Tom Sayers (the "Brighton Boy")

Sayers was one of the great English Champions; He often fought much larger men; He was skillful pugilist who struck stiff blows and was tough and game; Sayers was elected to the Ring Boxing Hall of Fame in 1954.

BORN : May 25 1826;
Brighton, Sussex, England
DIED : November 8 1865;
Camden Town, London, England (Diabetes)

HEIGHT 5-8 1/2 WEIGHT: 112-154 lbs RACE: White


America’s Challenge for the Championship 

Sayers v Heenan

HARRY BLOOME declined in health very soon, after having defended the championship in his famous battle with Orme and when the big, bruising "Tipton Slasher," who had held the title once before, challenged him he retired from the ring, in 1853. This left William Perry, "the Tipton Slasher," as champion for four more years. Perry had little to recommend him. as a fighter beyond his weight, endurance and brute strength.

During these four years one of the great heroes of the sport was slowly fighting his way up the ladder. "Tom" Sayers, having taken every trophy in sight for the middleweights, started in among the big fellows and put them away one after another. His pugilistic career was beyond doubt the most remarkable on record. He fought sixteen times within the prize ring ropes, losing once and drawing once. All but three of his meetings were with heavier and larger men and in spine of them the handicap of weight under which he fought was from twenty to forty two pounds.
A new 100 belt was placed in competition in 1855 and brought about a series of noteworthy battles, the hardest being a two part affair of 62 and 85 rounds between Sayers and Aaron Jones. Sayers finally eliminated all except "the Slasher" whom he disposed of easily in ten rounds in 1857, taking the championship.

Rumours of a new element in the British prize ring began to find their Way across the Atlantic early in 1859. For the first time followers of the sport in the island where it was born and developed were reminded that another English speakings nation was building a pugilistic history and tradition for itself. It was reported that America was ready now to enter a claimant for the world's title, which had been synonymous with the British title since the days of "Jack" Broughton.

To many the announcement came as a surprise. Some- few American boxers had been seen in England, such as "Tom" Molineaux, "Bill" Richmomd and "Young" Molineaux, negroes, and Charles Freeman "the Michigan Giant." A few British boxers had made American tours. But it was generally believed that Yankee fighters were mostly a poor lot fond of rough and tumble, gouging, biting and kicking, quite too uncivilized to understand a clean test of manhood conducted on scientific principles.

The astonishing news was soon verified, however, by communications addressed by George Wilkes, editor of Wilkes' Spirit, of the Times. New York, to Frank Bowling, editor of Bell's Life, in London, the leading sporting paper in England. Offers were made in behalf of Aaron .Jones, who had established himself in New York after his defeat by "Tom" Sayers as an instructor in boxing. These were soon put aside In favor of the defiance issued by John Camel Heenan, "the Benicia Boy,'" a native American. Heenan had suffered defeat at the hands of the redoubtable John Morrisscy in Canada the preceding year, but the objection to -Jones held good against Morrjssey , whose birthplace was Ireland, and Heenan was put forward as the best available man who could logically represent the United States.

the international character of the promised event excited the greatest interest in both countries. A number of well known New York sporting men were ready to put up any amount in backing and supplying Heenan. It was remembered here that he had been In poor condition when he met Morrissey, and his discomfiture in eleven rounds by the terrific tiger of the ring was not held against him. Heenan, for all the confidence of his friends, was scarcely better than a novice at the game. He had had little experience when he was picked out to meet Morrissey. The remarkable advance he had made under the tutelage of Aaron Jones and the sanguine reports of that clever boxer as to his capabilities were his chief recommendations.

Physically he looked the champion. A better proportioned, more powerfully built fighter has seldom - stood within the ropes. He was born in 1834 and was now in the pugilist's prime. His fighting weight was close upon 190 pounds and his height was about six feet one inch. In back, shoulders and arms he might have served as the model for a fistic athelete.

though in loins and legs his build was that of a lighter and more wiry man. His reach was phenomenal and he had a way, of driving it, that put joy into the: hearts of those who kept watch upon him in his preliminary training.

In England "Tom" Sayers naturally was regarded as invincible. The wonderful little fighter's ability was not a subject for speculation. In field after field he had matched his lightweight equipment against the best of .the middle's and heavies, showing results such as no other pugilist had ever approached. In some of his contests he had weighed 136 pounds, in none more than 150. His height was five feet eight and a half Inches. At this time he was nearly thirty-two years , old, Heenan's elder by seven, an age at which a fighter Is a veteran. For twelve years he had been in the thick of the championship struggle. His supremacy had been dearly bought. ^Unequalled science and indomitable pluck were the qualities that had pulled him through In vanquishing such hardy opponents as - Poulson, Paddock, Jones, Benjamin, Brettle and "the Slasher."

