International Boxing Hall of Fame

Bob Fitzsimmons

"The Freckled Wonder"


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Bob Fitzsimmons
Real name Robert James Fitzsimmons
Nickname(s) Ruby, The Freckled Wonder
Rated at Light heavyweight
Nationality British, New Zealand
Birth date May 26, 1863(1863-05-26)
Birth place Helston, Cornwall, England, UK
Death date October 22, 1917 (aged 54)
Death place Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Stance Orthodox
Boxing record
Total fights 82
Wins 51
Wins by KO 44
Losses 8
Draws 5
No contests 15

Robert James "Bob" Fitzsimmons (
May 26, 1863 - October 22, 1917), a British-born New Zealand boxer, made boxing history as the sport's first three-division world champion. He also achieved fame for beating Gentleman Jim Corbett, the man who beat the great John L. Sullivan. Nicknamed Ruby Robert or The Freckled Wonder, he took pride in his lack of scars, and appeared in the ring wearing heavy woollen underwear to conceal the disparity between his trunk and leg-development.


Oceanian era

Fitzsimmons(Jezu), the youngest of 18children was born in Helston, Cornwall in the UK. His parent were James Fitzsimmons, born County Armagh, Ireland and his mother was Jane Strongman born St. Clements, Cornwall. Bob emigrated to New Zealand at the age of nine along with his parents, brothers and sisters. His family settled in Timaru and Bob became a blacksmith in his brother Jarrett's smithy.

Between 1880 and 1881, Fitzsimmons reigned as the champion of the Jem Mace tournament in New Zealand. Some say he officially began his career as a professional boxer in New Zealand later in 1881. Records remain unclear whether he received payment for a bout in which he knocked out Herbert Slade in two rounds.

Fitzsimmons had six fights there, two of them bare-knuckle events. He won one and lost five, it remains unclear whether any of those bouts involved payment.

Boxing record-books show that Fitzsimmons officially began boxing professionally in 1883, in Australia. He beat Jim Crawford by getting a knockout in three there. Fitzsimmons had his first 28 definite professional fights in Australia, where he lost for the Australian Middleweight title (rumors spoke of a fixed bout), and where he also won a fight by knockout while on the floor: when Edward Starlight Robins dropped Fitzsimmons to the canvas in round nine of their fight, he also broke his hand and could not continue, therefore the referee declared Fitzsimmons the winner by a knockout.

By this stage Fitzsimmons had established his own style. He developed a certain movement and caginess from one of the greatest bare-knuckle fighters, Jem Mace. Mace had encouraged Bob to develop his punching technique and he revolutionised this, drawing on the enormous power he had gained from blacksmithing. Fitzsimmons delivered short, accurate and usually conclusive punches. He soon built up a reputation as by far the hardest puncher in boxing.


Winning the Middleweight title

Moving on to the United States, Fitzsimmons fought four more times in 1890, winning three and drawing one.

Then, on January 14, 1891, in New Orleans, he won his first world title from Jack (Nonpareil) Dempsey. Fitzsimmons knocked out Dempsey (from whom the later Jack Dempsey would take his name) in the 13th round to become the world's Middleweight champion. Fitzsimmons knocked Dempsey down at least 13 times, and by the finish left him in such a pitiable condition that he begged him to quit. Dempsey would not do so, so Fitzsimmons knocked him out and then carried him to his corner. On July 22, police broke off his fight with Jim Hall after he had knocked Hall down several times.

Fitzsimmons spent the next two years fighting non-title bouts and exhibitions until giving Hall a chance at the title in 1893. He retained the crown by a knockout in round four. He spent the rest of that year doing exhibitions, and on June 2, he had scheduled a two-way exhibition where he would demonstrate in public how to hit the boxing bag and then how to box against a real opponent. Reportedly, two freak accidents happened that day: Fitzsimmons hit the bag so hard that it broke, and then his opponent of that day allegedly slipped, getting hit in the head and the boxing exhibition cancelled.

