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First Impression, October, 1922





IN the brickwork of a well-known London house, not far from Covent Garden, there is a stone with the date, 1636, which was cut by the order of Alexander, Earl of Stirling, It formed part of a building which sheltered successively Tom Killigrew, Denzil Hollis, and Sir Henry Vane; and that great kaleidoscope of a quack, a swordsman, and a horse-breaker, Sir Kenelm Digby, died in it. Within its walls was summoned the first Cabinet Council ever held in England, by Admiral Russel, Earl of Orford. Its members belonged to a set of jovial sportsmen, of whom Lord Wharton and Lord Godolphin may be taken as excellent types. About the same time, out of the mob that peoples Hogarth's pictures, out of the faces with which Fielding and Smollett have made us familiar, and in a society for which Samuel Richardson alternately

blushed and sighed, arose the rough but manly form of Figg, the better educated but equally lusty figure of Broughton, who first taught "the mystery of boxing, that truly British art" at his academy in the Haymarket in 1747.


 But, unfortunately, the beginnings of prize-fighting, or boxing for money with bare fists, were more romantic than its subsequent career, for it lived on brutality and it died of boredom. The house near Covent Garden has become the National Sporting Club. Knuckles have been replaced by gloves.


To-day we see Carpentier knock his man out scientifically in less than a single round, instead of watching Tom Sayers, with one arm, fighting the Benicia Boy, and only getting a draw after two hours and twenty minutes. Mr. Bohun Lynch's description of the battle is one of the best I have ever read, and he gives full credit to each man for the fine spirit shown throughout an encounter in which neither asked for mercy and neither expected any.


 On the afternoon of June 1 6, 1904, there was sold in King Street, Covent Garden, the belt presented to J. C. Heenan (who was called the Benicia Boy from the San Francisco workshops, where he was employed) after the great fight was over. It was a duplicate of the championship belt, and it bore the same title as that presented at the same time to Sayers: "Champion of England." The price it fetched in 1904 was, I fear, a true reflection of the interest now taken in its original owner and his pugilistic surroundings; and it is difficult to recall the celebrity of both from those past years when Tom Sayers seemed to share with the Duke of Wellington the proud title of Britain's greatest hero.


 But it is not really so astonishing when we remember that the plucky little Hoxton bricklayer stood to the youth of his era as the gamest representative of almost the only form of sport the larger public knew or cared about. In days when golf, lawn tennis, cricket, football, and the rest not only multiply our sporting stars almost indefinitely, but attract crowds numbered by scores of thousands to applaud them, we do not seem to pitch upon the boxer as our especially typical representative of national sporting skill. There may be other reasons for that, too. English boxers seem to have only retained their characteristic style long enough to hand it on to others; they then proceeded to forget it. When Jem Mace left off boxing in England he went to Australia, and in Sydney he taught Larry Foley, who in turn educated Peter Jackson,

Fitzsimmons, Hall, Creedon, and Young Griffo. The first two handed on the lighted torch to the United States. The result was soon obvious. When the Americans came over they beat us at all weights from Peter Jackson downwards, and they beat us because they had learnt from us what one of the best exponents of the art has called velocity and power of hitting combined with quickness and ease of movement on the feet "; I should like to add to that, "the straight left," or as it is more classically known,"Long Melford."


No doubt the best of the old fighters now and then produced a fine and manly example of human fortitude and skill. "If I were absolute king," wrote Thackeray in a famous Roundabout Paper after the Sayers and Heenan fight, I would send Tom Sayers to the mill for a month and make him Sir Thomas on coming out of Clerkenwell." I am tempted in this connection to reproduce what must be one of the few letters Tom Sayers ever wrote. It was caused by a public discussion after his famous fight, which is little short of amazing when we look back at it. The newspapers were filled with frenzied denunciations, Parliament angrily discussed the question, Palmerston quoted, with every sign of satisfaction, a French journalist who saw in the contest "a type of the national character for indomitable perseverance in determined effort," and then (cannot you see his smiling eyes above the semi-serious mouth ?) proceeded to draw a contrast between pugilism and ballooning, very much to the disadvantage of the latter.


 A correspondent wrote to the Press inquiring indignantly whether it were true that the Duke of Beaufort, the Earl of Eglinton, and the Bishop of Oxford had attended " this most disgraceful exhibition." Tom Sayers, roused to unwonted penmanship, retorted in the Daily Telegraph as follows:


"In answer to your correspondent, I beg to state that neither bishop nor peer was present at the late encounter. It is from a pure sense of justice that I write you this. I scarcely think it reasonable that such repeated onslaughts should be made on me and my friend, Heenan. Trusting you will insert this in your widely circulated and well-regulated journal, allow me to remain, yours faithfully, Thomas Sayers, Cambrian Stores, Castle Street, Leicester Square, April 21, 1860."


The Stock Exchange had given him a purse of a hundred guineas that afternoon, so you need scarcely wonder at the urbanity of his language. In the House of Commons, meanwhile, the Home Secretary had been calling forth cheerful expressions of hilarity by reminding those members who had witnessed the battle that they might be indicted for misdemeanor, though he was pleased to add that fighting with fists was in his opinion better than the use of the bowie knife ,the stiletto, or the shillelagh.


I can remember Mr. Lynch's boxing for his University, and the severe discomfort he occasioned his Cambridge adversary; and when I recall the many excellent books (on different subjects) which he has previously given us, I see in him an author who has not only the knowledge but the skill to produce that requisite blend of literature and experience which can alone commend the subject of his volume to the English-speaking public. I wish I could claim as much myself. But I suffered from the educational

advantage of having a younger brother who knocked me down (and often "out ") with the greatest kindliness and persistence whenever we put on the gloves together ; and being overmuch puffed up with pride at finding I could stand so much of it, I rashly took on a guardsman so considerably my superior that after three rounds I was never allowed to box again, and had to quench my thirst for personal combat in ensuing years with foil and dueling -sword.


My brother died suddenly of a fever when he was in training under Bat Mullens for the Amateur Championship, and only twenty-one. He was six feet three and thirteen stone stripped, and I never saw an amateur I thought his better until Hopley came into the ring for Cambridge ; and no one ever knew how good Hopley was, for no one ever stood in the ring with him for more than two minutes, and he retired, like St. Simon (I mean, of course, the Duke of Portland's thoroughbred) as undefeated as he was unextended.


Another very good fight in Mr. Lynch's book (and I have never read a better analysis of the technical “knock-out " than the one he gives on page 126) is that between Peter Jackson and Frank Slavin. I saw it, so I can correct a slight verbal error (foreseen in his own footnote) in Mr. Lynch's pages. Mr. Angle (I have his letter before me) did not say  “Fight on " at that dreadful moment when the packed house could scarcely breathe; when Slavin was tottering blindly to and fro, refusing to give in; when Peter looked out at us appealingly, with the native chivalry that shone through his black skin, and evidently hated to continue. The referee's quiet syllables, "Box on" sounded like a minute-gun at sea, and in a few moments it was all over. When Slavin was brought round in his dressing-room, and told he had been knocked out, he muttered,

" They'll never believe that in Melbourne."


There must have been something about the old prize-ring which we have lost to-day, or it would never have inspired such good literature or attracted such brilliant men in its support. Byron's screen in Mr. John Murray's drawing-room is far from the only testimony to that dazzling poet's love of fighting. Hazlitt was almost equally attracted. Perhaps the most grisly passage even in the pages of De Quincy is that episode in the first part of " Murder as One of the Fine Arts," where the fight between the amateur and the baker of Mannheim (with its result) is vividly described. The best pages of Borrow, too, gain their best inspiration from the same source. I often seem to recall that pair of dark eyes flashing in a fair face shaded by hair that was prematurely touched with grey ; lips full and mobile, as quick with Castilian phrases to a Spanish landlord as with Romany to Jasper Petulengro, or with English to the fruit-woman on London Bridge ; the queer, fascinating, mystical, honest mixture of a man, with something of the Wandering Jew, a good deal of Don Quixote, a touch of Melmoth, a sound flavouring of Cribb and Belcher, who was George Borrow.


Under his magic guidance you step into the air which fanned the elf-locks of the Flaming Tinman. He loved the heroes of the Ring like brothers. " He strikes his foe on the forehead, and the report of the blow is like the sound of a hammer against a rock." The sentence stands unmatched in all the annals of pugilism. The battle of his father with Big Ben Brain in Hyde Park was an abiding memory to him ; and, apart from the famous encounter in the Dingle, the son did almost as well; and all his life nothing moved him to such instant eloquence as boxing, except horses.


 Mr. Lynch, with all his knowledge of the art, and all his sympathy with the best qualities in the men whose combats he portrays, cannot conceal from us that on the whole the old prize-ring was brutal and the modern "pugilistic contest " between professionals has very little that is attractive. Yet he is right both to put them on record and to tell the truth about them without fear or favour. For at the very heart of their foundations is an ineradicable and a noble instinct of the human race. Even a Dempsey, earning several thousand pounds a minute, may be dimly conscious that he is building better than he knows. Professionals in any game who attain a height of skill which gives them a practically unlimited market for what they have to sell, can scarcely be blamed by stockbrokers who gamble on a falling market, or by profiteers who battened on the war. Even the modern professional boxer cannot do permanent harm to the true atmosphere of the great game in which he shines briefly like a passing meteor. It is pages like these from Mr. Lynch that should inspire the professional to give us his best and leave aside the worst in what is, after all, only an epitome of life, a show in which the blows are seen instead of hidden, in which rewards or losses are known to all the world instead of silently concealed.


There is a spirit in Boxing which nothing can destroy, and while we cherish it among amateurs, the professional will never be able to defile it. Mr. E. B. Michell, an old pupil of my father's, and the only boxer who ever held three of the amateur championships at different weights, is still with us; and I should still do my best to prevent any friend from wantonly attacking him. Like all real fighters, he has always been the kindliest of men, the most difficult to provoke to extremes. But any one who has managed to extract from his diffidence those few occasions when he had to use his fists, because no other course was possible, will realize that boxing is not merely a splendid form of recreation, but one of the finest systems of self-defence ever developed by persistent effort.


 Julian Grenfell's famous poem, "Into Battle," was written in the Trenches the day after he had fought the champion of his division in France; and there were few who read it who did not recall that previous victory of his over Tye, the fireman, which will never be forgotten in Johannesburg. Three times he was laid on his back. In the third round he knocked the fireman out, " and he never moved for twenty seconds. ... I was 1 11st. 4 lb., and he was 11 st. 3 Ib. I think it was the best fight I shall ever have." He found a better in the Ypres' Salient, and again he wrote:” I cannot tell you how wonderful our men were, going straight for the first time into a fierce fire. They surpassed my utmost expectations. I have never been so fit or nearly so happy in my life before." For such men it is impossible to sorrow. These brothers and their comrades were taken from us in the full noon of their splendid sunlight; and on its fiercest throb of high endeavour the brave heart of each one of them stopped beating. Their memories stand, to me, for all that may be meant, achieved, or promised in such courage, such endurance, aye, such instantaneous cataclysm as Mr. Bohun Lynch's chapters at their best recall. His tale has obviously a sordid side, yet more evidently a brutal one. But the red thread of honourable resolution runs through the warp and woof of it; and these are not days when we may dare to minimise the value of the pluck that conquers pain.



June, 1922.




Certain passages in this book, notably in the Introduction, and in the second part, dealing with recent contests, are substantially based, and in some instances literally culled, from articles which I wrote

for The Daily Chronicle, The Field, Land and Water^ The Outlook, and The London Mercury \ and to the

editors of these journals I owe my best thanks for much kindness and consideration.





SPORTS and games may be classified as natural and artificial. Running, jumping, and swimming, for example, are natural sports, though, to be sure, much artifice is required to assure in them especial excellence. In these simple instances it is merely directed to avoid waste of energy. Boxing is one of the artificial sports, and has never been, like wrestling, anything else. In the far distant past the primitive man, with no weapon handy, no doubt clutched and hugged and clawed at his immediate enemies, just

as children, who are invariably primitive until they are taught better," clutch and claw to-day. That natural and instinctive grasping and hugging was the forefather of subtle and tricky wrestling, whether Greek, Roman, or North-country English, but as far as we can discover the earliest use of fisticuffs was for

sport alone.


It may seem natural to hit a man you hate, but it is only second nature, and any one but a trained boxer is apt to seize him by the throat. The employment of fists as weapons of offence and of arms for shields developed from the sport. As such, too, it is very effectual, especially when combined with a knowledge of wrestling, but only when the enemy is of similar mind. I am informed by a former Honorary Secretary of the Oxford University Boxing Club, who from this point of view ruthlessly criticized a former book of mine on the subject, and who has spent many years in close contact with un civilisation, that boxing is of extremely little value against a man with a broken bottle or a spanner let alone an armed cannibal.


The praises of boxing as a practical means of self-defence have been, perhaps, too loudly sung. A boy at school may earn for himself a certain reputation, may establish a funk amongst his fellows owing to his quickness and agility with or without the gloves; but in practice he seldom has a chance of employing his skill against his enemies. On the other hand, a small boy who comes in contact for the first time with another's skill (or even brutality) receiving a blow in the face, invariably cries," Beastly cad! "

because a blow in the face hurts him. You have to accept this convention of sportsmanlike warfare, like others, before you can make it work. And the Love of Fair Play of which we have heard so much in the past is quite artificial too. It is not really inherent in human nature. Like other moralities it has to be taught, and it is very seldom taught with success. Let us say, not unreasonably, that you begin to take an interest in boxing as a boy. You hear about various fights at least you do nowadays, and you want to imitate the fighters, just as in the same way but at a different moment you want to be an engine-driver, or an airman, or the Principal Boy in Robinson Crusoe, when your young attention is drawn to such occupations.


When I was a small boy (if, in order to illustrate a point, a short excursion into autobiography may be forgiven me), the last flicker of the Prize-Ring had, so to put it, just expired, and glove fighting

was not then perhaps a pretty business. A curiosity which, not being skilled in the science and practice of psycho-analysis, I can only ascribe to spontaneous generation, and the fact that Tom Sayers once invested my mother, then a little girl, with his champion's belt at a village fair this curiosity impelled me to

desire, from a railway bookstall, the purchase on my behalf of a shilling book called The Art of Self-Defence, by one Ned Donelly. It was, I believe, the very first work of its peculiar and spurious kind that is, a handbook with or without merit (this one had several, notably that of brevity), written by a sporting reporter and inscribed by the pugilist.


 I had some difficulty in getting that gift, but when I did I devoured the book from gray paper cover to cover. I knew it almost all by heart once. I remember now that Ned Donelly said he had fought under the auspices of Nat Langham, and I wondered what auspices meant, and I wonder now if Ned Donelly knew. Later, in the mid-nineties, Rodney Stone appeared in the pages of " The Strand Magazine," and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, whilst admitting that rascality was known in connection with the Prize-Ring, yet showed how the Great Tradition of the British Love of Fair Play in the face of the most reprehensible practices maintained itself.


All literature which touched the subject, all conversation with elder persons led me to believe that this desire of Fair Play was inseparable from the British composition (though seldom found outside these islands),and that if one had a quarrel at school an adjournment was immediately made to some secret trysting-place, where boys formed a ring, a timekeeper and referee were appointed, and you and your opponent nobly contended until one the one who was in the wrong, of course gave in. It wasn't until I wished to have a fair, stand-up fight with another boy with a succession of other boys that I found a somewhat serious flaw in the great Tradition, and that at one of the "recognized " public schools. The other boy might or might not stand up straight in front, but half a dozen other boys would invariably hang on behind me. In the end I managed to bring off two fair fights, one with another boy of like mind who, cold-blooded and conversational, walked with me to a secluded field ; the other by means of a ruse. I had challenged this adversary again and again. With derision, he refused to fight me. Once I attacked him in public, but was very soon made to see sense, as well as stars, for he hit me at his own convenience whilst his partisans held my arms. The merits of the quarrel I entirely forget. You may be sure that they were trivial. I will readily admit that both of us were horrible little beasts (though I admit it the more readily of him) in the certain knowledge that boys of our age, excepting those who happen to read this, almost always are.


So I waited my opportunity, and one evening I caught my enemy alone reading a paper on a notice-board. I came behind him with stealth, and I kicked him hard, and I then ran away. And he did exactly what I had, rather confidently, expected him to do. He thought me an arrant coward, and he followed fast. I led him to a safe and secluded passage, well lit, at the top of some stairs where there was just room for a close encounter. We should not be interrupted by any one. I waited for him to get on a level with me. I have seldom enjoyed anything so much as the next two minutes or so. I hated that boy very much. The score against him was a long one. Moralists (who are always dishonest in their methods of propaganda) tell us that revenge turns to gall and bitterness. . . . Oh, does it ? The sheer physical delight in thrashing some one I hated, some one rather bigger and heavier than myself, too, which made it all the better, has lived on in sweet retrospect.


There was no " hearty handshake" or anything pretty of that sort. It was simple, downright bashing, and it was delicious. And, not to please the moralist but to record a fact, the air really was cleared. We did shake hands afterwards, and all rancour was gone at least from me : and for ever after we were quite, though perhaps coldly, civil to each other, and my late adversary is now a Lieutenant-Colonel, D.S.O., and I think (but am not sure) C.M.G. The Love of Fair Play, then, where hate is involved, needs a great deal of teaching. I am not trying, in the instance quoted above, to make a case for myself as a lover of fair play in those days. The difference between my enemy and me was chiefly a difference in vanity. He was content to annoy me without risk of hurt or chance of glory. I was ready to stake a bit in order that my victory should be complete for my own smug self-satisfaction.


He was the practical fellow: I was the sentimentalist. Boxing of a kind is the earliest artificial sport of which we have any record, and the earliest record, and from the literary point of view, the best of all time is, though we are not concerned with it here, Greek. As far as can be discovered there is no tale of any boxing between the gradually debased sport of the ancients and the institution of the British Prize-Ring early in the eighteenth century. And it was not until a hundred years or more later that boxing began to

take its place as a topic in polite letters. Under that head it is difficult to include Boxiana, or Sketches of Antient and Modern Pugilism, from the days of the renowned Broughton and Slack to the championship of Crib.


This was written by Pierce Egan, the inventor of " Tom and Jerry," and dedicated to Captain Barclay,

the famous trainer of pugilists. The first volume was published in 1818. Egan, like many later writers, was often upon the defensive, and was ever upon the alert to find excuses for the noble art. He constantly drew attention to the fact that, whilst Italians used stilettos and Frenchmen engaged in duels a la mort,

the Briton has the good sense to settle a dispute with his fists. Egan frankly disliked refinement, but he does recognise in boxing something better than refinement. The same point of view is implicit in M. Maeterlinck's discussion of modern boxing.


". . . synthetic, irresistible,  unimprovable blows. As soon as one of them touches the adversary, the fight is ended, to the complete satisfaction of the conqueror, who triumphs so incontestably, and with no dangerous hurt to the conquered, who is simply reduced to impotence and unconsciousness during the time needed for all ill-will to evaporate."


 To return to Pierce Egan, BIackwood’s Magazine for March, 1820, goes in (if the prevalent metaphor of precisely a hundred years later may be allowed) off the deep end in reviewing Boxiana: *' It is sufficient justification of Pugilism to say Mr. Egan is its historian. . . . He has all the eloquence and feeling of a Percy all the classical grace and inventive ingenuity of a Warton all the enthusiasm and zeal of a Headley all the acuteness and vigour of a Ritson all the learning and wit of an Ellis all the delicacy and discernment of a Campbell; and, at the same time, his style is perfectly his own, and likely to remain so, for it is as

inimitable as it is excellent. The man who has not read Boxiana is ignorant of the power of the English language."


If ever responsible overstatement reached the border-line of sheer dementia it is here. But for the sake of politeness, let us content ourselves with saying, further, that the reviewers enthusiasm got the better of his judgment. What matters to us now is that Pierce Egan made a record of the old Prize Ring which is

invaluable. So that we are not concerned so much with his literary distinction as with his accuracy as a chronicler, and, as other records of contemporary events are either scarce, or, as in some cases, totally lacking, it is not easy to check his accounts.


 From internal evidence, we know at the first glance at Boxiana that we must be careful; for Egan shouts his praises of almost all pugilists upon the same note. And all of them cannot have been as good as all that ! This author was a passionate admirer of the noble art and of the men who followed it, and it is his joyous zeal (apart from the matters of fact which he tells us) that make him worth reading. For the rest we must regard him as we are, nowadays, prone to regard most historians, and make such allowance as we see fit for inevitable exaggerations. That, on one occasion at least, he was deliberately inaccurate, we shall see later on.


There was a delightful simplicity about the old boxing matches. The men fought to a finish; that is, until one or other of them failed to come up to the scratch, chalked in the midring, or until the seconds or backers gave in for them, which last does not appear to have happened very often. A round ended with a knock-down or a fall from wrestling, and half a minute only was allowed for rest and recovery. One of the illustrations in this book is taken from a print of the original Rules governing Prize-Fights, "as agreed by several gentlemen at Broughton's Amphitheatre, Tottenham Court Road, August, 16th, 1743."


These Rules were as follows:

See illustration




It will be seen that all contingencies are by no means covered by these regulations, but in those days far more was left to the judgment and discretion of the Umpires and the Referee. Spectators, even "

interested " onlookers who had plunged on the event, were usually willing to abide by their decisions; and, as a general thing, though there was more elbow-room for rascality than in later times, the men fought fairly. Anyhow, Egan says that they did.


Whether the death of bare-knuckle fighting is to be mourned is not a question to be dealt with in the first chapter. As George Borrow observed very many years ago, " These are not the days of pugilism," and without attempting any discussion of the rights and wrongs of the general problem, we may yet read the annals of the Ring and draw our own conclusions from particular instances.The " days of pugilism " are unlikely to return.

It is not, indeed, until we come to George Borrow that we find the praises of boxing sung as a sport, as an outlet for energy, as pure good fun. It is true that, being Borrow, he tells us in Romany Rye of a character who regarded it "as a great defence against P"opery." But Borrow, when he left Popery alone, had a splendid, Elizabethan " and full-blooded view of life, whether he was concerned with the pleasures of milling or the "genial and gladdening power of good ale, the true and proper drink of



 " Can you box ?" " asks the old magistrate in Lavengro. I tell you what, my boy: I honour you. . . . Boxing is, as you say, a noble art a truly English art; may I never see the day when Englishmen shall feel ashamed of it, or blacklegs and blackguards bring it into disgrace! I am a magistrate, and, of course, cannot patronise the thing very open"ly, yet I sometimes see a prize-fight."


“All I have to say," Borrow continues later on in Lavengro, "is, that the French still live on the other side of the water, and are still casting their eyes hitherward and that in the days of pugilism it was no vain boast to say, that one Englishman was a match for two of t'other race."


What would he have said had he lived to see a French champion ? The two words, " boxing" and "Frenchman," within half a mile of each other, so to put it, made a stock joke in those days and for long after, even to within recent memory.


Borrow had the true boxer's joy in a fight for its own sake, the violent exercise, the sense of personal contest which is more manifest in fisticuffs than in any other sport.


Dosta," says Jasper Petulengro," we'll now go to the tents and put on the gloves; and I'll try to make you

feel what a sweet thing it is to be alive, brother 1


The following is his account of the crowd at a prize-fight, the encounter itself being dismissed in a few lines :


" I think I now see them upon the bowling-green, the men of renown, amidst hundreds of people with no renown at all, who gaze upon them with timid wonder. Fame, after all, is a glorious thing, though it last only for a day. There's Cribb, the Champion of England, and perhaps the best man in England: there he is with his huge, massive figure, and a face wonderfully like that of a lion. There is Belcher, the younger . . . the most scientific pugilist who ever entered a ring. . . . Crosses him, what a contrast! Grim, savage Skelton, who has a civil word for nobody and a hard blow for anybody hard! one blow, given with the

proper play of his athletic arm, will un sense a giant.


 Yonder individual, who strolls about with his hands behind him, supporting his brown coat lappets, undersized, and also looks anything but what he is, is the King of the Lightweights, so-called Randall ! the terrible Randall, who has Irish blood in his veins: not the better for that, nor the worse; not far from him is his last antagonist, Ned Turner, who, though beaten by him, still thinks himself as good a man, in which he is, perhaps, right, for it was a near thing; and a better  ' shentleman,' in which he is quite right, for he is a Welshman. . . . There was what! shall I name the last ? Ay, why not ? I believe that thou art the last of all that strong family still above the sod, where may'st thou long continue true species of English stuff, Tom of Bedford sharp as Winter, kind as Spring.


Hail to thee, Tom of Bedford. . . . Hail to thee, six foot Englishman of the brown eye, worthy to have carried a six-foot bow at Flodden, where England's yeomen triumphed over Scotland's king, his clans and chivalry. Hail to thee, last of England's bruisers, after all the many victories which thou hast achieved true English victories, unbought by yellow gold. ..."


