In Richburg, Miss, on July 8, 1889, Kilrain and Sullivan, raw and blistered by a blazing sun, poked and fouled each other for 75 rounds. When Harding left the ring after Round 42, convinced that Kilrain could not win, Sullivan attempted to administer the coup de gr�ce by sitting on Kilrain's head. Sullivan began vomiting in the 44th round, and Kilrain took heart. "Will you draw the fight?" he asked. As soon as Sullivan was able to speak, he said, "No, you loafer," and went after Kilrain savagely. When it finally looked as though Kilrain might die from heat or exhaustion, his seconds tossed in the sponge. In boxing's last bareknuckle championship fight, Sullivan was declared the winner. He promptly turned the Gazette belt over to one of his backers. "You might want it for your bulldog," he said. Later he took the belt back, pried out the diamonds and hocked the rest for $175. Kilrain was grief-stricken. He boarded a train in fighting rig, the blood trickling down his temple, tears flowing down his cheeks. Deserted except for two newspapermen, he wept uncontrollably. When they told him that he had not disgraced himself, he stopped long enough to say, "No, I've lost my friends' money, and with their money goes their friendship."
While lining up challengers for Sullivan, Fox also fought to legalize boxing. He maintained that "scientific sparring exhibitions" were within the law, and with his lawyers, including Abe Hummel of the notorious firm of Howe and Hummel, he worked out a plan that would make boxing acceptable in New York. The court fights made good copy for the Gazette, and in defending boxing Fox was protecting his investment.
By 1882, only six years after he had taken over the Gazette, the paper was worth millions. Fox had $3 million in cash, and to celebrate he built himself a seven-story headquarters near the Brooklyn Bridge. It cost more than $250,000 and stood for almost 80 years, a monument to vulgarity. Fox decorated its 12 fire escapes with cast-iron figures of baseball players, fighters, jockeys and, modestly, the initials "RKF" entwined, appropriately, with four horseshoes. The clock on the roof, a New York landmark, once brought Fox hundreds of letters from angry citizens when it ran slow and made them late for work. Above the main entrance was the stone head of a fox. On two floors steam printing presses turned out the Gazette and hundreds of sensational and sporting books culled from its columns. Sold for a quarter, these books now fetch $15 to $30 each as collector's items. The reception room was a sports museum, the walls displaying gold and silver testimonials to the athletic way of life. Talk of money, bets and matches and cigar smoke filled the air.
As Fox accumulated more and more money from the Gazette, he turned to philanthropy. He renovated a rat-infested tenement in Chinatown and made it into a model development. Fox Flats I rented for $10 to $15 a month, for which a tenant received hot and cold water, gas, a bathroom, steam heat, the use of a marble staircase in the lobby and such esthetic adornments as statues of Ike Weir, the Belfast Spider, and Miss Libby Ross, the champion lady boxer of the world. Distinguished residents included Chuck Connors, the so-called Mayor of Chinatown, who paid no rent, and a celebrated burglar, Barney (Piano Tuner) Blood, a habitu� of Sing Sing. Fox misjudged this crew's readiness for model housing. Soon they were peddling the statues, the plumbing and, in one instance, a section of the marble staircase.
Disgusted, Fox moved on to more rewarding activities—his racehorse, Police Gazette, purchased for $10,000; his amateur baseball team, the Foxes; and his European society friends, in whose company he found greater acceptance and respect than among highbrow Americans. In 1885 on a trip to London, Fox, whose first wife had died, met and married a tall, handsome Englishwoman named Helen Dods. Although friends considered the Foxes a "singularly happy couple" for almost 20 years, Helen one day in 1905 loaded her clothes into six trunks and disappeared on a boat to Europe. When Fox sued for divorce, the story that emerged rivaled anything he had ever run in The Pinky.
While traveling in Europe the year before, the Foxes had met and been charmed by a handsome Austrian named Alfred Stein. Almost 30 years Helen Fox's junior, Stein became infatuated with her (or her money) and followed the couple back to New York. Unknown to Richard K., the Austrian took rooms on West 36th Street, where Mrs. Fox visited him almost daily while her husband was downtown. When, at her suggestion, Fox and his eldest son took a trip to Florida, she and Stein booked passage to France. Fox returned and found in place of his wife's jewels a "Dear Richard" note. Though he put private detectives on the. couple's trail, Fox never caught up with his wife. He won an uncontested divorce. In 1913 he married Emma Louise Robinson, who remained with him until his death.
Ironically, by the time the Gazette's editor became the victim of a love triangle, his weekly, widely imitated by the tabloids, had lost much of its vigor and sauciness. People could read all the spicy stories they wanted to, every day, in the other papers. Fox replaced his unique woodcuts with ordinary photographs of racing cars, horses, yachts, baseball players, boxers and now and then a modestly clad actress. Sports became the Gazette's mainstay, and in 1905 Fox, "who seems to have the happy faculty of doing the proper thing at the proper time" (to quote his own paper), put up a $1,000 cup for the winner of the World Series. By now, though, every daily in New York had a brightly written sports page. When the 18th Amendment dried up the Gazette's barroom circulation and women invaded the barbershops demanding bobbed haircuts, the paper started to slide. It was still sliding when Fox, worth almost $2 million, died at his mansion in Red Bank, N.J. on November 14, 1922.
There were few mourners, but an epitaph might have been written from a puff the Gazette once ran in the '80s: "To see the slender, almost boyish proprietor of this wonderful business moving modestly and good-humoredly through its mazes...is to make one convinced that after all even Monte Cristo was a possible character, with the difference, however, that Monte Cristo had his fortune made for him, while Richard K. Fox forced fortune to smile on him by his own genius, good judgment and indomitable energy of will."