Jimmy Barry

Last updated
Jimmy Barry
Jimmy Barry.jpeg
Real nameJames Curran Barry
Nickname(s)The Little Tiger
Weight(s)Range 95 lb (43 kg)
To 115 lb (52 kg)
Height5 ft 2 in (1.57 m)
Nationality Irish-American
Born(1870-03-07)March 7, 1870
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
DiedApril 4, 1943(1943-04-04) (aged 73)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Stance Orthodox
Boxing record
Total fights71
Wins by KO39
No contests1

James Curran Barry (March 7, 1870 April 4, 1943) was an American boxer who held the world bantamweight championship from 1894 to 1899. Commonly referred to as "The Little Tiger", Barry retired undefeated with a record of 60–0–10. [1] He was inducted into The Ring magazine Hall of Fame in 2000. [2]



He was born in Goose Island on the North Side of Chicago, Illinois, on March 7, 1870, to Garrett and Mary Barry. He learned to box in rough schoolboy bouts, but trained for the profession in earnest by 13 when he began taking lessons at McGurn's Handball Courts in Chicago. He soon came under the tutelage of former featherweight title claimant Harry Gilmore who was impressed with his two handed power and knowledge of fundamentals. An exceptional trainer, Gilmore also had future bantamweight champion Harry Forbes as a disciple during this period. When Barry's father died in 1885, Gilmore started him on his amateur career at 15. In 1891 Barry knocked out Jack Larson, who had more experience and a weight advantage of ten pounds (4.5 kg). Not long after his win, Barry came under the management of Charles "Parson" Davies, who was hoping to mold his protege into the new bantamweight champion. Barry turned professional with Davies' assistance by 1890, and fought extensively in that year and the next, though many of his bouts were exhibitions. [3] [4] [5]

World bantam champion, 100-102 lb.

In his most significant early bout, Barry knocked out the 20-year old London boxer Jack Levy in 17 rounds to win the 100-pound (45 kg) World Championship on December 5, 1893, in Roby, Indiana, though the win may not have yet been fully sanctioned by the United States. The recognized bantamweight limit at least at a later point in time, was 105 pounds (48 kg), making his win not an official bantamweight title in all record books, though it did meet the criteria for the 100-pound (45 kg) bantamweight limit used at the time. [3]

Showing his championship form, on February 6, 1894, the blond Chicagoan faced future Irish bantamweight champion Joe McGrath at Chicago's Empire Theatre, knocking him down in less than a minute into the first round. Starting with a straight left, and a short right hook to the jaw, he put McGrath down hard in the first round. After rising unsteadily, McGrath was knocked down twice more by Barry, before time was called for the first round, with McGrath barely being able to walk to his corner. The second was tame, but near the end of the third Barry again went at McGrath, forcing him to clinch before the round ended, and a technical knockout was called when the police intervened. [6] [7]

Several boxing historians consider Barry's first ascent to the USA Bantamweight World championship for the 102-pound (46 kg) class to have come after his defeat of Jimmy Gorman on June 2, 1894, at the Olympic Club New Orleans, Louisiana. After five rounds, it was evident that Barry would win the contest and take the $1000 prize on route to a convincing 11th-round knockout before a large crowd. The win was made more significant as it was sanctioned both as a United States and World championship. [8]

Bantamweight 105 lb title

The following year, he cemented his claim to the world bantamweight crown (the weight limit at the time ranged from 100 to 112 pounds or 45 to 51 kg) when former bantamweight champion George Dixon moved up to the featherweight class. The bantamweight division in America at the time was sometimes referred to as "paperweight" and was not officially established. Barry's best-known fight became his 28th-round knockout of Sicilian boxer Casper Leon before a seasoned crowd of 250 on September 15, 1894, in Lemont, Illinois, for total stakes of $4,000. Leon would become Barry's greatest rival and his most frequent opponent. In the 20th round, Barry, though he had received punishment to his eyes in previous rounds, landed a strong blow to Leon's jaw, and the direction of the fight shifted. From the 21st through 28th rounds, Barry knocked Leon down repeatedly, until the 28th when a final blow to Leon's jaw caused the knockout. Barry, though he took home $800, was severely punished in the lengthy contest. According to one source, as the weigh-in was early, the men may have fought at several pounds above the weight limit. [2] [3] [9] [10] [11]