 Borrow wrote of the Prize-Ring in its decline and of its best days from a greater distance than did Egan, and his perspective is therefore truer. Still we do learn a great deal from Boxiana of the old giants; whilst contemporary engravings, some of which will be found here, give us, more or less faithfully, the attitudes of the fighters. Whether the artists observed the same fidelity in regard to the muscular development of the principals we must decide from our own experience. It is often said that if men were to train themselves to this Herculean scale they would be so muscle bound as to be almost immobile.


At the beginning of Volume III. of Boxiana, Egan tells us of the extraordinary physique of the fighter.


" The frames, in general, of the boxers are materially different, in point of appearance, from most other men ; and they are also formed to endure punishment in a very severe degree. . . . The eyes of the pugilists are always small ; but their necks are very fine and large; their arms are also muscular and athletic, with strong, well-turned shoulders. In general, the chests of the Boxers are expanded; and some of their backs and loins not only exhibit an unusual degree of strength, but a great portion of anatomical beauty. The hips, thighs

and legs of a few of the pugilists are very much to be admired for their symmetry, and there is likewise a peculiar ' sort of a something ' about the head of a boxer, which tends to give him character"


And he adds a footnote: " The old Fanciers, or ' good judges,' prefer those of a snipe appearance. "

(An appearance which obviously could not long have been maintained!)


Of scientific boxing, as we understand it, there was comparatively little; though in the hey-day of the Prize-Ring (roughly speaking, the first quarter of the nineteenth century) the foundations of the exact science were well laid. However, the chief qualifications for a good pugilist were strength and courage, even as they are to-day. But, besides hitting, the fighters might close and wrestle, and many a hard battle was lost by a good boxer whose strength was worn out by repeated falls, falls made the more damaging when a hulking opponent threw himself, as at one time he was allowed to do, on top of him.


The other principal differences between old and modern boxing were these: it was one of a man's first considerations to hit his antagonist hard about the eyes, so that they swelled up and he could not see. Men strong and otherwise unhurt were often beaten like that. Secondly, bare knuckles, in hard repeated contact with hard heads, were apt to be " knocked up " after a time. The use of gloves, though it probably makes a knock-out easier and quicker, obviates these two difficulties. However, even with the heavy " pudden" of an eight-ounce glove, the danger to the striker, though much lessened, is not entirely avoided, and I once put out two knuckles of my left, at the same time breaking a bone at the back of my hand in contact with an opponent's elbow with which he guarded his ribs. This sort of accident is very rare.


The chief interest in the fights described by Pierce Egan and by others lies in their records of magnificent courage, for there is really no way out of it the old Prize-Ring was, by the prevalent standards of to-day, a somewhat brutal institution. Horrible cruelty was seen and enjoyed, not as a rule the cruelty of the two men engaged, fair or foul as may have been their methods, but of their backers and seconds, who, with their money on the issue, allowed a beaten man, sorely hurt, to go on fighting on the off-chance of his winning by a lucky blow. Sometimes their optimism was, within the limits of its intention, justified, and an all but beaten man did win. Really, that sort of thing happens more often in modern boxing, especially amateur boxing, to-day, than it did in the Prize-Ring, and this is due, not to the callousness of referees, but to their perspicacity.


A thoroughly experienced referee understands exactly how much a man can endure, particularly when he has seen the individual in question box before. He knows that he is not nearly so much hurt and " done " as he looks, or rather as the average spectator thinks he looks; and he gives him his chance. And, suddenly, to the wild surprise of every one, except, perhaps, the referee, he puts in a "lucky " blow and knocks out an opponent who had hitherto been " all over" him.


On the other hand, a backer sometimes did withdraw his man in the most humane fashion when he had been badly punished, and very often to the deep resentment of the boxer himself, who, left to his own devices, would have fought on so long as his weakening legs would obey his iron will.


One more word upon the subject of "brutality" may be forgiven me. Again and again has it been said, but never too emphatically, how seldom it is that the men themselves were to blame. It is the hangers-on, the parasites, the vermin of sport, outside the ring, the field, the racecourse, who never risked nor meant to risk a broken nose or a thick ear, who are out for money and for money alone, by fair means for choice (as being on the whole the better policy), but by foul means readily enough rather than not at all these are the men who bring every institution upon which they batten into bad repute. Certainly the broken ranks of this army were occasionally recruited from the less successful or the more dissipated but quite genuine fighters, just as the hired bully is not unknown amongst the boxers of to-day. But the real villain, the man who gets the money out of rascality, does so, if possible, with a whole skin.


The Prize-Ring served its turn. For nearly a hundred years that is, roughly, from 1740 to 1840 it was a genuine expression of English life. Right or wrong as may have been the methods used, it was spontaneous. After that, if we except individual encounters, it was forced, laboured, and in vain. The spontaneity was gone. In his Preface to Cashel Byron's Profession, Mr. Shaw tells us that pugilism was supposed to have died of its own blackguardism: whereas "it lived by its blackguardism and died of its intolerable tediousness."


 That is very true, but it must be remembered that the tediousness sprang very largely from the blackguardism that is to say, towards the end of the bare-knuckle era the men used to stand off from each other, doing as little damage as possible and earning their money as easily as might be. Moreover, men who fought a " cross" were, particularly in the latter half of the nineteenth century, seldom good enough actors to appear beaten with any degree of plausibility, when they could, in fact, have continued fighting: and the result was that they stood about the ring, sparring in a tentative fashion, wrestling now and again, and wasting time, waiting for an opportunity to fall with some show of reality.


Thackeray, however, who, according to Mr. Shaw, loved a prizefight as he loved a fool, appeared to think that the sport died of hypocritical respectability. There is, of course, plenty to be said upon both

sides ; and Thackeray's opinions will be more closely discussed in the chapter dealing with the fight between Sayers and Heenan.


Of one disease or another, or of several complications, the Prize-Ring died, and from its dust arose the gradually improving sport of glove-fighting, the boxing of to-day.


The aim of this book is to cover the ground of bare-knuckle fighting and of modern professional boxing from the inception of the Ring to the present day, by making notes upon a number of representative battles in their chronological order.


Slack was a butcher and known as the “Knight of the Cleaver” who not only “tossed fights” but also assisted in other “cross affairs of the knuckles” – great descriptions of the day-.Slack won due to fearlessness, rather than ability, and was credited for introducing the “Chopper” – appropriate given his job as a butcher – which is the equivalent of the rabbit punch.


Slack’s reign was from 1750 to 1760  a decade when boxing went into decline as the public had lost faith in the sport due to the allegations of shady deals made by prominent fighters. The Duke of Cumberland backed Slack against Bill  “ The Nailer ”Stevens” for the crown who had the Duke of York as his patron, facts in themselves speaks volumes for the quality of judgement the two Dukes had. The fight took place on 17th June 1760 with “The Nailer” , someone notorious for his double-crossses –winning the title.


Slack then went on to back George Meggs against Stevens, who he hid bribed to lose, and received a fee for the fix of fifty guineas from Meggs. Meggs soon lost the title to Baker Milson who then lost to Tom Juchau. Then came Bill Darts who held on for nearly five years until in 1769 Tom Lyons “The Waterman “ took the title. However Lyons was far from being overwhelmed by his new found fame and within two weeks went back to his more peaceful job of ferrying People across the Thames. Darts regained the title but then lost it in what is said to be record time – the fight lasted less than a minute – to Peter Corcoran. The first Irishman to win the title.










First Impression, October, 1922







THE first Boxing Champion of England of whom any record has been handed down to us was Figg. Fistiana or The Oracle of the Ring gives his date as 1719. Strictly, however, his title to fame

rests more securely on his excellence with the cudgel and small sword than on fisticuffs, and the real father of the ring was John Broughton, who was Champion from 1738 to 1750. Broughton had a famous place of entertainment known as the Amphitheatre, in Hanway Yard, Oxford Road, near the site of a like establishment that had been kept by Figg. Here, with pit and gallery and boxes arranged about a high stage, displays of boxing were given from time to time, and here it was that sportsmen first learned to enjoy desperate struggles between man and man.


As has already been shown, Broughton formulated the rules which for many years to come were to govern fighting, and which, much as they leave to the imagination as well as to the discretion of officials, tell us with the utmost simplicity the conditions under which men fought.


For eighteen years John Broughton was undisputed Champion of England. That probably meant very little, for boxing had not yet become popular and its science was in its extremest infancy. I would gladly make the foolish and unprofitable bet that if Broughton, in his prime and with his bare fists, could be transplanted

to these latter days, he would not stand for one minute before Joe Beckett with the gloves on. (That is less of a handicap than it sounds to any boxer who has never used his bare knuckles.)


Broughton's fight with Slack can by no standard be called great, but it has its peculiar importance in showing us how a certain degree of skill hampered by over-confidence and lack of training may be at the mercy of courage, strength, and enterprise. Broughton's knowledge of boxing, compared with the science of

Jem Belcher and TomSpring, must have been negligible; but years of practice must have taught him something. As far as we can gather, Slack knew less than a small boy in his first term at school. He was a butcher by trade, and one day at Hounslow Races he had " words " with the champion, who laid about him

with a horse-whip. Thereupon Slack challenged Broughton, and the fight took place at the Amphitheatre on April l0th, 1750.


There was nothing elegant about Jack Slack. His attitude was ugly and awkward, he was strong and healthy but quite untrained in our meaning of the word. He only stood 5 feet 8 inches but weighed close upon 14 stone nearly as much as his antagonist, who was a taller man. Broughton was eager for the fight or for the money to be derived from it. He regarded Slack with the utmost contempt and made no sort of preparation. So afraid was he that the butcher might not turn up at the last minute that he gave him ten guineas to make sure of him ! The betting was 10- 1 on Broughton when the men appeared in the ring. After all, as boxing went in these days, he did know something about defence, and he was master of two famous blows, one for

the body and one under the ear, which were said to terrify his opponents.


Slack stood upright, facing his man, with his right rigidly guarding his stomach and his left in front of his mouth. But that was only at the beginning. Directly he got into action Slack speedily forgot his guard. The art of self-defence was unknown to him, his was the art of bashing. He was a rushing slogger against whom a cool man's remedy is obvious. But he was also a glutton for punishment, and almost boundless courage and staying power, or ” bottom," as they used to call it in those days. Regardless of the plain danger of doing so, he charged across the ring at Broughton, raising his hands like flails. Slack was noted for downward chopping blows and for back-handers, neither of which are or ever have been really successful. Broughton met this wild charge in the orthodox manner with straight left and right, propping off his man in such a way that the attacker's own weight was added to the power of the blows.


 For two minutes or so Slack was badly knocked about. Then they closed for a fall and Broughton's great strength gave him the advantage. But he was getting on in years and was untrained and in flesh. The effort of wrestling with a man of his own ponderous weight made his breath come short, and when next they faced each other across their extended fists the first dullness of fatigue already weighed on the old champion. He was a slow man, and had been used to win his fights by the slow and steady method of wearing down his antagonists. Slack was harder and stronger than he had supposed, but of course he would beat him this ungainly slogger who didn't know enough to avoid the simplest blow. But Slack, the rusher, was a natural fighter which, when all's said, is a very good sort of fighter indeed. He liked the game the fun of it, the sport of it. In spite of his bulk he was pretty hard. Standing square to his man with the right foot a little forward, he had no fear of his great reputation, he was quite untroubled by the stories of that terrible blow beneath the ear. He went for Broughton with a will. He would give him no time to remember his ringcraft. He would take cheerfully all that was coming on the way, and sooner or later he would get past the champion's guard. And presently Slack jumped in and landed a tremendous blow between Broughton's eyes. And the champion's face was soft from good living. He had not been hit like that for many a year.

Both his eyes swelled up at once.


The spectators saw that Broughton was dazed. He seemed stupid and slow not himself at all. And they could not understand this he hesitated and flinched before his man. The Duke of Cumberland, who was his chief patron, could hardly believe his eyes. Broughton afraid ? Broughton, from whom all others

flinched away, who stood so boldly and straight before his man, who, though slow and heavy, was so sure and never gave ground ? Slack stood away for a moment and Broughton came forward with his hands before him, feeling his way. Then the people saw that his eyes were entirely swollen up and closed. The man was blind. The Duke was slower than the others. “ What are you about, Broughton ? " he shouted to him. " You can't fight. You're beat." To which Broughton replied, vaguely turning his head about as though uncertain from which quarter his backer's voice had come, " I can't see my man, your Highness. I am blind not beat. Only put me in front of him and he'll not win yet." But Slack dashed in again and Broughton could not ward off a blow. Still strong, quite unbeaten in the literal sense of the word, he had to give in. It was an accident in the game and yet it was a part of the game. The whole fight was over in fourteen minutes.


In order to compare those days with these, it is interesting to know that tickets for the Amphitheatre on this occasion cost a guinea and a half, whilst the money taken at the door besides fetched 150. Slack, as winner, was given the "produce of the house," which in all amounted to 600. When we have in mind the difference in the value of money then and now, we must realise that even in the early days of the Prize-Ring a successful boxer stood to win a considerable sum. The chief difference in his earning capacity lay in the fact that bare-knuckle fights were necessarily less frequent than the softer encounters of to-day. Nor was the sport widely popular at that time, the patrons and spectators being chiefly confined to publicans and other good sinners.









First Impression, October, 1922






IT is character and knowledge of character, which, together with strength and skill, makes boxing champions to-day. And we are inclined to think that the psychological element in fighting came

in only within the day of gloves, and rather late in that day. Certainly the old records of the early Prize-Ring are of brawn and stamina, skill and courage rather than of forethought and acutely reasoned generalship, but there are exceptions, and one of the most noteworthy is that of Tom Johnson.

Johnson (whose real name was Jackling) was a Derby man, who came to London as a lad, and worked as a corn porter at Old Swan Stairs. For a heavyweight champion he was very small short, rather: for he stood but 5 feet 9 inches. He must, however, have been made like a barrel, for he weighed 14 stone, and

the girth of his chest was enormous.


A story is told of how Johnson when his mate fell sick carried two sacks of corn at each journey up the steep ascent from the riverside and paid the man his money, so that the boxer's amazing strength earned the double wage.


The best known and probably the fiercest of Johnson's battles was with Isaac Perrins, who stood 6 feet 2 inches and weighed 17 stone. It is not probable that boxers trained very vigorously in those early days, so that the weights may be misleading. Contemporary prints, however, certainly give the impression of men in hard condition. Perrins, a Birmingham man, is said to have lifted 8 cwt. of iron into a wagon without effort.


The fight took place at Banbury in Oxfordshire on October 22, 1789. The men fought (it is interesting to know when we think of the prizes of the present day) for 250 guineas. Two thirds of the door money went to the winner, one-third to the loser. The men fought on a turfed stage raised five feet above the ground.


Johnson's method had always been to play a waiting game, to try to understand his opponent's temperament, to take no avoidable risks. He knew that he was a good stayer, so he was accustomed to use his feet and to keep out of distance until he had sized up his man. He would always make rather a long but

certain job of a fight than a quick but hazardous one. Johnson's greatest trouble was his passionate temper, which was largely the cause of his downfall two years later in his fight with Big Ben Brain. Isaac Perrins, who had the name of a good natured giant, was the first to lead. He ..." made a blow," Pierce Egan tells us,

" which, in all probability, had he not have missed his aim, must have decided the contest, and Johnson been killed, from its dreadful force." But Johnson dodged the blow and countered with a terrific right-hander which knocked Perrins down.


 At that time prize-fighters stood square to each other with their hands level, ready to lead off with either. And in that position a man naturally fell over much easier than from the solid attitude of a few years later till the present time.The next three rounds were Johnson's, for Perrins was shaken by his first fall. Then Perrins gathered himself together, and by sheer weight forced himself, regardless of the blows that rained

on him, through the smaller man's guard and knocked him down. And for several rounds in his turn Perrins was the better. He cut Johnson's lip very badly, so that he lost blood, and the betting for some time remained in his favour. Tom Johnson by this time had the measure of his man. The usual waiting game would not serve now. He must not only wait, but he must keep away, and in order to keep away, he must

run away. This may not have been wholly admirable from a purely sporting point of view, but we must forgive Johnson a good deal (and as we shall see there really was a good deal to forgive) on account of his inches.


" He had recourse," says Egan, to “shifting" that is, he kept out of the way for as long as possible, and then, as by the rules of the Prize-Ring a round only ended when one of the men went down, probably closed and

let Perrins throw him. But the spectators approved of this method no better than they would to-day, and there was a good deal of murmuring against Johnson. At last Perrins, unable to reach his nimble footed

antagonist, began to mock at him.


"Why!" he exclaimed to the company at large," what have you brought me here ? This is not the valiant Johnson, the Champion of England : you have imposed upon me with a mere boy! "


At this Johnson was stung to retort, for he was no coward and was but fighting in the only way which his size allowed. Moreover, Perrins's observation roused his dander, and he blurted out.


" By God, you shall know that Tom Johnson is here!" and immediately flew at his man in a passion of rage and planted a terrific blow over his left eye, so that it closed almost at once.


This incident nearly decides for us that Perrins was not much of a boxer. A wild charge of that sort, particularly by a much smaller man, is seldom difficult to frustrate. And the opinion of the crowd began to veer round. Those who had put their money on Perrins began to hedge. Undaunted by his closed eye, Perrins pulled himself together in the next round and returned as good as he had got, closing Johnson's right eye. And so for a while the fight remained level. Many rounds  and very short ones. A half- minute's rest between. Much  hard punishment given and got, but a great deal of it not of a kind obvious to the inexpert spectator. Quite apart from short arm body-blows which are sometimes apt to elude observation, there was wrestling for a fall with which far more rounds ended than with falls from a blow. The effort to throw is exhausting enough, but to be thrown and for a heavy man to fall on top of you is terribly wearing. And though the strength of these two men was prodigious, yet Johnson was the closer knit of the two, from a boxer's point of view the better made.


Now when they had fought forty rounds, Johnson was confident and happy, but he knew that he was pitted against a lionhearted man who was by no means yet worn out. Suddenly he got an opening for a clean straight blow with all his weight behind it. This was a right-hander, which struck Perrins on the bridge

of his nose and slit it down as though it had been cut with a knife.


The odds were now 100-10 on Johnson, but he had by no means won the fight. Perrins was boxing desperately, striving with his great superiority in reach to close Johnson's remaining eye. He knew very well that many a fight had been won like that, an otherwise unhurt man being forced to throw up the

sponge because he was totally blinded by the swelling of his eyes. In the forty-first round Johnson either slipped down or deliberately fell without a blow and Perrins and his backers claimed the victory.

If Johnson did actually play this very dirty trick to gain time and have a rest, he deserved to lose.


We don't know what actually happened. The records merely state that he fell without being hit. But the umpires allowed it because that contingency had not been covered in the articles of agreement made before the fight. Perrins now changed his method, attacking his man with chopping blows presumably on the back of the neck and head, and back-handed blows which are seldom efficacious. These puzzled Johnson at first, and he took some of them without a return until he learned the knack and guarded himself. And Perrins's strength now began to go: while Johnson, who for a few rounds had seemed tired, began to improve again. But yet he never began the attack. He left that always to the giant. In fact, Johnson did everything to save himself and to make his man do most of the work. Then Perrins, who had lunged forward with a terrific blow, fell forward, partly from his own impetus, and partly from weakness. Johnson, who had stepped aside

from the blow, watched him and as he fell hit him in the face with all his might, at the same time tumbling over him.


After that Perrins was done. Every round ended by his falling either from a blow or from sheer weakness. Johnson hit him as he pleased, with the consequence that Perrins's face was fearfully damaged, "with scarce the traces left of a human being." But he refused to give in, and round after round his seconds brought him to the scratch, when he swayed and staggered and struggled for breath and tried to fight on. His pluck in this battle was the inspiration of the Prize-Ring for ever afterwards. More than once Johnson, still strong, sent in tremendous blows which would utterly have finished lesser men, but Isaac Perrins held on until his friends and seconds gave in and refused to let the good fellow fight any more. The match had lasted for an hour and a quarter, during which sixty-two rounds had been fought. In many ways it was an unsatisfactory fight, but for cunning (if rather low cunning) on one side and magnificent courage and

determination on the other, it must be counted one of the greatest combats of the old days.









First Impression, October, 1922






THE Jews in this country have taken very kindly to boxing, both as spectators and as principals, throughout the annals of the Ring, both in the days of bare knuckles and in later times down to the present day, there has generally been a sprinkling of good fighting Israelites. And the first Jew of any note as a boxer became Champion of England.


The battles for which Daniel Mendoza was most famous were the succession, four in number, in which he engaged Richard Humphries. The first of these was negligible, being but a "turn up " or pot-house quarrel at the Cock, Epping. This took place in September of 1787, but it led to a pitched fight between these men for a purse of 150 guineas at Odiham, in Hampshire, in the following January.


Like many prominent fighters, Mendoza was finely developed from the waist upwards, with a big chest and a show of muscle in the arms, but his legs were weaker. He was five-foot seven in height. Humphries was an inch taller and rather better built. He was known as the " Gentleman Boxer" because of his pleasant

manners and sporting behavior generally. Both were men of proved courage. As may be imagined from the Epping incident, there was no love lost between them.


 They fought on a twenty-four foot stage erected in a field, but, since the day was wet, the boarded ring from the first proved to be a hindrance to good boxing.


At first the men were both very cautious. Mendoza, always a little inclined to attitudinise and to pose for effect, swaggered about the ring until he saw an opening when, lunging forward with a mighty blow he slipped and fell. On coming up again Richard Humphries Mendoza got a little nearer to his man and hit him twice, the second blow knocking Humphries down. In the next round they closed and Humphries was heavily thrown. Already it seemed certain that Mendoza was the better boxer, though Humphries was very strong and full of pluck. And for a quarter of an hour of hard righting his pluck was fully needed. Mendoza throughout that time attacked him with the utmost violence, knocking him down or throwing him with consummate skill, so that the betting was strongly in the Jew's favour. Then happened one of those curious and unsatisfactory incidents for which Broughton's Rules, at all events, had no remedy. Mendoza had driven his antagonist, blow following blow, right after left, across the ring to the side, which appears on this occasion to have been railed and not roped. A smashing right had all but lifted Humphries off the stage, and for a moment he hung over the rail quite helpless and at Mendoza's mercy. Instantly taking advantage of his position, the Jew sent in a terrific right-hander at Humphries's ribs which, had it landed, would almost certainly have knocked him out of time and so finished the fight. But Tom Johnson, who was acting as Humphries's second, leapt forward and caught Mendoza's fist in his own hand.


The Jew's followers immediately sent up a shout of "Foul! " which was reasonable enough. Indeed, by modern rules there would be no question at all. Humphries would have been immediately disqualified for his second's interference. But the old rules were elastic and the umpires on this occasion decided that Johnson was justified, as his man should be considered " down." Whether they had any ulterior motive, such as the desire to see the fight run its natural length, one cannot say. But we do know that human nature has altered remarkably little in a hundred and fifty years, and to-day a referee, not of the first rank, will often stretch a debatable point in order " not to spoil sport," or because it would be a pity if the public failed to get their money's worth out of the moving pictures taken of the fight.


Hitherto, owing to the wet and slippery boards, Humphries had been severely handicapped. He now took off his shoes and fought in his silk stockings. But with these, too, he found it difficult to keep his footing and after a round or two his seconds provided him with a pair of thick worsted stockings to put over

them. In these he could stand firm, and shortly afterwards his great courage began to be rewarded, for Mendoza flagged a little, and Humphries picked him clean off his feet and threw him with terrible force to the ground. The Jew came down on his face, cutting his forehead severely and bruising his nose. Coming up for the next round, Mendoza was plainly hurt and shaken, and thenceforward his antagonist showed himself the better man. Mendoza went down before a terrific body-blow, while in the next round he fell from a left-hander on the neck which nearly knocked the senses out of him. Then, coming up again, he

dashed at Humphries and hit him with all his flagging power in the face, but he slipped and toppled over from the impetus of his own rush and fell down on the boards with his leg awkwardly twisted under him. In doing this he sprained a tendon, and knowing that further effort was quite useless, he gave in. A moment later he fainted in the ring and was carried away. So Humphries's victory on this occasion was due, finally, to an accident. The whole battle was finished in half an hour, and "never was more skill and science displayed in any boxing match in this kingdom," wrote the chronicler, Pierce Egan, with his customary exaggeration.


Prone as human nature ever is, now as then, to judge by net results, Mendoza's reputation nevertheless suffered little from this defeat. On the contrary, he had boxed so well and had shown so much courage that he had, if anything, enhanced it. It was seen that he was a much quicker man than Humphries and that he was far better at close quarters. On the other hand, Mendoza was not a really hard hitter.


 After this battle the winner wrote a note to his backer and patron, Mr. Bradyl, which delightfully summed up the situation :


" SIR, I have done the Jew, and am in good health. "RICHARD HUMPHRIES."



