Fitzsimmons - "The Fighting Blacksmith"

Robert James Fitzsimons born in Cornwall, in 1863 but learnt to box in Timaru.
March 17, 1897 Bob Fitzsimmons, NZ, won world heavyweight boxing title, beating Jim Corbett, U.S.A.

Photo taken April 2007 by Margaret Todd.
On 5 September, 1987, near the Stafford /Strathallan St. corner a life-size bronze statue of Bob Fitzsimmons was unveiled. Commissioned and donated by Sir Robert Jones and sculpted by Margriet Windhausen, of Maungati.

BOB (RUBY ROBERT)
FITZSIMMONS
1863 -------------1917
MIDDLEWEIGHT, LIGHT-WEIGHT
& HEAVYWEIGHT
BOXING CHAMPION OF THE WORLD

ALTHOUGH BORN IN ENGLAND, FITZ' GREW UP IN
TIMARU WHERE HE LEARNT TO BOX. DEFEATING
ALL OPPONENTS, HE WAS OBLIGED TO TRAVEL
ABROAD. IN 1891 HE BECAME WORLD MIDDLEWEIGHT CHAMPION.
IN 1897, AT THE AGE OF 34, HE K.O.'D GENTLEMAN
JIM CORBETT AT CARSON CITY, U.S.A. TO CAPTURE
THE SPORTING WORLD'S GREATEST PRIZE, THE
HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP.
IN 1903 FITZ' WON THE LIGHT-HEAVYWEIGHT
TITLE TO BECOME THE FIRST MAN EVER TO WIN
THREE DIFFERENT WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS WEIGHT DIVISIONS.
FITZ' WILL ALWAYS REMAIN ONE OF OUR
GREATEST SPORTING HEROES.

THIS STATUE WAS COMMISSIONED BY
BOB JONES AND DONATED TO THE CITY OF TIMARU
IT WAS SCULPTURED BY
MARGARET WINDHAUSEN VAN DEN BERGH
IN INVERCARGILL AND FORMALLY UNVEILED BY
THE PRIME MINISTER OF NEW ZEALAND
THE RIGHT HON. DAVID LANGE
ON THE 5TH SEPTEMBER 1987
 


Otago Witness 22 January 1902, Page 61
Bob Fitzsimmons, the young Timaru (M.L.) blacksmith, prize-fighter, pressman, and mummer, took out his naturalisation papers recently and swore allegiance to Uncle Sam. In response to the usual questions, he stated that "He had now lived in this country 12 years" and when asked, "What was his occupation?" answered, after hesitating for a moment's thought, "Well — I'm an actor."

"Bob" Ruby Robert FITZSIMMONS  1863-1917
He was a blacksmith in Timaru and had his first important fight in America in 1891 when he met and defeated Black Pearl. wrote "Straight Left."

The New York Times Dec 16, 1917
Blacksmith's Shop in Timaru Still has Bob's Name on Sign.
While the memory of the late Bob Fitzsimmons will hardly be erased from the mind of the sporting public for a long time in the United States, it is also being fresh in the minds of the people who inhabit the antipodes. A citizen of New York walking down the main street of Timaru, would be startled to read the sign "Bob Fitzsimmons, Blacksmith," above one of the structures that line that thoroughfare.
    According to an account the proprietor of this blacksmith shop, an old Irishman, has for years conducted the place and will not remove the sign which Fitz put up when he started business in that very same spot. Timaru is the place where Fitz broke into the boxing game. Jem Mace, the departed, who was formerly champion of England, out Fitzsimmons on while the Mace fistic combination was showing in the town he whipped all of his opponents, and from that night on he proved himself a fighter with a knockout punch. He was amateur middleweight champion of Australia back in the early 80s. Fitz's birth record at Helston, Cornwall, England -found he was a son of a policeman and wife who was highly respected in the town. The birth record show that Fitz first saw the light of day on May 26, 1863. The record books give Fitz's birthday as June 4 1862.

