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JACK JONES, (c.1819-1855)

Claimed British Lightweight Championship 1853

Jack Jones (real surname Humphries) was born in Northampton, his actual birthdate is disputed, but reckoned to be c.1819. At some time during his early years he moved to Portsmouth, maybe to avoid the law for some misdemeanour etc., as many people did. He was reputed to be a man who knew no fear and fought for not only the purses, but also for the love of fighting. 5’ 8” and weighing around 136lbs, he was a handful for any opponent, beginning with winning several fights along the south coast including against Ted Hill (1846) and Will Cole (1847).

In 1849 he faced Joe Rowe, a heavier man and was beaten in 18 rounds at Salisbury, however he bounced back to defeat Harry Martin and the highly rated George Crockett the next year in 29 and 7 rounds respectively. With a then growing reputation he then, for a 100 purse took on the top rated Mike Madden, but in a brutal slugfest he went down in 29 rounds at Long Reach in 1851. Later that year he was due to meet acclaimed lightweight champion Bill Hayes, but Jack Jones backer was unfortunately killed, falling into the engine room on the boat carrying them to the fight and so the fight was called off. They faced each other a month later at Horley, Surrey for 100 and in a marathon contest that carried on until darkness fell, Jack Jones, being so tired, mistook one of Hayes seconds for his opponent, with this the referee called a halt, awarding the fight to Hayes. The fight had taken nearly fours hours and 101 rounds of fierce fighting with Hayes reported to be the better man overall. Although the lightweight division at that time was recognised for men of around 140lbs the crown had been disputed between Ned Donnelly and Bill Hayes. Hayes probably had a better argument as Mike Madden had been over the recognised limit of 140lbs for their fight in 1849 when he beat Madden in an epic six hour fight of 185 rounds, so claiming the title. He then twice defended it against Donnelly in 1851, both fights ending in draws and so retained the accolade. However when Donnelly beat Madden in 1852 he also claimed the lightweight title and in 1853 at East Tilbury, London Jack Jones found himself in the opposite corner to Ned Donnelly and fought Donnelly to a draw after 48 rounds of more than two hours. They faced each other again three months later at Brandon Heath, Suffolk where for a 200 purse and another battle of over two hours Jack Jones subdued Madden with a sudden punch that poleaxed him after Madden had slashed Jones to ribbons and so Jones claimed Donnelly’s disputed crown.

It was only fair that Jones now faced the other claimant to the title Bill Hayes and when they clashed at Mildenhall, Suffolk in late 1853 for a purse of 400 once again in a marathon of just over three hours and 72 rounds the fight was declared a draw because darkness beat them and so was arranged to continue the next day. There was no sign of Jones the next day and so the title was claimed by Hayes along with the purse. In 1854 Jones faced Bob Brettle for a 200 purse at Purfleet beating Brettle in a fight of just under two hours and 49 rounds and under the same circumstances as his loss to Hayes the previous year. In 1855 Jack Jones once again waged war with Mike Madden at Long Reach, but this time in the 23rd round, tragedy struck when Jones head hit a ring stake, he was immediately carried from the ring to the nearest tavern where he died later that day.