But a number of sportsmen were by no means satisfied that Humphries had " done " the Jew on his own merits. They fully realised that accident had materially helped in that "doing," and accordingly were ready to back the Jew again. The two men being quite willing, a match was arranged and was eventually

fought in Mr. Thornton's park, near Stilton, in Huntingdonshire, on May 6th, 1789. For this encounter, popular excitement being very great, a sort of amphitheatre was built with seats piled tier on tier around the ring. It held nearly 3000 people. This, too, was an unsatisfactory fight, but has to be chronicled because it

illustrates very vividly some of the causes which nearly a hundred years later finally brought the Prize-Ring to ignominy, and because, also, it shows how mixed are human motives and emotions during severe physical strain.


The men squared up to each other, and Humphries made the first attack, but Mendoza stopped the blow neatly and sent in a hard counter which knocked his antagonist down. The second and third rounds ended in exactly the same way. The Jew's confidence was complete, his speed remarkable. He had learned to hit no harder, but he certainly hit more often than Humphries. For about forty minutes Mendoza had much the best of it, taking his adversary's blows on his forearm, instantly replying with his quick, straight left, or closing and throwing Humphries.


The feeling of impotency, of long effort continuously baffled,  finds the breaking point of a boxer's pluck much sooner than severe punishment relieved by a successful counter from time to time. Humphries was tired, but not seriously hurt. In the twenty-second round Mendoza struck at him, but he avoided the blow and dropped. He did not slip. As the Jew's fist came towards him he made the almost automatic movement which should ensure its harmlessness, but at the same moment he deliberately made up his mind to take the half minute's rest then and there. Or perhaps that was instinctive too. The human mind flits quickly through the processes or stages of intention and comes to a certain conclusion. Humphries wanted to gain time and fell without a blow. Now the articles of agreement expressly stated that if either man fell without a blow he should lose the fight. And the cries of " Foul !" from the crowd and especially from Mendoza's corner were natural enough. But Humphries and his backers claimed the fall a fair one because Mendoza had struck a blow, though it had not, as a matter of fact, landed.


The partisans on either side wrangled and argued, and finally a general fight seemed almost inevitable. Above the yelling and cursing of the crowd and in the general confusion, the umpires could scarcely be heard. Sir Thomas Apreece, Mendoza's umpire, naturally shouted that it was a foul and that Humphries

was beaten. Mr. Combe, the other umpire, held his tongue, refusing to give an opinion. That should have been sufficient. But Mendoza's second lost his temper and shouted across the ring to Tom Johnson, who was once again seconding Humphries, that he was a liar and a scoundrel. This observation may not

have been strictly to the point, but the point (save that of the jaw) is the last consideration when feeling runs high on notable public occasions. Johnson said nothing and began to cross the ring in his slow, heavy way, looking very dangerous. But a diversion interrupted a promising bye-battle, for Humphries stood up and called on Mendoza to continue fighting, carrying the war, as it were, into the enemy's country by taunting him with cowardice. Mendoza was willing enough, but his backers held him back. Humphries then threw up his hat and challenged the Jew to a fresh battle, and at last they fell to again. And yet again Mendoza showed himself the better man, knocking Humphries down twice in succession. For half an hour the second act of this drama continued indecisive, though Mendoza was evidently the better and more skilful man. He now punished Humphries severely, closing one of his eyes, severely cutting his forehead and lip. He had little in return, though Humphries had put in some heavy body-blows at close quarters which had made

the Jew wince. But throughout the second half of the fight Humphries fought with perfect courage and even confidence. Then at last he again fell without a blow, and Mendoza was declared the winner.


What was to be thought of such a man ?


Even now, neither Humphries nor his friends were fully satisfied. His tremendous hitting power, especially when directed against Mendoza's body, was reckoned as not having yet been fully tested. Once let him send home but one smashing right on the Jew's lower ribs, and he would certainly win.


Accordingly, yet another match was arranged in September of the following year at Doncaster, during (as Pierce Egan phonetically spells it) the Sellinger Cup week. The place chosen was confined on three sides by houses, whilst the fourth was closed by high railings behind which flowed the river Don. Public excitement was very high. Upwards of five hundred tickets of admission to the ground were sold at half a guinea each, whilst a ferryman made a small fortune by taking many hundreds of people over the river to the back of the railings at sixpence a head. These presently smashed down the railings and so gained an unauthorized entry. Having gained their point, however, the crowd behaved well, and settled down to watch the renewed trial of the two fighters in silent expectation.


Again a twenty-four-foot stage had been built at a height of four feet so that all the spectators could get a clear view. At half-past ten in the morning the men appeared, Mendoza immediately following Humphries. Both of them seemed cheerful, confident, and well. Johnson, who had hitherto been Humphries's second, had deserted and gone over to the opposite camp, his place being taken by John Jackson, who, a few years later, himself became Champion of England. Colonel Hamilton and Sir Thomas Apreece were the umpires, and they mutually agreed upon Mr. Harvey Aston as referee. Odds of 5 to 4 were laid on Mendoza.


Humphries led off with perfect confidence and all his strength,  but was met by stout resistance. In a moment they were in each other's arms, struggling for a fall, and presently they both went over together. Their eagerness was quite undiminished when they came up again, Humphries doing most of the leading and landing from time to time, without, however, giving Mendoza serious trouble. After a time they grew more cautious, blows were fewer but harder, and Mendoza knocked his man down. In the fifth round Humphries made a desperate effort to get in one of his rib-bending body-blows, but failed, and in the rally

that followed over-reached himself and fell. And then it was seen that, round by round, Mendoza was improving, scoring more heavily, boxing much better. The odds rose to 10-1 in his favour. Round after round ended by Humphries going down, sometimes from a blow, but more often " from a policy often used in boxing, which perhaps may be considered fair; several times he sank without a blow, which conduct, though contrary to the articles of agreement, was passed unnoticed."


Judging that conduct on its open merits, we should say that Humphries was a simple coward. But we often too easily and too quickly call people cowards, and even in this instance we have, so to speak, to look again.


The spectators, even in that age of quickly cut and dried opinions, still had a certain degree of confidence in this strange man, for whilst he was actually fighting, though round by round he got the worst of it, there was the same old vigour in his movements, the same readiness to seize an opportunity. The man of

poor spirit in the ring is not so much one who cannot stand punishment as one who fails in aggression. Almost he hopes to be knocked out; he can stand up and defend himself, but on his very life he cannot force himself to take chances and attack his opponent.


Again he must have experienced the impotency of inaction. He tried to hit Mendoza, but seldom succeeded. Again, one eye was completely closed so that he could not see from it. His friends, seeing that he had no chance of winning now, begged him to give in. But he refused. And yet he kept falling without

a blow. One moment he would make up his mind to be brave, to endure whatever punishment was coming to him, and the next he would fail, and seek respite on the ground. Then again he would stand up and try to fight. For a little while after his friends' solicitations, he was spurred on to his best endeavours, but it was

useless.Mendoza won every round, and at last, dreadfully cut about the head and face, with a mutilated ear and a severe cut over the ribs, Humphries had to give in. Much battered, he was carried through the crowd on the shoulders of his friends.


It was not until five years later that Mendoza's championship was wrested from him by John Jackson, a man whose title to fame arose rather from his general behaviour than from his performances as a professional athlete. Jackson was born in 1768, and was the son of a builder. His forebears had come of a good yeoman race. He was a man of great solidity of character, astute commercial instincts and a

sonorous pomposity of manner which passed very well for dignity. He was five-feet eleven in height, and he weighed fourteen stone. He was massively built, and he " took care of himself," as the saying goes: in other words, he lived a reasonable life the last sort of life usually lived by the pugilists of that day.


Jackson and Mendoza met at Hornchurch, in Essex, on April 15th, 1795, for 200 guineas a side. The twenty-four-foot stage was built at the bottom of a hollow which formed a natural amphitheatre and accommodated about 3000 people.


Jackson had fought only twice before, having beaten Fewterel of Birmingham, a good man with twenty victories to his credit, and having lost, through falling and dislocating an ankle, to George Ingleston. His fine appearance and his portentous respectability no doubt brought more public interest to his fight

with Mendoza than his record : but the Jew was a fully tried man of a great and deserved reputation, and the betting was 5-4 on him.


When the men had shaken hands a whole minute went by as they manoeuvred about each other before a blow was struck. Then in the slow manner of that day, Jackson gathered himself together and sent in a tremendously hard left-hander which struck Mendoza full in the face and sent him down.


In the second round the Jew was more careful, and when Jackson went for him he stopped or avoided blow after blow, using his feet with neatness and dexterity, and returning, if not blow for blow, at least a fair proportion of them. A little later there was a fierce rally in which Mendoza was knocked down,

but the betting nevertheless rose to 2-1 on him.


They fought at an ever increasing speed as time went on. In the fourth round, Jackson paid no heed at all to his opponent's blows, but battered his way in, taking much punishment to give the greater. Finally he sent home a terrible left on the right eye which completely slit open the brow and bled profusely besides

causingMendoza to fall. Jackson was evidently doing the better as the betting changed in his favour.


It was in the next, the fifth round, that our model of gentlemanly conduct sought his own advantage by means of one of the foulest tricks that have been handed down to us. There was a fierce exchange of blows during which the Jew's head was lowered as he lunged forward with his right to the body. Jackson

stepped aside to avoid the blow and caught Mendoza by his somewhat long hair, twisting his fingers in it, whilst with his free hand he upper-cut him again and again.


Mendoza's friends instantly appealed to the umpires, but, Egan tells us, " they deemed it perfectly consistent with the rules of fighting." Mendoza fell and 2-1 was betted on Jackson.


During the next three rounds the old champion was evidently growing weak, and fought only on the defensive. But Jackson beat down his guard and hit him severely. The ninth round was the last. Jackson walked in and planted several hard blows in quick succession on face and body. Mendoza struggled on

for a little while and at last fell utterly exhausted. He knew that he stood no chance now. It was folly to go on. He gave in.


It was one of the shortest main battles ever fought, lasting in all but ten minutes and a half; and for its time quite the hardest ever fought at all. Mendoza was badly cut up; the new champion was hardly hurt.


This was not by any means the Jew's last appearance in the Prize-Ring, for he fought Harry Lee for seventy minutes and beat him in fifty-three rounds eleven years later: and he actually fought Tom Owen in 1820, when he was fifty-seven years old.


" Youth will be served," we know, and Owen, who was at the time only just over fifty, beat him. Mendoza lived to a good old age, and in comfortable circumstances, dying in 1836.


Seven years after the encounter recorded above a letter appeared in the Daily Oracle and Advertiser which purported to be a challenge from Mendoza to Jackson for a return match. As a fact, the letter was a practical joke; but a part of Jackson's reply is worth quoting, as it is so characteristic of all we hear

of the man. ". . . for some years," he wrote,


“I have entirely withdrawn from a public life, and am more and more convinced of the propriety of my conduct by the happiness which I enjoy in private among many friends of great respectability, with whom it is my pride to be received on terms of familiarity and friendship. . . ."


Jackson never fought again, and one of the greatest reputations in the annals of the championship that have come to us is based upon a pugilist who only entered the ring thrice! One other champion was in precisely the same case, and that was John Gulley, whom we shall come to in due course.


No doubt Jackson attracted to himself a good deal of attention apart from the eccentricity of his good behaviour. He was a man of prodigious strength and is said to have written his name whilst an 84 Ib. weight was suspended from his little finger.


After his retirement he took rooms at 13 Old Bond Street, a regular and fashionable house of call for the young bloods of the day. It became the correct thing to take a course of boxing lessons from John Jackson. Byron, who was a keen boxer despite his infirmity, used to go there to keep down the fat of which he

ever lived in terror. In his diary for March  17th, 1814, he says:


“I have been sparring with Jackson for exercise this morning, and mean to continue and renew my acquaintance with my mufflers. My chest, and arms, and wind are in very good plight, and I am not in flesh. I used to be a hard hitter and my arms are very long for my height." which was 5 ft 8 ¼  inches

" At any rate, exercise is good, and this the severest of all ; fencing and broadsword never fatigued me half so much."


Byron regarded John Jackson as a friend whom he greatly admired. He wrote letters to him on several occasions. Jackson had innumerable pupils and was about the first real instructor of boxing for amateurs. He went to his grave in BromptonCemetery old and honoured in 1845.





IF the love of Fair Play is not born in us, and has therefore to be taught, we do have ingrained in us a very real admiration for a good loser. Nothing, as we know only too well, succeeds like success particularly material success. But somewhere or other deep down in us we have a kind of mistrust of what the world

at large calls success : there may be a tinge of superstition in our feeling. At any rate we have a very warm corner in our hearts for the glorious failure: and not without good reason, for there are more failures than successes, and, having failed, it is easy enough to invent the glory.


Jem Belcher is probably the most renowned prize-fighter that ever lived. He won several splendid victories, details of some of which have come down to us. But it is not his victories that have given fame to him so much as his glorious defeats: and these not so much on account of the champions who beat him,

though they were very famous too, as on account of Belcher's personality. This, compounded as it was of qualities and especially defects, unlovely in themselves, was of exactly the kind which endears itself to the English speaking world, and to that world not only.


Jem Belcher was a roysterer, a drinker, a loose fish. He was also jealous and vindictive. But he was indomitably courageous and he was good-looking. He was a gracefully built man, and well-proportioned, but he made no great show of muscle. He stood 5 ft. 11 in., but never weighed more than 11 stone 10 Ib.

only a little over the modern middle-weight limit.


Jem Belcher was born at Bristol on April I5th, 1781, being on his mother's side a grandson of Jack Slack, the champion of 1750. He went to work as a butcher's boy, and whilst quite a lad, showed amazing precocity as a boxer. His first recorded fight, when he was but seventeen, was with Britton, whom he

beat in March of 1798 in half an hour or so. Then he came to London, where he was kindly treated by Bill Warr, now an elderly man, who put on the gloves with him to see what he was made of. As a result of this trial, Warr backed Jem against Paddington Jones, whom he easily beat.


In the following year he fought a drawn battle with Jack Bartholomew, when quite out of condition. In 1800 he was matched with Bartholomew again and fought him for three hundred guineas a side on Finchley

Common. Belcher had already shown himself as a brilliantly scientific boxer, aggressive, " never to be denied," as they say. But with Bartholomew, a much heavier and stronger man, he showed how well he could defend himself, " milling on the retreat" when necessary. In spite of this Bartholomew dashed at him at the beginning, and, forcing down his guard, knocked Jem down.


So certain were Bartholomew's backers that he had the fight in one hand, so to say, that they immediately sent off messengers to London announcing his victory. This was a little premature, for no sooner had those messengers left the ring-side than Belcher with lightning speed hit his opponent several times in succession

without a return, and finished a brilliant round by throwing him a hard cross-buttock. The effects of this handicapped Bartholomew for the rest of the encounter. He had plenty of pluck, and all of it was needed. The moral courage required to stand up and take a beating from a much lighter man, or rather a boy, is very great. The rounds were short and very fierce, seventeen being fought in twenty minutes. And at the end of that time Jem sent home a tremendous body-blow which knocked Bartholomew down and out of time. He was unable to reach the scratch after the half minute's rest.


After this Belcher thrashed Andrew Gamble in five rounds and nine minutes. His next battle, quite an important one in regarding the man's record, was yet but a brawl at the ring-side of another fight. Just after the encounter between Isaac Bittoon and Tom Jones in July of 1801, Joe Berks, the Shropshire butcher

(who figures in somewhat similar circumstances with Boy Jim in Sir A. Conan Doyle's Rodney Stone), somewhat elated by wine, called out, " Where's young Jem Belcher ? Where's your champion ?"

So Jem went up to him and asked him what he wanted. The reply was a quick blow which Belcher, ever on

the alert, stopped. They thereupon settled down to a byebattle which lasted for nineteen minutes and which Jem Belcher decisively won.


However, it was manifest that Berks had been fighting under the handicap of considerable intoxication, and a set battle was finally arranged between these two in the following November. They met at Hurley Bottom, near Maidenhead.


Joe Berks was much the stronger man, and though early in the fight Jem laid open his nose with a vicious right and later cut his forehead so that Joe lost a lot of blood, his seconds finding it impossible to staunch it, he fought like a tiger. In the ninth round after these misfortunes and when he had been getting much the worst of it, he dashed in, through, as it were, Jem's raining blows, seized hold of him and hurled him down with terrific force. Joe Berks was a gallant ruffian, and though utterly defeated in sixteen rounds and twenty-five minutes refused to give in. Finally his seconds threw up the sponge on his behalf. He was

much cut and bruised both in face and body, while young Jem Belcher hardly had a mark to show, and seemed quite unhurt. He declared afterwards that he never felt a blow throughout the fight which is probably untrue.


 After he had beaten Joe Berks again and Fearby, the Young Ruffian, in fourteen and eleven rounds respectively, Jem Belcher was generally regarded as the Champion. It was after these fights that a great misfortune befell him. Jem, who, like other fighters of his day, was made much of by sportsmen of all kinds, was playing racquets one afternoon with a Mr. Stewart at the court in St. Martin's Street, when a ball

struck him in the eye and literally smashed it. This was in July of 1803. The misfortune, great as it would have been to any man, was not at the moment calamitous, for Belcher had made enough money to enable him to settle down as a publican; and he now took the "Jolly Butchers" in Wardour Street, Soho.


It was supposed that he would never dream of fighting again, blind as he was in one eye; and no one challenged his championship. For two years he maintained the dignity of champion, until the exploits of Henry commonly called Hen Pearce, the " Game Chicken," roused him from his retirement.


Though in years Pearce was just a little older than Jem, he had been his protégé, and Belcher had brought him up from his native Bristol a few years before. Pearce stood 5 ft. 9 in. and weighed 13 stone, having a figure like Tom Johnson's. He was slow, and his knowledge of and skill in boxing was by no means

equal to his master's, but he was very strong. In 1804 he had beaten Joe Berks, and in the following year John Gulley, after a tremendous battle which lasted for fifty-nine rounds and one hour and ten minutes.


After this he was generally acclaimed as Champion of England. And at that Jem Belcher's bitter envy

rose like flame. He couldn't bear to see even his friend whom he had taught and introduced to the London Ring on his own old throne. To the great surprise of everybody he challenged Pearce, and the fight took place on December 6th, 1805, at Blyth, near Doncaster. The " Napoleon of the Ring," as Jem was sometimes called, owing to his slight physical resemblance to our great enemy of that period, was the favourite, despite his blind eye. But directly he stripped the betting changed to 5-4 on Pearce. The landlord of the "Jolly Butchers " had not improved his physique during the two years of retirement.


Though still a young man Belcher had all the sensations of a returning veteran. Indeed it takes a young man to feel that kind of position strongly. Despite the jealousy which had prompted the challenge, there was a romantic atmosphere about all the circumstances of this battle. The half-blind hero, thin, weedy,

delicate, fighting the new and sturdier champion; skill and a wonderful spirit pitted against solid bone and muscle. By the time the fight had begun, Jem Belcher felt the romance of it more keenly than his unjust resentment.


We may regard Jem as the first perfect exponent of that splendid blow, the straight and simple left lead. And after the usual caution when the men first met it was with a lightning left, but fiercely hard, that he drew first blood, cutting Pearce's eye severely. It was like old times it was always the same way: Joe Berks was strong and so was Fearby, but they could not stop him, Jem Belcher. That left had gone in easily enough. He knew how to hit, did Jem. Strength wasn't everything. But what was this ? There were uncomfortable abilities in strength after all. The Game Chicken took his blow and heeded not his

bleeding eye-blow and then he closed, and his grip tightened and tightened, until Jem was like a helpless child in his huge brawny arms, and presently he was flung violently upon the turf. Something in sheer strength, when all's said.


But there's a good deal in boxing too. Belcher feinted with his left and sent home a hard body-blow with his right, repeating it in the next moment. Pearce's streaming eye hampered him a good deal, but even yet he could see sometimes when he wiped the blood away, while Jem, from his corresponding eye, could see nothing. Swinging his weight forward, he aimed a tremendous blow with the right at Jem, who, with all his old coolness and dexterity, guarded it, and joined gladly in the fierce rally that ensued. Then in a lull out came Pearce's long arms again to seize Jem in a bear-like hug and throw him down. And so they fought on. Other things being equal, the boxer wins. And so far as boxing goes Jem had this battle all his own way, but he could not withstand that grim hug, which caught him round after round about his middle and hurled him, shaken and weakening, to the ground.


And yet in the fifth round, greatly daring, Jem carried the war to his opponent and threw him; though the effort of doing so was beyond all wisdom. In the next round Belcher was boxing again with cold skill and neat precision, but his old vigour was lacking. He looked a sick man, though his remaining eye was bright and open. They wrestled for a fall, but the heavy Pearce was uppermost. In the seventh round both went down together after Jem had suffered some severe punishment with his head "in chancery " under the Chicken's arm, but in the eighth he showed himself the old champion. Shaken and weakened as he had been, he gathered himself together and hit out as he had been used to do. If only he could keep this up ! He knew that he had only too little reserve of strength, but surely Pearce could not endure this hammering for long. Using his right chiefly now, he hit his opponent as he liked and when he liked, and when Pearce showed signs of exhaustion, Jem wound up the round by throwing him clean out of the ring. But when they came up again Jem was bitterly disappointed. Pearce was very strong. His shaking had done him little harm. Belcher hit him hard in the face, but he could take it all and more. They fell together, but Jem knew that unless he could beat him soon, he was done.


In the twelfth round it was plain to every one that Jem's strength was going, and he knew it himself. He made a desperate effort, but it was of no use against this rock of a man. Pearce closed and threw him half over the ropes, so that he was at his mercy, but he stood away. "I'll take no advantage o* thee, Jem," he said, " I'll not hit thee, lest I hurt thine other eye." Men of Belcher's temperament and in his position can brook no pity, and Pearce's gallant sentiments only enraged him. His hits were growing weak, he was panting for his breath, his knees were shaking, but even so he contrived to end the thirteenth

round by throwing the Chicken down.


In the next round he tried to gain time. He was bleeding severely from several deep cuts about his face, and it was increasingly hard to will himself to go on doing his hopeless best. He fought as much as possible on the retreat, trying to keep away. But the Chicken saw a chance of finishing the fight quickly and dashed

in, hitting Jem with great force under his blind eye. Then he threw him.


A little later Pearce again got Jem over the ropes in a helpless position and again stepped back, refusing to take advantage of him. In falling sideways it was thought that Jem had broken a rib in hard contact with a ring post. He winced as he came up for the seventeenth round. He was not merely so weak that he

could hardly stand, but he was suffering great pain. His pluck was exemplary; he stood up and did his best to box, guarding a blow from time to time and trying to put in a return. But now Pearce had the battle in his hands. He hit Jem as he pleased, as Jem had only a short while ago hit him and ended the round by throwing him. In the next round Jem came up staggering to the scratch, but once there he found that he could not even lift his left arm at all, and with a bitterness in his heart such as he had dreamed that he would never know, he gave in. And Pearce, to show how strong he was, could not resist showing off by jumping out of the ring and back again and turning a somersault. The fight had lasted but thirty-five minutes in all.






AFTER Jem Belcher's signal defeat at the huge hands of Pearce, The " Game Chicken," two years passed by before the temptation once again to risk the chances of the ring overpowered the old champion. During that time his life as a publican had by no means improved his already enfeebled physique. And those two

years had seen the rise to fame (and that fame steadily growing) of one Tom Cribb, a Gloucestershire man like Pearce and Belcher himself, a heavy, slow, ponderous fellow, who had beaten good men, the best of whom was Bill Richmond, the black, and who had been beaten but once, when quite out of condition, by George Nichols.


Once again Belcher's jealousy blazed up, and he challenged Cribb. The challenge was accepted. At that stage of Cribb's career it could in no wise be avoided, but his backers were not at all easy. They knew what Jem Belcher could do, they knew that their own man was dead slow. They were afraid that, despite the old champion's un athletic life, Tom Cribb would never be able to touch him.


The fight took place on April 8th, 1807, for £200 a side. The place chosen was Moulsey Hurst, on the Thames, almost opposite to Hampton Court, the scene of innumerable prizefights. The battle attracted all the foremost sportsmen of the day, and the gutteral exclamations of the Duke of Clarence, afterwards William IV., were heard amongst the chatter at the ring-side. John Jackson kept " time." In spite of his pasty face and weedy appearance Jem was still the favourite. His arms, never remarkable for muscular

development, looked thin and meagre, his whole body poor.


But the lion-hearted courage of the man had so firm a hold upon the imagination of his friends that they believed him still invincible. It was easy enough to invent excuses for his defeat by Pearce. Cribb was a shorter man, but fully two stone heavier. He was built on the heroic scale, with huge chest and shoulders and the arms of an inelegant Hercules. To the more dismal of his friends, who warned him of Jem's speed, he replied, grinning. " You'll see, he'll break his hands on my head." Cribb's was a very tough nut, and with considerable experience behind him he knew it.


