Bill Squires vs Tommy Burns August 1908

Report of The Fight From Sydney Morning Herald August 25, 1908








Tommy Burns retained the boxing championship of the world yesterday, when he knocked out Bill Squires, the champion of Australia, in the thirteenth round, surrounded by the doleful countenances of 15,000 Australian spectators.

The fight was one of the most exciting that Australia has seen for many years. From start to finish it was full of movement, bright and willing, and both men fought with a punctilious fairness that won the admiration of adverse barrackers. The fortunes veered to and fro, and though Squires prevailed during the first ten rounds - at times almost overwhelmingly - Burns showed such marvelous recuperative powers that at no time did the contest appear one-sided.
As he stripped off, Burns did not look too well facialy. He was pale and the statement that he’d been under medical attendance suffering from a cold was easily realized. Squires, much whiter in the skin than when he left, seemed fully fit, but on the light side.

The stadium was well filled, over 15,000 people being present. A crowd numbering almost 24,000 persons cluttered outside the enclosure, and on the eminence’s near by, from where glimpses of the ring could be obtained. On the apex of the telegraph poles near by stood three men, silhouetted against the skyline, enjoying a view equal to that obtained from the five guinea seats. Dozens of American officers were present, as well as many leading citizens of Sydney and other Australian capitals.

The issue leaves no doubt as to the respective merits of the two men. Barring accident, Squires would be beaten by Burns every day in the week, and that in spite of the fact that the Australian prevailed during nearly the whole of yesterdays fight, and at every stage was the undoubted winner on points. The difference between the two men is that Squires is a pugilist - a pugilist who has developed his powers to a high degree, but still only a pugilist. Burns is a scientist who has applied his brain to solving the problem of the knock-out. That he did not become an eminent bacteriologist or chemist is merely the accident of circumstances.

The factors that have made him a champion fighter might have won him the Rumford medal - all but one. Added to his scientific precision of boxing is a capacity for taking punishment which is almost superhuman. It may be possible to hurt Burns with a battle-ax, but most of those who witnessed his performance yesterday would be inclined to doubt it. Squires rained upon the apparently soft, boyish, face of the champion sufficient blows to satisfy any three followers of the game whom Australia can remember. But they did not trouble Burns.

After the nervous shock following the first impact, they seemed to pass entirely out of his mind, and two minutes after the spectators expected him to fall in a state of collapse, he was entering into the fight with a cheerful vim of a man answering the crash of the first gong.

The contest between Squires and Burns was the contest between the Bull and the matador-with this exception. The Latin countries have yet to produce a matador willing to tire out the bull by allowing it to toss and gore him for half an hour. This is what Burns did. When he stopped to deliver the final stroke Squires was already a beaten man - beaten by the awful exertion of banging his fists against the basalt countenance of Mr. Noah Brusso. True it is that there was another matter which passed unnoticed by many, but which was apparently brought under the notice of Squires in a marked manner. Every time they hit in holds Burns continued to invest his blows with the preponderance of weight. And to direct them on more vulnerable points.

Squires might make much with the showy artillery of his straight left and swinging uppercuts, but Burns was confident in the resistant powers of his Harveyised jaw, was content to pound away with the unostentatious infantry of the half-arm jabs until it was time to bring up the cavalry.

Up to the end of the tenth round the Australian crowd was happy. Though the fight was well contested throughout, Squires was so much in the ascendant that it looked extremely probable that Colma and Paris would be avenged.. Then Burns - the Burns who had been battered unmercifully for half an hour - seemed to mysteriously develop a faculty for hitting Squires. Up to that time he had hardly delivered a long blow, and most of the short ones had passed unseen. On the other hand, Squires who had spent a glorious half hour inflicting the blows, suddenly and just as mysteriously grew weak. It was not the short jabs of the clinches that did it. It was simply that Squires was exhausted by the hard work he had done. He was in the same state of collapse as any other athlete after strenuous exertion and when the twelfth round opened it was just as if the runner who had just breasted the tape after a ten mile race was pitted against a boxer straight from the training room.

The concourse of spectators suddenly made the acquaintance of a new Burns. Not only did he accept the few blows which Squire still inflicted with a smile on his face, not only did he continue to jog blows with a bent elbow in Squires in the clinches, but he showed a new faculty - the faculty of standing off his opponent and sending in long well-aimed hits that went straight to their marks like the thrusts of a lance. When Squires came forward for the thirteenth round there was scarcely an Australian in the crowd that did not realize that the day was lost. There was an exchange and a clinch, in which Burns jabbed heavily; then a scuffle, in which Squires made a final desperate attempt at a knock-out.

