John Burke, Andy Bowen and 110 Rounds of Brutal Gloved Fighting

Get to know about the longest recorded bout in boxing history that led to both fighters losing almost 10 lbs over the course of 110, 3-minute rounds.

John Burke x Andy Bowen
(left) Andy Bowen, then Southern Lightweight Champion , (Right) John Burke

John Burke and Andy Bowen should have ideally been just a footnote among the many forgotten inside the squared circle however one night (and day) changed their lives forever as they decided to enter the annals of boxing history together when they competed in the longest bout in recorded history.

Since the introduction of the Queensbury rules, Boxing had gone from a bare-knuckled backroom brawl where even grappling was allowed to a gloved attempt at civilized brutality. However one simply cannot wash off the stains of the past by hiding them under gloves.

It was around this time that Andy Bowen, the lightweight champion of the US South decided to travel all the way to New Orleans to defend his title at the Olympic Club. His opponent was originally supposed to be someone else, however when that individual pulled out at the last minute, John Burke, his trainer replaced him.

The fight between Burke and Bowen started off like any other, with both fighters trying to establish their range and go for the kill. However, no one in the ring or any of the spectators knew what they were on track to witness. Back then since there were no round limitations, it was commonplace for bouts to go for 20- 30 rounds with some rare cases even lasting for 50.

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John Burke and Andy Bowen battled it out for nearly 7 hours

John Burke x Andy Bowen
A newspaper clipping from the time showing John Burke and Andy Bowen

The bout between Bowen and Burke lasted a record, 110 rounds. Back then the only rule was, no biting and the fight goes on until one is unable to continue. It was the latter that kept both these men pushing. Burke may have thought after his initial successes that the fight was in the bag for him. However, Bowen was one the earliest recorded examples of an “iron chin” and reportedly kept walking right through Burke’s many punches.

This led to Burke realizing at a point in the fight that in fact, both his hands were broken. There came a point where the spectators started leaving their stands as they had already been there for upwards of 3 hours. Later these same spectators would come back after having dinner to resume watching the never-ending brawl.

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Reporters at the event noted sleeping spectators, a demoralized referee and a beyond exhausted pair of fighters. As midnight long passed, both fighters were unable to gather the strength to fight back, and the referee, John Duffy realizing this announced in the 108th round that without a decisive winner in the next two rounds the bout would be declared a no-contest.

Despite this threatening ultimatum, both fighters were unable to amount to much in terms of offense as they were exhausted after nearly 7 hours of active battle. The fight was ultimately called off as a no contest with later discoveries showing that the two had lost about 10lbs each during the fight.

While Burke would go on to have a long boxing career after, including a successful stint in business, Bowen was not so lucky as he decided to keep boxing after allowing six weeks to heal himself. He would die in the ring as a result of a direct clash with a wooden canvas during his bout against Kid Lavigne.

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