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robert.snell1@ntlworld.com

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THE BLACK PERIOD

Although the Golden Age of bare knuckle boxing is estimated to be around 1800-1830 there are also many references in record books to the so called Black Period. This is generally considered from the end of Jack Slack’s reign as Champion of England in 1760 until Tom Johnson came on the scene in the early 1780’s. Even though Jack Slack wasn’t the most trusted of champions, he could on his day be a decent and tough performer. However he was beaten by Bill Stevens “The Nailer” who had the potential to be a good champion, but was suspected of a fixed fight with George Meggs for the title in 1761. George Meggs, a collier was a poor quality fighter who then lost the title to another poor rated fighter in George Milsom, a baker in 1762. He retained the title until 1765 defending it against the mediocre opposition of Parfitt Meggs (George Meggs brother) in 1763, but then lost it to Tom Juchau, a paviour, who was, according to records, slightly better than his predecessors, but then in turn he lost in 17 rounds to Bill Darts in 1766. Darts was somewhat better than the men that went before him, although beating poor opposition against men like a bargeman called Doggett and a butcher by the name of Swansey. He in turn lost the title to a waterman by the name of Tom Lyons, a pugilist of little ability, but reclaimed it after Lyons refused a return and retired. Darts was finally defeated in 1771 by Peter Corcoran, who is reputed to have fled some sort of trouble back in Ireland and also known to be shady customer, including his fight for the title with Darts that was believed to have been fixed. Corcoran fought Sam Peters for the title in a fixed fight and lost to Harry Sellers in another fixed fight in 1776. Sellers was also known as a shifty, unscrupulous bruiser, not averse to a bent fight and so losing the title to one Duggan Fearns in 1779 who then disappeared after the suspected fixed fight and was never heard from again. Because of that Sellers reclaimed the title but with all respect lost he was never recognised as champion again. Then along came Tom Johnson who started a return to a succession of more worthy and great Champions of England.