Stars of Vaudeville #981: Bob Fitzsimmons
Today is the birthday of the great pugilist Robert “Bob” Fitzsimmons (1863-1917), a.k.a. “Ruby Robert” and “The Freckled Wonder”.
Contemporary descriptions of Fitzsimmons are vivid — he strikes me as one of the most delightfully barbaric creatures ever to practice the Sweet Science. The reason being, he DIDN’T. (Train or practice, that is). Originally a blacksmith, he developed tremendous arm, chest and shoulder muscles, so much so that his relatively undeveloped legs became a sort of popular joke, and he took to hiding them under thick leggings. And he went down in boxing history for being simply one of the sport’s HARDEST PUNCHERS. Technique, tactics, strategy, he saw no need to bother with that stuff. He simply stood there and punched other men (originally with his bare fists) until they fell down.
Fitzsimmons was born to Irish parents in Cornwall, then moved with the family to New Zealand in his youth. His career took him to Australia, and finally to the U.S., becoming the first three division world champion (middleweight, heavyweight and light heavyweight), and winning against the likes of Jack Dempsey and Gentleman Jim Corbett.
Like those two men, he spent his retirement years touring the vaudeville circuits. Two of his four wives were showfolk: Rose Samnell a.k.a Rose Julia, an acrobat; and Julia May Gifford, a vaudeville singer.
To learn more about vaudeville, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.