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robert.snell1@ntlworld.com

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BILL BENJAMIN (known also as Bill Bainge)

Some might say who the hell was Bill Benjamin (Bainge), but he was the man who unsuccessfully fought Tom Sayers twice for the Championship of England. Born in Northleach, Gloucestershire c.1825, although later residing in Shirenewton, near Chepstow in Wales, this son of a farmer stood just under 5’ 11” and weighed around 168lbs in his recorded fighting career of just 3 years and 3 fights between 1858-1861, although he may have had some unrecorded local turn-ups or other fights before and after this time.

This well muscled and fresh faced man was starting out on a professional prize ring career at an age of over 30 years old and was put forward as a challenger in 1858 by his backer Harry Broome, the ex-Champion of England. Benjamin was about the same age as Sayers, but Tom was a seasoned pro who had been involved in a dozen or so prizefights since 1849, losing only one and that was for the English middleweight title and was the present holder of the English championship. This was Benjamin’s first recorded fight in the prize ring when they met on the Isle of Grain, Kent in January 1858, with a purse of 400 at stake. Tom Sayers was giving away about 16lbs in weight and about 3 inches in height and although a terrific fighter he was really only a blown up middleweight. Experience showed though, as after taking a few stiffeners from Sayers in the first round, Benjamin proved that he was a complete novice as he was well and truly beaten in 3 rounds, lasting only six and a half minutes.

Feeling that it was the punishment he took in the first round that lost it for him, Benjamin wanted another chance to prove there was more to his game than he was allowed to show, so 16 months later at Ashford, Kent he had the chance to prove it. The fight was for another 400 purse with the title again at stake and on a hot day in April 1859 the two fighters climbed through the ropes, with Jerry Noon and Harry Brunton the seconds for Sayers and Bendigo and Jack McDonald for Benjamin. Sayers was reputed to be not in 100% condition, Benjamin in the meantime had picked up some tuition from Nat Langham and Bendigo, but after 11 rounds Benjamin, although showing up much better than previous was still deservedly beaten, although it wasn’t Sayers best fight.

Bill Benjamin is only known to have had one more fight, against the promising youngster and undefeated Dick James of Aberdare in the London area in July 1861 for 200. This resulted in a win at last for Bill Benjamin in 2 rounds, although those two rounds saw plenty of action from both men, but lasted only three and a half minutes. After that there is no mention of any more fights for Bill Benjamin, who perhaps if he had started his pugilistic career earlier in life might have featured better and more often in the prize ring. He died in Shirenewton sometime towards the end of 1905 or early 1906 at around 81 years of age.