Another Pelham Prize Fight: American Jim Larkin Defeated Englishman Bill Hook on June 27, 1889
Home Page of the Historic Pelham Blog.
Order a Copy of "Thomas Pell and the Legend of the Pell Treaty Oak."
As I have noted on a number of occasions, during the 19th and early 20th centuries, Pelham was an important center for illegal prize fights. The tiny little town was near New York City. At the time, it lacked a large, modern police force. Additionally, the population of the town was small, so vast portions of the town were unimproved, unpopulated, and desolate. Yet, travel between Pelham and New York City was easy via two rail lines: the main New Haven Line to Pelhamville and the New Haven Branch Line to Bartow Station and Pelham Manor. Additionally, steamships and all sorts of marine traffic served the area via the East River and Long Island Sound. Thus, Pelham was the perfect place for crowds to gather and bet on quietly-arranged illegal prize fights -- and then to disperse quickly before police or Constables arrived.
I have written about illegal prize fighting in Pelham on numerous occasions. For examples, see:
Wed., Jan. 27, 2016: Yet Another Illegal Prize Fight in Pelham in 1887.
Wed., Jan. 20, 2016: Another Exciting Account of 1884 Pelham Prize Fight Between Jim Murray of New York and Tom Henry of England.
Wed., Nov. 04, 2015: The Famous Nineteenth Century Prize Fighter Yankee Sullivan Fought in Pelham in 1842.
Thu., Jul. 10, 2014: Illegal Prize Fight in Pelham in 1902.
Wed., Feb. 12, 2014: Pelham Was the Scene of Illegal Prize Fights During the Early Days of the "Sweet Science" of Boxing.
Wed., Mar. 23, 2005: Prize Fighting At Pelham Bridge in 1884.
Tue., Oct. 04, 2005: Front Page of the May 12, 1902 Issue of The Pelham Republican (describing the fight between Joe Gleacher and Joe Kerwin held in the spring of 1902; Gleacher was found in Mt. Vernon after the fight and was arrested, although Kerwin apparently escaped to Philadelphia before his arrest).
On June 27, 1889, yet another illegal prize fight was held in the Town of Pelham. It was a notable fight that attracted national attention. The fight was highly anticipated. When it was over, brief accounts of the results appeared in newspapers throughout the United States.
The fight was a featherweight championship "skin-tight gloves" fight between Jimmy Larkin of New Jersey and Bill Hook of England. This was Bill Hook's first prize fight in the United States. Hook had a nice pedigree in English prize fights. He and Fred Johnson fought to a draw after four rounds in a championship fight held at the Blue Anchor Public House, Shoreditch, London on November 6, 1884. Hook and Johnson had a rematch in another championship competition at the Post Office, Mile End, London on December 16, 1884. Hook won the championship, on points, at the close of the four-round match. Only weeks later, Hook defended his championship and won a three-round decision, again on points, against Owen Hannon at the St Andrew’s Hall, Westminster, London on January 12, 1885.
In 1889, American fight promoter Ed Holske was looking for a fighter to match against Jimmy Larkin of Jersey City, New Jersey. As one report put it, Holske had looked for months for a fighter to match against Larkin because he wnted to "win the money of the 'Jersey Crowd.'" Bill Hook came to Holske's attention after Hook had a notable prize fight with Dido Hopwood in London. Holske came to terms with Bill Hook and brought the fighter to America where Hook trained intensively.
The fight was arranged to take place at night on Thursday, June 27, 1889. Some accounts say the fight occurred in Pelham Manor. Other accounts say it occurred "near" Pelham Manor. Though the precise location of the fight is not known, it almost certainly occurred at Pelham Bridge near City Island where many such prize fights were held.
Each side put up a "prize" of $500. A purse in addition to the prize was offered to the winner based on ticket sales. One hundred fifty tickets were sold for $10 per ticket.
The men fought with "skin-tight gloves" to a finish under Queensberry Rules. Larkin weighed in at 121-1/4 pounds. Hook weighed in at 123 pounds, one pound over the 122-pound weight limit. Larkin was a much taller fighter than his English foe. The two sides decided to proceed despite Hook being over the weight limit.