The fight began with the usual caution. Then Jem darted in with a couple of spanking blows at his adversary's face, and almost before Cribb knew where he was, he had jumped away again out of reach. Again Jem did this and yet again. All the stories he had heard of Cribb's great strength were comfortably

balanced by the discovered truth of the stories about his slowness. But the next time Jem leapt in upon his man Cribb was ready with a heavy right-hand counter on the ribs ; and then before he could get away Jem found himself whirled off his feet and flung hard upon the ground.


In the next round Jem backed away, tempting Cribb to try for another fall, and as the big fellow lumbered after him, Jem stopped abruptly and sent in lightning blows with left and right, a bang under the chin and again and again on the face and nose, so that the blood ran fast. Then like the vainglorious fool that he

was, he closed with Cribb, and exerting all his strength, flung him on the ground.


It was an idiotic thing to do, for to throw a man two stone heavier than yourself is more exhausting than to be thrown by him. And Jem Belcher knew it, but seeing the opportunity could not resist it, well knowing as he must have done, that Cribb could endure any amount of such treatment. Thereafter for a little while, it is true, Jem was all over Cribb. He was infinitely the better and the faster boxer. Lord Saye and Sele, Jem's principal backer, watched him with satisfaction. " He'll have Tom blinded in half an hour," he said: for again and again Jem's sharp knuckles had landed on his opponent's shaggy eyebrows. But the amateur

had not thoroughly studied the anatomy of Cribb. He had not noticed, for example, that his eyes were unusually deep set, so that though his brows were badly bruised and constant sharp blows had fallen on the cheekbones as well, the subsequent swelling had not closed Tom's eyes as it would have other men's. Moreover, when blow on blow upon the hard bone of his brows had lacerated the swollen flesh, the flow of blood partly relieved the swelling. But for some rounds Jem Belcher hammered him unmercifully. Left and right, quickly following up advantages, he drove Cribb before him round and across the ring. Thrice

in succession he exerted his strength and, closing, threw his antagonist heavily upon the grass.


But Tom Cribb was hard and healthy and strong. He might be a poor boxer at this time, but he knew how to play a waiting game, and he had the moral courage to bide his time and the physical courage to endure the inevitable punishment, and now at last he saw that Jem's rushes were slower. The grim-faced, battered fighter looked across the ring at the slim and delicate fellow, so light a burden upon his second's knee, whose face showed not a mark, and he nodded to his own attendants. "You watch," he said.


When they came up again, the spectators noticed that there were bruises about Jem's ribs, and that when Tom's infrequent body blows did land, he winced with obvious pain. But he continued to take care of his head. For a round or two Jem had been slowing down, then once again he pulled himself together and

went for Cribb with the fury of despair. He understood now what it was to fight a man so vastly his better in sheer strength. And under the rain of his punches Tom Cribb retreated and at length fell prostrate in his own corner. Many folk at the ringside thought that the fight was over. Half a minute to go could

Cribb recover ? His seconds sluiced him with cold water, rubbed his limbs, dragged him up. There he was, staggering at the scratch, a pitiful sight, broken, bleeding, but upright, and, as the moments passed, steadier, with left foot out, hands up and head erect. And again Jem went for him and landed a couple of blows, right and left, upon his head. Then he backed away towards his own corner, glancing at his fists as he did so. Tom Cribb grinned, and turned for an instant towards his own corner, nodding, as much as to say, " Told you so." Jem came forward again and made a hesitating attempt at a blow. Tom guarded it easily and went after him, pressing him towards the ropes and finally sending him down with a heavy right on the ribs. In the next round Jem came up again, clearly afraid to hit, and this time with a terrific-body blow Cribb sent him clear through the ropes.


The turn of fortune had been amazingly sudden. Not three minutes before every one save Cribb and a few of his supporters had thought the end had come and in Jem's favour. Now Tom knocked him down again without anything like resistance. And at the end of forty-one rounds and thirty-five minutes, Jem Belcher

had perforce to give in. Immediately afterwards he walked, weak but not dead-beat, round the ring, showing his hands to the spectators. They were quite useless. Tom had been right: his hard head had driven up the knuckles so that the lightest hit was to Jem exquisitely painful.


It was an honorable defeat, though a bitter disappointment to Jem Belcher. Well he knew that in all but strength and hardness he was the better man. And he knew, too, that few, save Cribb, could endure the amount of punishment that he had given before his hands went, and that in the days before he lost his eye

and before he had weakened his constitution by drinking, Cribb could never have stood a chance with him.






BEFORE continuing the history of Tom Cribb and finally disposing of the unlucky Belcher, it is necessary to turn aside and examine the brief pugilistic career of John Gulley, who, like Jackson, fought but thrice and like him depended for fame more upon his respectability than upon the drive of his fist. To get the worst over at once I may record the notorious fact that Gulley, after leaving the Ring, made money and flattered his self-esteem by entering Parliament, sitting for Pontefract. Nowadays champion boxers are a cut above that sort of thing.


 Despite the shortness of his fighting life and his monumental respectability, John Gulley was a very fine pugilist. How he gained the necessary reputation before being matched with the

Game Chicken it is impossible to say. We know that he found willing backers, so we may safely assume that he had shown more than usual skill with the “mufflers," as boxing gloves were called in those days. The fight, which took place on July 2oth, 1805, at Hailsham, in Sussex, lasted for an hour and ten minutes, and was finished in fifty-nine rounds. Gulley was beaten, nearly every round ending by his downfall, but he boxed well and showed remarkable endurance and pluck.


On the retirement of Pearce, chiefly owing to ill-health indeed, the poor fellow died not long afterwards of consumption Gulley became virtual champion. But he can hardly be described by that title with full justice, for the reason that he declined the office and showed no desire to act as a champion in the true meaning of the word, for he did not stand to accept challenges. He honourably retired from the ring, kept the Plough Inn, Carey Street, and realised a large fortune as a bookmaker. But his two victories over Bob Gregson are certainly worth mention. One of them is the subject of an illustration in this book.


Though these battles were between two big men, the hugeness of Gregson made them appear unevenly matched. Gulley weighed about 13 ½  stone, and stood just under 6 feet. Gregson, aLancashire

man by birth, weighed 15 stone and was 6 ft. 2 inches. They fought at Six Mile Bottom, near Newmarket, on October 1 4th, 1807. Gulley had Tom Cribb in his corner and Gregson Bill Richmond.


For the first six rounds there was little to choose between them. But Gregson was somewhat daunted by a very severe knock down in the second round. Gulley hit him full in the face with such force that the blood literally flew from him. In the seventh, however, the bigger man fought through his opponent's guard and gave Gulley such a blow under the eye as knocked the senses out of him for a few seconds, and his eye swelled up so that he was completely blinded in it. In the next round Gregson, using his tremendous strength, lifted his man up and hurled him to the ground as though he had been a piece of timber. But

he refrained from falling on him, which, by the rules then in force, he was entitled to do, and whereby with his great weight he might have done severe damage and so earned the cheers of the onlookers. The ninth round immediately following, found Gulley still quite cool and using all his skill. He knocked his man down, though not severely. Then onward till the sixteenth round, however, Gregson's strength made itself felt, and he gave John Gulley a very bad time. Gulley seemed to be weakening, and round after round ended in his downfall. Then he "got his second wind," and in a fierce rally knocked Gregson clean off his feet.


It must be remembered that for some time past Gulley could see with but one eye, and though he was the better boxer, his opponent's extra weight was a severe added handicap when it came to a fall. Gulley would have much the better of the exchanges round after round, and yet many of these rounds ended by his being desperately thrown.


By the twenty-third round, however, it was seen that Gregson's strength was ebbing, whilst Gulley somehow gave the impression of maintaining the same condition as he had shown after the first ten rounds. That is to say, he appeared to be weak, but again and again gathered himself up for some prodigious effort

by sheer will-power. Up to the twenty-fifth round it was, as the saying goes, anybody's fight. Both men were badly damaged: the strength of both was fast ebbing. You might say that if either had known exactly how bad the other felt he could have won then and there. In all personal combats it is each man's business

to hide his feelings from his opponent. He must be hurt without showing that he is hurt, and however much hurt he must persist in wanting to win. There comes a time in a hard fight, with gloves or without them, when one man or other wants less to win than to be done with the whole agonising, wearying business on

any terms. And that man is beaten. So it was now with Gregson. Hurt and fatigued, he lost heart at last. His will had been stubborn, but not so stubborn as John Gulley's. They fought on till the thirty-sixth round, till both were almost at a standstill. Then Gulley made the last supreme effort and knocked Bob Gregson down, so that he could not rise to the call of time. Gulley himself came staggering to the scratch.


This was regarded at the time as one of the severest battles ever seen in the Prize-Ring. It was a good sporting encounter throughout, with good will and even magnanimity on either side. Gulley had greatly improved in the science of boxing since his encounter with the Chicken, and he needed all that science in

order to balance Gregson's extra height, weight, and reach.


For his part Gregson and his backers believed that he could yet beat Gulley, and he accordingly challenged him to fight for £200 a side. The day fixed was May l0 th, 1808, and the scene of action on the borders of Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire. The magistrates, however, made difficulties, as they occasionally

did even in those days, and the Dunstable volunteers were called out to "keep the peace " and to deal with "the proposed riotous assembly." Eventually the principals, seconds, backers, and huge" riotously assembled " crowd moved off to Sir John Seabright's Park in the friendlier county of Hertford. And

there the fight took place in a huge ring, forty feet square.


Men on horseback and on foot, in barouches, coaches, carriages, donkey-carts, men walking, men running, went across country for several miles out of the jurisdiction of the enemies of pugilism. Much rain had fallen during the day, with the consequence that the fighters had some difficulty in keeping their feet. Gregson, in anticipation of this, had spiked shoes, but Captain Barclay, as referee, justly regarded these as dangerous and unfair, and ruled that the men should fight without shoes, which accordingly they did.


The men circled about each other in the dog-like fashion in which the majority of fights opened, and Gulley retreated towards his own corner. His seconds, Bill Gibbons and Joe Ward, fearing lest Gregson with his great weight should fall upon their man whilst his back was against one of the stakes, put their hands over

the top of it to prevent serious injury. But Gulley knew what he was about; feinting with his left he brought his right over with a great swing of his shoulders and caught his man fairly upon the temple and knocked him down. So excited were the onlookers at the second great trial between these men that they were quite silent, and not one cheer was raised. Only the light shuffling of stockinged feet was heard, hard breathing, and the spank of Gulley's prodigious blow. The second round ended in the same way, though Gregson had first put in a resounding thump upon his opponent's chest, which was, however, unlikely to have damaged him much. They were still very cautious, and for five minutes sparred for an opening, neither taking any grave risk. Then, with all his might, Gregson let fly with his left. Gulley took the blow on his arm, but felt the effects of it for long afterwards. It is probable that such a blow set up an inflammation of the muscles which, aided perhaps by rheumatism, would render it useless for several months.


The next three rounds ended by Gulley going down: in the sixth Gregson fell upon him so that he gasped long for breath. He had previously committed a foul by seizing Gulley's thighs. The seventh round was Gulley's, for with blow on blow he drove his opponent through the ropes. He knocked Gregson down again

and it was evident that he not only knew more boxing, but by agility and strength made up for the disparity in their weights. The tenth round found Gregson's head pulped with savage blows and his left eye nearly closed. Egan tells us that Gregson was now " fighting rather after the Lancashire method, without any

pretensions to science."


 Gregson showed plenty of ordinary pluck, for though he was knocked down again and again and severely punished, he stood up like a man. But the extraordinary pluck or will-power exerted in adverse circumstances deserted him sooner in this encounter than it had in the previous one. He had been very badly hammered then; and the moral effect of that thrashing told upon him now.


In the twelfth round Gulley landed a smashing hit from which Gregson was in the act of falling when his antagonist hit him again. There were cries of" Foul," but the blow was a fair one. Such an incident happens not infrequently. It happened in January, 1922, at the end of the fight between Carpentier and Cook.


After this Gregson was all but blinded, and staggered about the ring half dazed, he could not reach Gulley, who hit him thrice in quick succession as it pleased him, and knocked him down.


In the seventeenth round Gregson lost his temper and his head. That is fatal. It is, of course, all nonsense to suppose that an angry man cannot put up a good fight. He can; a touch of cold rage lends power to a man: thinking clearly he hits to hurt. But wild, tempestuous rage is another matter altogether. The man becomes blind, inasmuch as what he sees conveys no message to his brain. For a moment or two it is, perhaps,

impossible to hurt him, for his passion consumes his other senses. But sooner or later some stunning blow will cool its victim's fiery temper: there will be a brief moment of realisation, and it will be too late. The wild, unthinking attack will have been checked, but the power to guard against reprisal will be numbed.


Gregson charged at his antagonist like a great bull, head down, arms working like flails. Gulley stood still, coolly taking his opportunity. Left and right he sent his bony fists crashing into Gregson's face, brought, by his attitude, into easy reach. Left and right, and then, giving way a little, left and right again. He hit him as he liked, driving his weight behind each blow, guarding himself from or merely avoiding the ponderous windmill attack of the infuriated giant. When Gregson's moment of realisation came, his temper having passed, he fled towards the side of the ring, actually turning his back upon Gulley as he did so. But Gulley was after him and never left him alone, bringing short-arm blows to bear upon face and body until,

utterly exhausted, Gregson fell.


From the eighteenth to the twenty-fourth and last round Gulley had the fight, as it were, in one hand. He punished Gregson terribly, but the giant's pluck was even greater than his rage had been. He would not give in, but came, at each call of time, staggering to the scratch. At last Gulley got the chance of an absolutely clear, free blow, into which he could put every ounce of his weight. It caught Gregson behind the ear and

knocked him out; that is to say, he had not recovered at the end of half a minute, and was unable to stand at the next call of time.


Bob Gregson was certainly a great pugilist, and besides, like Gulley and Jackson, a man of presence and social charm. Indeed, he was offered and accepted a commission in the army, but Pierce Egan tells us that his means would not support the privilege for more than a very short while. It is Egan, too, who tells us that Bob Gregson,” although not possessing the terseness and originality of Dryden, or the musical cadence and correctness of Pope, yet still. . . . entered into a peculiar subject with a characteristic energy and apposite spirit." In other words, Gregson wrote verse. That there may be no misunderstanding,


the following stanza, the first of three in honour of Tom Cribb,

is quoted below:


" You gentlemen of fortune attend unto my ditty,

          A few lines I have penn'd upon this great fight,

In the centre of England the noble place is pitch'd on,

         For the valour of this country, or America's delight;

               The sturdy Black doth swear,

              The moment he gets there,

The planks the stage is built on, he'll make them blaze and


             Then Cribb, with smiling face,

             Says, these boards I'll ne'er disgrace,

             They're relations of mine, they're old English Oak."


This refers to one of the battles, shortly to be described,

between Tom Cribb and Molineux, the black.






As already said, John Gulley retired from the ring after his second fight with Bob Gregson, and Tom Cribb, having himself beaten Gregson a few months later that is, on October 25th, 1808, was declared Champion of England. And once again Jem Belcher's unreasoning ambition (or insensate jealousy whichever way you like to put it) caused him to challenge Tom for the title. This time, though Jem found backing, as an old favourite somehow always will, his friends frankly dreaded the issue. In the two years or so that had gone by since their last encounter, Jem had taken no greater care of himself than previously. His all too easy, self-indulgent life in conjunction with a naturally delicate body, had made a poor creature of him. Before his second fight with Cribb he entered the ring, as you might say, a beaten man.


The place chosen on this occasion was the racecourse at Epsom, the day was the first of February, 1809. The betting was 7-4 and 2-1 on Cribb, who had been trained by Captain Barclay, himself a good amateur boxer, though chiefly known in those days as the man who, for a wager, had walked a thousand

miles in as many hours.


And yet the first round was Jem's. Tom Cribb, though in much better condition than formerly, had not yet reached his highest form and was still ponderous and slow, relying upon his strength, playing a waiting game. Jem dashed in with all his old eagerness and gusto, and spanked away at the champion merrily. Tom retreated, and Jem's wonderful speed confused and hustled him, so that he could not guard himself effectually, and Jem would send home sharp, stinging lefts followed by heavier rights, half a dozen to Cribb's one. But though he might be momentarily bothered and confused, the champion was quite content. He could stand all the punishment that Jem could give him that he knew already. He had only to wait. It was worth a few knocks. Jem would beat himself.


The second round was rather different. Jem still did all the leading and Tom fought on the retreat, but this time he kept his head and stopped most of the quick blows that Jem aimed at him. His guard had greatly improved, he used both his head and his feet with coolness and sound judgment. It is true that he was somewhat staggered by one very hard hit that Jem drove home over his guard, but that led the weaker man to an act of foolishness such as had helped towards his downfall in their previous fight. Jem dashed in and instead of raining blows to complete his man's discomfiture, he closed and wrestled with him and finally threw him, which, as we have seen, did more to exhaust the temporary victor than his opponent. Not even the betting by unintelligent spectators was affected. Indeed Captain Barclay promptly tried to lay 4-1 on Cribb, but found no takers even at that price.


And yet for many rounds Belcher boxed with great skill, though quite early in the fight it was noticed that his wind was poor, and in any sharp rally he had to fight for his breath. Time after time Cribb found himself able to get close and throw him. But it was Cribb once more who showed the severer signs of

punishment: his face was already swollen and he bled profusely from several cuts made by Jem's sharp knuckles. Again and again Cribb was out-boxed, but what was science against a man whose mighty strength could ignore blows ? Belcher was indeed and once again beating himself. His wind was gone, his breath ,came in feverish gasps, he grew slower and more feeble.


In the eighth round he tried to get away from his man to the side of the ring in order to get his breath, but Cribb followed him quickly to the ropes, and Jem had to fight again. True, he hit Cribb several times, but the sting was gone from him, and presently the champion closed and they both fell. And now Cribb refused to retreat any more. He stood up and walked into Jem, planting terrible blows, chiefly upon his body, guarding the counters, closing and hurling the lighter man upon the ground. He was confident and happy now. By the eleventh round he knew that he could not lose. And yet Belcher fought on with that amazing persistence, that flickering hope against hope, that glorious courage which in like case today, as then, you will often hear called folly. Jem Belcher was beaten then, but he went on till the thirty-first round with a

gallantry that endures as an example to this day. Once again his knuckles were driven up and the skin upon them was all torn away. There is no possible doubt but that if Jem had been his old self Cribb could not have beaten him. But that is an unprofitable line of argument.


Belcher never entered the ring again. This battle, though it had lasted only forty minutes, still further reduced his strength. And immediately afterwards he was sentenced to a month in jail for this

"breach of the peace." There he caught a severe chill from which he never recovered. His lungs had always been delicate, and he died eighteen months later at the age of thirty, one of the greatest athletic heroes this country has ever known.









First Impression, October, 1922






WITH those whose charity begins and ends at the farthest possible point from home, with those who, to be more particular, born of British blood, cannot speak of the British Lion without referring to mange, who never refer to British traditions or institutions without a sneer, the present writer has little patience. It is necessary to say that at some point in this chronicle in order to avoid misunderstanding. Tutored by Pierce Egan, Borrow, and other and later writers, we are apt to lose all sense of perspective in regarding that one-time wholly British institution ,the Prize-Ring. Further, other sources of enlightenment, and

especially our schoolmasters, have blinded us to any flaw in the tradition of British Fair Play, the love of which, as already said, is an acquired and not an inherent virtue.


 And if in this and other chapters some account is given of events where the love of fair play was conspicuously lacking, and which perhaps tend to show that a great tradition can be, after all, but a great superstition, that will not, I trust, be taken as evidence of the writer's anti-English proclivities. At this time of day, the truth, so far as one can discover it, can do no harm if indeed it ever can.And with that much by way of explanation and warning, we proceed to some account of the two immortal battles between Cribb

and Molineux, the black.


The history of the Nigger in Boxing has yet to be fully explored. From the time of Bill Richmond and Molineux (thefirst black boxers whose names have come down to us) till the time of Jack Johnson, negroes in this country have fought, with certain exceptions, under the severe handicap of unpopularity. Without entering too deeply into the Colour question, we may say that this unpopularity comes also from tradition. The vast majority of negro boxers had been slaves or the descendants of slaves. In early days and in the popular imagination they were savages, or almost savages. Also it was recognised from the first that the African negro and his descendants in the West Indies and America were harder-headed than white men, less sensitive about the face and jaw; most black boxers can take without pain or trouble a smashing which would cause the collapse of a white man. Occasionally this is balanced by the nigger's weakness in the stomach but, one thing with another, the white man is at a disadvantage. But physical inequality is not the only point of difference. Niggers are usually children in temperament, with the children's bad points as well as their good ones.


The black man's head is easily turned, and when his personal and physical success over a white man is manifest he generally behaves like the worst kind of spoiled child. In extreme cases his overwhelming sense of triumph knows no bounds at all, and he turns from a primitive man into a fiend. His insolence is

appalling. When the black is in this condition ignorant white men lose their heads, their betters are coldly disgusted. There have been exceptions, the most notable of whom was Peter Jackson, whose exploits will be found in the second part of this book. Peter Jackson was a thoroughly good fellow. As a rule,  however, it is far better that negroes, if fight they must, should fight amongst themselves. No crowd is ever big-hearted enough, or "sporting" enough, to regard an encounter between white and black with a purely sporting interest.


 Thomas Molineux was born of slave parents in the State of Virginia. He himself had been legally freed, and he came over to England, without friends, with the idea of earning a living with his fists.

" Thormanby" the pen name of the late W. Wilmott Dixon) tells us that he had been in the service, in

America, of Mr. Pinckney, subsequently United States Ambassador at the Court of St. James's; and he was a good friend to the lonely black on his arrival in London. Molineux put himself in the hands of Bill Richmond, a fellow negro who had been taken into the service of the Duke of Northumberland when that nobleman was campaigning in America, and, later, educated at his expense and by him set up as a carpenter. Richmond appears to have been a very well-behaved fellow, and at the time of Molineux's arrival was keeping an inn in the West End of London.


By all that is fair, even in love and war, Molineux should have won the first of the two battles he fought with Tom Cribb. He was aiming high, for his conquests, previous to his challenging the champion, were few and insignificant. However, Tom could do no less than accept, though he underrated the black: and a

match was made for £200 a side. The place chosen was Copthall Common, near East Grinstead, in Sussex, and the day December  10th, 1810. Vast numbers of people came down from London to see the fight, travelling through a downpour of rain which made the ring into a mere pool of mud. Cribb was seconded by John Gulley and Joe Ward, and Molineux by Bill Richmond and Paddington Jones. " Time " was kept by Sir Thomas Apreece.


Bets were made that Molineux would not last for half an hour and, as the event proved, lost.


The men were splendidly matched. Cribb stood 5 feet 10 ½  inches and weighed 14 stone 2 lb.: Molineux was two inches shorter and almost exactly the same weight. Neither man was in absolutely first-rate condition. Cribb was always inclined to be " beefy " and the Moor (as Egan calls him) was a somewhat

dissipated customer. Indeed the majority of fighters in those days were plucky enough in battle, but lacked the higher and more enduring courage to go through a long period of arduous training.


Owing to Gentleman Jackson's perspicacity, the ring had been formed at the bottom of a hill, so that the great crowd of spectators could get an excellent view of the proceedings. Nothing of any importance occurred in the first four rounds. Molineux was thrown in the first and drew first blood from the

champion in the second. The wet ground made foothold precarious,  and on that account a comparatively light blow knocked a man down. Even so it was Cribb who did the most knocking. The fifth round was very fierce. Each in turn had some little advantage. The round was a long series of rallies, quick leads

neatly stopped, hot counters, one of which landed on Cribb's left eye. There was no betting at the end of this round. In the eighth the champion had a good deal the worst of it, but stood and took his gruel like the man he always was. Egan's description of the ninth round may be quoted in full as being typical of that

author, with his numerous exaggerations and underlinings.


" The battle had now arrived at that doubtful state, and things seemed not to prove so easy and tractable as was anticipated, that the betters were rather puzzled to know how they should proceed with success. Molineux gave such proofs of gluttony, that four to one now made many tremble who had sported it; but still there was a ray of hope remaining from the senseless state in which the Moor appeared at the conclusion of the last round. Both the combatants ppeared dreadfully punished; and Cribb's head was terribly swelled on the left side; Molineux's nob was also much the worse for the fight. On Cribb's displaying weakness, the flash side were full of palpitation it was not looked for, and operated more severe upon their minds upon that account. Molineux rallied with a spirit unexpected, bored in upon Cribb, and by a strong blow through the Champion's guard, which he planted in his face, brought him down. It would

be futile here to attempt to portray the countenances of the interested part of the spectators, who appeared, as it were, panic-struck, and those who were not thoroughly acquainted with the game of the Champion began hastily to hedge-off; while others, better informed, still placed their confidence on Cribb) from what they had seen him hitherto take".


