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James J. Corbett and Joe Choynski were destined to spill each other's blood.

In the beginning, the boxing legends were simply two lads scratching and clawing to find their way in the world. They grew up a mile apart on San Francisco's mean streets during the 1880s, ran in rival neighborhood gangs, and earned tough reputations as teenagers for their fistic prowess.

Corbett loved to play the role of the dandy, working as a bank teller and always dressing to the height of fashion. His gentlemanly appearance often deceived the brawlers he boxed in the gritty Barbary Coast saloons. From the start, he displayed a natural elusiveness and speed that would eventually revolutionize boxing and win him the World Heavyweight Championship.


Yet Corbett's road to glory almost ended prematurely due to a feud with Choynski, who proved his equal in the ring. Choynski developed a brawny physique in those early days as a candy puller and blacksmith before entering the ring with raw power and energy that electrified crowds.

Soon, San Francisco wasn't big enough for the two-up-and-coming pugilists. Locals clamored for an illegal "fight to the finish" to determine who was the city's best boxer. A parade of colorful socialites, gamblers, newsmen, and sporting hacks entered the scene as they tried to secure the match as they tried to outwit law enforcement.


Along the way, tensions swirled around the hype from outside forces who saw the Irish Corbett or Jewish Choynski as representatives of their ethnic pride. Club bragging rights also played a part in the drama. For the boxers, however, the fight was simply a matter of pride. Losing was not an option.


What ensued would captivate boxing fans for generations to come. The Corbett-Choynski feud resulted in arguably the most savagely contested fight in the annals of boxing history - an epic, twenty-seven round brawl under the blistering California sun on a barge anchored near the sleepy port town of Benecia.


This is their legend . . .

Fight to the Finish

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