Tuesday, July 26, 2016

On This Day: Torpedo Billy Murphy Remembered

By Peter Silkov


‘Torpedo’ Billy Murphy was a dynamite punching fighter, who had a relentlessly aggressive style, which made him a huge favourite with the fan.s He was a dreaded opponent for fighters at or near his weight class. Although he was never more than a bantamweight, Murphy would regularly take on men two or more stones heavier than him, including heavyweights.

Born Thomas William Murphy on November 3, 1863, in Auckland, New Zealand, Murphy left school at the age of 12, and became an apprentice Tailor, yet his real ambitions lay in pursuing a ring career. Murphy started his fighting career in 1882, and for three years, fought all comers. At this point, Billy was boxing with bare knuckles, but by 1886 he had run out of opposition in New Zealand, and moved to Australia, where gloves were now used for most boxing contests. Murphy found that he hit just as hard with gloves on as he did without them and he soon became well known in Australia, and was trained by the renowned Australian fighter turned trainer, Larry Foley. ’Torpedo’ fought as often as he could, against all-comers, and was soon running out of opposition in Australia.

In  1889 Billy sailed to America, where his energetic and aggressive fighting style made him an instant hit with the fans. On January 13, 1890, Murphy knocked out Ike Weir in 14 rounds to win the World featherweight title. Murphy held the title until September 2, 1890, when he quit after 15 rounds against defensive genius Young Griffo in Australia. Although this fight was recognized as a world title fight in Australia and England, in America Murphy had been ‘stripped’ of his world title, for leaving America to return to Australia.

’Torpedo’ was so frustrated by Griffo’s hit and not be hit tactics that he ripped his gloved off and quit the fight, losing his world title in the process. 

Murphy tried to regain the World featherweight title from Griffo on July 22, 1891, but was beaten on a disqualification in the 22nd round.

The Torpedo continued fighting until 1909, taking on all-comers, and often giving away large amounts of weight. His last shot at a world title came on January 22, 1897, when he challenged George Dixon for the World featherweight title in New York, and was knocked out in the 6th round. 

When his fighting career had passed its peak, Murphy formed a booth, which he would take around Australia and New Zealand. 

Billy’s final fight was on August  24, 1909, when at the age of 46, he drew over 4 rounds, with Jimmy Ross.  Murphy’s final record was (100-53-27, 76 koes) Murphy’s impressive knockout record is a testament to why he was nicknamed ‘Torpedo.’

With his fighting career over Murphy returned to his earlier trade as a Tailor and clothes presser.

Billy Murphy is still the only New Zealand born boxer to win a world title.  He was also known during his career as ‘Australian’ Billy Murphy and had three brothers who also had careers as boxers, Tim Draffin Murphy, Bert Murphy, and Jimmy Murphy.  Tim Murphy held the Australian Middleweight title for 10 years.

Torpedo Billy Murphy died on July 26, 1939, aged 75.

Copyright © 2016 The Boxing Glove, Inc. Peter Silkov Art. All Rights Reserved. Peter Silkov contributes to www.theboxingglove.com

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