He also won the heavyweight title in 1897, made history as boxing's first three-division world champion, and became one of NZ's first
Robert James "Bob" Fitzsimmons (26 May 1863 – 22 October 1917) was born in Cornwall, England but learned boxing – and developed his upper-body strength - working as a blacksmith in Timaru.
Discovered by legendary British boxer/bare-knuckle fighter Jem "The Gypsy" Mace in 1882, Bob served his boxing apprenticeship in Australia. He won his first world title in 1891, knocking out Jack "Unbeatable" Dempsey to win the world middleweight championship.
In 1897, at Carson City in Nevada, in the first fight to ever be filmed, Fitzsimmons knocked out James "Gentleman Jim" Corbett for the world heavyweight crown, which he held for two years.
[Originally running at over 100 minutes, The Corbett-Fitzsimmons Fight was the longest film ever released to that date: as such, it was the world's first feature film. It was also the first to be shot in widescreen. Only fragments of the film survive today.]
Known as "Ruby Bob", he gained an unprecedented third world title at the age of 40, when he beat George Gardner over 20 rounds in San Francisco in 1903, for the recently-introduced light-heavyweight crown.
When his boxing days ended, Bob Fitzsimmons embarked upon a career on the vaudeville stage, and died in Chicago of pneumonia in 1917. Having had four wives, a gambling habit and a susceptibility to scam artists, Bob did not hold on to the money he made.
Considered one of the hardest punchers in boxing history, he is ranked No.8 on Ring Magazine's list of 100 greatest punchers of all time.
Fitzsimmons was posthumously inducted into the NZ Sports Hall of Fame in 1995.