International Boxing Hall of Fame

Charles "Kid" McCoy

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Charles "Kid" McCoy, who was born Norman Selby (October 13, 1872 April 18, 1940) was an American world champion boxer.

Born in Moscow, Rush County, Indiana, Weight 160, Heights 5' 11", record 81 wins (55 by ko)6 losses, 9 no decision, disqualified 6 times. McCoy was noted for his "corkscrew punch"-a blow delivered with a twisting of the wrist. According to McCoy he learned the punch one evening, while resting in someone's barn, after a day of riding the rails, by watching a cat strike at a ball of string. Whether true or not, McCoy was known as a fast, "scientific" fighter who would cut his opponents with sharp blows. He reportedly would wrap his knuckles in mounds of friction tape, to better cut his opponents faces. He was listed # 1 Light Heavyweight of all time in "Fifty Years At Ringside," published in the 50's. He was also regarded as a formidable puncher, and was included in the Ring Magazine's list of 100 greatest punchers of all time.

When researching McCoy's career it is difficult to separate fact from fiction. Nevertheless, McCoy had a fascinating life - both in and out of the fight ring. Legend surrounds McCoy's storied boxing career. For example, he was reputed to have lulled the reigning welterweight champion Tommy Ryan into a false sense of security before their non-title match by rubbing flour on his face and pretending to be ill. McCoy was also alleged to have invented the ruse of informing his opponent that his shoe was untied to enable McCoy to strike a blow when the unwary adversary would look down at his feet.

One of the more interesting yarns told to demonstrate McCoy's trickery allegedly occurred while McCoy was on a tour of Australia and some Pacific Isles. To supplement his income he would take on all comers. In one unidentified port, McCoy, who scarcely weighed 160 pounds (73 kg), agreed to box a huge native reputed to weigh in excess of 250 pounds (113 kg). McCoy watched him train and noted the man fought in his bare feet. When the fight began, McCoy's corner threw handfuls of tacks into the ring, causing the bare-footed challenger to drop his guard and raise up one foot. As soon as he did so, McCoy lowered the boom on his distracted adversary.

It is thought that the expression The Real McCoy originally referred to him. With regard to this, once again, stories abound. One scenario involves a local tough who bumped into McCoy in a bar. McCoy, who was slight of build and a dapper dresser, did not look like a fighter. The bar room bully reputedly laughed when told the slender fellow he was annoying was Kid McCoy. He then challenged McCoy to fight, and upon reviving from being knocked out allegedly remarked "Oh my God, that was the real McCoy".

One thing about McCoy is not in doubt; he was a great fighter. Although slight of build, McCoy captured the world middleweight championship by defeating Don Creedon. McCoy never defended the title, choosing to abandon the crown to enable him to pursue the world heavyweight championship. Despite his handicap in size, McCoy battled the best heavyweights of his era, and defeated Joe Choynski, Gus Ruhlin and Peter Maher. He was defeated by Tom Sharkey and Jim Corbett. The Corbett fight was the subject of controversy, as the ending was suspect and Corbett's estranged wife claimed the bout was fixed. That became the general opinion among New York sportwriters and another version of the genesis of the of the expression "the real McCoy" is that in later fights, the writers would invariably question whether "the real McCoy" would be fighting tonight.

McCoy's career was no less colorful outside the ring. He was married ten times, performed in theater, and went West to California during the birth of the movie industry there. He appeared in films and was friends with many movie stars of the day, including Charles Chaplin and director D.W. Griffith.

Unfortunately, by the early 1920's McCoy was broke, addicted to alcohol and out of the movie industry. At this time however, McCoy was involved in a romance with a wealthy married woman, Teresa Mors. Apparently he swept her off her feet, for she filed for divorce from her husband. The Mors divorce was acrimonious, and dragged on until she was killed, in the apartment she shared with McCoy, by a single gunshot to the head on August 12, 1924.

The next morning, a disheveled McCoy robbed and held captive some 12 people at Mrs. Mors' antique shop, and shot one man, who was trying to escape, in the leg. He also had forced at least 6 other men to remove their trousers, after divesting them of their money. McCoy was apprehended and charged with the murder of Mrs. Mors. His trial took place in downtown Los Angeles, and was the media event of its day. McCoy claimed Mrs. Mors committed suicide, while the prosecution claimed he murdered her for financial gain.

McCoy testified in his own defense, and apparently put on quite a show as he demonstrated Mrs. Mors final minutes. Contending he had tried to wrestle a knife away from her, McCoy and his attorney actually wrestled and rolled around on the courtroom floor, for the benefit of the jury, press and courtroom spectators. After Mrs. Mors allegedly took her own life, McCoy claimed he became faint and could not remember anything further, including participating in the wild crime spree the following morning.

Apparently, the jury was split between first degree murder and acquittal. In what is believed to have been a compromise verdict, McCoy was convicted of manslaughter.

McCoy was sent to San Quentin, but was paroled from prison in 1932. Even his death was enigmatic. He died from an overdose of sleeping pills leaving a suicide note behind. His suicide note read, among other things: "Everything in my possession, I want to go to my dear wife, Sue E. Selby... To all my dear friends... best of luck... sorry I could not endure this world's madness."

His life was the loose model for the novel The Real McCoy, by the author Darin Strauss