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SharePrint Goss-Ryan Heavyweight Fight


On June 1, 1880, the bare-knuckle prize fight for the championship of the world was held in the West Virginia town of Colliers, between defending champion Joe Goss and challenger Paddy Ryan.

Boxing was illegal in every state, and matches were often held in railroad villages to avoid big city police. Colliers was perfect—only 37 miles by railroad from Pittsburgh, across the state line but close enough to attract a crowd. Other spectators came from Ohio, which was even closer.

Four stakes were driven into a grass meadow, and rope was strung to form a crude boxing ring. Challenger Paddy Ryan was 28 years old, stood six feet one inch, and weighed 185 pounds. Joe Goss, the champion, was smaller at five feet eight inches, 178 pounds, and at age 44 was much older. But Goss was more experienced, having won 14 of 16 fights.

They fought by the popular bare-knuckles rules. Through the first 35 rounds, which took about 45 minutes, the fight was even, but by the 45th round Goss was tiring and Ryan, although badly pummeled, began to rally. By the 70th, Ryan had clearly taken charge. In the 80th round, he hit the now helpless Goss and knocked him to the ground. Goss’s seconds revived him and stood him at the scratch line. He was promptly knocked down, and the process was repeated in each of the next seven rounds. Finally Goss was unable to come to scratch for the 87th round. The fight had lasted one hour and 27 minutes and boxing had a new champ.

This Article was written by C. Robert Barnett

Last Revised on May 22, 2023

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Barnett, Bob. Coming to Scratch. Sports Heritage, (Sept.-Oct. 1987).

National Police Gazette, 6/12/1880.

Cite This Article

Barnett, C. Robert "Goss-Ryan Heavyweight Fight." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 22 May 2023. Web. 18 July 2024.


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