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robert.snell1@ntlworld.com

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TOM CANNON

A heavyweight champion who seems to be overlooked a lot is Tom Cannon, known as “The Great Gun of Windsor”. He was born near Windsor, at Eton, Berkshire in 1790 and was considered an all round sportsman, especially at cricket and rowing, but earning his money as a waterman and a fisherman; it was in 1814 through fishing, that he was unlucky to be caught poaching in the wrong place at the wrong time and ordered to pay a fine, but moved rather quickly and conveniently to Newbury in the west of the county of Berkshire without paying!

Aptly built as a heavyweight he stood at just under 6ft and weighed in at between 166-174lbs throughout his ring career and renowned as a hard hitter with plenty of stamina, but perhaps lacking any great ringcraft. Before being in trouble with the law for poaching though he had a few minor fights or skirmishes which went unrecorded, apart from one in 1809 against Tom Anslow, a soldier, at the annual Slough Fair, which Cannon won in 32 minutes for a prize of 6 guineas. Not until 1817 is another fight recorded, by which time he had crept back unbeknown to the law, to the east side of Berkshire. Here Cannon won in 60 rounds for a purse 20 guineas over Bill “Dolly” Smith at Shirley Common, Maidenhead, Berkshire. This fight apparently started out as a dispute over a raffle ticket and ended up in a challenge.

There is no recorded evidence of Cannon fighting again until June 1824, when he, in what was thought audacious by the Fancy, challenged Josh Hudson, a seasoned professional who had been in with Jem Ward only a year earlier. However Cannon outclassed an overweight and unfit Hudson at Yateley, Hampshire in 17 rounds in just over 20 minutes for a purse of 100. In doing so he claimed the championship title, which had only been up for grabs since Tom Spring had retired just a few days earlier. This immediately provoked a challenge for a return contest from Josh Hudson who considered himself as the main contender for Spring’s title. Hudson’s challenge was duly accepted and in November of that same year they faced each for a 1,000 purse at Blackwater, Hampshire, where a much fitter and leaner Hudson was again easily defeated, this time in 16 rounds and with this win Tom Cannon again claimed and was accepted by many as the new champion.

This claim was again disputed in a challenge by Jem Ward, so in July 1825 the two met at Stanfield Park near Warwick and in a brutal 10 minutes of fighting, Cannon lost his short hold on the title when he was knocked out by Ward, who was then generally recognized by the Fancy as the new champion. Tom Cannon only fought once more, when he was beaten by Ned Neale at Warfield, Berkshire in 1827, losing in 22 rounds and along with it a 200 purse.

Tom Cannon retired after this fight and ran The Castle pub in Jermyn Street, London. It is said that when seconding a fight between Jem Burn and Ned Neale in late 1827 in atrocious conditions, that Tom Cannon caught a severe cold and was then laid up with lumbago and that for several months after was virtually a cripple. Illness dogged him throughout his life afterwards and in his later years and along with other ailments he also had chronic rheumatism, until he could stand it no longer and at Strand on the Green, London in July 1858 at 68 years old, the Great Gun of Windsor took a smaller gun, ie, a pistol and shot himself.