Join us for a presentation and signing with S. Derby Gisclair celebrating the launch of his new book, THE OLYMPIC CLUB OF NEW ORLEANS: Epicenter of Professional Boxing, 1883-1897.
The Olympic Club was established in New Orleans in mid-1883 as a gentlemen's athletic club catering to the city’s expanding immigrant population in the Third District, known then as the Faubourg Washington, just downriver from the Faubourg Marigny. Between 1883 and 1893 the club’s membership grew from twenty-three to nearly eleven hundred gentlemen engaging in a wide variety of athletic and leisure-time pursuits ranging from target-shooting and gymnastics to billiards and boxing. Members included city councilmen and other politicians, bartenders and businessmen, attorneys, physicians, and represented a diverse cross-section of New Orleans society. By 1889, boxing was the single most popular sport in the city and professional boxing was prominently offered by the athletic clubs across New Orleans.
At that time in New Orleans, as indeed throughout the United States, there were prohibitions against boxing and prizefighting. But in 1889 a revised city ordinance and an equally nebulous state statute were frequently tested by the Olympic Club to allow boxing events sponsored by chartered athletic clubs. Thus began a transformative process at the Olympic Club that propelled the club and New Orleans into the spotlight as the epicenter of boxing in America. In a brief four-year span between 1890 and 1894 the Olympic Club’s massive 10,000 seat arena was the venue for six world championship title fights and seven national or regional title bouts. The most famous of these events was the Fistic Carnival – an event in 1892 that featured three successive world championship title matches over three successive days, culminating in the heavyweight championship fight between John L. Sullivan and James J. Corbett.
THE OLYMPIC CLUB OF NEW ORLEANS provides an in-depth chronicle of boxing in New Orleans during the latter half of the nineteenth century, interspersed with brief vignettes of New Orleans’ history that helped shape the prevailing attitudes influencing the rise and fall of perhaps the most famous boxing venue of its day – the Olympic Club.
S. Derby Gisclair is sports historian and author living in New Orleans, LA. The Olympic Club of New Orleans is his third book. His essay “The Sporting Life” was featured in New Orleans & The World: The Tricentennial Anthology. He has written extensively on the history of baseball, boxing, and horse racing for 64 Parishes (formerly Louisiana Cultural Vistas) and New Orleans Magazine, and is a frequent contributor to the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities’ online encyclopedia on Sports & Recreation.
Established in 1883, the Olympic Club catered to a variety of pursuits from target shooting to billiards to boxing--the most popular sport in New Orleans, despite legal prohibitions. A revised city ordinance and a vague state statute permitting boxing sponsored by chartered athletic clubs were frequently tested at the Olympic, the epicenter of boxing in America.