Heenan in England.

Heenan came to England in 186O, landing in Liverpool from the Asia on January 16. The trains proceeded from place to place until at seven o'clock a stop was made at Farnborough,near the borders of Hampshire and Surrey, where it was believed the match could be held in safety. The ring was pitched in a meadow adjoining the railroad and the spectators swarmed for positions. The gathering, some 1,200 persons, has probably never been equaled about the ropes in distinction and importance. Members of Parliament, justices, military and naval officers, gentry, men of wealth and rank elbowed eagerly for sitting or standing room. The roll call would have included whole pages of Burke and Debrett. Editorial and pictorial staffs from periodicals in both countries were present. The American did not lack supporters. Scores of his countrymen, with names known and honored, were there to lend him encouragement. National rivalry was keen and odds of 2 to t on Sayers resulted in heavy betting.

Soon after the ring keepers had completed the disposition of the crowd "Tom" Sayers came through the press, attended by "Harry" Brunton and "Jemmy" Welsh as second and bottle holder. He dropped his hat within the arena and climbed through the ropes after it, receiving vociferous applause from his backers. Heenan arrived a few minutes later, accompanied by "Jack" Macdonald and Cusick, his trainer. The rival combatants eyed each other with interest, for they had never met until this moment, and each stepped toward the other with outstretched hand and friendly smile. Their greeting was mutually cordial and after a brief conversation they turned to their corners and stripped. Heenan's appearance in the buff excited a hum of admiring comment, His fair, clear skin showed his upper muscular development to the best advantage, rippling and cording with every movement, revealing every tendon and sinew. He was in the hardest kind of condition and his four and a half inches over the English champion made him look the giant. Sayers was also in tiptop shape, clean, compact and well knit, showing a Slightly more consistent and well balanced equipment under his brown skin. He was decidedly better built about the loins and legs, although he lacked the tremendous chest and arms of his adversary. His weight at this time was about 150 pounds, Heenan's about I87.

The American won. the toss for corners and placed himself with his back to the sun, having also the benefit of the ground, which sloped a trifle. They advanced to the handclasp, smiling and equally confident. while the cheering died and the spectators held tense for the opening blow. Time was called ai twenty-nine minutes past seven o'clock.

The Big Battle.

Heenan's attitude was good— his left arm advanced and rather high, his right across his body and weight set springily upon his knees. Sayers held himself erect at, a dart, with his weight chiefly upon his left foot and his left arm low and forward. "Tom" smiled and bobbed his head in encouragement to his rival to begin hostilities. Heenan led cautiously with his left and the champion had a demonstration of the American's deadly reach, from which he hopped back nimbly . Heenan led again and Sayers met him in some light sparring. They watched each other keenly as they mlxed in, tapping, swinging, feinting and dodging in a sharp and fast melee that warmed slowly and brought cheer after cheer for clever work. on both sides.

The champion was the first to swing heavy artillery into action. Suddenly springing in, he drove handily with right and left, but was out of distance. Sayers here had a first taste of his greatest disadvantage. He had either to fight at his rival's range, where his own short reach was Ineffective, or to bore in at close quarters, where much of his agility and skill in getting away was useless. Heenan swung hard at his man, but Sayers was not there. "Tom" now took the upper hand in the sparring and in spite of the Inconvenience caused him by the sun forced Heenan back toward his corner. The American seemed much Inclined to fight upon the defensive and was nothing loath to retreat into his own territory. Urged by his attendants he finally made a stand. and Sayers still coming on they mixed for the first hard rally of the battle.

The champion feinted and drove viciously with his left, getting home to Heenan's face and drawing fist crimson. The American slammed back instantly with the left and snapped Sayers away with a flush hit to the forehead. "Tom" came back strong, driving an ineffectual right.but swinging prettily to the nose with the left. Heenan was willing and Sayers, being at easy distance, got home another smashing drive to the head. The exchange was quite enough to teach each man that the problem on hand would take a lot of solving, and they fell back to light sparring until Heenan decided to try another department of the game and closed for a wrestle. The stocky little champion stood firm as a rock, and as the American hung about his neck worked around where he could ply his right at the back of the head. He hammered Heenan with swift jolts and the big fellow tried to shake loose. Sayers, laughing, released his own hold and slid to the ground.

