Siki now returned
to his headlong rushes, with McTigue concentrating on keeping out of the way.
In the 14th, Siki clinched for the first time. In the next round, Siki reopened
the cut over McTigue's eye with a long left, but he also took a right to the
jaw that stopped him in his tracks.
Though it is
tricky to judge from the edited film, three of the last five rounds appear to
be McTigue's. Siki's desperate attempts for a knockout, given his scythelike
swings, left him open to counter-punches. In the combined 17th and 18th rounds,
McTigue, no longer backing away, ducked several swings and landed solid rights
and lefts to the head, apparently astonished that Siki remained upright.
Several times he shoved Siki into the ropes. In the 19th, Siki landed a
powerful right to the jaw as McTigue twisted away and ran.
Reports of the
fight said the crowd fell silent before the 20th round. The seconds ticked away
in a hush of expectancy. Siki was unmarked; McTigue had a bloody forehead, a
swollen mouth and bruised cheeks. At the bell, Siki typically launched himself
into action. Dodging another roundhouse swing, McTigue hammered in a short
right. The crowd was yelling, "McTigue! McTigue! McTigue!" The men were
trading punches in the center of the ring when the bell sounded.
SIKI ON POINTS. A DISAPPOINTING FIGHT. So ran the headline across The Irish
Times. It was the same old story with McTigue, who was never so disappointing
as when he won. When the referee raised his arm, McTigue's father, pushing his
way through the crowd, lifted up his son, spun him around in the air, and
kissed him. Back in the dressing room, Siki kept repeating in French, "I
beat him! I beat him."
Republicans and Free Staters cheered, until the familiar sound of gunfire in
the Dublin streets led them to disperse. But it was only the government
soldiers firing into the air to clear a passage so that the crowd in the
theater could leave.
All night long
bonfires blazed on the hills around Kilnamona. "The scenes that followed
can scarcely be described," said the Clare Champion, which then went on to
describe them. "All our people, young and old, were frantic with joy.
Cheers for McTigue, for Kilnamona and for Clare rent the air. Tongues of fire
shot up here and there on the distant hills, until the whole country seemed
But had McTigue
really won? By all accounts—and the old film confirms them—the fight was Siki's
through the first six rounds, and he was the aggressor through most of the
remainder. After-the-fight discussions were tributes to McTigue's skill:
"He was the personification of coolness and his footwork and ring-craft
were superb," for example, or "McTigue's wonderful defense and
dexterity in avoiding punishment were object lessons in themselves." But no
contemporary observer, looking at McTigue on the screen, could agree with that.
He was awkward and woefully inept in the one thing that counted: he could not
damage Siki despite innumerable opportunities to do so. He had fractured the
thumb on his right hand in the fourth round and that may have contributed to
one of the greatest demonstrations of ring generalship that I have ever
seen," the referee said. "If he had tried to fight Siki he would have
lost. Boxing him, he won." Even The Sporting Times' rather skeptical
reporter said, "Any man less resourceful would have been brought down by
Silo's whipping, slashing blows."
Indeed, there was
a kind of heroism in McTigue's humiliating retreat and his acceptance of
indignity, especially before his countrymen, in the midst of a civil war, on
St. Patrick's Day. McTigue's dignity was almost as much a part of his fighting
life as his fists, and its sacrifice was harrowing to observe.
The film may not
end arguments about the fight, but it plainly establishes one important matter:
it was a real fight. The legends—including the referee's urging of the
recumbent McTigue to get up and fight—are ridiculous in the face of its painful
truth. As Carpentier said, there was something uncanny about the fight. In the
eye of the camera, McTigue and Siki were fighting invisible opponents rather
than each other, Siki forever swinging at someone who wasn't there and McTigue
defending himself against a menacing figure which transcended the opponent he