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The Boxing Biographies Newsletter

Volume 7 No 6 – 14th  June ,  2011

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Lloyds Weekly News 3 may, 1914


By R.P.Watson


IN my opening article I told how as a boy, making my way to school in Manchester, I was attracted by the crowds of betting men in Thomas-street, and how I saw and admired Sam Hurst, the "Stalybridge Infant," a well-known pugilist of those days. The love of sport must have been in my blood, and great was my delight when, not long after this experience, Tom Sayers and John Camel Heenan came to Manchester and I saw them box at a local circus. It was the first time I had seen anything of the kind in my life, and a long time was to elapse before anything in this nature came my way again.

After a chequered career Sayers had a rather sad end, and was buried from a Bootmaker's shop in High-street, Camden Town. At that time I had been entered as student of the Royal Veterinary College, and, living in the neighbourhood, curiosity took me to the funeral. It was a regrettable scene. The procession was attended by a coarse, brutal and blasphemous mob, who struggled, fought, and fell over each other, cursing and swearing, for no apparent reason, except to get as near to the funeral hearse as possible.

 There was an abundance of flowers, and behind the hearse came the open carriage in which Sayers used to drive about, and in which there now sat, bolt upright and looking very melancholy indeed has favourite dog. At Highgate Cemetery the behaviour of the crowd was simply disgraceful, but I am glad to say that such incidents could not be witnessed nowadays.

The " On the Knee " Decision.

As an official referee at boxing matches, I graduated in a hard, stern, and dangerous school, but of the many fights at which I acted  there is only one that need be mentioned, because it was the one at which, as already stated, I gave the momentous  decision that  a man on one knee is considered down, and if struck in this position, is entitled to the stakes. This particular fight took place at the Three Colts Music Hall, Broadway, Victoria Park, and was a ludicrous,absurd, and miserable fiasco, lasting less than one round. The combatants were known as Dutchey and Raphael, and when Raphael was on one knee Dutchey struck  him, and I disqualified Dutchey. There was a good deal of objection to this verdict, but it holds good to this day.

Of these early contests two of the most remarkable took place at Sadler's Wells Theater . One was between Jem Goode and Mickey Rees, when Goode broke his  right arm the first round, but pluckily fought on with his left for no fewer than  twenty rounds. The police were called, but nothing more serious happened than  the driving of the people from the building and

stopping of the fight. An amusing Contest, took place at the " Wells " between two boxers named Tom Allen and  Tompkin  Gilbert. It was brief and decisive. Allen hit Gilbert  flush on the  nose a terrible smash, and Gilbert actually ran out of the ring. Everyone laughed, and, after a consultation, I was commissioned to see  Gilbert and induce him to return. I found him in a sparsely furnished room above the theatre, his gloved  hands reclining on his knees.

“Mr. Gilbert," I said, "Allen does not claim the fight and wishes  you to continue the contest”. “I’ve had enough of Tom Allen," said Gilbert applying his right hand to his bruised and flattened nose. "Go and tell him to give the rest to someone else”. You can have it if you like, I've done with him." And that was the end of the fight.

One other fight that took place about this time serves to recall the difference in the attitude of the authorities now and thirty five or forty years ago. In August, 1878, Joe Fowler and Tommy Hawkins fought at St Helens Gardens, Rotherhithe, for the feather-weight championship. There were no "gardens" of any sort there; only a dismantled, sorry-looking interior and a meager pitiful plot of grass. A stage had been erected near the entrance to the "gardens," and roped for the reception of the boxers. A noisy, boisterous crowd had assembled, many of them the worse for drink, and others childishly affected by the  excitement of the occasion. On went the fight, and, by way of introducing a little variety into the proceedings, the spectators got up several fights on their own account.

One spectator,  recognised as an old fighter, climbed on to the ring, but was seized by Ted Napper, an exceptionally fine pugilist, and one of the best men of his weight in England, turned upside-down, and gently dropped on his head, several yards below the arena. The ground was soft, and the man's bead exceedingly hard so no harm resulted When darkness fell the contest was adjourned, after two hours and four minutes boxing. Later an attempt was made to complete the contract in the neighbourhood of Spitalfields. The meeting place was a carpenter's shop, but the police were on our track, and by the time half the party had climbed a ladder into a secret chamber the remainder had been dispersed in the street below