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robert.snell1@ntlworld.com

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PETER MORRIS

Some may wonder who the hell was Peter Morris, but he remains one of the few professional bare knuckle boxers of the bare fist era to remain undefeated and because he was in one of the lighter weight divisions it’s probably the reason he remains mostly inconspicuous.

Morris was born in Birmingham in 1840, stood only 5’ 3” and weighed only around about 100lb when he started out on a career that lasted twelve years, but was probably around 106lb-108lb and just above the bantamweight limit of that time for most of his ring career. It started with local fights against Jack Bayliss and Jack Dymock twice in 1858. His mentor was Bob Brettle who in his career had collected the scalps of Bob Travers and Jem Mace. Morris was a fleet footed fighter who showed plenty of science and packed a heavy punch in either hand with lightning speed. If he had one fault it was lack of ambition and had to be pushed or goaded into some fights. He beat Bayliss in 38 rounds for a 20 purse and drew with Dymock the first time and beat him the next day in 26 rounds for a 30 purse. In 1859 at Cannock Chase, Staffordshire he took on Tom Rafferty for a 20 purse and again won in 16 rounds. In 1860 he stepped up a class to meet Jack Hartley of Shoreditch, London, somewhere around the capital, where in a mammoth 94 round battle Morris again emerged the winner and collected a 50 purse. With another win in 1861 against Jem Fox at Hednesford, Staffordshire in 36 rounds for a 40 purse, Peter Morris was now rated in the top echelon of little men, especially when again in 1862 he again defeated Jack Hartley somewhere along the River Thames in 59 rounds.

It was now decided that he was more than good enough to take on George Holden, holder of the featherweight championship who had taken it from the American, Charley Lynch the year before. Again the venue was along the banks of the Thames, but after 26 even rounds the law intervened and so at another spot the next day the fight resumed for another 38 rounds where with both eyes now or nearly completely closed Holden was forced to retire, with Morris the new featherweight champion along with a 200 purse. Veteran Morris Roberts now stepped forward and in a catchweight contest, because Roberts couldn’t get down to Morris’s weight the veteran went down in 41 rounds to the champion. After a three year lapse 1866 turned out to be Morris’s busiest year when he threw down the gauntlet of fighting anyone from 108lb to 112lb and when challenged by Jem Fox again, who came in just under 112lb, Morris again beat Fox in 35 rounds. Along with two draws with George Holden in 8 rounds and 34 rounds, Morris collected 100 against Fox and two 200 purses against Holden respectively, with these three fights all around the Midlands area.

With no one prepared now to fight Morris at his weight he travelled to America in 1867 to find fights, but was unsuccessful or uninterested and returned to Birmingham after a couple of months and it wasn’t until 1870 after a fight with Harry Taylor fell through that he stepped into the ring for the last time, where for a paltry purse of 15 he beat a once top prospect, Frank Wilson in 8 rounds on a secluded spot on the Coventry Road. Morris at the age of thirty now acted on his wishes to retire and never fought again, still undefeated, but sadly by October 1873 he was dead.