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'Torpedo Billy' Murphy wins world featherweight boxing title

13 January 1890

Thomas William Murphy
Thomas William Murphy (‘Torpedo Billy’), c. 1905 (Alexander Turnbull Library, 1/1-007887-G)

By defeating Irishman Ike Weir at San Francisco, Murphy became the first New Zealander to win a world professional boxing title. Until Joseph Parker won the World Boxing Organization’s version of the heavyweight title in 2016, Murphy was the only New Zealand-born boxer to have held a recognised world professional title.

Born in Auckland in 1862, Thomas William Murphy (‘Torpedo Billy’) began boxing as a teenager before moving to Australia in 1887. Two years later, he moved to the United States.

Weir dominated the early rounds of the title fight, but Murphy knocked him down five times in the 13th round and knocked him out in the 14th.

When Murphy returned to New Zealand, he was deemed to have forfeited his title. It continued to be recognised in New Zealand and Australia until he lost to Australian Albert Griffiths in September 1890 in Sydney.

Murphy later returned to the United States. By the time he hung up his gloves in 1907 he had fought 112 times for 65 wins, 32 losses and 15 draws. Billy Murphy died in 1939 and was made an inaugural member of the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame in 1990.

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'Torpedo Billy' Murphy wins world featherweight boxing title, URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated