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robert.snell1@ntlworld.com

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RICHARD HUMPHRIES (The Gentleman Boxer) 1758-1827

There have been many posts about Daniel Mendoza on here, but not many on Richard Humphries, known as “The Gentleman Boxer” and the nemesis of Daniel Mendoza. Although his early years are shrouded in the mists of time it is reported that Richard Humphries was born in 1758, probably in Clapham. London, with talk his father was a “dealer”, although a rumour also has it that his father was in the regiment called the Hussar’s, thus his non de plume of the gentleman boxer.

Humphries certainly had a taste for the better life as he grew up a handsome, strapping young man of the middle weight, who learnt the craft of boxing thoroughly and with these attributes attracted the ladies, gambling, coffee houses, society parties and general high life in London. It was he that is reported to have discovered the talents of Daniel Mendoza in one or two of the young Jews’s turn ups or street fights and although taking him under his wing to tutor him it is alleged that the more serious minded Mendoza rejected Humphries life style of womanising and partying and so walked away from it. This upset Humphries to the point of despising Mendoza.

Richard Humphries first known fight was against a man known only as Bentley at Enfield in 1784 which Humphries won in 40 minutes His next fight was against Dick Smith at Leytonstone, Essex, in the next year, for a purse of 5 guineas a side and another win for Humphries in 27 minutes. In May 1786 came his stiffest test yet when he faced the formidable Sam Martin “ The Bath Butcher” for a purse of 320 guineas and in a tremendous battle he subdued the butcher after just under 2 hours, a fight claimed as for the Middleweight Championship of England for the winner.

And so it came to pass in 1787 that Humphries and Mendoza came face to face in The Cock Tavern in Epping Forest where after words were exchanged between the two fighters and a couple of blows swapped, a peace officer stopped it becoming a turn up. Their differences could only be settled in the prize ring and so it came to pass in January 1788 that the two men faced each other at Odiham, Hampshire for a reputed purse of 300 guineas and Humphries acclaimed middleweight title, where Mendoza had to retire with a damaged ankle after he slipped on the rain soaked floorboards of the ring after 29 minutes of fighting. A return fight was quickly made for May of the next year at Stilton in Huntingdonshire, again for the title and a purse of 850 guineas, where after 65 epic rounds Humphries was disqualified after being judged to going down from a phantom punch which was hotly disputed by his camp. It was only fitting that these two now bitter enemies fought a decider which was arranged to be staged at Doncaster, Yorkshire in September 1790 with a purse of 260 guineas at stake. This time it was claimed as for the now vacant Heavyweight Championship of England and Richard Humphries had to admit defeat once again at the fists of the brilliant Jew after 72 rounds and with this defeat he never fought again.

After he retired Humphries became well respected in the prize ring world as a second and umpire and comfortably off from business adventures before his death in 1827.