top of page


As boxing grew in popularity in Colorado during the early years of the twentieth century so too its business expanded beyond the doors of saloons in which money backers thrashed out terms and arrangements. Instead, boxing matches started to become promoted by either simple entrepreneurs or organized clubs which were financed by a haphazard conglomerate of local businessmen. Well matched, prize fighters were always a big draw for bringing out of town money into local coffers and so local businessmen were not adversed to making a “contribution” to such a “worthy cause.”


In June of 1906, Billy Irwin became Manager of the Cloud City Athletic Club and from the start his matches drew packed houses. From 1906 to 1907, as Manager of the Cloud City Athletic Club, and from 1907 to 19l0, as Manager of the Eagle’s Athletic club, Billy Irwin became the most widely known boxing promoter in Leadville’s history.


Some of the Leadville matches that Manager Irwin promoted were drawn from Local Leadville talent, some from all over the state of Colorado, while others were drawn from places as far field as Cheyenne, Omaha, St. Louis, Chicago, Milwaukee and Philadelphia. In Leadville these matches took place at four different halls: Joyce’s Armory Hall, City Hall, Turner Hall and the Knights of Labor Hall. Pre-fight sparring exhibitions were featured at the two Leadville fire stations to “packed houses” that, according to newspaper accounts, “is almost equal at times to the real thing.” Most of the “boxing cards” promoted by Billy Irwin in Leadville consisted of a twenty round main bout, an eight round semi-main bout and one or two four round preliminaries… a boxing card consisting of thirty or more rounds, and given the fact that the price of

admission for these bouts cost only $1.00 to $2.00 per seat (depending on the location) this was, according to a newspaper quote, “the most for the money ever offered in a local ring.”


Always with Leadville’s best interest in mind manager Irwin used his boxing knowledge, experience, and connections to put Leadville “on the map” as far as the Colorado world of boxing was concerned. In a newspaper article (Herald Democrat) it stated: ”Fight promoters are keeping their eye on Leadville horizons,” which was in reference to the fact that Leadville, due to Billy Irwin’s efforts, was becoming a Colorado “boxing Mecca.” To illustrate the enthusiasm generated by these matches it would be worth mentioning some quotes from the Herald Democrat newspaper during the first week of September 1908 concerning the Mugsy-Schoel vs. Monte Dale match:


“Many came to see the fight from Denver, Pueblo and other eastern points. Fight fans from Aspen and Glenwood have telephoned for tickets.”


“A special carload of people came to Leadville to see the fight.”


“There will be a big delegation here from Aspen and quite a few from Cripple Creek. Denver will send a large crowd, among whom will be included some of the most prominent men in sporting circles in that city. Then there will be fight fans here from Buena Vista, Salida, Pueblo, Glenwood Springs, Grand Junction and other places in varying numbers. Orders are coming in on every mail for reserved space at ringside.”


“In attendance also at the fight was Frank Sele, former manager of the Chicago Cubs and Johnny Corbett, manager of Young Corbett who was the one time world featherweight champion.”


“E. W. Dickerson, sporting editor of the Denver News, was in attendance and stated, “Before coming to Leadville as the guest of my friend, Billy Irwin, I was told that I would visit the biggest little town in the country. Since arriving here I have found that not only that is true but I have also met the biggest man that it has been my pleasure to become acquainted with anywhere.”

Copy of a ticket to one of the matches promoted by Billy Irwin

bottom of page