Both men bore the flush and welt of battle when they came to the centre again for the second round. Heenan still showed a fondness for his own territory and the champion went after him to draw him out Heenan led off viciously with his left, but Sayers parried and hooked through a snappy one to the ribs warding another swing that brushed his face. "Tom" was all for pressing in regardless of that formidable reach, and after some quick feinting he shot over a solid-smack to the nose, taking a sharp cut above the right eye. The American followed up manfully and launched a smashing swing. Sayers, too close for setting away, ducked and sprang in low but Heenan was equally alert, caught his man skillfully about the body and hurled him over, falling heavily upon him. The shouts of the Americans about the ring drowned the encouraging cheers of the champion's supporters, and the betting contingent snapped up all that offered at the prevailing odds of 2 to 1.

Heenan justified the confidence of his friends ;it the opening of the next round and began in slashing stvle. attacking with right and left drives repeated Sayers parried and gave for an instant, but the gallant little fellow was not fond of retreat and. presently slammed back with two hearty swings that Heenan warded. .They fought at short arm a space when Heenan stepped off to his distance and whipped out a wicked left drive "Tom" -was a thought too slow in warding and the well aimed blow shot over. taking him fairly on the bridge of the nose and whirling him clear of the ground, to measure his length. Many bets pending upon the first knockdown were settled and the Americans stock went soaring, while his countrymen jelled and cheered frantically about the ropes.

Surprise for Sayers.

Savers wore a ludicrous expression or pained surprise when he blinked his way to the scratch for the fourth round. It was the limit of emotion possible to him In the ring and held nothing o fear or weakened confidence. He stepped forward briskly from the mark, but Heenan was the more nervous and dodged. swinging out of distance. Sayers watched his man and still came on when Heenam feinted and on Sayers shifting his guard shot through a spanking swing to the jaw with astonishing address and force The blow swept the little chap oft his feet as easily as had its predecessor and a grim silence settled upon the supporters of the champion as he picked himself up and walked in a daze for his corner. Odds sprang a far as 6 to 4 on Heenan.

Consternation worked at the side of "Tom s" attendants as they freshened and swabbed him during the interval. Advice was poured into his ear. but he only shook his head and felt tenderly of his, jaw. At the call of "Time'." he walked forward slowly, eyeing his adversary with new respect and in no way anxious to take the initiative. Heenan led off with light feints and swings, and Sayers, who had learned caution, jumped away. The American pressed on after Him, throwing away no chance, but following bib advantage with the steadiness and craft of a skilled general. He swung right and drove left, Sayers getting nimbly away and ducking in for easy taps. Heenan once more found his distance and launched a crashing lefthander to the mouth. "Tom" was staggered but game, and countered with a vicious Jolt to the nose. They mixed It fiercely, Sayers displaying science In the "rapidity and ease with which he withstood Heenan's battering attempt to break his guard.

The feature of the American's play at this stage, aside from the accuracy and force of his blows, was his remarkable footwork. Sayers. though so much the lighter man, was not more nimble and sure In rushing, sidestepping and drawing away, than the big fellow Heennn carried himself on his lithe limbs with catlike balance and precision. There was no doubt in the minds of experts that if he could hold the pace and continue to maneuver the powerful fighting, machine of his upper bulk so successfully the champion must be crushed. Sayers found himself checked at every point when he sought to take the offensive. The American was always well out of range for "Tom" and well within range for himself. Sayers fell back to doggeddefence, and instantly Heenan was forcing him again. -Tom' waited and snapped out a vicious left hand drive. Heenan just moved his head, and as the blow shot past his ear hooked a quick smash to the face that sent Sayers crashing upon his shoulders.

It Is up to Sayers.

The champion bore visible proof of heavy punishment at the sixth round. Heenan, on the other hand, was fresh and almost unmarked. It began to look like a sure thing for the .American, a view that Sayers did little to unsettle during this session. He came up wild and plainly shaken, opening with right and left drives hopelessly out of distance. Heenan smiled broadly and got, into the ribs. "Tom' seized his chance and whipped through a slam to the body that grazed Heenan. The American drove back instantly' with a terrific left-hander. "Tom"
covered his face deftly with his right arm, which caught the full force of the blow, the crook of the elbow being driven against his nose. Sayers whirled his left over with a pretty cut that laid open Heenan's left cheek and they milled fiercely, the champion refusing to give a step. He paid for his courage. The American was all over him and punctuated a bewildering volley of blows by putting through an overhand swing that caught him "on the right brow and sent him tottering to a fall.

