Where, and when, was the shortest world heavyweight title fight in history?

Confusingly, while the Guinness World Records website states that, ‘There is a distinction between the quickest knock-out and the shortest fight’, it does not elucidate any further. In any event, according to the international authority, the shortest world heavyweight title fight took place at the Cadillac Athletic Club in Detroit, Michigan on April 6, 1900.

In his second defence of the world heavyweight title, James J. Jeffries, a.k.a. ‘The Boilmaker’, faced one of his sparring partners, John ‘Jack’ Finnegan, who weighed in at just 180lb – fully 60lb ligher than Jeffries and, according to a contemporary report, ‘looked like a boy beside the champion’. Unfortunately, the contest was as one-sided as the weight differential suggested it might be, with Jeffries flooring his opponent twice in the opening seconds with left hooks to the jaw and finishing him off with another, to the body, after just 55 seconds.

However, rather mysteriously, an even shorter world heavyweight title fight took place at the Nynex Arena in Manchester, Lancashire on April 18, 1998. In the first defence of his World Boxing Organisation (WBO) World Heavyweight title, Herbie ‘Dancing Destroyer’ Hide made short work of the unheralded ‘Dangerous’ Damon Reed, winning without his opponent landing a blow.

Hide connected with a clubbing right hand after just 15 seconds of the opening round and followed up with a left hook, knocking his opponent down. Reed, cut under his left eye, struggled to his feet and, although reluctant to do so, referee Rudy Battle allowed to fight to continue, albeit momentarily. Hide immediately unleashed a right-left combination and Battle dived in to protect Reed from further punishment, waving the fight off and handing victory to Hide by technical knockout after 52 seconds. A mismatch, in the same vein as the Jeffries-Finnegan fight nearly a century earlier, the contest was described in commentary as a ‘predictable farce’.

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