By the thirteenth round the betting had changed to 6-4 on the Moor. But the fight remained extraordinarily level until the end of the eighteenth round, when both appeared to be exhausted. They were both heavily punished, and on the whole fight perhaps Cribb had been the more severely handled. Both were unrecognisable, and their colour only distinguished them.


In the nineteenth round, during which the half-hour from the beginning was up, Cribb, who for some time past had been " milling on the retreat," tried to land a desperate blow at the moment when Molineux had him up against the ropes. These were in three rows, the top one being five feet from the ground.The black dodged the blow, and, seizing the top rope on either side of Cribb with his two hands, pressed upon the champion with all his might. Cribb could neither hit, nor fall. The seconds on either side argued the propriety of separating the men: but the umpires decided that no such interference was allowable. One of the combatants must fall before a second touched either. At that moment about two hundred of the

onlookers, infuriated at the black man's behaviour, rushed the outer ropes and pressed upon the ring-side. Several men snatched at Molineux's fingers, which still clung to the top rope, and tried to dislodge them. Some say that one or more of the black's fingers were broken, others that they were at least injured. But

all the time Molineux was resting and getting his wind, his head down on Cribb's chest, his weight thrown forward upon his body. At last, what with his own efforts and the people plucking at his opponent's hands, Cribb got free and retreated towards the nearest corner. A less courageous man would have contrived to

slip down. As it was, Molineux caught him, and, avoiding a hard left with which Cribb lunged at his body, seized the champion's head under his arm and proceeded to punish him with short, jolting blows, from which presently Cribb fell exhausted to the ground. He brought Cribb down again the next round as well. The twenty-second round, Egan tells us, was "of no importance," and he leaves it at that, whilst we sadly

reflect how many rounds of nowadays, tediously described in detail, deserve the same fate.


It was at the end of the next round that Molineux should have won, though Pierce Egan entirely omits the incident from his full account, merely observing, in another volume of Boxiana(where he makes a note upon the negro's death in Ireland):


" His first contest with Cribb will long be remembered by the Sporting World. It will also not be forgotten, if Justice holds the scales, that his colour alone prevented him from becoming the hero of that fight."


The following is Egan's exact account of the twenty-third and twenty-fourth rounds:


" TWENTY-THIRD. The wind of both the combatants appearing somewhat damaged, they sparred some time to recruit it, when Cribb put in a blow on the left eye of Molineux, which hitherto had escaped milling. The Moor ran in, gave Cribb a severe hit on the body, and threw him heavily. “


“TWENTY-FOURTH. Molineux began this round with considerable spirit, and some hits were exchanged, when Cribb was thrown. The betting tolerably even."


Now at the end of the twenty-second round Molineux was doing better than the champion, and the betting was 4-1 on him. The crowd at the ring side shouted: “Now, Tom, now! Don't be beat by the nigger." But all the same Cribb went down at the end of the twenty-third round utterly done. What followed throws no shadow upon the character of Tom Cribb himself. From all we can gather he was a perfectly straight and honest bruiser. But he had been badly knocked about, and Joe Ward, one of his seconds, was desperately afraid that he would never get him up to the scratch by the call of time. There seems to be, indeed, no doubt that Cribb was, but for the squeezing against the ropes, fairly beaten. Ward was a clever rascal, and he ran

across the ring to Molineux's corner and accused Bill Richmond of putting bullets into his principal's hands. He must have known perfectly well that this was false, just as he must have known, incidentally, that such foul play would do far more harm to the striker than to his opponent. But the altercation achieved its

purpose, and Cribb got a good deal more than his due thirty seconds in which to recover.


Immediately after this the black got a fit of shivering, as by now, despite the pace at which they had been fighting, the chill of the December day had got into his bones, fresh as he was from a warm climate. Molineux weakened rapidly, though, urged by his seconds, he fought on till the fortieth round. Of the end of this battle Egan says:


" This (the 34th) was the last round of what might be termed fighting, in which Molineux had materially the worst of it; but the battle was continued to the 39th, when Cribb evidently appeared the best man, and at its conclusion, the Moor for the first time complained, that ' he could fight no more ! ' but his seconds, who viewed the nicety of the point, persuaded him to try the chance of another round, to which request he acquiesced, when he fell from weakness, reflecting additional credit on the manhood of his brave conqueror, Tom Cribb."


What additional credit is reflected by knocking down an exhausted man, I find it a little difficult to perceive. Whether we like the fact or not, Molineux should have been Champion of England that day, a day which is indeed black for the fair name of good sport. No possible good can come of trying, as Pierce

Egan did, to disguise it. The referee was grossly unfair in not stopping Joe Ward's trick, which he can hardly have failed to see. It should also be added that the crowd hooted and jeered at Molineux throughout the fight but then, crowds are like that. Crowds are seldom genuinely sporting in the finest sense. It should be said, however, that the Stock Exchange gave the black a warm reception after the fight, and sent him away with a present of £45.


We may be sure, however, that Tom Cribb himself treated his antagonist with chivalry. This is manifest in the fact that Molineux in after years did his utmost in support of the champion, sparring at his benefit performance, and, unasked, selling tickets for it.


At the time the black man was anxious for another trial ; and the following letter appeared in The Times for Christmas Day, 1810:





Dec. list, 1810."


" SIR, My friends think, that had the weather on last Tuesday, the day upon which I contended with you, not been so unfavourable, I should have won the battle: I, therefore, challenge you to a second meeting, at any time within two months, for such sum as those gentlemen who place confidence in me may be pleased to arrange.

"As it is possible this letter may meet the public eye, I cannot omit the opportunity of expressing a confident hope, that the circumstance of my being of a different colour to that of a people amongst whom I have sought protection will not in any way operate to my prejudice.

I am, sir,


“Your most obedient, humble servant, "


Witness, J. Scholfield."


The announcement of Cribb's acceptance of the challenge was given in The Times for December 29th, and the match was made for a purse of 600 guineas.


It took place at Thistleton Gap, in the county of Rutland, on September 28th, 1811, and though a much shorter affair, the second battle is hardly less famous than the other. The final blow of this encounter is depicted in a print published less than a week afterwards, a reproduction of which will be found in

this book.


This time Captain Barclay trained Cribb to a hair, so that all his beef was gone. His system was a savage one and must have killed some men, would certainly kill many boxers of the present day. But it agreed with Cribb, much though he is said to have disliked the process at the time. Cribb's preparation lasted for eleven weeks, and his weight was brought down from 16 stone to 13 stone 6 Ib. He was probably the first really trained man that ever stepped into a ring.


If the truth is to be known, Barclay had a special reason for making a good job of the champion's training. He was a good amateur boxer himself, and was used to put the gloves on with the pros at Jackson's rooms in Bond Street. But, "Thormanby" informs us, he kept a special pair of gloves there for his own use.

Whether they were harder than the ordinary we do not know, but they were probably much lighter! The day on which he had arranged to spar with Molineux he arrived after the black, who was already wearing his special mufflers. He could not very well say: " Here, those are my particular gloves," and so had to be

content with the regulation puddings. The result was that Molineux broke one of his ribs ; and now he wanted to be even with him, though by proxy.


Molineux did not train. As already suggested, he was a self-indulgent fellow and a spoiled child. He went on a sparring tour round the country with Tom Belcher (Jem's brother), and Bill Richmond. They were not strong-minded guardians, and only just before the fight the black ate a whole chicken, and an apple pie, washing them down with a prodigious draught of porter.


When the men met before a huge crowd of about 20,000 people, the black was so amazed at Cribb's appearance that at first he could hardly recognise him. The simple blackamoor had not believed in the virtue of getting fit: his strength, skill, and undoubted courage were enough for him. And here, snaking

him by the hand, was a hard-faced fellow without an ounce of tallow on him, all bone and long, rippling muscles a very different Cribb to the well-larded customer he had fought on Copthall Common. And none of the champion's strength or stamina was gone rather the contrary. Cribb had Gulley and Ward in his corner again, while Bill Gibbons and Richmond looked after Molineux. There is little to be said of the battle itself. It was fought on a stage this time, twenty-five feet square. Cribb scored the first knock-down. Captain Barclay recommended his man to let the black beat himself and to hold back. In the third round Molineux by an overhand blow closed Tom's right eye, the fist hitting him on the cheek bone, immediately under the eye, so that the swelling took an upward direction. On his side Cribb was perfectly confident, but too old a hand not to be extremely careful, and wisely he gave most of his attention to Molineux's body always a good policy with a black man, especially when he is out of training. He nearly doubled up the Moor with one terrific right, and yet the plucky fellow pulled himself together immediately afterwards and threw Cribb heavily to the boards.


In a short while Cribb showed severe signs of punishment about the head and face, but he kept smiling amiably, which drove his adversary to madness, so that in the sixth round he was literally capering about in sheer frenzy, hitting the air wildly.Cribb came up to him and knocked him down. Again and again this happened, though at intervals Molineux regained his composure and fought well. In the ninth round, with a tremendous right-hander, the champion broke his jaw, after which he failed by half a minute to come up to time. But this was overlooked, and at the end of the eleventh round, when the battle had only lasted nineteen minutes and ten seconds, he sent home a left which knocked Molineux clean out of time: and the black was carried senseless from the ring.


Cribb made about £400 out of this fight directly, though no doubt this sum was largely increased by perquisites later on .Captain Barclay, by judicious betting, made about £10,000. And " through the kind interference of Mr. Jackson," as Egan puts it, a collection realised £50 extra for the black, whose share

of the purse would be £200.


It was on the occasion of this battle that the editor of the Edinburgh Star wrote :


" When the amount of money collected for the relief of British prisoners in France, now suffering for the cause of their country, scarcely amounts to £49,000, there is Blush, O Britain ! there is £50,000 depending upon a boxing match . The Champion Cribb's arrival, and on a Sunday, too! On a visit to a gentleman of Aberdeen (we should be glad to know what kind of gentleman he is) as if he, the meritorious Cribb, did honour to the City of Aberdeen by his presence!


( The gentleman of Aberdeen was Captain Barclay, who had property in that county and brought Cribb up there to train.) There are two sorts of amusement to be derived from this quotation, and one of them, having regard to recent memories, is a very bitter sort.


After this, Tom Cribb retired from the Ring, and became, like the majority of successful bruisers of his own and of later times, a publican: and thenceforward the Union Arms in Panton Street, Haymarket, became a very popular house of call with all members of the Fancy.







IN the days of bare knuckles there was only one champion, and though there were one or two exceptions Tom Sayers is the most notable little men, or men little by comparison, were quite out of the running. Champion, therefore, meant Champion the best man that could be found. There was no qualification

of the title no middle, welter, feather, bantam, fly, or paperweight.


If a first-rate boxer of eight stone liked to fight another of sixteen stone I suppose he could, but, rather naturally, he didn't. In the old annals, though there is some record of the lesser men lesser very often only in size and not in skill or courage they are overshadowed by the big fellows far more than they are to-day. Even now, of course, from the spectacular point of view, big men heavy-weights cause far more excitement. And, as a rule, a good fight between two good big men is better worth seeing than a good fight between two good little men. The dramatic atmosphere is more intense, blows are harder, there is (though it is overrated) a certain splendour in sheer size.


But championship battles both now and in the past have been by no means necessarily the best battles : rather the contrary. Many a pot-house quarrel has provided better sport than a stupendously advertised World's Championship with heaven only knows how ridiculously many thousands of pounds "hanging"

upon the issue.


At the beginning of the nineteenth century there were, then, plenty of good little men, though we hear less about them than we do of the champions. Jack Scroggins was one, Ned Turner another. Scroggins may, by present standards, be called a light middle-weight: he was just under 11 stone. Turner was 10 stone 4 lb. just over the present light-weight limit. The first time they fought the ring was broken by rowdy spectators, and the result was a draw.


The second battle took place at Sawbridgeworth on June 10th, 1817, and Jack Scroggins, who had never yet been beaten, staked £120 to £80 on the event. Ned Turner the Welshman referred to by George Borrow

in the passage quoted in the Introduction was a very fine boxer, and at the outset put up an almost impenetrable defence. Some minutes in the first round went by before the two men really began to fight. Scroggins was accustomed to dash in and hit his man at the very beginning, but something in Turner's attitude daunted him, and he held off. But a start had to be made, and after a while he did rush, came close to his man, and gave him a light hit from which he fell. Scroggins had been a sailor and was a jolly little man, ever eager to see the bright side of a situation. In the present case he was absurdly elated at his trifling

success, and dashed in again.


This time the Welshman caught him hard on the face twice, following these blows with another in the ribs, but when they wrestled for a fall he was underneath. Scroggins saw now that he had taken on a better man than he had ever faced before, and was correspondingly cautious. Round after round Turner showed himself quicker with his fists, the sailor stronger in a close. In the fourth round Turner sent in a vicious blow on his opponent's neck which, Scroggins said later on, decided the fight. It is true that he threw Turner again and again after that, but he was a hurt man.


At the end of the fifth round a troop of Yeomanry were seen approaching, clattering down the lane which ran alongside the field of battle. It was thought at first by the ring officials and spectators that these

soldiers had come to spoil sport; but as a matter of fact they had heard of the fight and had merely determined to see it.


After this the exchanges were almost equal. Each man planted severe blows, and Turner was undermost when they wrestled for a fall. It was not until the twelfth round that he succeeded in throwing Scroggins. In the following round Turner landed a blow which sent his opponent almost spinning, but the sailorman did not take advantage of it to fall, but dashed in again with commendable pluck. Turner was now a hot favourite.


He was knocked down in the next round, but not heavily. He was quick and agile at close quarters, though a bad wrestler; and he generally managed to put in a series of fierce half-arm blows before Scroggins could hold him. The seventeenth round was interesting, as it gave an instance of the same kind of temper in

Scroggins, remarkable in Humphries when he fought Mendoza, the Jew. Turner gave him a mighty hit in the face which must have hurt him considerably. He turned round, not from the force of the blow, but in real fear, the instinctive desire to get away even to run away, out of reach. And then, even as he turned, Jack Scroggins remembered himself, swung right round in his stride and dashed at his adversary again. As they came together Turner hit him un mercifully, but was yet again underneath when they fell to the ground.


And so the fight went on, Scroggins invariably getting the worst of the exchange of blows, Turner the wrestling. The twenty-second was a tremendous round. They began with a furious rally, giving blow for blow with all their might, got away from each other in a moment, and then at it again. Scroggins charged in with his head down, and Turner met him with a vicious uppercut which caught him on the neck; and then, in trying for a fall, was underneath once more. The plucky little sailor was now visibly distressed and his wind was badly touched. He gasped for breath, and though he made his characteristic dash in

the next round, it was clear that he was being out-fought. The betting on Turner rose to 5 and 6-1, and Scroggins tottered at the scratch, so weak now that when he lunged forward to hit he fell over. Turner hit him as he pleased, and Scroggins replied with wild blows which beat the air. He was nearly done by the time they fell in the twenty-fifth round.


The men's seconds, for some reason, instead of keeping opposite corners, nursed their principals between the rounds side by side. As they sat on the knees of their bottle-holders, Turner stretched out a hand and took Scroggins's to show him that he admired his pluck and that there was no ill-will. And then, immediately afterwards, on resuming, he planted a blow in the middle of the sailor's face which knocked him clean off his legs. Such is sport. It is a wonderful thing to show your admiration and affection for a man at one moment and then almost in the same breath to hurt him dreadfully in cold blood.


No wonder that foreigners think us mad. It was at about this period of the battle that Scroggins had a strong nip of brandy, but he was too far gone for such mild remedies. Again Turner caught him as hard as he could hit, and Scroggins backed away to the side of the ring. Turner beckoned to him and called on him to come and fight, but Scroggins was getting all the rest he could, and Turner in the end had to go after him. The Welshman was still fresh, for all the severe falls that he had suffered. And yet, the sailor with his wind gone, his eyes almost closed, his face swollen and mutilated, though he could not see to hit, even in the thirtieth round he continued to throw his opponent. But Jack Scroggins was quite dazed after that, and only stood at all by the force of his will. Turner upper-cut him again and again. In the thirty-third round he went down before a light hit, and on being carried to his corner gave in. Turner is said to have left the ring with hardly a mark on his face.


But the plucky little sailorman still believed that he was as good as the Welshman, and he challenged Turner to a third battle. This took place at Shepperton, on the Thames, on October 7th, 1818. The fight lasted for over an hour and a half, and Scroggins was again beaten, this time in the thirty-ninth round,

when Turner hit him so that he sprawled over the ropes and was quite unable to come up to time. Otherwise it was a repetition of the previous encounter. Turner was by far the better boxer and hit his opponent as he liked. Scroggins was a rushing and dangerous fighter and a really good wrestler, and until he was

weakened by repeated blows, ended round after round by throwing Turner to the grass. This time Scroggins was exhausted sooner, but with very real courage refused to give in, and fought as long as he could stand.


As in the previous fight, Turner showed himself a chivalrous and sportsmanlike opponent, bearing not

the slightest ill-will, nor showing undue elation when he had decisively beaten his indomitable opponent.


The following is an advertisement typical of a hundred years ago which corresponds to the kind of thing we are now accustomed to see on the hoardings outside the Albert Hall or the Holborn Stadium.


Holloa ! Holloa ! ! Holloa ! ! !



Humbly doffs his Castor to the







FIVES COURT, St. Martin's Street,

Leicester Fields, takes place on

WEDNESDAY, APRIL the 25th, 1821,

When all the first-rate Pugilists on the List will Exhibit in a variety of


The Champion of England, Belcher, Spring, Randall, Oliver, Shelton,

Burns, Owen, Turner, Richmond, Martin, Harmer, Cooper, Hickman,

Sampson, Eales, etc., have promised SCROGGINS to be


SCROGGINS begs leave to assure the Patrons of Scientific Pugilism

that nothing shall be wanting on his part to give the utmost satisfaction

; and he trusts that, in being remembered ONCE as a great

favourite, he also with the utmost deference humbly hopes, that Scroggins

will not be forgotten as an Ould SERVANT, who has afforded the Amateurs

Lots of Amusement in


As the following LIST of his Opponents will show :





In order to prevent his being entirely FLOORED ; and that they will

lend their support as Seconds, towards PICKING HIM UP, Putting him

on his Legs, and giving him another Chance, whereby SCROGGINS may

be enabled to get a House over his Topper, where he can

Serve all his CUSTOMERS ! ! !

And Sing, as an old Sailor, God save the King 1

To commence at Two O'Clock, Tickets, 35. each, to be had at all the Sporting Houses. % All Tickets issued for February the 27th will be admitted. Tickets to be had at the Bar.






JACK RANDALL, the Irishman, whom George Borrow describes as the King of the Light-weights, was a few pounds over the ten stone which is the generally recognised light weight limit of to-day. He was a frank-faced, open-hearted fellow, a good and chivalrous sportsman, strong-willed, courageous, and by no means a fool. In the year  1818 he was at the height of his fame, but was anxious to fight one or two more battles, before taking the customary tavern and retiring. And a match was accordingly made with Ned Turner to take place on Crawley Downs on December 5th of that year for 100 a side. Both in height,

weight, and age, the men were evenly matched. The betting was in favour of Randall. Turner's seconds were Tom Owen and Bill Richmond, the black ; Randall's, Tom Oliver and White.


As so often happened in the days of bare knuckles, the men were a long time making up their minds to begin, and five minutes went by before the first blow was struck. Then as now, boxers realised the prime importance of a good start, of landing, if possible, a terrific and discouraging smasher in the first round.

Many fights have been won like that. In this battle the first two rounds occupied twenty minutes. But in the second Randall landed more often and much the harder of the two. They boxed at long range, and each seemed to be mortally afraid of the other, or rather, to respect him. Once a blow was struck by either, his

opponent hastened to return it with all speed and due interest. In the third round the spectators and even the men's seconds became impatient. The round lasted thirteen minutes, and the pauses between bouts of fighting were so protracted that onlookers suggested to Tom Owen that he might light his pipe,


whilst Tom Cribb asked for his night-cap and told his neighbours to wake him up when the fighting started again. Each was determined to give the other no unnecessary chance. When they did get going both boxed extremely well. Randall went mainly for the body at first, and Turner drew blood from the Irishman's

mouth and nose. At the end of the sixth round and about an hour from the start, Turner was showing signs of weariness. He lowered his hands whenever Randall was out of reach, and he was bleeding profusely.


They now began to fight hard. Most rounds ended in a throw, at which Randall as a rule showed himself the stronger. In the eleventh round it was seen that Randall was rather the better, though backers were not yet lacking for his opponent.

But presently Turner was worked round so that the sun was in his eyes, and Randall put in a terrific hit on the face. Turner replied with a hard right in the stomach. Then Turner scored the more hits in a fierce rally, but these were not hard enough to do a great deal of damage.


The first knock-down blow came from Randall in the thirteenth round. He shot in a hard left which sent Turner's head back and then immediately repeated it, whereupon Turner fell. He was bleeding a good deal. The Irishman hit less now at the body, finding Turner's defence for his head easier to break through. In the sixteenth round Turner hit several times but weakly; in the seventeenth, however, he seized Randall and

threw him clean out of the ring. But the effort was a costly one : it did little harm to Randall, whilst Turner stood leaning against the ropes panting. Randall came up for the next round comparatively fresh, and before long he knocked Turner down again.


Two hours had been passed by the time twenty-four rounds had been fought. There were ten more rounds and these only occupied twenty minutes. The reason was that Turner was losing strength rapidly, and Randall knocked or threw him down without much trouble. Turner's pluck was magnificent. Round

after round he got the worst of it, but came up each time with apparent confidence and a smile upon his bruised and bleeding face. In the twenty-seventh round Turner hurled himself at his opponent and hit him so hard as to drive him right away, though without causing his downfall. Randall was now refreshed by a

pull at the brandy-flask, but Turner was yet able to stop his best blows and to give good ones in return. But the tide of the battle had set definitely against him. Randall ended one round by knocking him down with a tremendous body-blow and the next by a throw.


When Turner came quite jauntily from his second's knee for the thirty-first round, the crowd began to call out: " Take him away: he's too game." But he went on and Randall finished the bout with another body-blow. Some of the onlookers begged Ned to give in at the end of the thirty-second, but he shook his

head. The next round was very short, and Turner was severely knocked down. Again the cry was raised:

" Don't let him fight any more." However, he came up, full of pluck and perfectly cool, for the thirty-fourth, and did his best to keep Randall away. The Irishman, however, sent in several blows, the last of which

on the side of Turner's head, knocked him down so that he could not come up at the call of time.


The crowd pressed round Randall in congratulation, but he pushed them away and went across to Turner to shake hands with perfect good friendship. Turner, sick at heart and hurt as he was, patted Randall on the back. Never was there less ill-feeling between any two men.


Randall is said to have been a natural fighter in the most literal sense, never having taken a single lesson, but buying his experience solely in the ring.


The Nonpareil, as he was called, had two more fights before finally retiring from the Prize-Ring. Both of these were with the baker, Jack Martin: whom he first defeated in nineteen rounds and fifty minutes, and then in one round of eight and a half minutes. Martin's very long reach proved a difficulty to Randall in the first fight, for though his rushing and slogging were very powerful and not devoid of skill, his footwork was clumsy and he had no idea of side-stepping or ducking away from the baker's long arms. But in each of these fights he proved that Martin's body was weak, and he forced himself in to close fighting and

hammered his man about the ribs and stomach until the rigid guard he kept up to protect his head was weakened or lowered. Martin was very plucky, but besides the natural advantage of reach, he was nearly a stone the heavier of the two; so that the highest credit is due to the Irishman for his signal defeat of him.


For some years Randall kept The Hole in the Wall, in Chancery Lane, but like many another fighter, he died whilst still a young man, in 1828.






PERHAPS one of the best known of William Hazlitt's essays is that called The Fight, though it is the coach drive towards Hungerford and some very intimate and exact discussions upon training which really interested the writer. The fight in question was that between Bill Neate and Tom Hickman, known as

" The Gasman," or, simply, "Gas."


Hitherto Hickman's chief title to consideration had been the remarkably short work he had made of at least three sturdy opponents. He had thrashed Peter Crawley in fourteen and a half minutes, Gipsy Cooper twice, once in a quarter of an hour and once in three minutes, and he had taken twelve and a half minutes to defeat Tom Oliver. Neate had a good record too, but he had taken an hour and a half to beat Oliver, so that

" Gas " was by way of being the favourite. As a matter of fact history shows that because A beats C with less difficulty than B, it by no means follows that A is invincible by B. It is interesting to know that Neate's backer on this occasion was that same Mr. Weare who was shortly afterwards murdered by Thurtell.


The fight took place at Newbury, in Berkshire, on December nth, 1821. Neate's seconds were Tom Belcher and Harry Harmer, Hickman's were TomSpring and Tom Shelton.


Neate fought with a well-extended guard which Hickman found very difficult to pass. He pivoted about, always presenting a good defence. But after a long time sparring, "Gas " charged in, got through his man's guard, and hit him in the face, jumping away out of danger again. He repeated this again and again,

whilst Neate's replies were poor. Again Hickman charged. This, he thought to himself, was going to be a soft job like the others : but Neate had got used to him by this time and met him with a beautiful straight left in the throat which made Hickman gasp. Again " Gas " tried to rush, and Neate slipped and fell.