It was clear that Sayers must make a determined Effort to stem the tide so swiftly bearing him to defeat He could not continue much longer to withstand tremendous knockdown blows without a return. The little champion was quite as well aware of this as were any of his supporters. He knew something else which few about the ring suspected at this point and which made his task doubly difficult The terrific drive in the preceding round, caught upon the elbow of his right arm, had all but disabled that member. But with unshaken spirit and cool calculation he now planned a new method of campaign. He decided, that the only hope for him now lay in blinding his adversary and that if he was ever to make an effective rally it must be in the next session.

He came first to the scratch at the calling of "Time!' and instead of waiting for Heenan, who was slow, went after the enemy upon his own territory. The American, full of confidence, met him with a straight drive to the chest. Sayers danced away, escaping another blow with a graze, but was back again in a flash, ducking and dodging cleverly and boring in to distance. He let , two humming blows slide by him. and before Heenan had recovered swept in irresistibly with a magnificent smash to the right cheek that covered the big fellow with crimson and sent him staggering.

A mighty shout went up, but "Tom" had only started. He rushed again, Heenan reaching him lightly. Sayers brushed the blow aside and once more planted a stinging left hander to the right cheek, widening the cut and sending Heenan away. The American backed into his corner, where the Champion did not care to follow him. and used a sponge on his face. Savers waited for him grinning, untilHeenan walked slowly back and led off with his left, which he missed. The big fellow came on again, got home lightly to the brow, and handling "Tom's'' feint nervously gave an opening which cost him a sharp rap full upon his right eye. He tried to retaliate with a brisk uppercut, but Sayers was away again, hopping like Merry Andrew.

Heenan showed his irritation and made play when Savers swept in from the side, peppered the swollen eye another swift one with his left and got off safely, laughing. The American was now fully aroused and abandoned all caution. Instead of keeping off at his own range he charged. Three times he came on with flailing fists, and three times the wily champion met him sweeping through that deadly left hand drive to the right eye. The third rush closed it for the rest of the battle. They had exchanged parts. now it was Heenan who showed wildness. Sayers with superior judgment, planted his hits as he wished and footed away from danger.

The American retired to his corner once more for the sponge. Sayers watching him quizzically, hands on hips obeying the injunctions of his seconds. Heenan crept cautiously into the renewed combat but seemed shaken and unready. He let go with his left and knocked him across the ring. Supporters on both s dcs were equally vociferous, but the honor, ; rested with the champion in spite of the final setback. It was a thirteen minute round.

The American's Courage.

At the scratch tor the eighth round it was observed that "Tom's" right arm was swollen and badly injured. He held it close to his body and made no play with it Heenan led off, Sayers jumping away and in a sharp exchange the American got home to the nose. Heenan came on strong, but missed three heavy swings. Sayers was now plainly the fresher and his agility if possible had increased. Heenan had slowed considerably and had tired in the legs, but his blows had lost none of their steam and he pressed the fighting. He got home a stinger to the nose that tapped claret taking a counter to his torn and swollen cheek After a taste of the sponge be worked his left to the Mouth and had the best of a fast long range rally.

Savers forced in to short arm and there was pretty Stopping on both sides,, "Tom" decorating the aching cheek in a heavy exchange of hits. Sayers was now in his stride popping in and out with wonderful speed, Heenan's ponderous drives. Thrice in quick succession he slashed the American’s face taking a sharp rap to the nose. They stood up to it knee to knee for a moment, but Sayers soon found that this was not his game at the expense of a terrific pound to the jaw He went back to shifty tactics, snapping over the sore spot once more. He was forced to use his disabled arm continually for stopping, though he tried To nurse and the limb was discolored and swollen under Heenan’s battering fire. After a slight pause for swabbing they went at it again, both trying and stopping hard blows. Sharp rnilling followed and Sayers finally landed again to the face. Heenan had a fine opening and jammed his right to the jaw, sending Sayers down. This had been a twenty minute round of the hardest and fiercest fighting.

Heenan waded into the ninth session much.refreshed and looking for trouble out of' his one good eye. He swung, but Sayers hopped away. The American hung doggedly after his man and crashed a neat one to the mouth. Sayers drew off but Heenan's wonderful reach enabled-him to plant, another to the face. "Tom", bored in and they exchanged heavy body blows, when .Sayers dropped from a light tap to the shoulder. The champion was very slow in, coming up for the tenth round. The strain of the seventh and eighth had told upon him severely .In strength and wind. _As he walked to the center Heenan, feinted and, avoiding a light hit, came to grips. The big fellow plucked Sayers off his feet as he might a sack of flour, lifted him. and threw him heavily. In the eleventh round "Tom" tried his swollen right and got home with it on Heenan's sound eye, but the effort pained him greatly and he fell under a driving smash to the chest. Neither was anxious for the next session,-and when they came to the scratch Heenan put, his man down easily with a swing to the jaw. He repeated the operation in the thirteenth round. Odds were now 5 to 4 on Heenan.

