NZ's links to the Heavyweight Lineal championship

By: Blogger

Sideline Sid
Sports correspondent & historian

Muhammad Ali verses Joe Frazier is considered to be the greatest trilogy in heavyweight boxing history.

Fraser won the first contest with Ali winning the first rematch at Madison Square Gardens.

The third bout in the trilogy became known as the  "Thriller in Manila," which is considered one of the greatest and most brutal fights ever staged.

Both boxers brawled away to exhaustion, with the fight stopped in the 14th round in favour of Muhammad Ali.

Ali verses Fraser trilogy now has a serious rival, as the best of all time, after the third stoush between Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder came to a dramatic finish at the MGM in Vegas on Sunday (NZ time).

A controversial majority draw and a Fury victory in the second fight, set the scene for a third battle to finally settle the score.

Fury touched the canvas twice in the early rounds, before "The Gypsy King" stormed back to end the fight with Wilder prone on the floor in round 11.

Fury retained his WBC Heavyweight crown and also kept hold of the Heavyweight Lineal championship.

The Lineal championship dates back to 1892 and the days of John L Sullivan and the title is carried on whenever the lineal champion is defeated.

The only way to become the lineal champion is to defeat the previous titleholder.

Fury became the lineal champion when he defeated the then current holder Wladimir Klitshcko.

Few would know today, that New Zealand has strong links to the Heavyweight Lineal championship, through Bob Fitzsimmons.

Some historians of the sport would argue that Robert "Ruby Bob" Fitzsimmons was the greatest ring fighter that the world has ever known.

While weighing little more than 11 stone, "Ruby Bob" won world titles in three weight divisions.

Born in Cornwall, England, on June 4,1862, Bob emigrated with his parents to Timaru in 1871. The youngster followed his fathers trade and became a blacksmith.

A more unlikely champion would be hard to imagine. Fitzsimmons had long drainpipe legs and a small round head with just two tufts of carrot coloured hair.

The key to the champion was the powerful back and shoulders developed by many hours at the blacksmiths forge.

Bob Fitzsimmons became the third Heavyweight Lineal champion when he beat James J Corbett in Carson City Nevada in 1897.

His reign as Heavyweight Lineal champion lasted 814 days, before he was beaten by James J Jefferies in June 1899.

By the time of his eventual retirement at more than 40-years-old, "Ruby Bob" had won the heavyweight, light heavyweight and middleweight championship of the world.

The memory of Bob Fitzsimmons remains to this day, in Timaru, with a full size bronze statue of Fitzsimmons in fighting mode, given to the town by boxing historian and public benefactor Sir Robert “Bob" Jones.