Kid McCoy

Last updated
Charles "Kid" McCoy
McCoy in 1899
Real nameNorman Selby
Weight(s) Middleweight
Height5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)
Born(1872-10-13)October 13, 1872
Moscow, Indiana, U.S.
DiedApril 18, 1940(1940-04-18) (aged 67)
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
Boxing record
Total fights100
Wins by KO59
No contests4

Charles "Kid" McCoy (October 13, 1872 – April 18, 1940), born Norman Selby, was an American boxer and early Hollywood actor. He claimed the vacant world middleweight title when he scored an upset victory over Tommy Ryan by 15th round knockout.



Born in Moscow, Rush County, Indiana, McCoy would eventually weigh 160 pounds (73 kg), stand 5 feet 11 inches (180 cm), and go on to a record 81 wins (55 by KO, with 6 losses, 9 no decision, and 6 disqualifications). McCoy was noted for his "corkscrew punch" – a blow delivered with a twisting of the wrist. [lower-roman 1] According to McCoy, he learned the punch one evening while resting in someone's barn after a day of riding the rails. He noticed a cat strike at a ball of string and imitated its actions. Whether true or not, McCoy was known as a fast, "scientific" fighter who would cut his opponents with sharp blows. He reportedly would wrap his knuckles in mounds of friction tape, to better cut his opponents faces. He was listed # 1 Light Heavyweight of all time in Fifty Years At Ringside, published in 1958. He was also regarded as a formidable puncher, and was included in Ring Magazine's list of 100 greatest punchers of all time.

Boxing career

Tommy Ryan was knocked out by Kid McCoy in the 15th round on March 2, 1906. This bout forms part of the lore of the McCoy legend. McCoy served as a sparring partner for Ryan, and absorbed many beatings at the hands of his employer. Ryan was notorious for showing little mercy to his sparring partners.

Tommy Ryan and Fireman Jim Flynn, between 1910-1915. Jim flynn tommy ryan.jpg
Tommy Ryan and Fireman Jim Flynn, between 1910-1915.

As a result, McCoy hated Ryan, and sought revenge. It is alleged that McCoy, who appeared thin, pale and frail, persuaded Ryan that he was seriously ill before their fight. McCoy, who was famed as a trickster, purportedly rubbed flour on his face so as to appear deathly ill. Ryan is said to have fallen for the ruse, failed to train properly and was not in top condition for the bout. Whether true or not, McCoy scored an upset win over Ryan in a fight billed for the American and World 154lbs Middleweight Title.

Another one of McCoy's tactics was demonstrated while McCoy was on a tour of Australia and some other Pacific Islands. To supplement his income, he would take on all comers. In one unidentified port, McCoy, who scarcely weighed 160 pounds (73 kg), agreed to box a huge native reputed to weigh in excess of 250 pounds (110 kg). McCoy watched him train and noted the man fought in his bare feet. When the fight began, McCoy's corner threw handfuls of tacks into the ring, causing the bare-footed challenger to drop his guard and raise up one foot. As soon as he did so, McCoy lowered the boom on his distracted adversary.

Although slight of build, McCoy captured the world middleweight championship by defeating Dan Creedon. McCoy never defended the title, choosing to abandon the crown to enable him to pursue the world heavyweight championship. Despite his handicap in size, McCoy battled the best heavyweights of his era, and defeated Joe Choynski and Peter Maher. He was defeated by Tom Sharkey and Jim Corbett. The Corbett fight was the subject of controversy, as the ending was suspect and Corbett's estranged wife claimed the bout was fixed.

"The real McCoy"

It was thought that the expression "The Real McCoy" originally referred to Kid McCoy. With regard to this, once again, stories abound. One scenario involves a local tough who bumped into McCoy in a bar. McCoy, who was slight of build and a dapper dresser, did not look like a fighter. The bar room bully reputedly laughed when told the slender fellow he was annoying was Kid McCoy. He then challenged McCoy to fight, and upon reviving from being knocked out allegedly remarked "Oh my God, that was the real McCoy". However, it is believed that the first publication with this spelling occurred in James S. Bond's 1881 dime novel, The Rise and Fall of the "Union club": or, Boy life in Canada, wherein a character utters, "By jingo! yes; so it will be It's the 'real McCoy,' as Jim Hicks says. Nobody but a devil can find us there." [1] Skeptics, though, point out that Kid McCoy was only nine years old when this was published. [2] [lower-roman 2]

Personal life and downfall

McCoy's career was no less colorful outside the ring. He was married ten times, performed in theater, and went west to California during the birth of the movie industry there. He appeared in films, including a scene fighting Wallace Reid in the 1922 film, The World's Champion. [3] McCoy was also friends with many movie stars of the day, including Charles Chaplin and director D.W. Griffith, who directed the 1919 silent film, Broken Blossoms, Selby's second film as actor.