After vacating the Middleweight crown, Fitzsimmons began campaigning among Heavyweights (the light-heavyweight division did not exist at that time). Wyatt Earp, the famous lawman, refereed one of his fights, against Tom Sharkey. Fitzsimmons battered Sharkey and had him on the verge of a knock-out, but when he hit him with a body-and-head punch-combination Earp declared him the loser on a disqualification because he had hit Sharkey while Sharkey was down. Earp, according to a widespread belief, had involvement with gamblers who had bet on Sharkey.

Winning the Heavyweight title

Fitzsimmons challenged for the world's Heavyweight title in 1897. On March 17 of that year he became World Heavyweight champion, knocking out Jim Corbett in round 14. This constituted a remarkable achievement, as Corbett, a skilled boxer, weighed a stone (14 lb) more than Fitzsimmons. He out-boxed Fitzsimmons for several rounds, knocked him down in the sixth round, and badly damaged his face with his jab, left hook and right hand, but Fitzsimmons kept coming and Corbett began to tire. In the 14th round Fitzsimmons won the title with his "solar plexus" punch. Corbett collapsed in agony. Fitzsimmons' "solar plexus" punch became legendary, although he himself may never have used the phrase.

Fitzsimmons spent the rest of 1897 doing paper runs.

In 1899, Fitzsimmons and James J. Jeffries succeeded in boxing in New York without the police intervening, probably at an underground club. Most people gave Jeffries little chance, even though at 15 st (95 kg) he massively outweighed his opponent, but Jeffries lifted the world Heavyweight crown from Fitzsimmons with an 11th-round knockout.

In June of 1901 Fitzsimmons took part in a wrestling match against Gus Ruhlin. He lost, and went back to boxing. He then enjoyed legitimate (boxing) knock-outs of both Ruhlin and Sharkey.

In 1901 he published a book Physical Culture and Self-Defense (Philadelphia: D. Biddle).

In 1902, he and Jeffries had a rematch, once again with the world Heavyweight crown at stake. Fitzsimmons battered Jefferies, who suffered horrible punishment. With his nose and cheek-bones broken, most would have sympathised with Jeffries had he quit, but he kept going until his enormous weight advantage told and Bob suffered a knockout in round eight.

Winning the Light-heavyweight title

September of 1903 proved a tragic month for Fitzsimmons, as his rival, Con Coughlin, died the day after suffering a one-round knockout at the hands of Fitzsimmons. But less than two months later, Fitzsimmons made history by defeating world Light-Heavyweight champion George Gardner by a decision in 20 rounds, thus becoming the first boxer to win titles in three weight-divisions.

Soon after, he went back to the Heavyweights, where he kept fighting until 1914, with mixed results. He boxed Jack Johnson, and film historians believe that his fight with Bob KO Sweeney became the first boxing-fight captured on film.


Although Fitzsimmons became a world champion in each of the Middleweight, Light-Heavyweight and Heavyweight divisions, historians do not considered him the first world Light-Heavyweight champion to become world Heavyweight champion, because he won the Heavyweight title before winning the Light Heavyweight belt. Michael Spinks counts as the first Light-Heavyweight world champion to win the Heavyweight belt as well. In 2003 Roy Jones Jr. joined Fitzsimmons, Michael Moorer and Spinks as the only men to have won world championships at both Light-Heavyweight and Heavyweight.

Fitzsimmons's exact record remains unknown, as the boxing world often kept records poorly during his era, but Fitzsimmons said he had had more than 350 fights (which could have involved exaggeration on his part).

He died in auckland of cancer in 1917, survived by his fourth wife. His grave lies in the Graceland Cemetery, Chicago. Having four wives, a gambling habit and a susceptability to confidence tricksters, he did not hold on to the money he made.

The International Boxing Hall of Fame has made Bob Fitzsimmons a member in its "Old Timer" category.

In 2003 Ring Magazine named Fitzsimmons number eight of all time among boxing's best punchers.

