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robert.snell1@ntlworld.com

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“GYPSY” JACK COOPER

Members on here will know that the gypsy fraternity produced some wonderful bare knuckle (and gloved) fighters over the years and one of them and maybe the best of the bareknuckle era was Jack Cooper, also known as “The Slashing Gypsy”. Born c.1800 near Slough, Bucks, in his prime he stood about 5’ 5” and weighed anything from 135-160lbs, tough as granite and possessing excellent ringcraft.

His first recorded venture into the fight game was in 1819 when he beat the Jew nicknamed “Little Gadzee” at Moulsey Hurst Races in 10 rounds for a 5 purse. The following year he faced West Country Dick, winning in 29 rounds, then against “A Rustic” beaten in 7 rounds and Dan O’Leary beaten in 49 rounds. In 1821 he beat Paddy Dent in 7 rounds and in a return with Dan O’Leary in 38 rounds, although this fight proved fatal to O’Leary. With these fights in, or mainly around the capital, he drew attention from the London Fancy and in 1822 he came up against the former top contender, but now veteran Jack Scroggins at Moulsey Hurst and in a slugfest defeated the popular “Scroggy” in 17 rounds. In 1823 he fought Bristol’s Jack Cabbage on Hampton Common for a 100 purse winning a tough fight over 51 rounds.

The gypsy then suffered his first loss to the enigmatic Bishop Sharpe in 56 rounds in Epping Forest and another loss to Sharpe a couple of months later on Hampton Common. Three months later and facing Sharpe again at Blackheath the law stopped their third fight after 21 rounds. In 1824 he won a return contest against Jack Cabbage on Yate Common, near Bristol and then fought the up and coming Alec Reid at Colnbrook, Bucks, winning in 19 rounds.

Jack Cooper was no angel and had one or two skirmishes with the law and it is 1827 before he appears in the records again when he lost to the great Young Durch Sam at Andover in just 9 rounds. Again we don’t hear from Cooper again until 1832 when over 10 rounds he beat a tinker called Saunders at Croydon Fair. Now about 33 years old he took on the also aging Harry Jones in 1833, but lost only his third ever fight in 26 rounds at Chertsey. Cooper then retired from the ring and concentrated on horse dealing.

However in 1840 he was convicted along with a Mary Hart of stealing money from a Julia Nelthop and both were sentenced to 10 years transportation to Australia. He enjoyed life there and stayed after his 10 year sentence was up and also taking in a fight at 50 years old and winning by a foul against a man called George Young in the 11th round. Nothing is heard of “The Slashing Gypsy” after that so it has to be presumed he finally died down under.