The men clinched again, and more from exhaustion than the effects of any of the blows, the Australian sank to the floor. He rose at the end of nine seconds to the cheers of his countrymen, but Burns with cool confidence struck, struck Squires three times. At the third, Squires fell. He did not sink this time. Eight seconds were counted before he came up this time. The final blow was scarcely a second later. Burns chose his spot, sent in a left hook, and Squires, crumpling up like a sheet of wet paper, fell face downwards. His second threw in the towel in token of surrender, but it was not until long after the expiration of the ten seconds limit that Squires was able to stand.

Briefly, the fight belonged to Burns from beginning to end. Despite the fact that Squires was “all over” him for several rounds, there is not much doubt that had he seen the necessity, Burns may have applied aggressive tactics at any period, though his method was plainly to let Squires tire himself out before making his effort.

As a spectacular boxer, Burns is a failure. He wins fights, but his is the art that conceals art. He has almost resolved pugilism to the art of touching buttons.

As for Squires, his boxing was never seen in Australia to better advantage. He has developed tremendously since leaving Australia. All the same, possibly through continued attacks of rheumatism, he has lost his punch. Heavy as were many of the blows that landed on Burns yesterday, they were far less destructive than those which won him his fights before he sought honors abroad.

The management of the fight had a telephone at ringside and through the whole thirteen rounds, Mr. McIntosh communicated the varying phases of the battle to Mrs. Burns, who stood at the other end of the wire, waiting to learn of her husbands' fortune. As Squire was counted out, the receiver was handed to Burns, who was heard to say, “Is that you jewel? This is Tahmy. It’s all right.”

One salient factor of the contest was the American method of fighting adopted by both men, which is new to this land. Under such interpretation of the rules hitting in holds is not only permissible, but permissible to a degree astonishing to Australian followers of the sport. Throughout clinches the men hit one another wherever an opening showed, and even when the referee drags the reluctantly apart, they continue to swing in a variety of blows, until they are out of range. Under these conditions of boxing the position of the referee is certainly no sinecure, and Mr. Nathan who officiated yesterday, had several narrow escapes. One of these days when the referee is knocked out in the middle of a hot fight, the high court of pugilism will have a difficult point to settle.


In Squires corner there was Arthur Cripps, William McColl, J. Russell, Charles Frost and in Burns’s corner Arthur Scott, J. McDonald, O’Keefe and Kelly his manager. Mr. Nathan was referee and Mr. W. Kerr timekeeper.

Squires appeared first and was heralded by a tremendous outburst of applause, which terminated in three ringing cheers. Burns was also accorded sufficient applause to dispel any idea that Australians were unsportsmanlike.

The champion won the toss for the selection of corners, a matter of considerable importance, considering the bright sun that was shining on the ring, and which caught the Australian full in the eyes at each advance.

The Opening Rounds

In the first round Squires prevailed all the time, hitting Burns ten times with his right and getting home a good right cross on the jaw. He also got in an effective blow on the solar plexus.
In the second round Squires hit heavily and brought blood from Burns’s nose. He finished the round with a nasty blow on Burns’s jaw, and the round ended in favor of Squires.

Squires Aggressive

The third round saw much sparring on the part of both contestants. The two men were very wary, and Squires fighting coolly, was contented with giving the champion a few light body blows.
At the conclusion of the exhibition of sparring the two men clinched and Squires managed to land a heavy hit before the breakaway. He also succeeded in getting in a splendid uppercut during the clinch. Burns shortly afterwards managed to send home a fine punch on Squires jaw and then warming to his work, he made the running, attacking splendidly, and placing Squires on the defensive.

The fourth round opened in clinches. Both men hit heavily. Burns brightened up considerably, and put more vigor into his fight than ever. He brought blood from Squires mouth and going in again Squires dropped down from a right on the jaw. A few seconds later Squires hit Burns with a right uppercut.

