Fox was a boxing journalist and the author of numerous books on boxing, including "Famous Fights in the Prize Ring," published in 1877. He was also the publisher of the National Police Gazette, the authoritative boxing journal before The Ring and the most important sporting newspaper of the time. As proprietor of the Police Gazette, Fox probably did more to popularize boxing in America than anybody else in the 19th Century.
Fox was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1855 and arrived in the United States in 1874. He worked as a newspaper writer and saved enough money to purchase the Police Gazette in 1876. He quickly converted the weekly newspaper from a scandal sheet to a sportsman's publication, often hyping the great prize fights of the day and printing ring records and other boxing stories.
Fox was also an active sports promoter and helped promote the John L. Sullivan-Paddy Ryan fight in Mississippi City on February 2, 1882. It was during that fight that Sullivan became the bare knuckle heavyweight champion and the contest was considered the first great prize fight in American boxing history.
Fox had a tremendous dislike for Sullivan, who once snubbed him at a New York City saloon, so he assumed the role of Ryan's financial backer enabling the fight to be made. In that era, each side had to produce an agreed upon sum of money and the winner kept it all. Fox also helped cover Ryan's side bets, which was another common practice that helped fighters earn more than the agreed upon purse.
Fox also financed other heavyweight challengers. Among them was Englishman Tug Wilson, who fought an exhibition with Sullivan at Madison Square Garden on July 17, 1882, and New Zealander Herbert Slade, who was knocked out by Sullivan in three rounds on August 6, 1883.
Fox also popularized the presentation of title belts. Prior to the July 8, 1889 fight between Sullivan and Jake Kilrain, another bout he backed, Fox presented Kilrain with a lavish belt made from 200 ounces of solid silver and decorated with diamond-studs and gold ornaments. In the name of the Police Gazette, he issued belts to champions in various weight classes.
The Sullivan-Kilrain battle took place in Richburg, Mississippi, and was the last last bare-knuckle heavyweight title fight in history. It ended after 75 rounds with Kilrain unable to continue fighting.