Terry McGovern (Joseph Terrence McGovern)

Terry McGovern

Terry McGovern

A feared puncher called “Terrible Terry, the Brooklyn Terror”, he held the world bantemweight and featherweight crowns at the dawn of the 20th. century. Born Joseph Terrence McGovern, he was raised in Brooklyn and received no formal education. Just when he took-up boxing is unclear but his first recorded professional fight was a disqualification loss to Johnny Snee on April 3, 1897; he scored his first win two weeks later by decisioning Frank Burns and gradually built up his reputation by fighting frequently in and around Brooklyn. McGovern claimed the world bantemweight crown with a first round knockout of Pedlar Palmer at Tuckahoe, New York, on September 12, 1899, but never defended his title and abandoned it a year later. Moving up to the 126 pound featherweight division he earned the world championship in New York City on January 9, 1900, by stopping George Dixon in the eighth round. After a number of successful defenses he was knocked out in the second round by Young Corbett II on November 28, 1901, at Hartford, Connecticut. McGovern kept fighting and winning but in a rematch with Corbett was stopped in the 11th. round at San Francisco on March 31, 1903. As time went on his trips into the ring became more infrequent; he scored his final victory with a first round knockout of Harlem Tommy Murphy at Philadelphia on October 18, 1905, fought an October 17, 1906, draw with Corbett, also in Philadelphia, and in the last bout of his career drew with Spike Robson in New York City on May 26, 1908. His lifetime record was 65 wins with 44 by knockout, six losses, and seven draws. Though still a young man his final years were difficult involving multiple admissions to insane asylums. McGovern was named the greatest featherweight of all time by “Ring” magazine publisher Nat Fleischer, this despite occasional allegations of doping, glove tampering, and rigged fights with which Fleischer would certainly have been familiar, and in 1990 was a charter inductee into the World Boxing and International Boxing Halls of Fame. Notwithstanding his late life difficulties at his death from a combination of acute and chronic problems he was accorded a large funeral at which one of his pallbearers was composer George M. Cohan.

More Images

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  • March, 09, 1880
  • Johnstown, Pennsylvania


  • February, 22, 1918
  • Brooklyn, New York

Cause of Death

  • pneumonia and kidney ailment


  • Holy Cross Cemetery
  • Brooklyn, New York

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