The second round found the Gasman still grinning with confidence. He tried to get over Neate's guard with hard chopping blows, but these only fell on the shoulder and did no harm at all. Then there was a hard rally, and Neate sent home another straight left which made his opponent reel: but Hickman was a plucky

fellow, and though he found Neate a disappointing antagonist, he would still try to win the encounter off-hand. Neate tried another left which failed, and shortly afterwards slipped down to avoid "Gas's "in-fighting, which was not to his taste. Hickman's grin was still confident, but he got the worst of the third round. After a sharp exchange Neate knocked him down, and himself fell from the force of his own blow and the clumsy way in which he stood.


The decisive blow of the fight was struck m the fourth round. Hickman aimed a tremendous right-hander at Neate, which he avoided, himself replying with the left. Describing this and the previous round, Hazlitt wrote:


" I saw (Neate's) teeth clenched together and his brows

knit close against the sun. He held out both his arms at

full length straight before him, like two sledge-hammers,

and raised his left an inch or two higher. The Gasman

could not get over this guard they struck mutually and fell,

but without advantage on either side. . . . The Gasman

aimed a mortal blow at his adversary's neck with his right

hand, and failing from the length he had to reach, the other

returned it with his left at full swing, planted a tremendous

blow on his cheek-bone and eyebrow, and made a red ruin

of that side of his face."


Hickman never stood a chance after that. His smile was gone when he came up, plucky but weak, for the fifth round. Neate hit him thrice sharply and then sent in a smashing right on the mouth, which "grassed" him. He had a terrible time in the sixth, for he tried once more to rush his man and did succeed

momentarily in pinning him to the ropes. But there Neate's greater skill came to his aid. He kept perfectly cool, guarded a couple of dangerous blows, and then countered, first with left, then with right, following one with another at top speed until " Gas " gave ground, until his retreat became indeed a rout. Then Neate coming after him, went for his body and planted four terrible blows about the ribs and stomach, the last of which sent Hickman down. So ill was the Gasman after this round that his second had to hold him tight to prevent him from rolling off his knee.


Neate himself was puffing and blowing a good deal, and his thumb gave him considerable pain. He had cut and sprained it severely when he made his terrific hit in the fourth round, and it had been in severe use more than once since then. But he was quite happy. He knew that he had only to keep cool and take

his time and the battle was assuredly his. Again he gave " Gas "two tremendous blows, but the latter stood up bravely. Neate was even too determined not to be hurried. He might with advantage have done more in this, the seventh round, which ended by his slipping to grass.


When Hickman came up again he was laughing, actually and audibly laughing! He knew that he could stand very little more, but he was quite determined to discourage Neate to the best of his ability. But a swift left-hander caught him on the right eye and sent him down, and, as we should say now, out. He was

quite insensible for nearly half a minute, lying inert in the arms of TomSpring. Then just when time should have been called for the ninth round some roughs broke into the ring and had to be whipped out. This gave Hickman a full minute's rest, and he was able to stagger up to the scratch. This time Neate hit clumsily and both fell.


The next few rounds showed that the Gasman was of an indomitable courage. Each time he came up with a wry smile on his battered face and did his best to rush his opponent. Neate's wind was now much affected and his hitting was weaker. The opportunity of speedy victory he had let slip, and though he was

still getting the better of the fight, he made a poor show.


In the fourteenth round it was seen that " Gas "was nearly blind, and he had to be brought up to the scratch by his seconds. He refused to give in and stood helpless to be knocked down. The sixteenth and seventeenth rounds were the same. The Gasman's seconds were greatly to blame for not throwing up the

sponge. It was not for want of urging by the crowd. The eighteenth was the last round. Tom Hickman did not know what he was doing. He tottered in the middle of the ring when his seconds left him, with his hands down. Neate went up to him and gave him a gentle push, which was all that was needed. The whole fight was over in less than half an hour.


The Gasman had a tremendous reputation, and great surprise was caused by his defeat. He was killed precisely a year later, being thrown out of a gig when driving away from another prize-fight.





WE come now to another of the outstanding figures of the Prize- Ring, the famous TomSpring. This man's real name was Winter " sharp as Winter, kind as Spring "as Borrow has it. He was born in the county of Hereford in 1795. His height was 5 feet, 11 ¾  inches, and in perfect condition he weighed 13 stone 6 Ib. During his career he fought a dozen main battles, being beaten once by Ned Painter, whom he had previously defeated. They refused to fight out the rubber because they had become fast friends, and Spring, who was perfectly confident of winning the third time, did not wish to risk that friendship.


It was Tom Cribb, visiting the West of England on a sparring tour, who inflamed the young man's imagination. As a lad Winter drove a butcher's cart, but he had a spirit above this humdrum avocation. And, contriving to win the old Champion's confidence, he came to London and immediately made a name

for himself. On Cribb's retirement he became Champion, and remained so until he himself retired in favour of Jem Ward.


 In the year following Neate's victory over the Gasman, a match was arranged between him and TomSpring for £200 a side, which, after being once postponed, finally took place at Hinkley Downs, near Andover, on May 20th, 1823. This was the first real fight for the championship since the defeat of Molineux by Cribb in 1811. The betting was in favour of Spring, though Neate did not lack support. He was seconded by Tom Belcher and Harry Harmer, while the old champion and Ned Painter, his late antagonist and warmest friend, looked after Spring.


It was a very short battle and was virtually won in the first round, and before a serious blow had been struck. The men faced each other, and it was a long time before any effective move was made. Spring's attitude was very much the same as the typical " English " attitude of to-day: that is, left foot some

eighteen inches in front of the right, left knee slightly bent, left arm out ready to lead, right thrown across the mark to guard.


Neate's position has already been described. It was very stiff and awkward and effective only against a slow boxer. The men exchanged and stopped blows without one landing for some minutes. Once, when Neate sent in a specially hard smack and Spring stopped it coolly with his elbow, he grinned good-naturedly.

Then he lowered his hands to tempt Bill Neate to come for him, raising them again the instant the other moved. After a few blows on either side which did at last get home, Spring landed twice on the face, so that Neate turned. The next instant he whipped round, just as though panic had seized him and he had then thought better of it, and rushed the champion to his corner. Tom Belcher cried out to him to go in." Now's the time !" But Spring kept perfectly cool, and with deliberation guarded each furious blow that his opponent sent in. Neate tried several times to break through that guard, still keeping Spring at bay in his corner. If he had gone on trying, he might have succeeded.


But Spring's coolness and skill daunted him. He hesitated, and in a measure lost heart. He experienced, at any rate, a momentary feeling of helplessness; and as he hesitated Spring dashed in and fought his way out of the corner. The greater will was Spring's. Neate closed now to save being hit, and lifted his man nearly off  his feet, but Spring was cleverer than he at wrestling and in a moment had twisted him round and thrown him, falling heavily upon him.


When they set to for the second round both were very cautious once more. At last Neate shot out his left with all his thirteen stone odd behind it, but Spring threw back his head to avoid it, and countered instantly with a tremendous smash between the eyes, which drew blood immediately. Neate sprang in for his

revenge, but once again his opponent made the blow short by moving and sent in another hard one on the head which swung Bill round. For a moment it looked as though he would fall, but he staggered, and got his feet firmly planted again, and went for Spring. The champion, however, caught him by the neck, gave

him two or three hard half-arm blows and hurled him to the ground.


Spring tried a very hard left at the opening of the third round, which Neate stopped. There were several exchanges, and Neate was laughing happily, or tried to give that appearance. He struck once with his right his best blow but it landed on the point of  Spring's elbow, which he had thrown across his face. The

impact was tremendous, and the small bone of Neate's fore-arm was broken. He closed and went down under his man.


The champion's defence seemed to be impregnable, and Neate again experienced the feeling of helplessness, of inferiority which spells defeat. He tried again and again for the head without success, then changed suddenly and attacked the body, only to be stopped once more. Spring countered twice on the nose and threw Neate, whose friends were calling to him to remember his famous right. In the fifth round Spring punished him severely, sending him down at last with a blow on the right ear, and hitting him again as he was falling. To some of Spring's supporters it appeared as though neither blow had landed and that Neate

had gone down without being hit at all. However, Jackson, who was acting as umpire, when appealed to, ruled otherwise.


The next round found Bill Neate "with bellows to mend," whilst his opponent was fresh and confident. Spring hit him twice on the face and knocked him down.


The champion refused to run any risks though it was clearly evident by now that he had his man beaten. He stepped away from his blows, and refused to run risks by dashing needlessly in. Presently, however, he drew Neate's guard with a feint, and let fly left and right on the face, knocking his antagonist down.


The last round, the eighth, made Neate "look like a novice," as they say to-day. Spring went for his man and hit him as he pleased. Bill tried to use his left, but each blow was ill-timed and ill-judged and went nowhere near the champion. Spring then sent in a right-hander on the face which knocked his man clean

off his legs. On the call of time Neate held out his hand to the champion, complaining that he could fight no more with his broken arm. The whole mill was over in thirty-seven minutes.


Neate was plucky to fight so long as he did with a broken arm, but we cannot make too much fuss about it, for several men have fought for longer with similar injuries. He was, too, beaten at the outset, as we have shown, simply by force of character. In his heart of hearts he gave in then, though he took plenty of

punishment afterwards bravely enough. But it is braver to go  on wanting to win than to endure hurt with resignation.





THE year 1824 was the climax of the best period of the Prize-Ring. There were good fights in later years, as we shall see, first-rate champions, high skill, noble endurance: but the institution of the Ring was never in such good case again. And the most notable events of that year in pugilism were the two great fights between the Champion of England, TomSpring, and the Champion of Ireland, Jack Langan.


This combat, which was for £300 a side, took place at Worcester Racecourse on January 7th. The men were splendidly matched, in years and in physique. Langan was twenty five, Spring twenty-nine. There was no serious difference in their weight or height. Spring was the better built man, with the body of an all-round athlete; whilst Langan was awkwardly made, hard, angular, with enormous hands. He was known as a brave and skilful fighter, though he had never fought a battle yet with any men of the first rank.


The magistrates in the neighbourhood of Worcester had at first shown signs of opposition to the fight, but considerable influence was brought to bear upon them, so many great sportsmen were interested in the event, that they gave way; and, far from being secret and improvised, the arrangements for the great battle were as deliberate and as open as those for a public funeral. Stands were built about the racecourse, a special ring was constructed, and accommodation, it is said, for at least 20,000 spectators was provided. All the roads of England, so to speak, converged upon Worcester, and men paid a guinea for a shakedown

in the loft of a small ale-house. Indeed, the people of Worcester subscribed £200 to the agents of Spring and Langan to make sure of the battle taking place there, so certain were they of the harvest to come. Onlookers were in their places two hours before the fight began, and the rigging of vessels lying in the Severn, which flowed beside the course, was full of those who could not raise the five shillings, which was the smallest price for a place on the stands.


Spring was once more seconded by Tom Cribb and Ned Painter, Lord Deerhrust acting as his umpire. Josh. Hudson and Tom Reynolds attended to Langan, whilst his umpire was Sir H. Goodricke. Colonel Berkeley was chosen by these umpires as the referee.


The first round was uneventful. The men were excessively cautious and few blows were struck. It was observed that Langan's guard was highly efficient. Spring finally got in a heavy left on his opponent's right eye and Langan went down. At the next meeting the Irishman went for the body, but Spring's defence was very sure, and the two stood toe to toe watching for an opportunity for some time. Finally Spring landed with both hands, and later knocked Langan down with quite a slight hit. During this round one of the stands overlooking the ring collapsed and many people were severely injured. The two boxers waited to find out if any one had been killed before continuing to fight. Fortunately, broken arms and legs were the most serious injuries. This untoward event resulted in about 2000 people who had occupied seats being added to the crowd standing between the wrecked stand and the ring. Owing to this, violent pressure was, from then onwards till the end of the battle, thrown against the ropes, so that the outer ring was entirely broken, and the inner was constantly altering in shape, sometimes hardly leaving the men ten square feet to fight in. No doubt, as usual, many roughs were present, but the breaking of the ring on this occasion may reasonably be attributed to accident rather than a deliberate plan.


Langan still went for the body, and Spring, than whom there was never a cooler boxer, waited for the attack each time ; and as Langan lunged forward from long range, lowering his head as he did so, the champion caught him on the face. There was a great deal of wrestling throughout this battle and in the early rounds

Spring had been heavily thrown. In the eighth round, the champion who felt himself to be the better boxer, knowing well that he had been getting the worst of the throws, fought much harder and drove Langan into his corner. But he had been hitting the Irishman about his head with great force, and, like Jem Belcher

with Tom Cribb, he had injured his hands. The knuckles were not actually driven up, but Spring's hands " puffed " easily, and already they were swollen and soft, and each blow, especially with the left hand, was an agony to him. This round ended with both men slipping down. So far Spring was unmarked, while Langan was already a good deal disfigured and bleeding. A little later he sent in a tremendous left on the mark, but he had misjudged his distance and the blow was short and did no harm. A good bit of boxing followed, for Spring countered and the Irishman ducked from the blow, whereupon the champion caught him with a sharp upper-cut; then he closed and threw Langan hard. The thirteenth round was a hard one for Langan, Spring hitting him severely on the nose with the right and closing his eye with a smashing left.


It must be remembered that all this time the champion's hands were growing more and more soft, that each blow he struck was more painful than the one before. And yet all the time he kept quietly confident, never grew flustered, and, besides throwing his man, still hit him hard. He, too, was often thrown, and the

nineteenth round found both men panting with their exertions. In the next round Spring fought with tremendous vigour. He dashed at his man, drove him round the ring, then closed and hurled him to the grass, but refrained from falling on him which, by the rules of that day, he was entitled to do.


The Irish champion was now definitely getting the worst of it, though Spring showed signs of weakness. However, he ended the twenty-seventh round by a right-hand blow on the face which lifted Langan from the ground. Langan came up again and yet again, but now always to be knocked or thrown down. He was

much marked, but had been perfectly trained and was a man of iron constitution. Spring was looking pale and was clearly growing weak, but his skill and judgment were never at fault. By the thirty-fifth round the officials had all they could do to keep a clear space in the ring for the men to fight in. The rounds now were very short. In the forty-fourth Langan made his last desperate effort and did, in fact, hit as well as Spring, the round ending by both going down together. After that, however, his strength had quite gone. The fight went on till seventy-five rounds had been fought in two hours and ten minutes. Finally Spring sent in a right-hander on the neck which knocked Langan clean out of time. He lost consciousness, and when he recovered on Cribb's knee wanted to go on, furious when his seconds restrained him, mortified to find that time had indeed been called. He rose, but immediately fell back into Cribb's arms.


It was generally held that Spring would have won much sooner but for the puffing of his left hand. His right was injured too, but remained effective if painful until the end.


After this battle, Tom Reynolds, Langan's second and friend, complained that his principal had not been given fair play, and that the crowd had been allowed by Spring's backers to break the ring because his antagonist was an Irishman. In point of fact, the breaking of the ring was no more to Langan's disadvantage

than the champion's. Anyhow, Langan was not satisfied, and a little later challenged Spring again, this time for the very large prize (in those days) of  £500 a side. Langan stipulated for a raised and boarded stage, such as had been used for the battle between Cribb and Molineux. At first the champion objected to this, because he knew Langan's wrestling powers, and that to be thrown upon boards is a much worse business than upon grass. However, he agreed in the end, for he saw Langan's point, namely, that a crowd cannot break a ring so easily upon a raised stage as in an open field.


The second match took place at BirdhamBridge, near Chichester, on June 8th, 1824. Once again there was an enormous crowd, and this time the ring was protected not only by being raised, but by a circle formed by fifty-three farm wagons round about it.


Spring was, naturally, the favourite. He brought down the scales at 13 stone 4 lb., whilst Langan was a stone under that amount, and was by some judges thought to have over-trained. John Jackson, as was usual at all notable battles since his retirement, superintended all the arrangements in connection with the ring. Spring was once again seconded by the old champion and Painter, Langan by Tom Belcher and O'Neil. Colours were tied to the posts in the men's respective corners: blue with white spots for Spring, black for Langan.


The fight began in very much the same way as the other between these men. Nothing of any particular note occurred until the seventh round, which was as good as any ever seen in the Prize-Ring. Spring led with his left and hit Langan hard in the face, stepping back at once. In those days they talked of Spring's "harlequin step," for he danced up to a man, hit or missed, as the case might be, and danced away again, xtraordinarily

light and easy upon his feet, and wonderfully quick. Now he was dancing in again, and hit Langan on the ear and nose. The Irishman came for more and was driven away with a stinging spank on the cheek-bone. His backers now called on him to exert himself, and he rushed at Spring, a great rally taking place, blow for

blow, though Langan got the worst of it. Then they closed, and Spring threw his man heavily on the boards. Both were blowing when the round ended. It was "the Bank of England to a nutshell " on Spring, but Langan was a true Irishman. One of the differences between the English and the Irish is this : the Englishman doesn't know when he is beaten : the Irishman neither knows nor cares. With or without the chance of winning, Langan continued to fight.


By the eighteenth round Spring's left hand was quite useless. But his right hand was sound still and he used it with great effect. It was Spring's defence which made him one of the best knuckle fighters that ever lived. He could guard and stop blows with greater dexterity and judgment than almost any other man, but he also understood the art of avoiding punishment by good footwork, which entails less effort. He was not a remarkably hard hitter, and, as we have seen, he suffered severely from his hands : but his skill lay in hitting again and again and yet again on precisely the same spot, so that the cumulative effect of many blows was as great, if not greater in a long fight, than that of a single smasher.


Certainly Langan succeeded, as he had in the previous affair, in throwing the champion and in hurling his own twelve stone violently on top of him, but as a boxer he was not, as they say, in the same street. There was no sort of question about his pluck. Not satisfied with the result of the previous battle, Jack Langan

made his seconds promise on this occasion not on any account to give in for him or to interfere in any way. Indeed Tom Belcher more than once called on him to fight when he was past fighting. The twenty-fourth round found them both exceedingly willing. Spring with slight marks on cheek and eye but otherwise undamaged by Langan. Both his hands, however, were very swollen now. The fight had already lasted fifty-two minutes, and Langan was much punished. But over and over again he tried his best to get past Spring's incomparable guard and failed. And now, the champion was getting by far the better of the falls too.


Once or twice during the later rounds there was a certain amount of bickering between the opposing seconds. Cribb, on one occasion, complained that Belcher was trying to gain time between the rounds: and once when Langan seized his opponent by the breeches to throw him a protest was made on that account,

and the referee ordered Langan not to do it again.


The thirty-second round ended with a heavy fall for Langan, who struck his neck against one of the wooden rails which were used instead of ropes around the ring. A little later, in the thirty sixth round, Langan's backer, Colonel O'Neill, asked that he should be taken away. But this he steadfastly refused, as did his

seconds, who had given their solemn promise in that regard. Instead, Langan took a nip of brandy which helped him to recover momentarily: and battered and sorely spent as he was, he croaked out jestingly to his seconds to be sure and keep the brandy cold. He made one or two more attempts to force the fighting, but his antagonist was still quite strong, unhurt, and as alert to seize opportunities and avoid danger as in the first round.


At the beginning of the forty-seventh round Langan was brought up to the scratch by his seconds, which, though strictly speaking, against the rules then in force, was frequently winked at. It was a good rule, and should have been adhered to : because if a man could not come up to the scratch at the call of time he

was certainly in no condition to continue fighting. After a time Langan's conduct went beyond the boundaries of pluck and "became what we should certainly call to-day foolish obstinacy. There

was nothing to be gained by going on." And how often do we hear that remark to-day in all manner of diverse connections.

But we should recognise a signal virtue in that (no doubt foolish) desire to go on where " nothing is to be gained." " Leave me alone, I will fight," Langan said, when his plight was so obviously hopeless that the crowd on all sides yelled for him to be taken away. And he went on until the seventy-seventh round.

And for many rounds before the end Spring never hit at all, but gently pushed the brave fellow down. In the end he came tottering to the scratch and fell senseless without even the push.


This fight lasted for one hour and forty-eight minutes.


Both Spring and Langan retired after this and became fast friends. "Thormanby" tell us that every year on the anniversary of their first fight Langan used to send TomSpring a keg of the very best Irish potheen. Spring told "Thormanby"this story in 1851, just before he died.


After his retirement the champion took the Castle Tavern in Holborn, Tom Belcher's lease of which had just expired, and he became widely known as a great landlord and sportsman. Thormanby "has another story to tell of Jack Langan's generosity. He settled at Liverpool when he retired and took an inn there; and when the Irish harvesters came over each year, Langan would put up as many of them as he could for a

couple of days on their way inland. These men he fed and provided with plenty of beer and a nightcap of potheen on the condition that before going to roost they left their sickles and shillelaghs in his care.


Towards the end of his life TomSpring got into financial difficulties, owing to his trust in friends who used him as an agent in betting transactions, and then disappeared when the wrong horse got home or the wrong man gave in. He died at the early age of fifty-six, in 1851; Langan having predeceased him by five years.








James "Deaf" Burke (1809-1845), 6 feet 2 inches (1.88 m) tall, weighing 200 lb (90 kg), was one of England's earliest boxing champions. He trained in the area around the River Thames.

In 1833, in a particularly brutal fight for the English heavyweight championship, Burke defeated Simon Byrne, knocking him unconscious. Byrne died three days later and Burke was promptly arrested and tried for Byrne's murder, but he was acquitted on 11 July 1833 and subsequently freed. The reigning English champion Jem Ward, who had retired rather than face Burke in the ring, refused to hand over the championship belt, and Burke was not acknowledged as heavyweight champion. Following this event Burke found it nearly impossible to obtain opponents in Britain and went to America. Later, after his return from America, he fought a bout with Ward's younger brother Nick Ward. Burke lost this match when he was disqualified when the crowd convinced the referee he had struck an unfair blow. [1]

Burke fought internationally but refused to fight Irish champion Sam O'Rourke in Ireland. Byrne had been the Irish champion and Burke was afraid of the hostile crowd he would encounter in Ireland, so O'Rourke went to the United States and from there jeered at Burke's lack of courage. In response, Burke too went to the United States, thus escaping the stigma of having killed his opponent. Burke and O'Rourke fought in New Orleans. As the fight progressed, the pro-Irish crowd, remembering Byrne, joined the violent brawl and Burke ran away on a horse, fleeing for his life.

Burke in 1840 made one last attempt for the English championship when he fought Jem Ward's brother Nick. The fight ended in disarray when Ward's gang forced the referee to disqualify Burke for an alleged foul.

At the age of 36, Burke died at home of tuberculosis on 8 January 1845 in Francis Street, Waterloo,London. He is buried in St John's Church-yard, Norwood.[2]

One hundred and forty-seven years later in 1992, he was added to the International Boxing Hall Of Fame.










First Impression, October, 1922







ON the retirement of TomSpring the championship fell to Jem Ward, who held it for many years. He was followed by Deaf Burke, whose fight with Simon Byrne is the subject of this chapter. This, as will be seen, was a disastrous fight, in that the unfortunate Byrne died immediately after it. It is, however, necessary to give some details of the circumstances, because Byrne's death was typical of the sort of accident that occasionally happened in connection with the Prize-Ring, and has since happened more than once in connection with modern boxing. I say "in connection," rather awkwardly like that because, as will be discovered presently, the fight in these cases is only the occasion and not the actual cause of mortal injury.


The battle in question was fought at No Man's Land, in Hertfordshire, for 100 a side on May 30th, 1833. Almost exactly three years before, Byrne had fought and beaten a man named McKay, who died next day. Byrne had been tried for manslaughter and acquitted. The circumstances of the death of both were somewhat similar: and there is no doubt that McKay's death preyed upon Byrne's mind. In the first place we find that Simon Byrne was grossly out of condition before he went into trail i ig. He weighed 15 stone,

and reduced himself to 13 stone 4 Ib. " An effort which," Belts Life in London tells us, "as it was effected by hard work and sweating, somewhat impaired his natural stamina, especially as, his habits being far from abstemious when in Ireland, he was scarcely fitted to undergo the necessary amount of labour." That

is, no doubt, the explanation of the tragedy, as it has been the explanation of other tragedies, one of which is within comparatively So recent memory.


 As a rule, the modern champion is a teetotaller, and generally speaking " takes care of himself." He lives not merely a "reasonable life," but a life, physically speaking, devoted to one end. His health comes before everything else. It is, for better or for worse, a restrained, careful, hygienic age anyhow for boxers with pretensions. But in the old days, the righting men alternated between bouts of the wildest debauchery

and the most violently severe training. No wonder they died young. No wonder that the sudden abstention from artificial stimulant combined with over-hard work and culminating in the prolonged strain and pain of a desperate battle occasionally killed them. The wonder is that there were not more deaths from a like cause.


