On This Day: Joe Gans defeats Battling Nelson via 42nd round disqualification

joe gans
Matt Christie tells the story behind the gruelling Joe Gans-Battling Nelson fight from September 3, 1906

1. GOLD prospector Tex Rickard landed in the boomtown of Goldfield, Nevada, and decided he wanted to promote a prize fight. The success of the fight he chose – a world lightweight title fight between Battling Nelson and Joe Gans – provided the platform for Rickard to become the famous promoter of his generation.

2. THE fight was set for the Casino Ampitheatre on September 3 1906, and Rickard’s sense of promotion drew nationwide publicity as he displayed the $34,000 purse in tall stacks of freshly minted $20 gold pieces.

3. GOLDFIELD was transformed for the fight. The quiet Main Street housed a few stables and little else in 1905, but a year later, with the contest invigorating the town, the same street boasted saloons, music halls, and shops.

4. NEWSPAPER reporters flooded to venue to cover the bout, and more than 8,000 fans paid over $90,000 to watch the fight. That gate was the richest in history, and the crowd included US President Teddy Roosevelt’s son, Kermit.

5. GANS worked exceptionally hard to make weight for the contest. In fact, too hard. As a result of his strenuous weight-loss, the Baltimore resident developed tuberculosis shortly after the contest.

6. NELSON’S manager, Billy Nolan, was aware of Gans’ battle with the scales and told the fighter that if he weighed any more than the lightweight limit (then 133lbs) when he entered the ring, the fight would be called off. The demand, that was adhered to, ensured Gans could not replenish his body sufficiently after the weigh-in.

7. NOLAN also engineered another advantage for his fighter as Nelson was paid $22,500 compared to Gans’ $11,000.

8. BUT Gans boxed exceptionally, using speed and accuracy to break down his Danish opponent and counter his bullish advances.

9. GANS broke his hand in the 33rd round, when he landed a shot to Nelson’s temple, but bravely concealed the injury for the remainder of the contest.

10. IT was all over in round 42 when Nelson – a notorious rule breaker – struck with yet another low blow during a clinch after wildly throwing punch after punch in an effort to win. Gans was the victor via disqualification, but Nelson would get his revenge, knocking out Gans twice in 1908.

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