Thomas Joseph Sharkey aka "Sailor Tom" (1871 – 1953) Ireland’s World Heavyweight Champion is listed among Ring Magazine's 100 greatest punchers of all time.
Born in Dundalk, Co Louth he left Ireland as a young man to join the merchant ships. As the story goes, he ran away from home at age 12 and went to sea as a cabin boy. For several years he worked on ships hauling cargo around the world. “You can figure the life,” he said later. “There was hardly a week that I was not in a fight.” Shipwrecked four times, once Sharkey and his shipmates spent three days drifting in the Pacific Ocean with neither food nor drink.
In 1892, after seven years of that, Sharkey landed New York City and became a blacksmith. Age 19, he enlisted in the US Navy, which is where he started to box. When the USS Philadelphia docked in Hawaii in 1893, Sharkey turned professional and scored 17 straight KOs.
He won his first professional bout, in Honolulu, on St Patrick’s Day 1893, when he knocked out the British Navy heavyweight champion Jack Gardner in four rounds.
On December 2, 1896, in San Francisco Sharkey fought Bob Fitzsimmons (who would take Corbett’s belt in 1897) refereed by former lawman Wyatt Earp. Fitzsimmons knocked Tom out in the eighth round, but ex-gunfighter Wyatt Earp, the referee, ruled that Fitz’s punch was south of the border and gave the win to Sharkey. That one will be debated forever.
He is credited with having won 40 fights (with 37 KOs), 7 losses, and 5 draws all told.
After he hung up his gloves, Sharkey did some wrestling and opened a saloon in New York City. But the cops shut it down and put Tom in jail for a month. When he got out he opened another saloon. He liked to gamble, and in 1916 rode his own stable of racehorses into bankruptcy.
He moved to San Francisco, working as a horse track guard, a carnival strongman and a warehouse guard. He was called the “Mayor of Fourth St.” by people who enjoyed hearing him denigrate the heavyweights of that time as unfit to be sparring partners for him and his bunch.
“All I can say is that when the champions got through with Mrs Sharkey’s little boy Tom, they knew they had been in a fight.” he wrote.
Tom Sharkey died on April 17, 1953, at the age of 82. He was interred at Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno, California.
|Date of Birth||16th Nov 1873|
|Date of Death||17th Apr 1953|
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|Irish Times: Tom Sharkey lit by Edison||Ireland||VIEW SOURCE|