoted were drawn from local Leadville talent, some from all over the state of Colorado, while others were drawn from places as far a field as Cheyenne, Omaha, St. Louis, Chicago, Milwaukee, and Philadelphia.
Every Leadville match that Billy Irwin promoted followed a similar pattern. One boxer was allowed to set up training quarters and train at one firehouse (Harrison Avenue Fire Station) and the other boxer trained at the other firehouse (Second Street Station). Ultimately those training matches became so popular and so largely attended that Chief Irwin arranged to stagger them so that both training sessions could be witnessed by the public.
The local newspaper (Herald Democrat) kept abreast of these daily sessions and some quotes of their coverage are as follows: “attendance at training quarters keeps growing larger”… ”These free exhibitions are almost equal at times to the real thing”… ”Large crowds continue to visit the training quarters”… ”All are invited to call and see the boys train”… ”Fast bouts will be on tap every afternoon”… ”Fully three hundred people crowded into the Harrison Avenue Fire Station to watch the workouts.
Leadville Fire Chief (1907-1909)
These workouts were not merely skipping rope, throwing heavy leather balls around and hitting the punching bag. There was more for the spectators to see. Many of Leadville’s local boxers offered to box the pugilists in training and “practice bouts” were a common feature of these workouts. It was not uncommon for the likes of men like Dago Mike to drop by the fire station and box a few rounds with the contestants. It was likewise not uncommon for Fire Chief Irwin to don the “mits” and box 4 or 6 exceedingly fast rounds with the contestants also.
Finally the training sessions ended and the fight day came. It was not uncommon for 1,000 or more spectators to witness the fight, which usually consisted of not only the main event but also two or three preliminaries. The spectators at these events, besides local enthusiasts, were drawn from other parts of Colorado who, often times, came by specially chartered trains.
All of the Leadville matches that Billy Irwin promoted at this time took place at four different Halls: Joyce’s Armory Hall, City Hall, Turner Hall and the Knights of Labor Hall