Preceded by
James J. Corbett
Heavyweight boxing champion
Succeeded by
James J. Jeffries


Bob Fitzsimmons

�The Most Accurate and Deadly Hitter of His Class�


Cox's Corner Profiles

      Bob Fitzsimmons was a tall, lanky and explosive middleweight puncher. He was boxing�s first triple-crown champion gaining the world�s middleweight (1891-1897), light-heavyweight (1903-1905) and heavyweight (1897-1899) crowns during a career that spanned a long 34 years. His record was 55-8-16 7 ND with 48 knockouts, although he claimed to have as many as 300 fights all unrecorded.

      Despite being no more than a middleweight he carried a heavyweight�s upper body build and a heavyweight�s strong punch. He was experienced and clever. As an excellent feinter he knew how to draw his opponent�s into his deadly blows. He was steadfast, patient and had excellent accuracy in striking vital points.

      Early ring historian Sandy Griswold said in the Dec 24, 1904 National Police Gazette, �He knows all the vulnerable spots of the human anatomy as well as the most erudite surgeon in the business and has a greater variety of effective blows than any fighter who ever lived.�

      There is no question that Fitzsimmons had a heavyweights punching power. In 1893, he knocked out seven men in one night and accomplished the feat in under nineteen rounds. All men weighed over 200 pounds. One stood 6-7 and weighed in at 240 pounds. The fact that a middleweight could knock out a man the size of Lennox Lewis demonstrates his worth as a hitter. Fitzsimmons actually defeated top heavyweight contenders Peter Maher, Gus Ruhlin and Tom Sharkey all by knockout.

      Nat Fleischer, founder of The Ring Magazine, regarded Fitzsimmons as the greatest pound for pound knockout puncher in boxing history. He also considered Fitz as the best-left hooker, and the best body puncher among heavyweights.

      David Willoughby,in The Super Athletes, 1970, concurred saying that �Fitzsimmons had perhaps the hardest punch ever possessed by a boxer of his size.�

      Joe Gans, lightweight champion 1902-1908, stated, Feb. 2, 1908 NY Times, �I consider Bob Fitzsimmons as one of the greatest exponents of straight hitting that the prize ring has ever known. Fitz was a wonderful fighter and all of his straight punches were very effective. Until age set in and his hands went back on him, there were few fighters able to withstand that famous shift of his. When Fitz delivered a blow he carried the whole weight of his body with it.�

      McCallum wrote, (Encyclopedia p 8), �He moved with a shuffling gate. He stood flatfooted. His timing was perfect. He had a superb sense of distance. His punching therefore was deadly accurate.�

      One was never safe until the final bell with Fitzsimmons. Durant noted, in , �He was ring-wise and crafty. He would sometimes lure an opponent into being careless by pretending to be hurt and then shoot over a knockout punch.�

      Fleischer stated (Enigma Chpt. 13), �Fitzsimmons, who took the crown from Corbett, was not a slugger of the Sullivan type, nor did he approach Corbett in boxing skill. Yet he was the greatest strategist in the ring's history, a man of wonderful vitality, and the most accurate and deadliest hitter of the class. To reach Jim Corbett in the pit of the stomach with knockout force was a feat for a magician, and Fitz was a magician. Where others signally failed, Fitz succeeded through strategic feinting to induce Corbett to raise his guard and open the way for a left shift and a crashing blow to the solar plexus.�

      I do not believe as many of the old-timers did that Fitzsimmons should be rated among the top heavyweights. He hit like a heavyweight but was still only a middleweight, in my view, this means he should be ranked with the 160-pounders. Charley Rose, in fact, did not rate him as a heavyweight. Rose rated him as a light-heavyweight, however he was light-heavyweight champion at the end of his career and was quite old.