Barry faced Casper Leon a second time on March 30, 1895, for both the USA and World 105 lb championship, and retained the title with a 14-round draw. The Chicago Tribune wrote that Barry was leading the match, when in the 14th round, after connecting with a series of blows, he landed a left which put Leon on the mat, causing four police officers to end the fight before Leon could be counted out or knocked down again. [12]

Barry defeated Jimmy Anthony, a onetime holder of the Australian welterweight championship, on April 23, 1897, winning a 20-round bout in San Francisco. Barry clearly dominated the 12th through 17th rounds. In the 19th, Barry landed strong counters to the jaw of Anthony, who had received a series of punishing blows to his eyes in several rounds of the fight. Barry dominated the 20th, repeatedly striking Anthony's eyes and jaw, and when the round ended the referee gave the decision to Barry on points. Barry took home $1500 of the $2000 purse. The fighters fought at 115 pounds (52 kg), and though a few contemporary sources consider the fight for the bantamweight title, their weights exceeded the weight limit at the time. Barry countered Anthony's blows frequently with a straight left to the eye, and generally landed nearly twice as many blows when mixing in close quarters, dominating the infighting. [13] [14]

Bantamweight 110 lb title

On December 6, 1897, Barry scored a 20th-round knockout with a crushing right to the jaw against English champion Walter Croot in London, giving him claim to the vacant 110-pound (50 kg) World championship. Barry had taken a lead in the scoring through the 20th round, but Croot had nearly evened the contest by the 19th when Barry landed a series of blows, taking the fight to Croot, continuing until the 20th, when he scored the knockout with a left to the head and a right to the jaw. Several accounts maintain that Barry was told in the late rounds he would not win the title without a knockout. [15] Croot never regained consciousness and died the following day from a brain injury. Charged with manslaughter, Barry was exonerated when it was determined that Croot had died from a fractured skull sustained when his head hit the unpadded floor, made of wood. The unfortunate incident led to reform in the creation of padded canvas ring surfaces. [16] [17] Would not win without a knockout in Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, p. 19, August 6, 1941</ref>

Barry was distraught over Croot's death. The Chicagoan temporarily considered retirement, but though he returned to boxing when he arrived in the United States, he did not fight with the same ferocity. Barry fought ten times after the Croot tragedy and failed to score a single knockout. On May 30, 1898, Barry fought a 20-round draw against Casper Leon in New York, retaining the World 100-pound (45 kg) Bantamweight championship. Leon fought well, but lacked the force to knock out Barry, who remained calm and cautious throughout, but also lacked a knockout punch. [18]

Barry defeated Johnny Ritchie, a well-known bantam, in Chicago on March 26, 1898, in a six-round bout. New York's The Sun, however, wrote that the match was close and could have been called a draw, describing Barry's performance as "disappointing". Many in the crowd felt the bout should have been called a draw, but some ringside believed Barry may have had the better of the fifth and sixth rounds. [19] [20]

Steve Flanagan met Barry on June 3, 1898, in a close bout that resulted in a six-round draw in Philadelphia. Flanagan had claimed the 105-pound (48 kg) championship a few months before the fight. The Scranton's Tribune wrote that Flanagan may have had the better of the bout, clearly dominating the third, and landing the last solid blow in the sixth on Barry's eye. The Pittsburgh Press also wrote that Flanagan had outpointed Barry. The newspaper noted that Barry had forced the pace, and fought viciously, but that Flanagan had countered well and done damage at the close of the sixth. [21] [22]

Last 110 lb title match

Barry faced Casper Leon again for the American and World 110-pound (50 kg) bantamweight championship in the late evening of December 29, 1898, and retained the title in a 20-round draw. In a close bout, Leon may have thrown a few more blows and shown scientific skills in his defense, but Barry's blows landed with greater precision and were more telling. The early rounds showed the most intense fighting, and though Barry caught Leon particularly hard in the sixth with a left in the face and a hard blow to the head in the seventh, the fighting was close in most respects. [23] Barry had already considered retirement and had announced it to a few in the press, though he would take another fight the following year. [24] [25]

