Associated Press – April 4, 1908
CHICAGO – George Hackenschmidt, the famous “Russian Lion,” generally regarded as the greatest wrestler of his time, and heralded as the world’s champion, quit cold-blooded in his match with Frank Gotch last night at Dexter Pavilion before 8,000 spectators after wrestling tugging with the sturdy Iowa man for two solid hours.
Hackenschmidt saw that he had no chance to win and concluded that he had had enough and with the announcement: “I’ll give you the match,” he withdrew from the struggle and the spectators were dumbfounded. It was some time after referee Ed Smith announced to the crowd that Hackenschmidt had surrendered his laurels to the American before they realized what had happened.
In a moment the stage was crowded with eager admirers to greet the new champion and Gotch was almost mobbed by a friendly and joyous throng. It required the efforts of a big squad of police to drive the crowd back and when Gotch was finally rescued he was found to be more badly used up than he had been in the affair with Hackenschmidt.
The match showed conclusively that Frank Gotch is one of the greatest defensive wrestlers in the business. He discouraged the foreigner in trying to put him on his back and when Hack had lost heart he turned and assumed the aggressive and by severe rough tactics took the very heart out of the “Russian Lion,” after which it was an easy matter to bring about the surrender of Hackenschmidt, who gave up his title in a manner that will always be referred to as the most disgraceful way an athlete can lose.
For one hour and forty-five minutes the wrestlers were at it, with Gotch on the defensive. All during this time Hackenschmidt did not appear to have the least chance to throw his gritty opponent. At times Gotch would get a hustle on himself and this would throw the visitor off his guard and quiet his efforts to some degree, giving a short respite during which he took the full advantage of the opportunity to rest. While all this was tiresome to the audience, it was the course gotch believed would be to his final advantage, and in this his plans proved the proper thing.
After the slow defensive work of Gotch, which lasted 106 minutes, the American took the aggressive and by vicious work of the roughest kind, which included butting, heeling and other stunts, commonly referred to as “dirty” but which are permitted in wrestling bouts, he worried his opponent badly and Hackenschmidt was up in the air and did not know how to attack his opponent. Soon the men came close together and with apparent ease Gotch picked Hackenschmidt up and threw him bodily to the canvas. He was on top of Hack in a moment and came within an ace of turning him over. Gotch again slammed the visitor to the floor with terrific force, and the fall took all the heart out of the Lion. It could be seen that he was ready to quit by those who sat close to the mat.
When the wrestlers were on the mat a moment later Hackenschmidt withdrew from the struggle and stated to Gotch that he would tender himt he match. When asked for an explanation, Hackenschmidt refused to talk. It was suggested to him that he could have forfeited the first fall to Gotch and come back for the second, but to this he gave no answer. It was plain he had enough and was satisified to let the matter drop.
After the men had shaken hands, time was called, at 10:28 p.m.
Hackenschmidt crouched and they sparred with Gotch circling around. This jockeying continued three minutes, then Hackenschmidt clinched, but they broke again. Gotch seemed nervous, but the champion was cool. After ten minutes of tugging Gotch started to rough it and Hackenschmidt kept his temper with difficulty.
Hackenschmidt finally tried for a body grip, but could not reach Gotch. The Russian complained to referee Smith of Gotch’s butting. He missed a leg hold next. Half an hour of sparring failed to satisfy the crowd.
Gotch’s defense work puzzled Hackenschmidt completley. After an hour and three-quarters of fruitless attempts to get a hold he straightened up and looked at his opponent with disgust written in every feature.
“Come on, wrestle,” said Gotch.
The crowd cheered the American. At 12:15 o’clock Hackenschmidt asked the referee to call it a draw, but referee Smith told the men to continue. They wrestled all over the ring and then went down, Gotch on top. Hackenschmidt slipped from a toe hold.
Fifteen minutes more of the tiresome work followed. Then Hackenschmidt suddenly attacked with fury. But Gotch wriggled away and the shoulder-to-shoulder tactics began again.
Then Gotch became aggressive again and, after throwing the Russian Lion to the mat, secured a toe hold, which Hackenschmidt broke with difficulty. Gotch came right back and again slammed his opponent to the mat. It was then that Hackenschmidt got up and deliberately forfeited the match.
Wild enthusiasm reigned in the big pavilion when Gotch was acclaimed the world’s champion.