The fight began at 10:25 p.m. It immediately became apparent that Larkin's height gave him an immediate advantage over Hook. Nevertheless, the two fighters pummeled each other brutally from the start. Larkin had the advantage and had to chase Bill Hook around the ring. Each time they engaged, however, Hook banged away brutally at Larkin's stomach and head. Shortly before the first round ended, Jimmy Larkin landed a "hot right hander" on Bill Hook's jaw. Hook went down, but returned and fought savagely, even drawing the first blood of the night from Jimmy Larkin. Still, when the round ended, Hook was groggy.
Bill Hook came out for the second round and landed a "savage right hander" on Jimmy Larkin's ribs. Larkin, however, responded with a terrific blow to Hook's nose "and the blood flowed furiously." This seems to have staggered Hook. Larkin then landed a solid punch to one of Hook's eyes and knocked him flat. Hook staggered to his feet, groggy again. Larkin seized the opportunity and landed a right hander to Hook's face knocking him flat again. Hook stood again, but all he could do was stagger. Larkin finished him off with a right hander to Hook's jaw, knocking him unconscious. The fight did not go even two full rounds and only lasted five minutes and thirty seconds. Larkin was declared the victor.
The result was a shock. Newspapers savaged Englishman Bill Hook, saying he simply was not up to the challenge of American pugilists.
The Scottish American Athletic Club in New York City took in Bill Hook to allow him to lick his wounds. He enjoyed the Club's hospitality for the next several weeks while members of the Club tried, unsuccessfully, to secure him another fight for a purse.
Without a fight, or more importantly, a purse, Bill Hook joined with Alexander Gallagher, a Scottish fighter who recently had beaten Jake Valinski of Hoboken. Gallagher was affiliated with the Scottish-American Athletic Club. On August 4, 1889, the two men left for England where Hook promised Gallagher he would help him get some fights.
Bill Hook's American fighting career began, and ended, during a five and a half minute fight on June 27, 1889 in Pelham, New York.
* * * * *
Below is the text of a number of articles about the prize fight in Pelham between Jimmy Larkin and Bill Hook. Each is followed by a citation and link to its source.
"THE ENGLISH PUGILIST WHIPPED.
Jimmy Larkin of Jersey City Knocks Out Bill Hook of London.
In a quiet resort on the shores of the Sound, near Pelham Manor last night, was decided the much-talked-of prize fight between Jim Larkin of Jersey City and Bill Hook of England. Hook was not the equal of Jimmy, and the latter won a quick battle.
For months Ed Holske had tried to secure a man to fight Larkin and win the money of the 'Jersey crowd,' and after Hook fought Dido Hopwood in London, Holske made terms with him and brought him to this country. He was trained to the hour, too, and there was no lack of condition apparent.
The battle was for $500 a side and an added purse, tickets being sold at $10 each, fully 150 being disposed of. The men fought with skin-tight gloves to a finish under Queensberry rules. Larkin tipped the beam at 121-1/4 pounds and Hook at 123 pounds, the latter being one pound over weight.
Time was called at 10.25 o'clock. As the men sparred for an opening the difference in the size was very marked, Larkin standing well over his opponent. It was one of the hottest punching matches seen hereabout in months. It was biff, bang, smash from the start, Larkin driving the English lad before him around the ring. But Hook was busy, and sent in heavy blows on the stomach and head. He soon got a hot right hander on the jaw and went down. Both men then fought savagely with left and right, Hook obtaining first blood when a minute had expired. Hook was groggy when time was called.
Hook was refreshed when he toed the scratch for the second round, and he immediately planted a savage right hander on Larkin's ribs. Larkin returned the compliment with a hot left on Hook's nose and the blood flowed furiously. Then the Englishman got a hot one on the eye and he fell flat. He arose groggy and a right hander on the face sent him to the floor again. When Hook arose he could only stagger, and Larkin, landing another right-hander on the jaw, knocked him unconscious. He could not answer the call of time and Larkin was declared the winner. The fight lasted 5m. 30s."
Source: THE ENGLISH PUGILIST WHIPPED -- Jimmy Larkin of Jersey City Knocks Out Bill Hook of London, The Press [NY, NY], Jun. 28, 1889, Vol. II, No. 576, p. 1, col. 2.
"JIM LARKIN WHIPS BILL HOOK.
The Englishman Knocked Out in the Second Round -- A Rattling Mill.