Unfortunately, by the early 1920s McCoy was poor, addicted to alcohol and out of the movie industry. At this time however, McCoy was involved in a romance with a wealthy married woman, Teresa Mors. Apparently he swept her off her feet, for she filed for divorce from her husband. The Mors divorce was acrimonious, and dragged on until she was killed, in the apartment she shared with McCoy at 2819 Leeward (Unit 212), by a single gunshot to the head on August 12, 1924. [4]

The next morning, a disheveled McCoy robbed and held captive some 12 people at Mrs. Mors' antique shop, and shot one man, who was trying to escape, in the leg. He also had forced at least six other men to remove their trousers, after divesting them of their money. McCoy was apprehended and charged with the murder of Mrs. Mors. His trial took place in downtown Los Angeles, and was the media event of its day. McCoy claimed Mrs. Mors committed suicide, while the prosecution claimed he murdered her for financial gain.

McCoy testified in his own defense, and apparently put on quite a show as he demonstrated Mrs. Mors final minutes. Contending he had tried to wrestle a knife away from her, McCoy and his attorney actually wrestled and rolled around on the courtroom floor, for the benefit of the jury, press and courtroom spectators. After Mrs. Mors allegedly took her own life, McCoy claimed he became faint and could not remember anything further, including participating in the wild crime spree the following morning.

Dagmar Dahlgren was the eighth wife of McCoy. Dahlgren and McCoy had lived together for three days. Dahlgren disputed one of McCoy's alibis during his trial. Specifically she denied to her attorney that she had seen him in the two years prior to Mors' death. Apparently, the jury was split between first degree murder and acquittal. In what is believed to have been a compromise verdict, McCoy was convicted of manslaughter.

McCoy was sent to San Quentin, but was paroled from prison in 1932. Afterwards he worked for Ford Motor Company.


1895–1898:  Charlott Piehler, married Selby July 31, 1895, in Middleton, Ohio. Selby was then known as Charles "Kid" Young. In a suit filed by Piehler in Hamilton County, Ohio, a divorce decree – rendered by default due to Selby's failure to show-up in court – was awarded February 21, 1898, in favor of Piehler.
1897–1897:  Charlotte Smith; married Selby in St. Louis; Charlotte divorced Selby in Hamilton, Ohio.
1897–1900:  Julia Crosselman (née Julia Ella Woodruff; 1874–1952); Julia's other husbands include (a) George A. Wheelock (1858–1922), whom she married February 1912 in Jersey City, (b) Ralph Thompson, and (c) Crosselman.
1901–1901:  Julia Crosselman; re-married Selby January 7, 1901, in Boston.
1902–1903:  Julia Crosselman; re-married Selby April 11, 1902, in Hoboken, New Jersey; divorced June 9, 1903.
(see List of people who remarried the same spouse)

