John Reid McGowan

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Jack McGowan
Real nameJohn Reid McGowan
Nickname(s)Gentlman Jack
Born(1872-10-04)4 October 1872
South Melbourne, Australia
Died18 July 1912(1912-07-18) (aged 39)
Melbourne Australia
Boxing record
Total fights112
Wins by KO28 (25%)
No contests2

John Reid "Gentleman Jack" McGowan (1872 – 18 July 1912) was an Australian boxing champion. During his long career in the ring he fought over 110 battles, and was the first fighter to win three Australian titles at different weights, holding the titles of bantam, feather, and light-weight champion of Australia.


McGowan was a first generation Australian and resident of South Melbourne. He was one of six children born to Scottish immigrants William Daniel McGowan and Jane McGowan (née Reid). In 1891 he was married to Mary Josephine Clancy. They had a son and a daughter before Mary died in 1896. In 1902 he married Elizabeth Mary Ellen Dykes and they had one son and three daughters.

Boxing career[edit]

McGowan first entered the ring in October 1889, when at Albury he drew with Mick Colles in a 15 rounds match. McGowan won the bantam championship in 1891 be beating George Griffiths. In 1893 was beaten by Nipper Peakes for the feather-weight championship. On the retirement of Peakes, McGowan fought Harry Perry for the championship, and won in 14 rounds.

In 1894 began the sequence of four memorable fights between McGowan and Tim Hegarty for the championship. They met four times. In the first three battles (each 20 rounds) Hegarty won on points. The fourth, of 20 rounds, resulted in a draw, it having been agreed that if both were on their feet to draw the stakes.

In 1896 Jack Marshall took McGowan to South Africa. There he beat Holloway for the light-weight championship of the country in four rounds, and Jimmy Murphy in 15 rounds.

In 1899 McGowan beat George Atkinson in three battles of 15, 20 and 51 rounds. He later encountered a boxer named Tom Mitchell at the Melbourne Democratic Club. Mitchell weighed over 11 st to McGowan's 9 st 4 lb, McGowan stayed the limit but the verdict went against him.

In 1904 McGowan fought Tasmanian lightweight champion Billy Maher in Ballarat. McGowan broke his arm in the 8th round but fought on till police intervened and stopped the fight in round 11. The referee declared the fight a draw.[1]

McGowan was out of commission for a number of years, having turned his attention entirely to instruction of pupils at the Melbourne Athletic Club and University of Melbourne Athletic Club. He came back after a few years and fought Bob Greenshields in 1909 to win the lightweight championship of Australia.

McGowan was at one stage a boxing pupil of "The Black Diamond" Jack Dowridge, a Barbadian immigrant who pioneered boxing in Brisbane, Australia. Among Dowridge's other pupils was "The Black Prince" Peter Jackson (boxer).

McGowan was inducted into the Australian National Boxing Hall of Fame (ANBHOF) in 2008.

Bland Holt Dramatic Company[edit]

Another source of income for McGowan when not boxing was appearing and touring with the Bland Holt Dramatic Company. He would take part in novelty sporting exhibitions which were written into the plays. In Sporting Life he gave demonstrations of scientific boxing with another lightweight, played on at least one occasion by his brother Archibald McGowan, an amateur lightweight champion himself.Wanganui Chronicle review, 7 February 1900[2][3]

Australian Rules Football[edit]

When boxing commitments allowed, McGowan played Australian rules football with VFA club South Melbourne (Now known as the Sydney Swans) during the club's successful late 1880s to mid 1890s period, including at least one Premiership team in 1890. South Melbourne Team Saturday 27 September 1890 vs Richmond

Extract from The Bulletin, Wednesday 26 May 1936


McGowan died from a cerebral haemorrhage in the Melbourne Hospital after collapsing while sparring with a pupil at the Melbourne Athletic Club.

Two weeks earlier he had sustained slight concussion of the brain by colliding with one of his pupils and had been advised to rest.

He is buried at Melbourne General Cemetery.

McGowan Street, Southbank, Victoria (Formerly South Melbourne) is named in his honour.


  1. ^ Sporting Judge Argus 28 May 1904
  2. ^ Argus 24 July 1900
  3. ^ Sydney Morning Herald 29 October 1904


  • The Gladiator (27 July 1912). "Obituary". The Weekly Times.
  • "Obituary". The Age. 19 July 1912.
  • "Death of The Black Diamond". The Argus. 26 April 1922.
  • "Boxing by the Chipper". The Sporting Judge. 28 May 1904.

External links[edit]

Photographs of John Reid McGowan held at the National Library of Australia [1] [2]

McGowan's boxing record at Box Rec [3]

Article from the Argus 1900 [4]

Review of Bland Holt's Sporting Life from Evening Post, New Zealand, 22 November 1899 [5]

Reminiscence of Gentleman Jack McGowan, NZ Truth, 8 July 1916 [6]