NEW YORK, June 27. -- In a quiet resort on the shores of the sound, near Pelham Manor, tonight was decided the much talked of prize fight between Jim Larkin of Jersey City and Bill Hook of England. Hook was not the equal of Jimmy, and the latter won a quick battle. It was biff, bang, smash from the start, Larkin driving the English lad before him around the ring. Hook was groggy when time was called.
Hook was refreshed when he toed the scratch for the second round, and he immediately planted a savage right-hander on Larkin's ribs. Larkin returned the compliment with a hot left on Hook's nose and the blood flowed furiously. Then the Englishman got a hot one on the eye and he fell flat. He arose groggy and a right-hander on the jaw, knocked him unconscious. He could not answer the call of time and Larkin was declared the winner. The fight lasted five minutes and thirty seconds."
Source: JIM LARKIN WHIPS BILL HOOK -- The Englishman Knocked Out in the Second Round -- A Rattling Mill, Chicago Daily Tribune, Jun. 28, 1889, p. 6, col. 6 (NOTE: Paid subscription required to access via this link).
"Fight With Skin Gloves.
JERSEY CITY, N.J., June 27. -- The much talked of fight with skin gloves, for $500 a side, between Bill Hook of England, and Jimmy Larkin, of Jersey City, took place tonight at Pelham, Westchester county. Larkin had the best of it from the start, and knocked Hook down twice in the second round. When he got up the last time, Larkin knocked him out with a terrific right-hander on the jaw."
Source: Fight With Skin Gloves, Los Angeles Daily Herald, Jun. 28, 1889, p. 4, col. 5.
"We have had a couple of rattling bouts near this city during the past couple of days, and one which proved a great surprise to knowing ones. I refer to Thursday night's fight between Bill Hook of England and Jim Larkin of Jersey. The smart people considered Hook a wonder before the fight, but as being no good after it. I am sorry for Ed Holske, who backed Hook, for he has been in hard luck with his fighters of late, both Matt McCarthy and Hook proving soft jobs for the men they were stacked up against. But luck will turn, they say, if the money holds out, and I trust Eddie's cash lasts until the turn of the tide. He will not, I know, rest satisfied with his latest failure, and we may soon hear from him again. So let it be.
Source: [Untitled], The Weekly Press [NY, NY], Jul. 3, 1889, p. 7, col. 4.
"Larkin Sustains His Record.
JERSEY CITY, N.J., June 27. -- The much talked of fight between Bill Hook of England and Jimmy Larkin of Jersey City, took place to-night at Pelham, West Chester county. The men entered the ring at 10:15 o'clock. Hammer and tongs was the order of the fighting. Larkin had the best of it and knocked Hook down twice in the second round when he got up a second time. Larkin landed a terrific right hander on the jaw and he went down like a shot. He ws knocked out. The fight was with skin gloves for $500 a side. Larkin has never been beaten."
Source: Larkin Sustains His Record, Bismarck Weekly Tribune [Bismarck, ND], Jul. 5, 1889, p. 2, col. 4. See also WENT DOWN LIKE A SHOT -- Larkin the Jerseyman Knocks Out Bill Hook of England, St. Paul Daily Globe [St. Paul, MN], Jun. 28, 1889, p. 2, col. 5 (same text).
Chappie Moran says he intends to take it easy and will do no more fighting until fall.
Bill Hook, whom Jimmy Larkins defeated so easily a week ago, is still enjoying the hospitality of the Scottish American Athletic Club. The members are working to secure him a situation. Hook says he would like a go with some of the other 122-pound men around New York for a purse. Prof. Hart says Hook will make a good one if placed in charge of a capable trainer."
Source: Fighting Notes, The Sun [NY, NY], Jul. 8, 1889, p. 3, col. 3.
"Bill Hook, the English pugilist who was defeated by Jimmy Larkin, the Jersey lightweight, a month ago, started for England yesterday. Alex. Gallagher, the Scot, who whipped Jake Valinski, the Hoboken lightweight, went with him, much to the surprise of his friends in the Scottish-American Athletic Club. Alex. expects to get on a match with some crack Englishmen in England, and Hook says he will see that he gets fair play. Hook will return to this country the latter part of September."
Source: [Untitled], The Pittsburgh Post, Aug. 5, 1889, p. 6, col. 4.
Home Page of the Historic Pelham Blog.
Order a Copy of "Thomas Pell and the Legend of the Pell Treaty Oak."