Sayers was playing for time during this period and seemed to be very weak, though nursing himself for another effort. In the fourteenth round Heenan lunged to the throat and was following up when the little champion shot through a tremendous smash to the nose. The American came on and "Tom" pluckily met him at short arm, working left hand jolts with great success, finally closing hard and sending Heenan down beneath him. The next eleven rounds were brief, ending each time to the champion's disadvantage. In six of them Heenan dropped him with a Left swing to the jaw, which was now his favorite blow. The crafty Sayers was not nearly so far gone as he appeared to be and was meanwhile drawing Heenau into desperate exertions, by which the American hoped to finish the contest. At no part of the great battle did Sayers more fully prove his skill than during , these eleven rounds. He had half blinded Heenan and slowed him considerably. Now he maneuvered to tire him further, to make him overconfident and to gain new vigor for himself.

Ending the Conflict.

The champion sprang into the twenty-sixth round with a freshness that heartened his followers. He led off , was stopped, tried again and smashed a ripper to Heenan's good eye. The American returned a rattler on the jaw that all but put "Tom" down and they milled with spirit, giving and taking heavily. Heenan landed to the nose, but found "Tom's" guard difficult and closed. After a short wrestle the champion slipped down. -In the next session Sayers got In some good smashes to the face, but was bored down at the ropes. He lost the fall in the next four rounds, but without damage, succeeding each time in carving Heenan's frontispiece elaborately. The American's left, eye was now almost as far gone as his right, though he was still going strong and stood to his work solidly. Heenan showed the effects of punishment more plainly than his rival.

Sayers opened the thirty-second round In slashing style, hooking a pretty one to the chin and getting off cheaply with a body blow. Heenan tried to draw "Tom" off to his own ground, but Sayers was wary and "the Benicia boy" rushed him. They fought to a standstill at short arm, and after retiring Heenan came back to receive a tremendous left Hander to the left cheek, which was puffed like a pomegranate. Some hard counter hits were exchanged, when Heenan shot over a right drive to the face that sent Sayers down once more. The betting was now at even money, wise ones waiting to see whether Heenan was quite blind before risking against him. The next three rounds were filled with hard slugging but without advantage to either. Heenan's. face was little better than a pulp when they joined for the thirty-sixth round. Sayers, for his part had exhausted much of the strength he bad so carefully stored. As they sparred a great shout went up, "The Blues! The Blues!" A body of policemen, spreading out, had surrounded the crowd and was pressing toward the ring. The spectators jammed close and tried to hold the intruders off, but they worked their way slowly in. Heenan meanwhile feinted and closed, dragging Sayers to the ropes.

The champion slipped through his grasp to the ground. The confusion about the ring swept aside the referee and other officials when time for the thirty-seventh round was called. A shouting, fighting, struggling mass crowded in about the barriers. The boxers, intent upon their work, continued the battle, Sayers landing twice on Heenan's bad eye. The American then hugged him and they fell against the ropes just as the referee passed word that the fight was off and left the ground. In the uproar and excitement the ropes were lowered and the throng swept into, the ring. This was officially the end of the battle, but before the police could force through the inner circle five supplementary so-called rounds were fought. The champion's friends would not believe the referee had suspended hostilities.

The extra five rounds were hardly more than so many scrambles, in one of which Heenan, maddened by the pressure of the mob all about him. attacked "Tom's" attendants. He was almost blind and the incident was nothing more that! an attempt to clear elbow room, but much feeling was excited by it at the time. Finally the referee returned and once more ordered the men to desist. Heenan showed what condition he was in by leaping the ropes and running most of the way to the railroad station. Aside from his eyes he was still in good shape. Sayers was weak but might have continued for many rounds. Up to, the time the men left the ring the fight had lasted two hours and twenty minutes.

After the Inevitable controversy had subsided somewhat the referee's decision of a draw was accented and public subscriptions were opened for the presentation of a belt to each man. These were made as facsimiles of the original belt, and the ceremony that was the final act in the famous international meeting took place at the Alhambra amid much cheering and speech making .