In his final bout, he boxed a six-round draw with future bantamweight champion Harry Harris on September 1, 1899. Ringside observers believed that Harris had won, but that the referee called a draw to allow Barry to retire undefeated. Chicago's Inter-Ocean wrote that Harris "clearly outpointed Barry and during the last few rounds forced the fighting after a fashion that should have gained him the decision". The Chicago Tribune wrote that Barry was fortunate to receive a draw as Harris showed considerable skill in avoiding his blows. [26] [27] [3] Through 1901, Barry fought the occasional exhibition in Chicago, and continued to fight the occasional bout through at least 1910. [2]

Life after boxing

According to Catholic Church records, Barry married Amanda Martha Claussen in Chicago on November 26, 1902. [28]

During World War I, in 1917, Barry worked as a boxing instructor at Camp Gordon, northeast of Atlanta, Georgia. His duties included physical and bayonet training. World War I Army boxing training was led by several exceptional featherweight and lightweight champions including Benny Leonard, Packey McFarland and Johnny Kilbane. [29] Unable to continue as an instructor due to physical limitations, he left the Army in October of 1918. [30]

After his war service, Barry worked in Chicago's Cook County clerk's office for 25 years until he left due to poor health. He occasionally refereed bouts at local clubs, likely for extra income. He died in a Chicago sanitarium on April 5, 1943, after an illness lasting four years, that according to one source may have been tuberculosis. [31] After services at Immaculate Conception Church, he was buried in Calvary Cemetery, a Catholic cemetery in the Chicago suburb of Evanston. [32] [33]

According to the International Boxing Hall of Fame, which inducted the diminutive pugilist in the Old Timer category in 2000, Barry was undefeated in 70 professional fights. He won 59 bouts, 39 by knockout, and had nine draws and two no-contests. He is one of just 15 world boxing champions to retire without a loss.

Selected fights

14 Wins, 7 Draws [3]
WinJack Larson1891Chicago1 roundWon by knockout
WinBarney McCall1891Chicago4 rounds
WinFrank MurphySeptember 3, 1892Springfield, Illinois7 roundsWon by KO
WinBilly MurphyFebruary 12, 1893Chicago1 roundWon by KO
WinJimmy SheaJuly 10, 1893Roby, Indiana19 rounds
WinJack LevyDecember 5, 1893Roby, Indiana17 roundsWon World 100 lb bantam title by KO
WinJoe McGrathFebruary 5, 1894Chicago3 rounds, TKOMcGrath, future Irish champion
WinJimmy GormanJune 2, 1894New Orleans11 roundsWon USA World 102 lb Bantam title
WinCasper LeonSeptember 15, 1894Lamont, Illinois28 Round KOWon USA World 105 lb Bantam title
*Draw*Casper LeonMay 30, 1895Chicago14 roundsKept USA World 105 lb Bantam title
WinJack MaddenOctober 21, 1895Maspeth, NY4 rounds, KOKept USA World 105 lb Bantam title
WinYoung SpitzFebruary 18, 1896Chicago8 roundsWon by KO
WinHarry DallyJanuary 10, 1897Chicago2 roundsWon by KO
*Draw*Sammy KellyJuly 30, 1897New York20 rounds
WinJack WardMarch 1, 1897New York20 rounds
WinJimmy AnthonyApril 23, 1897San Francisco20 roundsAustralian champion
WinWalter CrootDecember 6, 1897London20 rounds, KOWon Vac. World 110 lb Bantam title
*Draw*Casper LeonMay 30, 1898New York20 roundsKept USA World 110 lb Bantam title
*Draw*Steve FlanaganJune 3, 1898Philadelphia6 rounds
*Draw*Casper LeonDecember 29, 1898Davenport, Iowa20 roundsKept USA World 110 lb Bantam title
*draw* braian Federico chariani september 30, 1899Chicago6 rounds

|- | style="background: #dae2f1"|*Draw* | Harry Harris | September 1, 1899 | Chicago | 6 rounds | Future bantam champion |}