Burns’s Recuperative Powers

In the fourth round Burns brightened up considerably. He fought with more vigor, and brought blood from Squires mouth. Squires with a right uppercut gained the ascendancy again, and after a hot rally landed a solar plexus blow which doubled Burns up. A moment later the champion seemed as though he were going out, but his marvelous powers of recovery, which were manifest throughout the whole fight, were seen at their highest in this round. Towards the conclusion, Squires punished him severely, and though he seemed groggy towards the end, the moment the gong sounded he sprang to his corner with the agility of a fresh man.

Fighting in holds characterized the first minute of the fifth round. Squires prevailed in the out-fighting, but Burns got in several effective hits at close quarters, and at one breakaway just missed outing Squires with a left swing at the jaw. Squires made amends towards the end of the round, and a succession of blows seemed to leave Burns weak again. The round on the whole was a very even one.

Squires Has A Narrow Escape

Just as the sixth round opened, and the men broke from their first clinch, Squires had another narrow escape, an upper-cut from Burns just grazing his jaw. Burns was fighting better thanks to a few solid jabs on Squires body in the clinches. Squires, however, contrived towards the end to get home a right cross, which made Burns fall forward on to his shoulder, and clinch to save himself

Spectators Expect Squires To Win

The seventh round opened with Squires landing heavy blows, right and left on the champion's jaw. Spectators imagined that Burns was about tot collapse. There was a scene of wild excitement. People rose and cheered, the din increasing as Squires followed Burns again, punching him right and left. Just as they expected Burns to receive a knock-out blow, he pulled himself together, and fought for a seconds like a tiger. Both men were weak at the call of time.
Burns Takes Punishment Well

The eighth round was even and willing, but Squires prevailed, landing repeated blows on his adversary’s jaw. The effect of these however, was only momentary, for the sound of the blow scarcely died away before Burns was as sound as ever.

Both Men Score

Both men were obvisouly weak from heavy fighting. Burns had the better of some hot exchanges in the south east corner. Squires turned the tables a few seconds later with an upper-cut, seemingly of great weight, but beyond driving Burns back for the moment, it affected him little.
Squires opened the tenth round with a number of light blows on Burns’s head. The champion took these without wincing, and waiting for his chance, shot in a nasty one on Squire’s body, following it up with several heavy punches in holds. A second left swing on the solar plexus left Squires so weak that the gong practically saved him from collapse.

Beginning Of The End

Squires rushed upon Burns, apparently fully recovered, when the twelfth round opened. A few willing exchanges followed, and though at one period both men fought more wildly than at any other time of the contest, Burns was apparently awaiting his chance. At last he saw it. His left shot out without warning and though Squires countered well, the champion had all the better of the scuffle that followed at close quarters.

Squires Unlucky Number

Burns lost no time in getting to business when the thirteenth round opened. He landed repeatedly on Squires’s body in holds, and led when they broke away. Within a minute of the gong there was a rally in which Squires, who was manifestly weak in the knees and groggy, fell from sheer exhaustion. He rested for nine seconds and rose to the accompaniment of loud cheering. The respite was short. Burns came towards him and now landing long length hits, punished the Australian severely. A heavy left swing on the side of the head sent him to the floor again. He took the count of eight seconds, but was scarcely on his feet before his merciless adversary was on him. A left hook took the Australian on the jaw, and he fell with his face flat on the floor. His seconds at the same time cast in the towel.

“One of the hardest fights of my life.

The champion, when seen after the contest, said - “I had one of the hardest fights of my life. I was not well; the climate has affected me, and I have been suffering from a heavy cold. Indeed, last Saturday morning they called in a doctor to see me. I’ve not been myself at all, and have felt slow and tired. My right arm is not too good, as I wrenched it while sparring and could not use it as I would like to. You can take it from me, Bill is one of the gamest and strongest fighters I have ever met. He is certainly no “false alarm,” as the American press called him, and he could beat most of the heavyweights in the world. I want to thank Mr. McIntosh for the magnificent manner in which he has organized this fight. Everything was perfect, and I never want to fight before a fairer audience, or have a better rival. I did my best, and I hope the public were satisfied.”


“I did my best.”

“I did my best,” said Squires, “I had a bit of bad luck. If I had my old punch back, I would make him sit up. What I want is two or three more fights, and then if I don’t win, my name’s not Bill Squires.”

He said he did not feel very much distressed as a result of the punishment he had received, and expected to be all right in a few days.

Copyright Mike Hitchen, Lane Cove, NSW, Australia. All rights reserved