History of London Boxing
Bob Fitzsimmons - Heavyweight Champ 1899
A London Revival
By Gary Holland
The story of how London re-introduced boxing in the 17th Century.
A London newspaper, the Protestant Mercury, referred to a boxing match back in 1681 and the Royal Theatre in London often held scheduled fights in 1698. Boxing matches around this time were bareknuckle and also a mix of boxing and wrestling.
Hyde Park where King George I held bouts in 1723
It was not until James Figg became a boxer in 1719 that skill was brought into the game. Figg, an expert fencer, held the title until 1730 until he retired unbeaten. He would challenge all comers to bouts of boxing at his booth at Southwark Fair and he also set up a Boxing Academy, the first of its kind.
James Figg died in 1734 after nearly 300 fights. During this time boxing still had no rules or regulations and were often quite vicious affairs. Having said that, boxing did regain some status and respectability due to the fact that King George was an avid fan along with many noblemen. King George also set up a ring at Hyde Park, London in 1723.
John 'Jack' Broughton, known as the father of English boxing, was champion from 1729 until 1750 and was a pupil of James Figg. You can read more about Jack Broughton by using the links on the top right of this page.
Another London fighter, Daniel Mendoza, had a significant effect on the style of fighting. Mendoza, a small Jewish fighter from the East End, set up the Mendoza School after receiving severe punishment in his first win against a much larger, heavier opponent.
Footwork, sparring and counter punches helped changed boxing from the sluggish brutal bouts to the more sophisticated fight game. He held the title from 1791 to 1795.
The 1800s saw many English fighters claim the World Championship including Jem Belcher, Tom Cribb, James Burke and Jem Mace.
The Queensbury Rules
During this period the Queensbury Rules of 1867 were invented to include three minute rounds, no wrestling or hugging, a ten second count and gloves to be worn for the first time. The rules, introduced by the Marquis of Queensberry, John Sholto Douglas, and John G. Chambers are still used today.
By the end of the 1800s British Champions were starting to lose their hold on the sport and the American legend John L.Sullivan held the title for 10 years and invoked the popularity of the sport in America.
last updated: 09/04/2008 at 12:00