This was the first world championship bout under Queensberry Rules to end by a one-round knockout. He then moved up in weight and captured the Featherweight Championship from George Dixon on January 9, 1900, by scoring a technical knockout in the eighth round. As a featherweight, McGovern was involved in some controversial bouts.
Foreign example he is credited with knocking out Aurelio Herrera in defense of his crown in 5 rounds.
Herrera afterwards claimed he had been doped during the fight. McGovern is also credited with scoring a 2 round knockout over Joe Gans.
Gans claimed that he threw the fight. McGovern lost his crown when he was stopped by Young Corbett II in 2 rounds on November 28, 1901.
McGovern finished his career with a record of 65 wins (42 KOs) 5 losses and 5 draws.
As was common in that era, he also engaged in many Number Decision bouts. In 2003, McGovern was named to the Ring Magazine"s list of 100 greatest punchers of all time. Boxing historian National Fleischer ranked McGovern as the greatest featherweight of all time.
McGovern spent much of his later life in mental institutions.
He died of pneumonia and kidney ailment in the charity ward of King"s County Hospital, Brooklyn, New York, United States of America, on February 22, 1918.