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The Fix Is On! 1916 Jess Willard vs. Frank Moran Fixed Heavyweight Championship Fight Agreement
Starting Bid - $300.00, Sold For - $580.00
Auction Description Addendum: We have been informed by a very knowledgeable boxing scholar that the contract reference to a "ten-round no-decision draw" was simply standard boxing contract language, and was not intended to imply that the bout was fixed (though it appears that the fight was, indeed, fixed.)
We've seen a lot of sports-related documents over the years, but never one in which an illegal fix of a major sporting event was memorialized in a contract. In this incredible two-page typewritten agreement, Heavyweight Champion Jess Willard agrees to fight Frank Moran in a ten-round title bout at Madison Square Garden, NYC, on March 8, 1916, with the contractual agreement explicitly dictating a prearranged outcome of the fight, predetermined to be a ten-round no-decision draw. This agreement, entered into on February 9, 1916, is signed by the managers, Tom Jones for Willard and G. L. Tex Rickard and Samuel McCracken for Frank Moran, with witness signatures including Robert Vernon, who is stipulated to hold the stake money put up by the parties before the fight. A handwritten addendum signed by Rickard and Jones extends the contest date to March 25th, which was, in fact the date of the bout. Newspaper accounts document the excitement and great anticipation of the fight, from the day the fight was first announced to the public on March 8, 1916 (the very day this contract was signed). From March 8th to the day of the fight, newspapers were filled with stories of Moran's training, and articles assessing the advantages of Willard over the opponent, and visa-versa. It is almost inconceivable for us to read these exciting articles from the past, knowing that the result of the fight was actually prearranged. The day before the fight, the United Press reported the quotes of each fighter. Frank Moran: "If I feel as good as when I enter the ring as I do this minute I have no doubt I will be returned a winner, whether the fight goes ten rounds or not." Jess Willard: "I am going to knock Moran out in the shortest possible order." Following the ten-round draw decision on March 25, hundreds of articles were written about the fight. The New York Times article was headlined "Injured Hand Prevented L.O. Says Willard," which opens with "It is natural that the thousands who did not see the Willard-Moran heavyweight championship battle in Madison Square Garden last night are anxious to know why Willard did not win by a knockout. The bare statement that Jess injured his right hand early in the contest did not suffice as an explanation in view of the fact that he could hit Moran almost at will. Realizing the public was eager to learn the true and unadulterated facts, the writer sought Willard early this morning." The article then recounts the writer's interview with Willard, in which Willard responds at length to the writer's questions, providing the explanation which is accepted at face value that his injured hand did not allow him the power required to knock Moran out. "Fire away, ask any questions you choose." "Don't you realize that the fight fans at the garden were disappointed because you did not knock Moran out, especially when you could reach him whenever you chose with either left or right?"..."When I returned in my corner at the end of the second round I knew that I had bruised my right hand...Each time I used my right hand in an uppercut I guess it hurt me more than it did Moran..." The truth has never been exposed until now - by this document. In 1915, Willard defeated the first black champion, Jack Johnson, to gain the Heavyweight Championship that he would later lose to Jack Dempsey in 1919. In between, Willard made large sums of money making appearances, touring, and avoiding fights with dangerous opponents. This signed agreement, which stipulates Willard's control over the management of moving pictures of the fight and income distribution from the venture, exposes that Willard, along with boxing promoter Tex Rickard and others, also made large sums of money agreeing to fix Heavyweight Championship fights, fooling an unsuspecting public, and living up to the unsavory reputation that has dogged professional boxing since the earliest days of the sport. This is the most fascinating boxing document we have ever seen. Accompanied by an archive of newspaper accounts (copies) and a non-vintage photograph portrait of Tex Rickard. All signatures bold ("8" or better). The contract is contained in its own blue legal envelope wrap and is in Excellent condition. LOAs from Mike Gutierrez/GAI and James Spence & Steve Grad/PSA DNA. Reserve $300. Estimate $500/$1,000. SOLD FOR $580.00
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