Friday, April 18, 2014

Remembering Norman "Kid McCoy" Selby

By Peter Silkov

Charles ‘Kid’ McCoy was born plain Norman Selby in Rush County, in Moscow, Indiana, on October 13, 1872.  However, it was as Kid McCoy that he would find riches, fame and notoriety in equal measure, and be acclaimed by some as the greatest boxer of his generation.  McCoy did not look like a fighter; he was baby-faced and at 5’ feet and 11” inches tall, was lankily built, and weed-like.  Yet, his wiry frame was strong and durable; McCoy was a skilful crafty boxer, with a catlike manner about him in the ring. 

He used good movement and a stinging jab, and threw his punches in vicious combinations.  McCoy was credited with the invention of the ’corkscrew punch’ in which the fist would be turned at the point of impact with the opponent. Many of McCoy opponents suffered severely battered and cut up faces as a result of his lacerating blows, and his tally of 65 knockout wins during his career testifies to the effect of his punches. McCoy was also an inveterate trickster, who liked to gain an advantage over an opponent, be it psychological, or physical, through a wide variety of means, raging from pretending he was sick prior to a fight, to feigning injury during a fight, in order to lull his opponent into a false sense of security.  

During his 25 years boxing, McCoy fought nearly all of the outstanding fighters from welterweight to heavyweight, and spent the larger portion of his career fighting men far bigger than himself.  For all of his ability in the ring, McCoy became equally known for his antics outside of the ring as inside it. He was a notorious womanizer, who was married ten times to eight different women, and his love of the high life and the fairer sex, would lead him to disaster late in life.

Beginning his career in 1891, at the age of 18, McCoy soon made a name for himself with his brilliant boxing and destructive punching. After being used to seeing boxers taking their time in fights and pacing themselves, spectators were often shocked by the high pace at which McCoy fought, and his efforts to finish fights as quickly as he could.  On March 2, 1896, McCoy laid claim to the World Welterweight title when he knocked out the brilliant Tommy Ryan in 15 rounds. Legend has it that McCoy had visited Ryan before the fight with his face made up to make him look ill, claimed to Ryan that he was sick, and only taking the fight because he needed to pay doctor’s fees. This trickery on McCoy’s part was supposedly revenge in part for Ryan’s treatment of him when McCoy was his sparring partner some years earlier.  McCoy had claimed that during his time as Ryan’s sparring partner, Ryan had paid him little, and punished him a lot during their sessions.  Just before their contest in 1896, McCoy is said to have burst into Ryan’s dressing room and shouted at his startled opponent to “get ready for the whipping of your life”, which is exactly what he got at the fists of McCoy that night.  Despite putting up the fight of his life, Ryan was knocked out in the 15th round after being punished severely. Many onlookers believed that McCoy could have finished the fight far earlier had he wanted to, but his cruel streak had made him prolong the ordeal a little longer for Ryan.  It was the first defeat of Ryan’s career.  McCoy had little interest in defending the welterweight title; aiming his sights always on larger and heavier opponents. He beat top heavyweights such as Gus Ruhlin, Joe Goddard, Joe Choynski, Jack Bonner, and Pete Maher amongst others.

McCoy added the middleweight title to his tally on December 17, 1897, when he knocked out Dan Creedon in 15 rounds, but again didn’t defend the title as he concentrated on fighting bigger foes.

On August 30, 1900, McCoy fought a dubious contest with former World Heavyweight champion James J. Corbett, being counted out in the 5th round, after a performance (or rather lack of ) that raised eyebrows of many present. Although, both Corbett and McCoy protested otherwise, their fight went down in many people’s minds as a fake. 

McCoy’s boxing career was on the wane now and after losing on points to Jack Root on April 22, 1903, in a contest for the newly instigated world Light-heavyweight championship, McCoy fought less and less over the next few years and usually only when funds were low. 

With his boxing career all but over, McCoy turned his hand to acting and was in a number of films with his good looks still intact, even after  20 + years as a pugilist.

On December 31, 1924, McCoy was found guilty of the manslaughter of Theresa Mors, who had been his latest girlfriend. McCoy was released from jail in 1932, at the age of 60, after impressing prison authorities with his good behaviour.  Once he was free again, McCoy was given a position overseeing the running of the Henry Ford vegetable gardens in Detroit and found time to marry for the tenth time. McCoy seemed to be living a happy, albeit rather quieter life, with his new job, and new wife.

On April 18, 1940, McCoy was found in a hotel room, having taken an overdose of sleeping pills.  He left a note in which he declared that he could no longer take the world’s madness.  McCoy's final record was 87(65koes)-7-10.

Copyright © 2014 The Boxing Glove, Inc. Peter Silkov Art. All Rights Reserved. Peter Silkov contributes to and

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