Irish immigrant Owen “Owney” Geoghegan wasn’t a big guy—he stood just 5′ 6” and weighed less than 140 pounds. But as a teenager working in the gasworks on 21st Street and the East River, he earned a rep as one tough fighter.
By the time he hit his 20s, he was a champion, holding the U.S. lightweight title from 1861 to 1863.
Geoghegan left the ring soon after. He opened his own sporting club at 21st Street and First Avenue, which became a fighter’s hangout, and then opened another at 103 Bowery.
He also entered local politics, was arrested for a variety of crimes ranging from letting a minor frequent his Bowery club to murdering a local thug.
After a stint in prison and bankruptcy, he died in 1885, only 45 years old. He was “permanently broken down,” as his obituary in the New York Times stated.
Tags: 103 Bowery, bare-knuckle boxing, Bowery saloons of the 19th century, boxing in the 19th century, boxing without gloves, gasworks district East River, history of boxing, Owney Geoghegan, U.S. lightweight champions