Audio version: Download MP3 or use controls below:
No. No, he was not. At the end of the fourth round, “Brusso” decided that it was time to spring the trap. Accordingly, he put a hard straight right past Coldwell’s guard with proper professional snap. It exploded on Coldwell’s nose and, as the boxing press of the day often put it, “started the claret.” And this appears to have been the moment when Coldwell realized he was in some serious trouble.
The gong sounded, the round ended, and Coldwell got a little time to think about things while he dealt with his nosebleed. In light of subsequent events, there’s certainly a decent chance that one of the thoughts that passed through his mind was the possibility that he might end the match by faking a foul.
All too quickly, it was time for Round Five. Right away, “Brusso” clinched and then broke away with a body blow to Coldwell’s midriff. It wasn’t a hard hit, but Coldwell wasn’t expecting it and was not ready for it.
“Just as soon as the red-headed piker could get his breath, he howled, ‘It’s no fair to hit a man in the stomach,’” the Oregonian reported. “’That’s a foul!’”
Coldwell jumped out of the ring to stop the fight while he pressed his suit. Nobody was impressed, least of all the referee: “Tommy Tracey almost threw a fit,” the Oregonian reported.
Tracey told Coldwell to shut up and that if he wasn’t back in the ring in two minutes, “Brusso” would be declared the winner.
“The clock was started, and the crowd waited with anticipation,” author Bruce Haney writes in his new book, Eccentric Tales of Boring, Oregon. “The townsfolk had put a lot of effort into this fight. They did not want Free Coldwell dead, but they did want him maimed. A bloody nose and a punch to the stomach did not live up to the beating they had plotted for him. But the clock ran out, and Free Coldwell did not get back in the ring.”
So Tracey raised Burns’ arm and declared him the victor.
IT WAS PRETTY OBVIOUS to everyone what had happened: After figuring out how severely outclassed he was, Coldwell was trying to use this “foul” as a pretext for withdrawing from the field. They probably all assumed he knew perfectly well that body blows were not fouls, and figured he was pretending ignorance because he’d become desperate for an excuse to disengage.
If so, it sure didn’t work very well. Unlike Bad, Bad Leroy Brown, Free Coldwell did not look “like a jigsaw puzzle with a couple pieces gone” after this fight; but his reputation sure did.
“Today and for many days to come the good citizens of Boring will congratulate themselves,” the Oregonian’s reporter wrote. “They have rid themselves of the town pest. Their only regret is that Coldwell did not get the beating they had mapped out for him.”
Their regret was probably short-lived. The article about the fight appeared in the Sunday Oregonian the very next morning, at the very top of the front page, under a giant headline reading, “JUST A QUITTER: Boring’s Town-Terror Done by Prize Fighter.”
“When He Gets a Blow in the Stomach, Free Coldwell Screams ‘No Fair,’ and Quits for Good,” one of the sub-headlines added.
After that, there was no way Free Coldwell could stay in town and face the people he’d been lording over for the previous few months. It’s not clear how long he stayed in Boring after this humiliation, but it was probably a matter of hours. And as author Haney puts it, “there are no references to Free Coldwell harassing the town of Boring again.”