Deaf Burke, on the other hand, was young and healthy, and in high spirits. He was seconded by Tom Gaynor and Dick Curtis, Byrne by TomSpring and Jem Ward. On stripping, Burke was seen to be in perfect condition, but Byrne looked still a little too fleshy and had no special show of muscle upon him. He had a good deal of advantage in height. Burke was the favourite but not at greater odds than 5-4, or guineas to pounds. In the days of bare knuckles there was generally a certain amount of " honour "to be gained by achieving the first knockdown, or drawing first blood. There was often betting on the subject, anyhow on the former event. In the first round of this match a good deal of amusement was caused by Burke. Byrne

hit him on the nose and made him sniff. Whereupon Byrne called out, "First blood!" Burke deliberately wiped his nose with his finger and showed it to his opponent unstained. Then they went at it again, and before long the Irishman was seen to be bleeding at the mouth. But at the same moment Burke's nose

did begin to bleed, so the umpires and the referee decided that it was a tie.


The second round found both the men in the best of good tempers, and the hitting was even. Towards the end of this set-to there was a fierce rally in which both gave heavy punishment. They closed, and Byrne threw Deaf Burke and fell upon him. Burke's defence was the sounder, but his antagonist was the better wrestler. In the fourth round Byrne swung his right with tremendous force at his man's head, and had the blow landed on the jaw it might well have finished the battle. But Burke moved forward at that moment and the blow caught him on the back of the head with much of its force spent, and no particular damage was done. There was some good fighting in the next round. Each landed a hard left, and then Byrne stepped back, landing a splendidly timed upper-cut with his right as Burke came in. Then he closed and hurled the

" Deaf 'un" down. Jem Ward derisively asked Burke from Byrne's corner " How did you like that ?" and Burke grinned.


Byrne's hand was now beginning to swell from the effects of his tremendous punch in the fourth round. He again threw Burke, who appeared none the worse for it. He was hitting the oftener, Byrne the harder: but the Irishman's best blows did not get through the other man's defence. Both were badly marked, however, and before the fight had lasted three-quarters of an hour, had revived themselves with brandy. By the eighteenth round they were getting slow. Burke had a primitive ruse which he employed from time to time of looking at his man's body and grimacing and then bringing up his fist to the head. He tried this now with eminent success. In the next round Byrne received a very hard blow under the ear, not by any means the first, which must have done him more harm than he knew at the moment. He fought back, however, and landed on Burke's nose and again on the eye, when Burke lowered his hands for a moment to wipe them on his breeches. " Loud laughter at Burke's expense," says the writer in Bell's Life. The first knock-down was administered by Byrne in the twenty-seventh round. After that Byrne had distinctly the best of it for some time. He threw Burke with terrific force on his head in the twenty-ninth round and in the next hit him so severely about the body as to make him sick. Burke was evidently weak, and Byrne seemed to have the fight in his hand. He threw his opponent again and again, rushing him to the ropes and hitting him severely before closing. The responsible officials ought now to have stopped the fight, there is no excuse for them whatever. What followed was sheer beastliness and nothing else. Burke and Byrne are in no wise to blame.


Both fought until they were virtually senseless. Both tried to be, quite roughly speaking, fair.In the forty-third round Tom Cannon, a well-known bruiser and a backer of Deaf Burke, broke, with others, into the ring and began to curse Burke. " Get up and fight, Deaf 'un," he shouted. "D'ye mean to make a cross of it ?

"With some difficulty Cannon and the rest were expelled from the ring, and the fight, if fight it can be called, went on. Both men were now nearly exhausted, but Deaf Burke, urged by his seconds, went in with all his remaining strength and punished Byrne severely. In the forty-ninth round the Irishman came to

grass very weak, and Burke became favourite again. And so it went on till the ninety-ninth round, now one and now the other having some slight advantage. Once, his supporters seeing Burke down and apparently unconscious hailed Byrne as the winner : but at the call of time, Dick Curtis, his second, brought

Burke up to the scratch, where he stood with indomitable pluck, ready to go on fighting. Byrne's chances had finally gone when both his hands became so"puffed" that he was unable to strike a single blow which could hurt his opponent, let alone knock him out.


Later on, the supporters of the men on either side, apart from their seconds, crowded round them and sprinkled water on them during the progress of the rounds, and fanned them with their hats. And the ring was the centre of pandemonium. The crowd yelled and yelled again for one or other, Burke or Byrne.

What cared they that the men had long ago fought themselves to exhaustion, so long as the technical decision was obtained, the decision which would decide the bets ? And there are men now who complain that we are a softened race because we don't allow this sort of thing. . . .Burke remained slightly the stronger. Latterly he seldom "hit" except with his open hand, but it was enough to send his antagonist down. And yet in the ninety-first round Byrne managed to trip him and fall on him, so that once again the

Irishman's chances were favoured. Then Burke, answering the curses and the cheers, managed to knock Byrne down rather harder than usual. And that was the last change. After that Byrne was carried to the scratch virtually insensible, literally dazed. He could just stand unsupported long enough for Burke

to put out his hand and topple him over. He made pitiful efforts to put out his left to stop the " Deaf 'un." But it was of no use.


At last he fell unconscious on the grass, and TomSpring and Ward with all their skill sousing him with water, forcing brandy between his mutilated lips, biting his ears could not bring him round. And half of the crowd deliriously cheered Deaf Burke as Champion of England. Two days after this Simon Byrne died. The coroner's jury brought in a verdict of manslaughter against Burke, as "principal in the first degree," and the four seconds, together with the umpires and the referee, as "principals in the second degree."


These men were tried at the Hertford Assizes, and on the surgeon's evidence acquitted. The cause of death was the congestion of blood in the brain. The surgeon also gave the opinion that the intense disappointment of losing the fight lessened his chances of recovery. When he regained consciousness, Byrne believed that he would die; and this very fact, aided by his way of living " out of training," no doubt aggravated his condition.


This is probably true : but the umpires and the referee deserved the most abusive censure.Before the trial the sum of £262 was collected for Byrne's widow: but when the trial was safely and satisfactorily over, one

hundred guineas were subscribed in order to present a service of plate to the editor of Bell's Life,"as a token of the respect in which he was held, not only by the men who had recently undergone their trial, and whose defence he had conducted, but also for the manner in which he had invariably conducted the cause of fair play. ..."







IT is not generally known that a Mr. William Thompson was once Champion of England. Sometimes a nickname will stick to a man much harder than the name of his father, and so it was with Thompson. He was one of a triplet, called, in and out of the family, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. This last, "

Thormanby" tells us, soon became "Bednego," of which" Bendigo," a much easier word to say is the natural corruption. To start with, Thompson tried to maintain the full "Abednego," and advertised himself as a boxer under that nom de guerre in BelFs Life. Jem Belcher left his name to a particular sort of scarf.

"Jack Johnson," a variety of heavy German shell, is at least as well-known as the negro champion, and thousands of people must know of Bendigo, a town in Australia, who never heard of Bendigo, the prizefighter.


 Bendigo was a Nottingham man, born in 1812, and his first battle took place in 1835. This was with Ben Caunt, with whom he fought in all three times. He was, as champion heavy-weights go, a middle-sized man, 5 feet 9f inches in height, and his weight was generally somewhere in the neighborhood of twelve stone. He was an all-round athlete, a fair cricketer and an acrobat: he was also a most scientific boxer, plucky, and a terribly hard hitter : but his methods were foul. In his first fight with Caunt his dodge to which he was ever faithful in after years was to hit and then directly there were signs of possible retaliation to slip down, as plausibly as possible, to avoid punishment. Going down without a blow was a foul by the rules: but on the wholeBendigo was wonderfully lucky in his referees. Caunt lost his temper after a time, and dashing across the ring, hit Bendigo whilst still on his second's knees. That was a foul that no referee

could by any conceivable possibility overlook, and Caunt was " deemed the loser."


Three years later they met again, and this time Caunt won on a foul. This Ben Caunt also came from Nottingham; a huge fellow of 6 feet 2 ½  inches, weighing well over 15 stone in condition, and much more than that out of it. He had enormous bat-like ears which stood out on his head as do the handles of a

cup. In the second fight he showed himself an inferior boxer to Bendigo: but his size and strength enabled him, in a close, to seize his opponent and almost to squeeze the breath out of his body. So far as hitting went, Bendigo had the better of it, and towards the end of the fight, which lasted for seventy-five rounds,

the betting on him was 3-1. In the last round, however, he fell without a blow. His supporters declared that he had slipped and that throughout he had been handicapped by not having his proper fighting shoes. Caunt's people, however, appealed to the referee, who gave it a foul, and Caunt was, therefore, declared the

winner. There were many roughs about the ringside, mostly partisans of Bendigo, and Caunt had to be mounted on a horse and ride almost for his life to escape them.


Bendigo's next fight was with Deaf Burke, and it took place near Appleby in Warwickshire, on February I2th, 1839. Bendigo was in first-rate condition, whilst his opponent looked pale and flabby. A diverting incident marked the preliminary arrangements, for there appeared at the ringside a "not unlikely woman,"

as Bell's Life calls her, a friend of the" Deaf un," who shook hands with him over the ropes and remained in that position of vantage throughout the battle.


Bendigo fought right foot foremost and in a rather stooping position, whilst Burke's attitude was more orthodox but a little too square, judged by the standard of Belcher and Spring. The man who stands square to his antagonist offers a bigger target, and it has been reckoned from the beginning of the nineteenth

century that "edgeways on " is the better mode.


The first round was a good one. Both fought carefully and hit hard. Bendigo's left was straight and true, and the exchange of blows was equal. They closed at the end and both went down together. The second set-to was much the same, though it was noticed that Burke breathed the more heavily. In the next round,

however,Bendigo went ahead, hitting again and again without a return. Burke seemed to be almost paralysed, unable either to defend himself or to hit back. His left eye was closed and at the end of the round, when Bendigo threw and fell on him, he was evidently feeling ill. He was much marked, whilstBendigo was quite fresh and with hardly a flush to show that he had been hit. The fourth round was similarly Bendigo's. Burke fought with dogged pluck, but was clearly out of condition. His seconds

shouted to him to go in and fight, and he did his best, but his opponent's straight and well-judged blows came and returned to the same bad eye and battered nose. Finally Bendigo stepped back rather

too quickly, tripped against the lower rope, and fell out of the ring.


Trained men can often fight with pluck, and Burke did this now, but his self-confidence had gone. He hesitated about leading, and whilst making up his mind Bendigo hit him and closed. A little later Burke took a nip from the brandy bottle, but this did him no good. In the seventh round he began by

fighting hard, hitting left and right, but was finally thrown. He now accused his man of butting him, and anxiously appealed to the umpire, but no question of foul play had arisen. Bendigo had jerked his head back as he flung Burke down, and had not, as a fact, touched him. Burke was thrown in the eighth round and knocked down in the ninth. The tenth round was the last. Burke was now desperate. He rushed in, got close to his man, and hit with both hands, but he got more in return than he gave. Again he charged at his opponent, forcing him to the ropes, and whilst pinned with his back against them Burke deliberately butted Bendigo with his head. Jem Ward, who was seconding the victim, claimed a foul, which was allowed. Deaf Burke's umpire could not deny the justice of the decision ; so Bendigo was proclaimed the winner after

twenty-four minutes' fighting. There seems to be no doubt that Burke butted openlywith this very end in view of being disqualified, so that an end could be made of a battle for which he had lost all taste.





IN one respect the most remarkable fight in the whole history of the Prize-Ring was an unimportant affair, so far as title or money goes, between Jack Lane, commonly known as “Hammer," and Yankee Sullivan, an East-End Londoner born of Irish parents who had emigrated to America. Lane in training weighed 10

stone 10 Ib. He was twenty-six years of age, and hitherto his most considerable battles had been with Owen Swift, whom he beat; and a black man who had taken the celebrated name of Molyneux, and who had beaten him. Sullivan was quite unknown in England. He fought at 11 stone 6 Ib., and had stipulated

that Lane should not exceed 11 stone. The match was for 50 a side, and took place at Crookham Common, on February 2nd, 1841.


Both the men were in perfect condition. Lane was confident and smiling, Sullivan fiercely serious, as befitted a stranger with his career before him. Very little time was wasted in maneuvering. They came to the scratch, and Sullivan led immediately with his left. Lane guarded the blow and sent in left and right in

quick succession, both being stopped. They were boxing well and cleanly, and there was not a penny to choose between them. The ground had been covered with snow which had been perfunctorily swept from the ring itself, but a thaw had set in and the grass was very wet. The first round ended by Lane slipping



In the next round Sullivan was in less of a hurry to begin, and waited to see what his opponent would do, and, when Lane hit, stopped him. They met in a rally and exchanged blows equally and Lane slipped down again.


The third round began with a couple of hard lefts from either side, one on Lane's mouth and the other catching Sullivan under the eye. They fought for a minute or so, but Sullivan's blows were very poor, for he hit with his open hand. Then Lane dashed in and threw his arms round his antagonist and fell, his right

arm striking the ground under Sullivan's head. He at once felt a considerable shock. Something had happened, but he didn't dare say even to himself, let alone his seconds, what it was. He went casually to his corner. Both men were now considerably marked. Lane hit out with his left with less confidence than in

the last round, and Sullivan stopped the blow, countering quickly on the mouth. In a rally it was noticed that Lane was guarding as well as hitting with his left, and he did it with remarkable precision. Sullivan aimed a tremendous upper-cut, and Lane jumped back from it, slipping down again as he did so, but

rising again at once and going to his corner laughing.


The fifth round was short and equal. At the end Lane closed and threw his man. He came up laughing for the sixth and hit out vigorously. It was going to be all right, he said to himself. No one had seen

anything odd yet, and he felt that he was Sullivan's master. He feinted with his left and sent in a very light right on his man's nose and then quickly sent out the left again. Then Sullivan set his teeth and forced Lane to a corner, and a hard rally began in which Lane hit with both hands. He tried a harder right this

time and Sullivan stopped the blow with the point of his elbow. Then at last Lane winced and gave ground. The pain had not been so bad hitherto, but the impact of his antagonist's sharp elbow on his forearm was agonizing. But he was not going to show that he was hurt before he must. He went in again and

plugged away at the body with the left. But his right hand dropped to his side, and it was at last plain to the spectators that he had hurt it. But he went to the attack again and again with his left, until Sullivan grabbed hold of it, and closing, threw Lane and fell on him.


What had happened was a rare accident and would have caused nine out of ten men to give in at once and without disgrace. At the end of the third round, as said, Lane threw Sullivan and they came down together with great force, their combined weight falling on Lane's arm, which was beneath his opponent's head.

That fractured the radius, or outer bone of the forearm. At first Lane felt a severe shock, and guessed what had happened, but the pain was not severe until in the sixth round he hit with his right. But when, hitting hard, the blow was stopped by Sullivan's elbow, the pain was exquisite, and his forearm, already swollen, became too painful to hold up. The spectators, and no doubt Sullivan as well, did not know how serious the accident was, but it was patent that Lane had suffered some injury, and Sullivan's friends cheered him on to take advantage of it. Now Lane reckoned to himself that he knew more boxing and could hit harder than his opponent, and that if he could only do it quick enough he could thrash him with one hand. So he went in and smashed Sullivan's face with his left, drawing blood. Blow after blow he sent home much too swiftly for Sullivan to stop, and his cheek and eyebrow were dreadfully cut. Again the American's supporters yelled to him to fight.


"He's only got one arm. Goin go in!"


they shouted. And he accordingly went after Lane, who could only retreat, hitting as he went. Sullivan tried

to close, and then Lane slipped down. His backers, seeing, as they imagined, nothing else for it, gathered in Lane's corner and declared that he must give in. Lane laughed the suggestion to scorn. He could beat Sullivan with one hand, he retorted, and utterly refused to throw up the sponge. At the call of time he was laughing again and went straight for his man. This time Sullivan was quicker to guard, and it was some little time before Lane succeeded in landing a blow. The American, to his undying shame, aimed a furious blow at the broken arm. Fortunately he missed, and Lane countered heavily on the body. Then, without moving his feet, he lifted his left twice to the face and hit with all his strength. Sullivan was nearly dazed,

and, becoming flustered, missed his own blows, and Lane went down again.


It should be said here that though there was plenty of excuse for his course of action, Lane did continually, after his accident, hit and go down to avoid punishment. The referee, who was Ned Painter, the pugilist, should have been much stricter. A rule is a rule, however much sympathy the breaker of it receives

and deserves.


The ninth and tenth rounds found Lane hitting furiously and Sullivan almost maddened with pain. His supporters claimed a foul at the end of the latter round on account of Lane's going down to avoid a blow, but it was not then, or subsequently, allowed.


And so the fight went on, Lane hitting and hitting again with tremendous power, Sullivan getting much the worst of it, each round ending by Lane's slipping down directly he saw danger. The sympathy of the onlookers was naturally with the injured man, than whom a gamer never went into the ring. In the fourteenth round Sullivan was getting wild, and Lane's heart was high with hope. He drew away, and the American came floundering at him, only to add his own weight to a dreadful straight blow on the eye which knocked him down.


In the sixteenth round Sullivan was almost blind of one eye, but Lane's hitting was now less accurate. The tremendous exertion of hitting with one hand, to say nothing of the pain in his useless right arm and the effort to protect it from further injury, was now telling on him. He missed one blow, and Sullivan, who had been given some oakum on his hands in order that they should remain shut, sent in a terrible right which knocked Lane down. In the next round Lane was hitting again, but got the worst of it. But his courage never faltered, and he came up with all the ardour of a well-trained and unhurt man beginning a battle. Again Sullivan landed heavily and knocked him down. Lane was now bleeding severely from a cut on his eyebrow. And then quite suddenly he weakened. He was looking white and worn out when he came up for the nineteenth round. He hit with a certain amount of vigour still, but could not stop the counter, and Sullivan, hitting him once more on the cut on his brow, knocked him down again. At that, since, though much damaged, Sullivan was evidently strong still and quite steady on his legs, Lane's backers gave in on his behalf. This amazing fight had lasted for thirty-four minutes.


As with Jem Belcher, after his second fight with Tom Cribb, Hammer Lane's chief concern was for his friends and backers who had put their faith in him. After this he did not fight again until 1850, when he had grown stiff and slow, and though Tom Davis, his opponent on that occasion, took over an hour to beat

him, he did so decisively.





AFTER this battle with Deaf Burke, Bendigo was given a champion's belt by Jem Ward, and for a year he remained undisputed Champion of England. In March of 1840, however, whilst skylarking and

turning somersaults at some military steeplechases at Nottingham, he slipped his knee-cap and was told by his doctor that he would never be able to run or fight again. For two years he had to remain in retirement. During this time Burke tried to assert himself as champion, but was beaten by Nick Ward, and shortly

afterwards died of consumption. Ward won on a foul from Ben Caunt, who, however, came back on him and thrashed him in forty-seven minutes. Then Bendigo, who had taken the utmost care of his injured knee, considered himself strong enough to win the championship back.


But first of all he came from Nottingham to London and practised with the gloves for a time. He then challenged Tass Parker for £200 a side. A match was arranged, but on the eve of it Bendigo was arrested and clapped into jail, and the forfeit money was paid to Parker. The evidence with regard to this arrest is somewhat conflicting. There is no doubt at all but that it was made at the instance of Bendigo's elder brother, John Thompson: the reason generally given being that he was afraid lest Bendigo should injure his knee again. "Thormanby," however, assures us that John's motive was his abhorrence of the Ring. The Thompsons were a family of quite marked respectability: one of their uncles had been a dissenting minister. . . .

Brother John was a well-to-do manufacturer, of the most unctuous rectitude, and there were two great troubles in his comfortable life. One was his prize-fighting and disreputable brother William and the second, sad to tell, was his mother. Mrs. Thompson was not at all the sort of person that you would anticipate in such a family. How she came to be the mother of John (and of other respectable children) passes comprehension. And Bendigo loved her dearly, and she was intensely proud of him. But she was so

"coarse," so violent a big, jolly, generous creature. On the days when he was fighting Ben Caunt she would sit in her kitchen and listen to the clock ticking, and she would declare that it always ticked" Ben-dy Ben-dy." "By Gosh," she said, "if it'd ticked 'Ben Caunt,' I'd have oop and smashed its blasted face for it." And we can see her, sitting there, comfortable, with her hair loose and untidy, her face red, big-mouthed, gap-toothed, with dark, small eyes, immoderately buxom a jewel of a woman.


After some negotiation (which in the 'forties of last century were almost as long drawn out and as exasperating as the corresponding negotiations of to-day) a third battle between Bendigo and Ben Caunt was finally arranged for 200 a side and the belt. This encounter was fought out, after principals and expectant onlookers had been hounded by the police from two different places, at Sutfield Green in Oxfordshire.


Now this battle with Ben Caunt has been branded as the most disgraceful affair in all the annals of the Ring, but it is representative of its period, and as such must be described.


Bendigo had been trained at Crosby, near Liverpool; Caunt at Hatfield, to which place Tom Spring used constantly to come from London to see how the big fellow was getting on. Caunt was now thirty-three, and before he began training he weighed 18 stone. During that very arduous process he reduced himself

to 14 stone, without actually injuring himself. Bendigo was three years older and only 12 stone I Ib. Both men entered the ring in fine condition. There were about 10,000 spectators with a remarkably strong leaven of roughs from Nottingham. These gentry came armed with bludgeons and yelled for Bendigo. The

betting immediately before the fight was chiefly in the proportion of 6-4 on Ben Caunt.


The men came with their seconds to the scratch and, following the old custom, all four crossed hands in the middle of the ring, the seconds presently retiring to their corners, leaving the antagonists facing one another. Caunt had won the toss for corners, and had his back to the sun. There was a good deal of difficulty about the choice of a referee, and at last much against his own personal inclination, Mr. Osbaldiston " The Old Squire," as he was everywhere called consented to act. Bendigo walked a little lame, but his activity in the ring was not much impaired. Right foot foremost, he crouched with his left shoulder held high in an exceedingly awkward and ungainly position: but his jaw was thus well protected from Caunt's mighty right. The giant, on the other hand, stood nearly square with both arms well out in the manner of Bill Neate. Bendigo, as befitted the smaller man, circled round, looking for an opening and biding his time. Caunt pivoted about slowly in order to face him. Each time he went round Bendigo got nearer and nearer to his man by imperceptible stages. Then at last Caunt let go, and Bendigo, who had

deliberately drawn the blow, ducked it and sent in a heavy counter to his opponent's eye. For an instant the big man's face expressed rage and ferocity, and then he grinned. There was always something about Bendigo which made folk laugh. He was ever a merryandrew, always playing the goat; you couldn't help but grin even when he hurt you. And then in the next minute he had hit again, this time with a tremendous left which reopened an old scar, and Caunt bled profusely. He lumbered in, trying to land a blow on the smaller man: but Bendigo ducked and dodged and sidestepped and avoided them all.


In the third round Caunt managed to catch hold of his opponent and threw him. But although his training had not exactly hurt him, his strength was not at its greatest, and Bendigo's speed quite overwhelmed him. He hit him as he liked, smashed his face with left and right, and would get away without a reply :

then lest the reply turned out to be belated but sure, Bendigo would slip down.


Once Caunt caught him up against the ropes and leaned on him there, and would most likely have hurt him seriously, but that he overbalanced himself and fell down.Bendigo's hitting was really terrific. Caunt was much cut about the face from the earliest rounds, but in the thirteenth round Bendigo sent in a left which is famous in the history of boxing. It struck Caunt on the right cheek with such force as to knock him clean off his legs, actually lifting his fourteen stone in the air. For a few seconds he was quite stunned. A little later Bendigo split his man's upper lip clean through, and the blood poured from it. Caunt was tremendously game, and though utterly beaten, hit for hit, stood up and fought. Bendigo was never a cur whenever he did suffer punishment, but his artful dodge of avoiding it by continually going down was detestable and ought to have been stopped at once. And towards the end of this fight, which lasted

for ninety-three rounds and over two hours, Caunt was getting the better of it. Bendigo continued to drop directly he saw danger. Caunt's supporters again and again appealed to the referee, but in the yelling and confusion about the ring they were either unheard or unheeded. Moreover, the proper way to appeal

according to the rules was first to the two umpires, who in their turn referred to the higher authority. Backers and seconds frequently forgot this, and referees occasionally took advantage of the fact.


