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Hudson Then…Again -The Fighting Irish of Jersey City

Calahan J. Mc Carthy and Francis ( Frankie )Burns

By Maureen Wlodarczyk

While researching my second book, Young & Wicked, I spent many hours ferreting out and reading 19th century newspaper stories related to one of the central characters, Willie Flannelly, Jersey City bad boy and my great-grandmother’s second cousin. Among the various true stories of his juvenile delinquency and anti-social behavior was one recounting his use of a slungshot (different from a slingshot) which was used to knock out a popular local featherweight boxer named Cal McCarthy. Slungshots, a maritime tool consisting of a weight attached to a heavy cord, were a favorite concealed weapon of thugs in those days. Ah, the misguided ingenuity of the criminal mind.

Calahan J. McCarthy

Callahan J. McCarthy was born in Pennsylvania in 1867 and came to the Horseshoe section of Jersey City with his Irish immigrant parents about five years later. One of six children, he made his first public appearance as an amateur boxer in 1887 in association with the Scottish-American Club of Jersey City. A bare knuckles fighter and all of 5’ 2” and 100 pounds, he won the American amateur 110-pound championship that year and turned pro in early 1888. McCarthy, called the “Wonder,” had a great left jab and quick cat-like movements. He went on to fight more than 40 bouts in various venues around the country, taking on both American and European opponents and won the Featherweight Championship of America. In 1890 in Boston, he took on George Dixon in a bout that went on for 70 rounds until a draw was declared. In their second meeting in 1891, Dixon beat McCarthy in 22 rounds. Following that defeat, McCarthy reportedly turned to drinking, soon losing his form and discipline but still fighting sporadically. The young boxer never regained his stride, was stricken with tuberculosis and, still planning a boxing comeback, died in 1895 at 28 years old. Despite that, he was remembered by fight fans and sports writers who, two decades later, still reminisced about McCarthy when talking about the latest crop of young featherweight and bantam boxers.  Continue reading Hudson Then…Again -The Fighting Irish of Jersey City