Remembering Wyatt Earp’s Bare-Knuckle Boxing Brawl In Cheyenne
Hot on the heels of Cheyenne's first bare-knuckle boxing event in over a century, here's a look back at one of the biggest brawls ever held in the Capital City.
July 4, 1869, Wyatt Earp promoted a bout at the Cheyenne Depot pitting professional fighter Mike Donovan versus upstart John Shanssey. Earp was no stranger to Cheyenne. For the past year, he and his brother Virgil had followed the railroad west, setting up gambling parlors at outposts along the way.
The match was part of Cheyenne's third Independence Day celebration and drew crowds from around the area. Sadly, the main event wasn't much of a fight. The experienced Donovan pummelled Shanssey. Although he was beaten, Shanssey's toughness during the fight impressed Earp and the two men became friends.
Eight years later, Shanssey and Earp crossed paths again in Texas, where Shanssey introduced Earp to a dentist, gambler, and gunslinger named John "Doc" Holliday. Along with their mutual friend, Earp and Holliday also shared a Cheyenne connection.
In 1876, while Earp was forging his reputation as a lawmaker in Kansas, Holliday lived in Cheyenne, where he dealt faro at the fabled Bella Union Variety "Gold Room". Earp and Holliday would go on became one of the most storied duos in American history. They may have never met were it not for a boxing match in Cheyenne nearly 149 years ago.