Bob Fitzsimmons' Record
Bob Fitzsimmons was born at Helston, Cornwall, England, on May 26 1863. He immigrated with his parents at the age of eleven and arrived  to Lyttelton, New Zealand on October 17th 1873 and developed his physique at his father's blacksmith's forge at Timaru. One brother remained at home in Helston and later married. He was a fighter by inheritance, his father being the best man in a country famous for fighters and wrestlers.  He was the policeman of the little village of Helston, and like the Irishman at Donnabrook fair, was ever  wiling to take off his coat and throw it on the grass for any one to tread on. Few essayed the task. Bob's brothers, too, were all natural fighters, more especially William, a marine in the royal navy, Arthur, a groom, and Gerratt, a blacksmith. Bob migrated with his family to New Zealand when a small boy. He took to the horseshoeing trade and learned the art of boxing from his brother Jarrett. His first appearance in the ring was at Jem Mace's amateur boxing tournament held at Timaru in the fall of 1880, Bob, although but a lad of 18 years, knocked out four men on that night and won the amateur championship of New Zealand.
    The following year Mace gave another tournament, and Bob, succeeded in retaining the amateur championship, knocking out five men this time. After defeating the amateurs Bob put on the gloves with Herbert A. Slade, the Maori, who came over to America to fight John L. Sullivan. To the surprise of everyone Fitzsimons succeeded in besting Slade, All of the contests were under the Queensberry rules. Fitzsimmons then became a full-fledged professional, and fought and defeated in rapid succession under prize ring rules Arthur Cooper in three rounds, Jim Crawford in three rounds, and Jack Murphy in four rounds. Bob took up at Sydney and immediately started to meet all comers at the renowned Larry Foley's sporting emporium. First he defeated Jack Brinsmead, a heavyweight who tipped the beam at 170, Bob only scaling 148  pounds. Then next laid low, Martin Conway in 3 rounds, Dick Ellis in 3 rounds, Jim Hall, Starlight, Professor West , a heavy weight in 1 round. He then came to the States and defeated in rapid succession Bill McCarthy, an Australian, Arthur Upham, Jack Dempsey. His last victory was over Peter Maher. ....Ref: The Galveston Daily News,  March 08, 1893; pg. 2. Hall-Fitzsimmons Fight The Great Middleweight Championship Contest. Include fill sketch of Fitz. Died in October, 1917 in Chicago, Illinois with influenza during the flu epidemic. 

Bob and his family came to NZ on the Adamant which left Plymouth on July 16, 1873 and arrived in Lyttelton, NZ October 17, 1873. The ships records show on board were James (father, a policeman, showing his age as 50 though he was 60) Jane (mother, nee Strongman, age 44 though she was 54), Margaret (20), Bessie. Z,(18) Catherine (12), Jarrett(22), and Bob (10). Bob was educated at the Timaru Main School. James Fitzsimmons set up a blacksmith's forge in Timaru and his boys Jarrett and Bob learnt the trade. Bob's work at the forge developed the powerful arms and shoulders.
 
Timaru Cemetery Database
Fitzsimmons, Jane
Age at Death 90 Years
Died 3rd April 1906
Timaru Cemetery
Section GENERAL
Block G Plot 282
Fitzsimmons, James
Age at Death 89 Years
Date of Interment 08/31/1898
Timaru Cemetery
Section GENERAL
Block G Plot 282
Fitzsimmons, James Scott
Age at Death 49
Died July 10th 1919
Timaru Cemetery
Section GENERAL
Block G Plot 282
Fitzsimmons, George
Age at Death 81
Date of Interment 08/08/1940
Timaru Cemetery
Section GENERAL
Block E2 Plot 303

Fitz won three world boxing titles including the world's heavyweight championship on 17 March, 1897 at Carson City, Nevada by defeating James "Jim" Corbett and the world's middle weight championship in New Orleans when he defeated Jack Dempsey on 14 January, 1891. In 1903 Fitz won the light-heavy weight title to become the first man ever to win three different world championship weight divisions.

Rocky Mountain News 18 March 1897Milwaukee Sentinel, (WI) Thursday, January 15, 1891

Dempsey Knocked out Bob Fitzsimmons Wins the Fight at New Orleans, Jan. 14.
The New Zealander wins $11,000 in the contest - 4.500 people pay 10 each to witness the match. He had the better of Dempsey from the beginning and knocked him out in the thirteenth round. Sketch of Fitz.

Rocky Mountain News, (Denver) Thursday, January 15, 1891; pg. 6

Champion No More Dempsey Meets a Man Who is Too Tall and Too Long Armed for Him  Sketch of Fitz.

