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robert.snell1@ntlworld.com

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JOHNNY BROOME (Born: 1818 Died: 1855)

With no recognised claimant as the best lightweight in the land after Owen Swift retired, the leading men vying for top position by 1840 in the “light weight” class were Sam Merryman, Tom Maley, Johnny Hannan, the promising Johnny Walker and Johnny Broome.

Now 24, standing about 5’ 7” and weighing 138lbs. Broome was undefeated in seven fights starting with Tom Ellis at an unknown venue near Birmingham around 1832. He then went on to defeat Bill Howell, drew with Jack Hunt and then beat Charles Spilbury, Bob Gallett and the experienced Charlie Jones, all around the Birmingham area from 1833-1839 and although hardly known in London, Broome was highly rated around his own area in the Midlands. In 1840 Broome travelled up to Glasgow to face the highly respected James McGinty, defeating him in a terrific and long 71 round fight at just under 140lb. Broome was a bit on the heavy side for a “light weight”, but he fought the top class heavyweight Joe Bostock, a man two stone heavier than himself and knocked Bostock out in twelve rounds at Early in Warwickshire.

Later that year. Jack Hannan, a master ring general, was considered the top dog in the London area having twice defeated the up and coming and highly rated Johnny Walker, although Walker was just starting out on his road to fame. After a certain amount of quibbling over a weight limit that was agreeable to both of them, as Hannan was a lighter man, Broome and Hannan eventually met in January 1841 at New Park Farm, Oxfordshire for a reputed £1,000 purse, in what was considered to decide the top light weight in the country. It turned out that Broome’s longer reach was too much for Hannan from the outset and Jack Hannan took heavy punishment, until after 47 rounds he had fought himself to a standstill and being in a terrible physical state, could not continue. Jack Hannan never fought again and because he was getting married, Johnny Broome also retired, with Johnny Walker assuming Broome’s accolade of the best at the lighter weight by defeating Fred Mason over 63 rounds in January 1842.

Broome’s retirement did not last long however as he was challenged by John Gorrick, an Australian who had arrived in England and although not an aborigine by birth, fought under the name of “Bungaree” an aborigine name. But Bungaree was no match for Johnny Broome when they met up in April 1842 at Mildenhall, Suffolk and he was defeated in 42rounds of a fight that only lasted 52 minutes.

With this win Broome retired for good this time round and became landlord of the Rising Sun, Piccadilly in London. He was also a respected match-maker whose outstanding protégé was his younger brother, Harry, a future Champion of England. In retirement Johnny Broome, being an expert horse rider took part in the Grand National, his horse falling on the second time around. He was also alleged to have been involved in card fixing and committed suicide by slitting his throat, but no one can take away his fighting achievement of being unbeaten in the prize ring, although it would have been interesting to have had a Broome v Walker deciding fight for the best man at the lighter weight back then.