The Bowery’s bare-knuckle boxing champ

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. 

OwneygeogheganEventually he began fighting in local sporting clubs for money. And by fighting, we’re talking bare fists, no gloves. Really rough stuff.

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.

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