The Milwaukee Sentinel, (Milwaukee, WI) Thursday, March 03, 1892

Maher Badly Whipped Fitzsimmons a Winner in a Dozen Rattling Rounds
Peter Maher, of Ireland and Robert Fitzsimmons, the New Zealander, who is the middle weight champion of the world, met to-night before the Olympic club of New Orleans for a purse of $10,000, of which the loser gets $1,000, and Fitzsimmons won after twelve rounds of fast and furious fighting. Full sketch of Fitz.

The Milwaukee Sentinel, (WI) Thursday, March 09, 1893

One Tremendous Blow It Knocked Jim Hall Clean out in the Fourth Round. Fitzsimmons easily wins the$40,000 purse. One terrific right-hander does business and Hall is sent to the floor unconscious. Sketch of Fitz.

Weekly Rocky Mountain News, Thursday, June 10, 1897; pg. 8

The Fitzsimmons - Hall fight in New Orleans on March 8 1893. Four rounds, thirteen minutes. The size of the purse, which was never fully paid, caused the breaking up of the Club.

The Daily Picayune, (New Orleans, LA) Thursday, September 27, 1894

Now for Champion Corbett! Fitzsimmons Lays Creedom Low in a Round and a Half . Fitzsimmons goes right in to make a fight finish. Creedom stands like a man and lands. Still Fitzsimons is unconquered. Last night he polished off Dan Creedom in less than two rounds.  4 sketches.

The Galveston Daily News, October 04, 1894; pg. 2

That Championship The Olympic Club Notifies Corbett of Fitzsimmons’ Succession to the Title. At a regular meeting of the board of directors of the Olympic club held October 2 1894, a resolution was passed unanimously, declaring Robert Fitzsimmons the champion heavyweight of the world.

The Atchison Daily Globe, (Atchison, KS) Saturday, November 24, 1894; pg. 3

Fitz Very Formidable He Should Give Corbett the Battle of His Life. He is a physical phenomenon. measurements do not win battles but Bb Fitzimmons' (32) measurements, back by his wonderful record in the roped arena, lead me to believe that the red haired New Zealander will give Corbett (28) the battle of his life when they meet next year. Measurements. Waist 29¾, shoulders 20½, neck 14¾, chest normal 47 ¼ in, chest expanded 47¼ in, reach 31¼  in. height 5 feet 11¾ in. weight 165 pounds, thigh 20 inches....

Morning Oregonian, (Portland) Saturday, February 22, 1896

Corbett’s Turn Next, Fitzsimmons Whipped Maher, and is Now the Champion

The Milwaukee Journal, (WI) November 26, 1896; pg. 8

Fitz, The Lanky Wonder. The Sharkey-Fitzsimmons Fight will come off Dec. 20. The purse is fixed at $10,000. The fight is set down for ten rounds. Sketch of Fitz. California Club, San Francisco.

Salt Lake Semi-Weekly Tribune, December 04, 1896; pg. 3

Sharkey Won on Foul, The Fight Was Fitzsimmons’s from Beginning

Milwaukee Sentinel 3rd January, 1891The Denver Evening Post March 17, 1897; pg. 8

Story of the Preparations for the Big Fight Told with Type and Pictures
Sketch of Mrs Bob Fitzsimmons

