July 4, 1869: The Biggest Boxing Match in Wyoming History
In Wyoming's early days, boxing was the most popular spectator sport.
The biggest boxing match to ever take place in the Cowboy State became famous, not because of the fight, but due to the legendary alliance it helped create.
On July 4,1869, Wyatt Earp arrived at the Cheyenne Depot to take bets on a bout pitting travelling 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 temporary gambling parlors and boxing books at each outpost along the way.
The match was part of Cheyenne's third Independence Day celebration and drew crowds from across the area. Sadly, the main event wasn't much of a fight. The experiencced Donovan pummelled Shanssey.
Although he was beaten, Shanssey's toughness during the fight impressed Earp and the two men became friends. It's also likely that Earp employed Shanssey for more fights that summer.
Eight years later, Shanssey and Earp crossed paths again in Texas, where Shansey introduced Earp to a dentist , gambler and gunslinger named John "Doc" Holliday.
Not only did Earp and Holliday share a mutual friend in Shanssey, they also shared a Wyoming connection.
In 1876, while Earp was forging his repuation as a lawmaker in Kansas, Holliday lived in Cheyenne, where he spent several months working as card dealer at the fabled Bella Union Variety "Gold Room".
Earp and Holliday would go on became one of the most storied duos in American history. Chances are, they would have never met if it weren't for a boxing match in Wyoming nearly 147 years ago.