1903–1904:  Indiola Arnold (née Indiola Alice Arnold; 1885–1978), married Selby December 14, 1903, in New York; she was a showgirl; she divorced Selby April 5, 1905, in Providence, Rhode Island.
1905–1910:  Lillian Ellis (aka Lillian Estelle Earle); widow of Edward C. Ellis (1877–1904), Lillian married Selby October 19, 1905, in Manhattan. When they married Lillian's net worth was estimated to be from $5 to $7 million (the latter, adjusted for inflation, is approximately equivalent to $199,188,889in 2019). Lillian was a close friend of Julia, Selby's former wife. Earle and Selby divorced December 1910.
1911–1917:  Edna Fernanda Valentine (maiden; 1886–1950) married Selby October 27, 1911, in Gaston County, North Carolina. Her marriage to Selby was her second of three.
1920–1920:   Dagmar Dahlgren (aka Carmen M. Crowder; 1880–1951) married Selby April 22, 1920, in Los Angeles County [5] They reportedly lived together only 3 days. Their divorce was finalized September 4, 1920.
1922:  Jacqueline McDowell almost married Selby in 1922. But, after embarking by train from Baltimore to meet him in Los Angeles, she thought better of it and got off in Detroit and telegraphed that she was not going any further.
1924:  Selby, in Los Angeles County, was tried for murder, but convicted of manslaughter, for the death of his lover, Teresa Moers (née Theresa Weinstein; 1893–1924), who was married to Albert Abraham Moers. She died of a gunshot wound to the head on August 12, 1924 – in an apartment she shared with McCoy.
1937–1940:  Sue Cobb Cowley (née Susan Ethel Cobb; 1892–1970) married Selby (her 4th) in 1937 and filed two marriage certificates: (i) one in Rush County, Indiana, on August 2, 1937, and (ii) one in Detroit on August 28, 1937

Extended family

Norman Selby was one of six siblings and third oldest. One of his four sisters, Grace Esther Selby (maiden; 1885–1916) was, from 1901 to 1908, married to Charles Thomas Henshall (1862–1928). Norman was an uncle to their daughter, actress Barbara Jo Allen (1906–1974).


McCoy took his own life in Detroit on April 18, 1940. Even his death was enigmatic. [6] He committed suicide at the Hotel Tuller in Detroit [7] by an overdose of sleeping pills, [8] leaving a note behind. It read, among other things

Everything in my possession, I want to go to my dear wife, Sue E. Selby ... To all my dear friends ... best of luck ... sorry I could not endure this world's madness.

Norman Selby

In an apparent last attempt to drop his professional moniker, the note was pointedly signed as, "Norman Selby." [9]


British professional wrestler Mark Boothman (the son of wrestler Phil "King Ben" Boothman) adopted the "Kid McCoy" name and won the British Lightweight Championship in 1987, holding it for three years. [10]

Selected filmography and publications


As actor
As subject


As subject

See also

Notes and references


  1. The corkscrew punch, in boxing, is a blow delivered with a twisting of the wrist. Kid McCoy is often credited for inventing it. It was believed, in McCoy's era, that the technique added power to a punch and sometimes cut the skin of opponents. In that era, boxers had much less hand protection. Other boxers known for using the technique include Harry Harris (1880–1959). Muhammed Ali (1942–2016) used a similar technique, but different enough to claim he invented it.
  2. The etymology of the expression, "the real McCoy," has also been attributed to Elijah McCoy (1844–1929), a Canadian-born African-American inventor and engineer.

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  1. The Rise and Fall of the "Union Club!" or, Boy Life in Canada; by James S. Bond; Yorkville: Royal Publishing Company (1881); Chapter 1 (of 14): "The Curtain Rises," p. 1; OCLC   78839694, 894251375
  2. "Did the phrase 'the real McCoy' derive from boxer Kid McCoy?" by Brian Cronin, Los Angeles Times, October 4, 2012
  3. [ "Photo Storiettes: Wallace Reid in The World's Champion, Film Fun (New York: Leslie-Judge Company), Vol. 35, p. 396, April 1922, p. 60; OCLC   7227261
  4. "Throng at Mors Funeral - The Curious Swarm at Services for Woman Murdered in Los Angeles". New York Times . August 28, 1924. p. 17. Retrieved 18 April 2016.
  5. "Cupid, Love's Referee, Counts Nine on Kid McCoy, But He's Not Out, Yet!" (Press Publishing Co.), by Marguerite Mooers Marshall (1887–1964), Billings Gazette, August 22, 1920, p. 2 (2nd ed.) (accessible via , subscription required)
  6. Kid McCoy … Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Cyber Boxing Zone)
  7. "Kid McCoy," Encyclopædia Britannica Online (retrieved June 3, 2009)
  8. Mitchell, Dawn (February 27, 2014). "The tragic life of Charles "Kid" McCoy". The Indianapolis Star . Archived from the original on July 17, 2015. Retrieved April 2, 2017.
  9. Casselman, William Gordon (2006). "The Real McCoy". Bill Casselman’s Canadian Word of the Day. Archived from the original on April 27, 2011. Retrieved March 5, 2011.
  10. British Lightweight Championship - - Accessed 14 August 2017