The Milwaukee Sentinel,  March 18, 1897

Carson, Nev. March. 17. Fitz Wins, 14 Rounds James J. Corbett is Now Ex-champion. A blow over the heart sent him down. Mrs Fitzsimmons sits at the ringside behind her bloody husband shouting words of encouragement to him and showering Corbett with coarse abuse. James J. Corbett was whipped in fourteen rounds by Robert Fitzsimmons. The decisive blow was a left swing on the pit of Corbett's stomach. The kinetoscope should net $100,000 to each pugilist. There were about twenty women present. Fitzsimmons weighed 167 and Corbett 183 pounds. Mrs Fitzsimmons is also pale-faced, but sits Spartan-like behind her bloody husband. One of the most dramatic features of the battle was the part Mrs Fitzsimmons played in the victory of her husband. Never before in the history of the prize ring has a woman witnessed the struggle of her husband for pugilistic honors and the new champion's wife to-day established a precedent which hardly ever be equaled. She was vigorously cheered when she entered the area and appeared self-contained and unconcerned as she took her seat almost under a chair near Bob's corner. She came down the slope from his dressing room, Fitzsimmons stopped for a moment at his wife's side and stooping kissed her as she said cheerily; "Good luck to you, Bob." For the first few rounds she sat quietly, but as the rounds became hotter her excitement mastered her and for the reminder of the battle she stood upon the floor or chair, excitedly encouraging her husband, or hurling reproaches and instructions at his seconds. At every blow which her laky spouse received from his antagonist her eyes bulged out and with her fists clenched she cried: "The hound." "The puppy," "the puppy." "Punch him Bob," "Kill him." "Make him keep punching Corbett's wind and he will win," she screamed. "You idiots, don't you know how to second a man? You have lost your senses. Do you want to defeat my husband. Do as I tell you how or I'll make you wish you had." Her cheeks were fiery red. When the end came and Corbett stayed upon his knees until the fatal ten had been counted, Mrs Fitsimmons went almost mad with joy. "Now Bob and the baby and I will settle down to a more quiet life" He says he will fight no more battles. Fitzsimmons will retire. Payout $20,000.

The Daily Picayune, (New Orleans) June 10, 1899

Coney Island. Fitzsimmons Met Defeat James J. Jeffries (24), of California, Now the Ring Champion
New York, June 9 - Fitzsimmons, old fighting dog that he is, went once too often to the ring, and last night Jeffries, the Californian boilermaker, knocked him out after a terrific battle, in the eleventh round.

Timaru Herald

August 1898 Death:
FITZSIMMONS. On August 29th, at his residence, Grey Road, Timaru, James Fitzsimmons, aged 89 years.

July 1897 Marriage:
CAIRD - FITZSIMMONS. On 28th July, at the Manse, Timaru, by the Rev. W. Gillies, David, eldest son of David Caird, Esq., Pareora, to Agnes Jane, eldest daughter of J. Fitzsimmons, Timaru.

Friday 14 October 1887 Death
FITZSIMMONS - On Oct. 13th, at Theodocia Street, Timaru, Matilda, the beloved wife of Jarrett Fitzsimmons; aged 37 years.

June 22 1887 pg2
The Jubilee procession Timaru. The following veterans turned out: J. Fitzsimmons, late of Enniskilleners

14 December 1900, Page 2
Bob Fitzsimmons has scored a point as a tradesman in America. At a benefit trotting meeting in aid of the sufferers by the Galveston disaster, he made a horseshoe on the spot, which was sold and resold till it had, brought 701 dollars in to the fund. At the conclusion of the sale Fitzsimmons was loudly cheered.

Brooklyn Daily Standard Union May 7 1906

FITZSIMMONS' MOTHER DIES IN NEW ZEALAND.
"Bob"  Fitzsimmons yesterday received news that his mother is dead at the age of ninety at her home in Timaru, New Zealand. The news came in a copy of the "New Zealand Times" of Friday, April 6, in which it is stated that Mrs. Fitzsimmons died Wednesday, April 4.

The Times, Tuesday, Oct 23, 1917; pg. 11

Death Of Fitzsimmons. Old Boxing Memories. Obituaries - His last battle.

The Book of Helston. In it there is a bit about Bob. I quote:

"Upper Wendron Street......there is the lovely 17th century thatched cottage - birthplace of the famous boxer Bob (Ruby Robert) Fitzsimmons (although some elderly people claim that he was not born here at all, but near the bottom of town). The plaque over the door recounts how, in 1887, at the age of 34, Fitzsimmons knocked out Gentleman Jim Corbett at Carson City, USA., to become heavyweight champion of the world. Also middleweight and light-heavyweight champion, Fitzsimmons was the first man to become a triple title holder. When the family went to Timaru, South Island, New Zealand, one brother remained at home and married into the Lander family.

