The Story of the “Real McCoy”

 

Writing Tom Sharkey’s biography meant we got to “meet” many of the great characters of old-time boxing.

Sharkey wasn’t the only wild character among them.

One of our favourites was “Kid” McCoy – real name Norman Selby – who faced Sharkey in January 1899 as a boyish-looking 26-year-old and had fast become one of the most notorious figures ever to step in the ring; a talented fighter, yes, but a trickster too.

KidMcCoy

According to Patrick Myler: “The numerous stories told about his trickery, mostly apocryphal, are a treasured part of boxing folklore.”

He was said to have once filled his mouth with loose teeth and spat them out during a bout, horrifying his opponent and delivering a knockout punch on his unguarded chin.

He also scattered thumb-tacks on the canvas when he took on a fighter who fought in bare feet.

One particularly dirty trick involved Peter Maher. McCoy sent him a fake telegram, shortly before they were due to fight, saying there been a sudden death in the Irishman’s family.

As another writer, Graeme Kent, has noted: “McCoy was a brilliant boxer and an extremely shrewd operator who had sailed close to the wind on a number of occasions.”

His name lives on with us to today as a way of describing the genuine article. Myler reckons this relates to confusion with a lesser-known fighter named Peter McCoy, who was also known as “Kid”. He says a newspaper once ran the headline, ‘Choynski is Beaten by the Real McCoy’ and the phrase stuck. Kent prefers a story more in keeping with ‘Kid’ McCoy’s trickster image. He says that McCoy, trading on the drawing power of his name, sometimes booked himself to appear in different places at the same time and sent along ringers.

“Promoters had grown wise to this ploy and had insisted on the Kid being less generous with his doppelgangers,” notes Kent. “To reinforce this point they had taken to billing the boxer as ‘the real McCoy’, a phrase which later entered the lexicon.”

I FOUGHT THEM ALL IS AVAILABLE IN HARDBACK HERE

Boxing Biography Makes a Comeback as an E-book

Irishman Tom Sharkey was the never-say-die fighter who bridged the gap between old and new.

Sharkey arrived in the United States in the 1890s as the fight game was changing. The prize-fighters and bare-knuckle brawlers were disappearing as the new “scientific” boxers emerged to fight under the Marquis of Queensberry rules.

After quickly making his name as a mean brawler, Sharkey went on to battle all the top boxers of his day: his hero John L Sullivan, Gentleman Jim Corbett, Bob Fitzsimmons and the man who would become not only his greatest foe but his best friend, Jim Jeffries.

Their 25-round world title fight at Coney Island was one of the most gruelling and compelling encounters ever seen inside a ring.

And, despite the viciousness of their ring battles, they went on to enjoy a 50-year friendship which only ended when they died weeks apart.

The award-winning biography I Fought Them All prints the fact and the legend, and is chocked full of the rich characters who dominated the sport and politics of the period, from Wild West gunman Wyatt Earp to Tim “Dry Dollar” Sullivan of New York’s Tammany Hall.

It is the story of an Irish immigrant, a sporting celebrity who won and lost a fortune, and of a man described by the New York Times as a “ring immortal”.

Originally released as a limited edition hardback, I Fought Them All is now available as an e-book on Kindle US and Kindle UK.

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REVIEWS:

“Hugely entertaining and exquisitely researched, I Fought Them All shines a penetrating and long-overdue spotlight on one of the most fascinating figures in boxing history. Revelations about Sharkey’s private life are eye-popping, and the book is especially thorough in covering the Earp controversy. ‘Sailor’ Tom himself would growl his approval, and his massive chest would swell even larger. It’s a great contribution to ring history.”

Pete Ehrmann, boxing writer, contributor to The Ring

I Fought Them All is an excellent read. It’s well-researched and is good news for boxing fans everywhere. ‘Sailor’ Tom Sharkey was an aggressive, relentless and powerful heavyweight who ranks among the greatest who ever entered the ring. He was an earlier version of the splendid fighter, Rocky Marciano. Tom had the misfortune of fighting when boxing legends Jim Jeffries and Bob Fitzsimmons were at their best. Had he fought at any other time in history, he very likely would have been heavyweight champion of the world.”

Tracy Callis, boxing historian

”The book features an array of characters including Wild West gunman Wyatt Earp and boxing legends such as John L. Sullivan, Gentleman Jim Corbett and Bob Fitzsimmons. At its heart is the astonishing 50-year rivalry and friendship between Sharkey and Jim Jeffries, which started after their 25-round world title fight at Coney Island and lasted until the two men died a few weeks apart in 1953.”

Boxing Ireland

“…it emits quality from the first opening crack of the hardcover until its final satisfying closing.”

Marty Mulcahey, Max Boxing

“…A fascinating story… Very well-researched piece of work with many anecdotal gems… I Fought Them All is a tale of one man who travelled from his homeland and ended up inAmericato swap blows with arguably the toughest pugilists to have ever fought in the ring. Along the way we are introduced to ‘injuns’, gun-slingers, shipwrecks, tragic love stories, gambling, acts of heroism and, of course, gruelling fights. I thoroughly recommend this book.”

Glenn Wilson

 

Boxing Biography Short-listed for Award

‘I Fought Them All’, the biography of Irish prizefighting legend, Tom Sharkey, has been shortlisted for a Wishing Shelf Award.

The book is nominated in the adult non-fiction category. The winner is due to be announced in April.

Top major boxing website, Max Boxing, said of the book:  “It emits quality from the first opening crack of the hard cover until its final satisfying closing.”

Chronicle of a boxing legend

Prize-fighting legend Tom Sharkey led a most remarkable life.

He served in the US Navy before fighting all of the first four heavyweight champions under the Marquis of Queensberry rules. He mixed with characters like Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Theodore Roosevelt and the Tammany Hall politicians who ruled New York.

Sharkey’s epic 25-round encounter with Jim Jeffries is often ranked as the greatest ring battle ever. The two men’s bloody rivalry sparked a 50-year friendship which was only ended by their deaths – just a few weeks apart.

Experts describe Sharkey as the Rocky Marciano or Mike Tyson of his day.

His story is now told in a new book, I FOUGHT THEM ALL.

Top US boxing historian Tracy Callis describes the book as “an excellent read. It’s well-researched and is good news for boxing fans everywhere.”

Veteran Ring writer Pete Ehrmann says it’s “a great contribution to ring history”.

The book is available from http://tomsharkey.blogspot.com