It was 3:45 in the morning. Of the 85,000 who had showed up to the Olympic Club in New Orleans to watch the fight, most were either bored or asleep. The two competitors for the lightweight title of the South, Jack Burke and Andy Bowen, were past exhaustion.
It’s in these terms that On This Day in Sports describes the boxing match between Burke and Bowen. After 108 three minute rounds, which translates to 7 hours and 13 minutes after their start in the evening of April 6th 1893, their match achieved the record of longest ever boxing match. By this point, both had lost ten pounds. More shocking was that Burke had stopped actively attacking Bowen: “In the 51st round Bowen asked Burke why he wasn’t fighting back and Burke replied ‘I can’t both my hands are gone.'” Afterwards, they discovered that Burke had broken both his hands and his wrists from punching Bowen’s approaching face so many times. Both had almost knocked the other out at different points in the match, but failed to finish it.
Then, in Mental Floss‘s account, Jack Duffy, the ref, sensed everyone’s exhaustion. He told Burke and Duffy that they had two more rounds before he declared a draw — not that he used those words in the moment for fear of the bored crowd’s wrath. Neither even threw a punch. So, after 7 hours and 19 minutes, a draw was called and they split the $2500.
Not too much is known about the two boxers. On This Day describes Bowen as a veteran from New Orleans and Burke as a newcomer from Galveston, Texas. Cyberboxing Zone, which seems to have set itself as a repository for turn of the century boxing, has a profile for Bowen: “Bowen was a short, stocky fighter who was scrappy and tough; He could dish it out and take it too; He was strong and relied upon his natural stamina and durability rather than finesse and boxing skills; Bowen was known for his ‘marathon’ fights of long duration.” This tracks. However, Burke’s missing from their site.
We find Burke in a 1904 article in The Tacoma Times announcing his retirement from boxing. In the same article, we also discover what happened to Bowen post record. He was killed in a match against “Kid” Lavine from a fractured skull. On This Day insists that he died due to injuries received in a car crash in 1942, though there’s no clear evidence for or against this date. We do get a sense of Burke’s character in the reason given for his retirement however: “[Bowen and Burke’s match] was the last of the vicious, real prize fights, and Burke says the boxing game today is child’s play to what it was fifteen or twenty years ago.” He wouldn’t approve our boxing then. In 1982, matches were limited to 12 rounds. Bowen and Burke’s record is unlikely to ever be beaten.
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