      It is my contention that Fitzsimmons should be rated among the all time greats as a middleweight and he, in fact, was a middleweight for most of his career. The idea that Fitzsimmons was anything more than a middleweight is a myth. Fitzsimmons began boxing professionally in 1883 and when he won the middleweight championship of the world in 1891 by knocking out the �Nonpareil� Jack Dempsey he weighed 150 � pounds. For his 1894 championship defense against Dan Creedon, for example, he weighed 155 � according to the Oct. 13, 1894 National Police Gazette. When he fought for the heavyweight title he was stripped down and privately weighed on the morning of Mar 17, 1897, the day of his fight with champion James J. Corbett, and �tipped the scale at 156 � pounds� according to Bob Davis a reporter and friend who was following Fitzsimmons (See Book of Boxing p 71). Further the San Francisco Chronicle reported the day before the second Jim Jeffries fight that �Fitzsimmons claims to weigh only 160 pounds and hardly looked that heavy.�

      Gene Tunney wrote, (1940), that Fitz always considered himself a middleweight, �Fitz, incidentally, was funny about his weight, for, after defeating Corbett, while alone in a Turkish bath with Jim Coffroth, he kept repeating, 'eavyweight champion of the world--and I�m only a bleeding middleweight.�

      While I have no doubt his vigor and durability would allow him to survive any middleweight�s punch, against the bigger and more modern heavyweights one has to question Nat Fleischer�s 1958 # 3 ranking at heavyweight for Fitzsimmons.

      Consider that James Corbett, a small heavyweight who was not known for his power, bloodied Fitz�s lip with a sturdy left jab and floored the middleweight champion in the 6th round. If Corbett�s jab could tear up Fitz what would Joe Louis jab and right hand do? Or Muhammad Ali?

      Fitz was down against Joe Choyinski, a light-heavyweight, in their draw fight. The June 30, 1894 Police Gazette reported, �Fitzsimmons finally tried for the wind and received a straight jab in the face. He came in again and was caught over the left eye so hard his that his head flew back. Keeping after Choyinski he let go for the wind. Choyinski shot his right across him full on the neck. Down he went like a falling chimney�the referee began to count but before he cried out �ten� Fitzsimmons was up. Fitzsimmons was up smiling like a sick man trying to make someone believe he feels better than he really does. He staggered about the ring and Choyinski went after him hard and furious. He could not however, get his right in for a knockout.�

      Choynski was a great light-heavyweight hitter, but he was still only a light-heavyweight. Fitz was badly staggered, careening around the ring, and barely beat a ten count. He came back to put Choynski down as well, but what if it had been a great heavyweight finisher like Joe Louis, Jack Dempsey, or Mike Tyson instead of Joe Choysnki?

      In describing Jim Jeffries title winning effort against Fitzsimmons the National Police Gazette wrote on July 1, 1899 �Jeffries was as firm and steady as the proverbial rock, fighting a carefully planned battle. He had demonstrated his ability to hit the champion and likewise demonstrated he had nothing to fear from the latter�s punches.�

      Jeffries, a modern sized heavyweight, had little trouble in breaking down the smaller Fitzsimmons and knocking him out in their first fight. In the rematch, it has been contended that Fitzsimmons had loaded gloves (although this has never been proven) and he gave Big Jeff quite a beating, but a single blow from the heavyweight champion eventually knocked him out.

      Bob Fitzsimmons has been described as a physical oddity, a middleweight puncher who destroyed heavyweights. He definitely had a heavyweight�s offensive prowess and could dish out punishment with the best of them, but his small frame, and fact that he was hurt by small heavyweights and light-heavyweights and was easily knocked out by a big heavyweight, means that he would be a vast underdog against any of the all time big men.

      As a middleweight Fitzsimmons was nearly unbeatable. He was without challenge the hardest punching middleweight of all time. He was a highly accurate place puncher and a master at setting up knockout blows. Perhaps historian and writer Edgar Lee Masters said it best, "For courage, for power, for skill, for fighting will, there is nothing on record that holds a candle to Fitz." At 160 pounds Fitz�s incredible gift of amazing power combined with his cleverness, ring experience and proven success against much larger opponents demonstrates that he should be rated among the elite of the greatest middleweight of all time.

      Nat Fleischer as mentioned rated Fitzsimmons # 3 at heavyweight. Charley Rose rated him # 1 at light-heavyweight. Historian Tracy Callis also rates him # 1 at middleweight. Fitz was a true middlweight for most of his career. Cox's Corner rates him # 2 all time in the middleweight division.


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