A Famous athlete turned actor jolts the nation when he is arrested and charged with the brutal murder of the woman he loves. His trial in a Hollywood court is held against a backdrop of palms and packs of mad-dog journalists. It is an incredible but true melodrama.
And to think that this all happened 70 years before O.J. Simpson's trial of the century.
Indeed, the Simpson saga is a remake: Fallen Hero II. The original featured a former boxer as celebrity-defendant—52-year-old Norman Selby, alias Kid McCoy. That name has long since been consigned to the dustbin of sports history, but decades ago it had big-time marquee appeal. The
Los Angeles Times
reporter at McCoy's 1924 trial wrote that the ex-boxer "basked in the glances of numerous admirers, a lot that has been his since the day he first sprang into prominence as a crafty ring fighter."
McCoy's arrest—much like Simpson's—represents a sordid episode in a life filled with remarkable accomplishments. According to The Ring Record Book and Boxing Encyclopedia, Kid McCoy's career lasted from 1891 to 1916 and comprised 80 wins, six losses, six draws and nine no-decisions. He won the world welterweight title in 1896 and later fought as a middleweight and light heavyweight. He was eventually inducted into both the International Boxing Hall of Fame and Ring magazine's own boxing hall of fame.
Onetime heavyweight champ James (Gentleman Jim) Corbett called McCoy "a genius of scientific fighting." Among other things, the Kid was credited with inventing the corkscrew punch, in which he snapped his wrist just before landing a blow. This bit of nastiness, McCoy contended, helped slice open his rivals' faces.
As a cub sportswriter for the
Chicago Examiner, Damon Runyon described-McCoy as "one of the cleverest, craftiest men who ever put on boxing gloves." Runyon was probably just as appreciative of McCoy's freewheeling lifestyle.
The details of McCoy's background are blurry. Boxing lore has it that Norman Selby was born in 1872 or 1873, and left his home in Moscow, Ind., at the age of 13—or possibly 16. He learned to box either while riding the rails and beating up hobos or while hanging out at the YMCA in Louisville. And he may have borrowed his surname from one of the following: a railroad station sign; a struggling actor; or Pete McCoy, a friend of the celebrated fighter John L. Sullivan.
The Kid drifted into boxing in the Midwest, then worked his way east, becoming known for his speed. From the
New York World, March 1898: McCoy's "movements are quick and cat-like. He does not look the prize fighter, nor is he built like one."
Modest of build though he was, McCoy could be buzz-saw tough. During one seven-year period he averaged a fight a month, once achieving two knockouts in a single day. In 1899 he had a memorable slugfest in San Francisco with Joe Choynski. McCoy suffered a broken nose and three broken ribs and was floored 16 times, yet he knocked out Choynski in Round 20.
The Kid was also known for his schizophrenic ring persona. McCoy the noble gladiator and McCoy the conniving trickster were one and the same fighter. In a 1904 bout against one Herr Placke, a Dutch boxer, McCoy supposedly whispered to his opponent that his shorts were slipping. When Placke reached down to pull them up, the Kid decked him.