Kid from Timaru

James Michael Hagerty, otherwise known as Kid Hagerty, of Timaru. Hagerty was a professional jockey who won fame as a boxer before World War I by winning Australasian amateur and New Zealand professional feather weight and lightweight titles. The son of a Timaru surveyor, he stood a mere 5ft 3in and made up for this lack of height by virtually leaping at his opponents to land punches. He was one of several boxing champions trained in Timaru by Jack Fitzsimmons, a nephew of the former world heavyweight champion Bob Fitzsimmons. With the outbreak of war, Hagerty joined the South Canterbury Mounted Rifles. Song

A local book

Fitzsimmons : boxing's first triple world champion / Christopher Tobin.
Author: Tobin, Christopher. Publisher: Timaru, N.Z. : David A. Jack and C.P. Tobin, c2000. 56 p. : ill., facsims., ports. ; 29 cm. "First published 1983. This is a special collector's hardback edition limited to 500 copies" Includes bibliographical references (p. 55). ISBN: 0473065940 (hbk.)

Face of Peace, Caroline BayThe Sculptor  

Margriet Windhausen, born in Roermond, The Netherlands, trained at the Maastricht Academy of Fine Arts in the Netherlands. Moved to New Zealand in 1976, eventually settling on 10 acres, in Maungati near Timaru.
What was once a Presbyterian church in Clandeboye is now her studio, and her home is an 1890s Anglican church from St Andrew's. She and her artist husband Paul van den Bergh moved the churches to their Maungati property. The two churches were both built around 1895, transported in 1990 to a 10 acres block [4.2 hectares] of land in Maungati and then carefully and sensitively restored and transformed into a comfortable home and two studio spaces. The couple came to New Zealand from the Netherlands in 1976 and after living in Gisborne, Hamilton and Invercargill, have lived in South Canterbury for 26 years [2013]. Teaches at Roncalli College, Timaru. Besides teaching art and sculpture, has completed many commissioned works for public and private collections.
- 1990 bronze portrait of Lord Elworthy, private commission for the city of Timaru, unveiled by the Mayor of Timaru, at the Timaru District Public Library.
- Peace Memorial, Wings, (polyester resin) unveiled at Craigmore, Maungati by Dame Kath Tizard, 1996.
Better known for monumental public bronzes like the:
- 1988 bronze sculpture (bronze) of Quinten McKinnon (explorer), life-size (1.75m) - Te Anau.
- New Zealand farming family group with a dairy cow, a sheep and a dog. The sheep dog was modelled on one of Sir Peter Elworthy's top dogs. Unveiled by Sir Peter Elworthy Waikato Museum, Victoria Street, Hamilton, 1988.
- Abel Tasman Memorial (1992) at Frank Kitts Park on Lambton Quay, Wellington [can't find the bronze, heard it was moved to outside the Te Papa Museum, Wellington on 15 December 2001 then there was a dispute with the Dutch Embassy and they have taken it and the whereabouts is unknown.]
- The Kate Sheppard Memorial (1993) located on the riverbank reserve in Oxford Terrace, Christchurch.  A leading suffrage supporter, Sir John Hall, presented the 1893 petition to parliament during the debate on the Electoral Bill. The Bill, giving women the vote, was finally passed with a majority of two. At the next election, two months later, on 28 November 1893, 70% exercised their new right. A time capsule enclosed in the pebble wall contains a record of the donors and material relevant to women's lives in 1993.
- Jack Lovelock statue, Timaru BHS, 2002
- The Face of Peace, Caroline Bay, commissioned and gifted by the Hervey Arts Trust 2008.
- The 2nd Gordon Tait bust. The 35kg bronze bust of Sir Gordon Tait was stolen from outside Timaru library the first weekend in December 2012. The bust was moulded by South Canterbury sculptor Margriet Windhausen and presented to the community by the Hervey Arts Trust in December 2011. IT was cast for teh second time from the original mould to replace the one stolen.

Artist Statement: Like farming, art is a way of life.

A Poem by K.R. Thoms, of Timaru, New Zealand.

BOB FITZSIMMONS

Although a humble blacksmith
He surely staked his claim
This man called Bob Fitzsimmons
To the halls of boxing fame.

While sweating o'er his anvil
He gained the strength and power
Soon carried into boxing
That brought his finest hour.

He fought for fame and glory
Also, New Zealand too
When he won his three world titles
This man from Timaru.

Now he stands here everlasting
A champion from the past
This son from our fair city
A credit to his craft.

He leaves behind a legacy
For the future to instill
The need to fight on boldly
With a courage and a will.

Bob Fitzsimmons, Jack Lovelock and the big chestnut gelding Phar Lap rank alongside as Timaru champions who remain legends long after their deaths.

South Canterbury NZGenWeb Project