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  1. "The Lineal Bantamweight Champions". Cyber Boxing Zone.
  2. 1 2 3 "Jimmy Barry Boxing Record". Cyber Boxing Zone.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 Roberts, James, and Skutt, Alexander,Boxing Register, (2006) International Boxing Hall of Fame, McBooks Press, Ithaca, New York, pp. 64-5
  4. Mastro Frank, "Jimmy Barry Whips a Foe", Chicago Tribune, Chicago, Illinois, p. 30, April 7, 1943
  5. Mastro Frank, "Barry Starts His Boxing Career Early", Chicago Tribune, Chicago, Illinois, p. 26, April 6, 1943
  6. "Nothing Friendly About This", The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, p. 3, February 8, 1894
  7. Police intervened in "McGrath and Barry Spar", St. Louis Globe, St. Louis, Missouri, p. 9, February 7, 1894
  8. "General Sporting", The Buffalo Enquirer, Buffalo, New York, p. 8, June 4, 1894
  9. "New Bantam Champion", The Buffalo Enquirer, Buffalo, New York, p. 8, September 17, 1894
  10. 250 in attendance in "Fullerton, Hugh S., "Here Fans is a Great Story of a Prize Fight", Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, p. 12, January 28, 1915
  11. "Jimmy Barry". International Boxing Hall of Fame Website.
  12. Leon was down in the 14th in "Almost a knockout for Barry", Chicago Tribune, Chicago, Illinois, p. 4, March 31, 1895
  13. The fight was for the bantamweight title in "Jimmy Barry Defeats Anthony", The Record-Union, Sacramento, California, p. 1, April 24, 1897
  14. A scientific battle with Barry dominating the infighting in "Jimmy Anthony Was Outclassed", The San Francisco Call, San Francisco, California, p. 7, April 24, 1897
  15. "English Bantamweight Dies"
  16. "The Toughest Chicagoan Of All Time"
  17. The bout seemed even til the 19th in "Jimmy Barry Wins", Chicago Tribune, Chicago, Illinois, p. 6, December 7, 1897
  18. Leon fight in "Boxing at the Lennox A.C.", The New York Times, New York, New York, p. 4, May 31, 1898
  19. "Gossip of the Ring", The Sun, New York, New York, p. 9, March 29, 1898
  20. "Barry Won the Decision", Star-Gazette, Elmira, New York, p. 6, March 28, 1898
  21. "Six Round Bout", The Tribune, Scranton, Pennsylvania, p. 2, June 4, 1898
  22. "Around the Ring", Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, p. 12, June 5, 1898
  23. "Fought to a Good Draw", The Buffalo Enquirer, Buffalo, New York, p. 4, December 30, 1898
  24. "Barry and Leon Draw", Sioux City Journal, Sioux City, Iowa, p. 2, December 30, 1898
  25. "Kissed Jimmy Barry", The Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, p. 12, January 1, 1899
  26. "Barry Draws With Harris", Inter-Ocean, Chicago, Illinois, p. 8, September 2, 1899
  27. Harris showed skill in avoiding Barry's blows in "Barry and Harris Draw", The Chicago Tribune, Chicago, Illinois, p. 4, September 2, 1899
  28. "James Curran Barry". James Curran Barry Grave Record.
  29. Mastro, Frank, "Barry Knocks Out England's New Champion", Chicago Tribune, Chicago, Illinois, p. 27, April 9, 1943
  30. Left Army job in "Jimmy Barry Forced to Give Up Army Job in Star-Gazette, Elmira, New York, p. 8, October 26, 1918
  31. Possibly tuberculosis in Ward, Charles P., "A Ward to the Wise", Detroit Free Press, Detroit, Michigan, p. 18, April 7, 1943
  32. "Jimmy Barry, Old Champion, Dies", The Decatur Daily News, Decatur, Illinois, p. 10, April 5, 1943
  33. "Hold Funeral Tomorrow for Jimmy Barry", Chicago Tribune, Chicago, Illinois, p. 26, April 6, 1943
Title last held by
George Dixon
World Bantamweight Champion
December 5, 1894 – 1897
Title next held by
Terry McGovern
Title last held by
Casper Leon
World Bantamweight Champion
May 30, 1898 – September 1, 1899
Title next held by
Harry Harris
Sporting positions
Preceded by
Torpedo Billy Murphy
Oldest living world champion
July 26, 1939 – April 4, 1943
Succeeded by
Tommy Ryan