The roughs who had come to support Bendigo were known as the "Nottingham lambs," and they were indeed a pretty crew. Time and again they tried to cut the ropes when Caunt had forced Bendigo against them, and one blackguard aimed a blow with his bludgeon at Caunt's head, missed, and caught TomSpring,

who was by the ropes at the moment, on the shoulder. To the last the big man hoped by getting in one frightful smasher to end the fight, but towards the last they were both using foul methods, Bendigo hitting below the belt, Caunt trying to use his knee. In the ninety-third round Caunt knocked Bendigo down so-

Bell's Life tell us and turned away, naturally supposing that the round was over. Bendigo leapt to his feet, however, and dashed after his man, hoping to be able to hit him at a disadvantage before he could turn. As his arm was poised to deliver the blow Caunt abruptly sat down. An appeal was at once made by Bendigo's

seconds, Ward and Hannan, together with others, direct to the referee, who decided that Caunt had deliberately gone down without a blow, and that Bendigo was the winner. It must be remembered that when Bendigo went down as he did, over and over again, it was in a less obvious manner; that is to say, at the

end of a sharp rally when he was close to his man. His position in this way would be more equivocal than Caunt's.


Reviewing the evidence, it certainly does seem that the referee made an error of judgment. Having made it, he stuck to it, as he should. He was, of course, accused of being intimidated by the ruffians whose heavy sticks were close about his head. The facts of the case were presented to " The Old Squire" afterwards, especially Caunt's quite natural supposition that the round had ended. The referee replied that he had given his decision to the best of his ability from what he saw. His view of the proceedings was constantly being interrupted, and it was quite possible that he did not see everything. He pointed out, further, that against his

wishes he had been chosen as referee by both the parties.


It is perfectly useless to make any comment other than that the referee should certainly have been stricter in the earlier stages of the fight. On this occasion the principals themselves, especially the winner, were not blameless : but the chief fault, of course, lay with the person or persons who organised the band of ruffians

from Nottingham. These men had no silly idea of putting money on the chances of Bendigo and backing their sanguine opinion. They intended to subscribe a certainty.


Caunt and Bendigo were bitter enemies for a long time after this, but in 1850, they had a great joint Benefit, at which they at last shook hands and became fast friends.


Bendigo was a bit of rapscallion, certainly; but he was a born clown, with the keenest sense of fun, which lasted almost to his dying day. His acrobatic feats even when he was an old man were the astonishment of his contemporaries and the delight of children. He was, as you might say, a funny mixture: a great gardener, a patient fisherman, in bouts a drinker who, with very little liquor in him, went clean off his weak head, and once cleared a butcher's shop in his drunken rage, hurling legs of mutton at the jeering crowd upon the pavement. At the considerable risk of his own he saved a man's life from drowning in the Trent, and indignantly refused a material reward. In 1870, some revivalists seeing the peculiar possibilities of this brand if he could only be snatched from the burning, "converted" him; and "Thormanby" tells the story of how Lord Longford, his old backer, once meeting him in a London street dressed in a black coat and a white tie, stopped him and asked, "Hallo, Bendy! What's your little game now ?"


"Truly, my lord," Bendigo answered with an impeccable unction, " I am fighting Satan now, and Scripture saith that victory shall be mine." " Hope so, Bendy," said his lordship, "but if you don't fight Beelzebub more fairly than you did Ben Caunt, I'll change sides."


Like other converts Bendigo occasionally fell from grace : but the family bias towards evangelical assiduity swung him periodically towards uprightness till his death in 1880.





TOM SAYERS was the last of the great champions of England under the old dispensation. And, as champions go, he was a little man, standing 5 feet 8 inches and usually weighing about 11 stone.

He was born at Brighton in 1826, and as a lad was apprenticed to a bricklayer there. At the age of twenty-two he came to London to work on the London and North-Western Railway. He was known from a lad as being fairly handy with the gloves, and in more than one pot-house brawl he had shown more than that he could take care of himself. In all his fights, with one exception, he gave away weight. His first battle was in 1849, with Abe Crouch, who was two stone the heavier and whom Sayers decisively thrashed. He fought for two and a half hours with Jack Grant of Southwark, and just beat him after an extraordinary display of pluck.


Sayers's only defeat was at the hands of Nat Langham, in October of 1853. And this beating was certainly due to overconfidence, not during, but before the fight. The men were nearly equal in weight and Langham was six years older. As he had been used to giving other opponents as many stone as he was giving Langham pounds, he took very little trouble with his training, and entered the ring somewhat soft. Langham, on the other hand, had got into excellent condition in the hands of Ben Caunt.


Bell's Life tells us quite frankly in its issue just before this battle that the "Blues" were to be outwitted, that the rendezvous for the combat was being kept a strict secret, but that information as to the place and time could be obtained at Ben Caunt's or Alec Keene's. In the event a train left Bishopsgate Street Station for

an unknown destination, when, while the day was still young, a ring was formed and the men set to.


For once in a way youth was not served. As soon as he stripped it was seen that Sayers was flabby and fat about both body and face, and as time went, not only was his wind affected, but his eyes swelled much more easily than if he had been in hard condition. Langham had the advantage in height and reach, and he was a better boxer than Sayers in those days. The first round ended in a knock-down to Sayers, but the ground was slippery and Langham was none the worse. A few rounds later Langham improved, using the blow that was known as his "pickaxe,"a chopping left designed to blind his opponents by hitting them just below the eyes in such a way that they swelled and blinded them. Also he began in the fifth round to put in many straight blows over his man's guard. Sayers grinned good humouredly, though his face was covered with blood. In the next round he flung himself at Langham and hit him thrice on the jaw, finally sending him down hard. But how he regretted the slackness of his training! Throughout the seventh and eighth rounds Sayers followed up his advantage and gave his antagonist a terrible time. How long would he be able to last at this pace ? He knew that Langham was said to be delicate, but he was thoroughly game. Had Sayers been in perfect training now he could have won, and won quickly he was sure of it. As it was his wind was already touched, and the prolonged effort of attack gave him a sickish feeling which was worse than his opponent's hardest blows.


Langham saw how it was with Tom Sayers, and, smiling to himself, he went for him, leading with his left again and again on the mouth and eyes. The tenth round was overwhelmingly in Langham's  favour. In the twelfth both were winded and for several rounds they took things easy. In the twenty-first Sayers in a close threw his man and fell on him, and he kept up a general improvement. He said to himself that he would win

yet, Langham was getting weak. But he must hurry. His own blows seemed wretchedly poor seemed, but were not. He was still hitting hard. A spent boxer often believes that his blows are mere taps when they are really powerful. The betting had risen in Sayers's favour again 5-4. By the twenty-eighth round an hour had gone by, and both men, though weary, seemed to have settled down to a jog-trot method of fighting which,

with what is known as a "second wind," seems to last almost indefinitely.


Nat Langham had a beautiful straight left, only equaled by Sayers a few years later, when the little man was at his best, and he made full use of it now, plugging his man in the eye whenever he came near, and thus keeping him from getting too near. By the thirty-second round Sayers's left eye was nearly closed, by the forty-seventh he was almost blind of the right eye too. The rounds were short and he was getting much the worst of it now. With splendid gameness he kept on leading, but Langham propped him off and countered on every occasion. At about this point in the battle, Sayers's seconds had recourse to a desperate remedy to prevent their man from becoming totally blind, and they lanced the swellings beneath each of his eyes. This caused only temporary relief, and Sayers, of course, lost a lot of blood when Langham hit him on the wounded places again. Between the fiftieth and sixtieth rounds all hope for Sayers had gone. His eyes were so swollen that he could hardly see at all. And yet, despite his lack of training, he was now stronger than Langham, and the fight resolved itself into a race with blindness. The sixty first round was the last. Sayers was now very groggy, and practically sightless. His hits were wasted on the air. His friends called out to have him taken away. Finally Nat Langham with a weak left and right completely closed Sayers's eyes and knocked him down. Thereupon Alec Keene threw up the sponge from Tom's corner. The fight, which was Langham's last, had occupied two hours and two minutes.





UNEQUAL fights always engage both our sympathy and our interest, and Tom Sayers was hardly ever matched with a man of anything at all near his own height and weight. William Perry, commonly called the Tipton Slasher, from the place of his birth in the Black Country, was Champion of England. He had fought

ten big battles and had beaten good men, including Tass Parker twice. He had held the championship for four years when Sayers challenged him.


It was looked upon as an absurd match. Sayers was a lightish middleweight of 5 feet 8 inches. The Slasher now weighed about 14 stone and stood over 6 feet. He laughed at Sayers's challenge. He was utterly confident, knowing that he was bigger, stronger, and heavier, and believing that he was the better boxer.

Nevertheless, Sayers found backing, and on June i6th, 1857, they fought for £200 a side and the belt.


These were the days when it was not sufficient in the interests of sport merely to pitch a ring on the boundary of two, or possibly three, counties, so that while the magistrates of one county might

interfere, the principals and their followers had only to slip over the border into the next. In the fifties, and earlier, the law was much more stringently enforced, and vast expeditions used to leave London by special train to destinations unknown. In the present instance, an enormous crowd packed the train at Fenchurch

Street Station. Tom Sayers was on it, but disguised, in case the police, who knew perfectly who the combatants were, searched the train. William Perry was picked up at Tilbury on the journey eastwards. At Southend the crowd left the train and embarked on a steamer which proceeded to mid-channel, and then altering her course, put down her freight of sportsmen, fighters, and ruffians at the Isle of Grain. Two more steamers now arrived, and a ring was made, out of sight of the river, in a field beneath a dyke. The first stake had hardly been driven in, when the police appeared in what to us, now, would seem the picturesque costume of blue coats, white trousers, and glazed toppers. The crowd of 3000 men rapidly re-embarked in the waiting steamers, and the two boxers, hidden like leaves in a forest, escaped. They crossed the river, and, disembarking once more on the Kentish coast, were so lucky as to find a sporting farmer who gladly let the officials have the use of one of his fields in return for a place at the ring-side, which was joyfully awarded him. Here, behind the farm buildings, which hid the proceedings from passing ships, the ring was once more pegged out: the colours were tied to the stakes, blue with large white spots for Sayers, blue birds' eye for the Slasher. The two men were each seconded by old opponents who had become friends; Nat Langham and Bill Hayes in Sayers's corner, Tass Parker and Jack Macdonald in Perry's.


People said that there had been nothing like this since the days of Johnson and Perrins. For the Tipton Slasher was a magnificent giant, with the enormous shoulder-blades which stand for hard hitting, though a slight deformity in one leg had given him the nickname of " Old K Legs." But there was not an ounce of tallow on him. He was thirty-eight years of age, and looked more, for all his front upper teeth had been knocked out and his face was covered with the scars of old wounds. Little Tom Sayers was neatly built, clean-limbed, and in superb condition, but every one present when they saw the two standing up,

facing one another, wondered how, with his comparatively short reach, he was going to hit the Slasher at all.


There are two ways of beginning a fight, and Perry chose the wrong one. Directly they had shaken hands and their seconds had retired to their respective corners he lunged out, aiming a tremendous hit and wasted it on the air. Not once nor twice did he misjudge his distance and throw away his strength in this manner, while Sayers nimbly jumped aside, or back, leading him round the ring. The Slasher was furious. " Coom and fight me," he said. " Don't 'ee go skirling about like a bloody dancing master." And Tom laughed at him. He knew perfectly well what he was about. He would make the giant tire himself out and then he would hit him at his own leisure. The Slasher, on the other hand, believed that one hit from him one really good hit such as he alone could deliver would finish his little opponent, and he tried again and again to put in such a blow. At first Tom Sayers was content to avoid them and leave well alone, but after a while he saw a perfect opening as he slipped his man's ponderous left, and he sent his own left in, straight, with all his might. It landed on the Slasher's nose and he snorted and gasped. That was a wonderful punch for so small a man. He began to feel a little uncomfortable. He couldn't be beaten, surely, by this monkey of a fellow. Still, it was disconcerting. And the more uncertain he became the wilder he grew. He was soon

puffing and blowing from his frantic exertions to land just that one beauty which should knock Sayers out of time.


Then quite suddenly Tom Sayers reached the point when he could resist fighting no longer. It was all very well dodging and jumping out of harm's way and putting in an occasional counter-hit : and it was the right way to tackle a giant like William Perry. But Sayers was a fighter and he loved to " mix it." And so he restrained himself less and instead of running away he stood up to the Slasher. Tom ducked from the next mighty blow which swished through the air over his head, and again he ducked and this time the Tipton Slasher followed up one failure with several, and sent blow after blow into thin air. There came a

chuckle of delight from behind him, and swinging round he saw Sayers dancing about and laughing at him. The big man looked extremely foolish. His seconds now roundly swore at him for wasting his strength, and told him that he ought to wait. But Perrins was angry and he went on beating the air. After a while, however, he did manage to land a good blow, which caught Sayers on the forehead and knocked him down flat. The onlookers gasped, for they thought that such a blow would kill the little man. But when time was called up he came still grinning and none the worse save for a bump like an egg. Now the Slasher was much happier. Two or three more like that and the fight would be over. But Sayers knew every trick of his trade, though he never descended to the dirty ones. He pretended now to be really frightened, and instead of slipping and laughing, he kept running away round the ring. But he was ready all the time and perfectly cool. He kept his right foot behind his left and never crossed his feet. Lumbering after him and playing the game he wanted him to play, came the Tipton Slasher. Then to save his breath Perry at length pulled up. Instantly, Sayers stopped also and plugged him in the face.


In the ninth round the Slasher came up to the scratch slowly. His seconds had done their best for him, but his strength was going. It is very exhausting to dash about a grassy ring and hurl ponderous blows at nothing. Once more he tried, but he couldn't get near Sayers. But now he was too tired to keep running after his opponent, and Sayers stood his ground. The next time the mighty fist shot out he ducked under it again and sent in a smashing blow on the Slasher's face. In that round he put in at least three perfect hits with every ounce of his weight behind them. At the third the Tipton Slasher staggered, and fell over. It was not a severe knock-down because the big man was badly balanced at the moment, but the spectators could see

that he was beaten all the same. Then Sayers hit him as he liked, left and right: no dancing or running away now. The Slasher's seconds begged him to give in. They saw that it was hopeless, but this he refused to do. He would fight as long as he could see and stand. It is terribly humiliating to be thrashed by a man half your size, but William Perry was brave, and he faced that fact as well as the more pressing one. For he was

dreadfully cut about. His seconds carried out all the usual receipts for bringing their man to the scratch again, biting his ears and sluicing him with cold water. The onlookers called out to have the Slasher taken away, but he would not be taken away. Tom Sayers stood in the mid-ring with his arms folded, waiting

for his antagonist. He did not in the least want to hurt him, but what was he to do ? At last Owen Swift, who was prominent amongst the Slasher's supporters, got through the ropes into the ring and held up his hand. The sponge was then thrown up from the Slasher's corner, and Tom Sayers was proclaimed

Champion of England.


The battle had lasted for an hour and forty-two minutes. The Slasher wept bitterly when Sayers came over to shake hands. He had staked every penny he had on the fight, and was, besides being beaten, utterly ruined "Something" was done for him afterwards, so that he was able to take the inevitable inn and spent the rest of his days in comparative comfort. He answered the final call of "Time " in January, 1881.






THE fight between Tom Sayers, Champion of England, and Heenan, the giant American, was about the last conspicuous affair with bare knuckles fit for place in any history of the Prize-Ring. There were, no doubt, good bye-battles, but there is no record of them as such. From first to last, in the oldest days of all, just as to-day, we look to championship contests for representative form and seldom find it. One or both of the champions may be as good men as it is possible to find, but the show that they put up when pitted against each other is frequently poor when compared to the performance of a couple of " unknowns." But this battle, viewed from various angles, was a good one.


Tom Sayers, Champion of England, was challenged by the American, Heenan, who came over with a bevy of supporters. The fight was arranged to take place on Tuesday, April 17th, 1860; but the utmost secrecy had to be preserved in order to avoid the police.


The following paragraph appeared in The Times for April 2nd (This was before the days of sensational and prominent headlines, and the reader had to search for the news which interested him) :


"The Forthcoming Prize-Fight. Hertford, Saturday. This afternoon Colonel Archibald Robertson, chief constable of  the Hertfordshire Police Force, made application to the justices assembled in petty session at Hertford for a warrant to apprehend Thomas Sayers, the Champion of England,' and John Heenan, the American pugilist, in order that they might be bound over to keep the peace. . . ."


The gallant colonel failed to apprehend the delinquents, and at 4 a.m. on the great day an enormous special train steamed, under sealed orders, as it were, out of London Bridge Station, carrying about a thousand people, which number was more than trebled on the field of battle. This was at Farnborough, near

Aldershot. The actual meadow was cunningly chosen, for it was practically surrounded by double hedges and ditches, and was a difficult place to come at in a hurry: the idea in the minds of the organisers being that if any body of men did try to interfere, due notice would be given of the fact to the principals and officials. The fight began at 7.25 in the morning. A twenty-four foot ring was formed. The men shook hands, and tossed for corners. Heenan winning and naturally choosing the slight advantage of the higher side in a gently sloping space and a position which put the sun in his antagonist's eyes. The American was the first to strip, and was seen to be an enormous fellow, 6 feet 2 inches in height, with very long arms, a fine deep chest, and perfectly trained. He combined with these magnificent proportions much grace and freedom of movement. Sayers had a good look at his man, nodded his head quietly, and then stripped himself. He was only 5 feet 8 inches. His chest was not specially broad or thick, nor did his arms give the appearance of unusual development. Only his shoulders suggested where his wonderful hitting power came from. But he was a hard little man, and he, too, was in perfect condition. On the face of it, and to those spectators who were unacquainted with Sayers's previous performances or the history of the Ring (with its records of Tom Johnson and Jem Belcher), it appeared once again to be an absurd match. Heenan

towered over his man and seemed to be about twice his size in every dimension.


They took up their positions, and laughed at each other as they moved round, each man to his right in order to avoid the other's right hand. Then Heenan led and just reached Sayers's mouth, getting a hard reply which, amidst loud applause, drew first blood. They sparred for a little longer and then closed, when Sayers, as they used to say in these days, "got down easily." A man was not allowed by the rules to go down without a blow, except in a close, in order to avoid punishment.


Their seconds sponged them down, gave them water to rinse their mouths with, and they came up again. This time they were quicker to work. Sayers looked at his huge adversary with perfect confidence in himself, and the coolness of long experience and a great capacity. Mere size troubled him not at all. He had

fought and beaten big men before. Heenan led and led again and then a third time, but on each occasion Sayers threw back his head, and all three blows fell lightly. Then the big man got closer and sent home one on the mouth which made the English champion reel. But he returned at once to receive a whack on the forehead which knocked him down in his own corner. This, the first knock-down, did not trouble him in the least, though the Americans at the ring-side naturally shouted their delight. After the half-minute Sayers came up quite fresh, though he had a big lump coming up on his forehead and his mouth was swollen. His footwork was brilliant. He nipped in and out, avoiding the long arms and always, when a blow did land, managed to be on the retreat, so that its force was lessened. But the sun shining in his eyes was a trouble, and he frowned and tried to work Heenan round so that he had his share of it. Heenan, however, grinned, and held his ground. Then Tom Sayers darted in to plant a hard body-blow, but caught a severe right which

knocked him down. Once more Sayers tried to get out of the sun, and failing, closed and slipped down.


By this time he was a good deal marked, and there was a severe cut over his eyebrow. Both remained excessively cautious, and all at once the humour of it seized them and they put down their hands and roared with laughter, again small wonder it is that foreigners used to think us a race of madmen, until that is the French began to play the same game. (Only for the most part, the French take boxing very, very seriously.)

Suddenly Heenan steadied himself and shot out a straight left which fairly caught the champion and, for the fourth time, knocked him down. A large number of the spectators believed that Sayers was a beaten man. For a large number of them had not seen him fight before, and had no idea how much he could take. More experienced ring-goers watched, patiently suspending judgment. And presently the inexperienced folk were startled. Heenan sent out a smashing blow which Sayers entirely avoided, jumping right back from it, instantly bounding in again and delivering a terrific blow on his man's eye. It was one of those sliding, upward hits which almost split the American's cheek before it reached his brow, and it sent Heenan staggering away.


The rest did little to improve his appearance. He was bleeding profusely, swollen and disfigured. Sayers was getting comfortably set. He stopped a hard lead with his forearm, and dashing in, dealt out a harder one; and then another which seemed almost to crush Heenan's nose and very nearly lifted him off his legs.

Five-foot eight and six-foot two. Not bad going.


In the seventh round, Sayers hit Heenan an awful blow which sent the blood spurting from his nose. Heenan grabbed hold of his man to put an end to this punishment, and Sayers got in some damaging body-blows before he fell underneath. " As well as can be expected," thought Sayers to himself. Yes: he was doing very nicely, but he was not quite as happy as he looked. How long would it be before Heenan or his

seconds spotted the truth. Hadn't they noticed yet that he was extremely shy of hitting with his right had been shy for the last two rounds ? And in his previous battles it was his right upon which he had depended for victory. One really good right-hander from Sayers was commonly reckoned to be enough for anybody. But he couldn't use his right now. He had tried and it was useless. That tremendous whack that he had stopped with his forearm had numbed it at the moment, and he had thought nothing of it until he tried to use it in offence. And then he knew that his right was out of action. He thought at the time that the bone was broken. As a matter of fact it was not, no Tom Sayers and the Benicia Boy but a tendon was, which (for such intensely practical purposes) was just as bad. The arm was also one mass of inter-running

bruises and fearfully swollen. So he held it across his chest in its orthodox position, and it was all he could do to keep it there: and he kept his face wooden and innocent and went on fighting

with his left. The enemy shouldn't know before they must.


And round after round the little man came up smiling, relying on his feet for defence and his left for attack. Heenan also grinned. They were a good-humoured couple, as these couples of the Prize-Ring so often were. Once he landed a horribly severe smasher on Heenan which knocked him down, and instead of taking his rest for half a minute, he went prying into Heenan's corner to watch his seconds wiping away the blood.

He might learn something in that way, he thought, which would be more valuable than thirty seconds on an another fellow's knee. Heenan, however, could take plenty of punishment, too, without complaining.


After this they fought a tremendous round which lasted nearly a quarter of an hour, and at the end were so exhausted that both of them had to be carried to their corners by their respective seconds. It had been foolish, Sayers now realised, not to take the rest he was entitled to. He must not play tricks likethat again. He was greatly knocked about. His mouth and nose seemed as though they had been knocked into one, but his trick of throwing back his head as Heenan's huge fist caught him had done much to preserve his eyes.


Only once did he show a sign of anger. He drew back after a rally to spit out blood, and the American onlookers laughed. That stung him, and he dashed in again and gave Heenan a left which sent him reeling back, and another and another. A fourth hit made Heenan reel where he stood, so that with his right to

follow up with Sayers might have knocked him out of time. As it was, he dared not come too close, for he feared being thrown upon his bad arm. But he shot out his left twice more, and one o"n Heenan's ribs sounded (so said The Times correspondent) all over the meadow as if a box had been smashed in." Blows

in g"iven with boxing gloves which sound loud and draw involuntary Oh's ! " from the spectators usually mean nothing at all. But sounding blows with a naked fist, particularly on the body, may mean a good deal.


Now Sayers could no longer raise his arm, and it hung limp at his side. Fortunately for him, Heenan was not an adept in the use of his own right. It was maddening to him to stand there and hit and hit again and to be able to make so little apparent impression on a man so much smaller and with but one arm in action. And Heenan was now a terrible sight. His face looked as though it were gashed with deep wounds, and indeed Sayers's sharp knuckles had lacerated the skin and the American was bleeding terribly. And then he managed to land a very hard left, which he shot in over Sayers's awkward left-handed guard, and the champion was knocked down. Then Heenan in the next round picked his man clean off his legs and threw him. And immediately afterwards they were both laughing at each other, neither in derision nor affectation. It was a rare fight, and good fun in its somewhat rough way, and worth laughing over. But one of the American's eyes was now completely closed. And he was getting hard put to it to see. But he knocked Sayers down once more.


Up and at it again. Sayers hit his opponent with tremendous force, and Heenan closed and then for the first and only time, forgetting his arm for the moment, Sayers exerted himself and threw the giant down. And he kept cool, watched his opportunities, and gave no chances. Nevertheless, the twenty-first and twenty second rounds ended in his being knocked sprawling on the grass.


Heenan was fast going blind, and his backers yelled to him to keep Sayers in the sun and to throw him. With those shouts of encouragement in his ears he dashed at the champion and planted a tremendous body-blow which knocked him down and nearly beat the senses out of him.


It was at about this time that several of the police found their way through the crowd and began to come near the ring. But the huge crowd did their utmost to make that approach a difficult one. Sayers was getting weak, Heenan blind. It was really a race between the one failing and the other. Once when Sayers

retreated fast round the ring with his man after him, Heenan managed to catch him and close and hit him when on the ground. Cries of "Foul! " went up, but the referee ruled that the blow was "struck in the heat of righting" and was not to be regarded as a foul. That excuse would not " wash," as they say, nowadays.


Heenan's sight became worse, and once in his own corner he gave his own second a stinger in mistake for Sayers. In the thirty-ninth round he got Sayers's head under his left arm when in a corner. He was too weak to hit him severely whilst " in chancery," but leant upon the stake and held on to Sayers as though trying to strangle him. The champion could not move his head, try and pull and twist