Froch’s girlfriend brings Fitz's wife to mind

boxing By Mike Dunn - After watching a recent replay of Carl Froch's one-sided victory over Arthur Abraham on Showtime, I was impressed with the fervency of Froch's biggest fan, his lovely girlfriend Rachael Cordingly.

Rachael's voice could clearly be heard during the fight, at times almost drowning out the voice of the announcers who jokingly referred to her as the third member of the broadcast team. Rachael had lots to cheer for, as things turned out. Carl jabbed, moved and generally gave Abraham a thrashing in their WBC 12-round super middleweight title tilt held Nov. 27 in Helsinki.

As Rachael continually yelled "C'mon Carl" and screamed occasionally at decibel-defying levels throughout the bout, it brought to mind an article I had read years before about another United Kingdom champ, Bob Fitzsimmons, and the way his wife Rose was a very public and very vocal presence in his life..

Rose, the sister of Fitz’s manager Martin Julian, used to come to Fitz’s training camp – a practice absolutely unheard of in those days and a firm no-no in boxing to the present time – and attend to his needs. She cooked for him and watched him work out and spar, frequently offering encouragement and even advice.

Rose came to Carson City, Nevada on March 1, 1897 as Fitz was preparing to face Jim Corbett for the heavyweight title. Their bout was scheduled for March 17.

As Robert H. Davis recounts in a fascinating first-person article that appears in The Fireside Book of Boxing, Mrs. Fitzsimmons came to camp with their two sons, Robert and Martin, and a maid. Rose “took entire charge of his diet, much of which she prepared with her own hands. He had an obsession for calf’s foot jelly, which he consumed by the pound. Half a chicken, two vegetables, and a rice or custard pudding was an average meal for him.”

Rose tended to her husband behind the scenes in the training camp, and that was enough to give her some notoriety in the 1890s. What Mrs. Fitzsimmons is most famous for, though, is shouting instructions to her husband from ringside during the Corbett fight.

I remember reading in an article many years ago – maybe from Ring magazine – that Rose kept yelling during the fight for Bob to “hit him in the slats,” meaning for Fitz to hit Corbett in the pit of the stomach, or the solar plexus. Another account tells of Rose yelling for Bob to “hit him in the rib” after the sixth round in which Fitz had been knocked down and bloodied (though the blood that smeared Fitz’s chin was from an open sore on his lower lip and was of no great significance).

Davis was one of Fitz’s seconds for the fight and a reliable eyewitness to Fitz’s 14-round KO of Corbett. According to Davis, who was sitting near Rose during the bout, the only time she yelled to her husband was during the 13th round when Fitz had to raise his hands briefly to shield his eyes from “the blazing sun that was riding a blue sky in the southern quarter.”

According to Davis, Rose yelled, “Keep out of the sun, Bob” while waving her hand. Davis goes on to say in his article: “That was the only audible remark uttered by Mrs. Fitzsimmons during the entire fight. She spoke casually to Senator John Ingalls and myself four or five times, generally in monosyllables and always with commendable reserve.”

Davis’s account doesn’t jive with the more accepted accounts of others who have Rose yelling loudly for her husband to hit Corbett in the rib or the gut. It comes down to some remembering things differently than others. And what is boxing without disputes?

There can be no question, though, that Rose’s presence at ringside was indicative of her fervent support of her husband, whether she was very vocal about it that March day or not.

When the fight ended and Fitz’s hand was raised in victory following the solar plexus punch that floored Corbett for the count, the new champ made his way over to his corner and looked for his bride.

“Fitzsimmons stepped back to his corner, leaned down over the ropes and kissed his wife thrice upon the mouth, leaving a little group of red stains upon her trembling lips,” is the way Davis vividly described the post-fight scene.

I didn’t notice if Froch did anything similar after his triumph over Abraham, though Rachael was brought up into the ring and, as I recall, the two shared a deep embrace. Rachael is a model and obviously very comfortable in front of the cameras. She then posed with Carl for photos all around.

As for Rose, she remained Fitz’s most ardent public supporter for the remainder of her short life. Sadly, she died of complications from pneumonia in 1902, just five years after Fitz won the heavyweight crown.

Mike Dunn is a writer and a boxing historian living in Lake City, Mich

Article posted on 08.01.2011

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