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The Bare Fists of Boxing

Episode 3 of 30

15 minutes
First broadcast:
Wednesday 01 February 2012

Clare Balding explores the way the British have shaped sport and sport has shaped Britain.
An ability to box defined the 19th century alpha male. No gloves or weapons, pugilism was pure, painful and deeply patriotic.Even though prize fighting was technically illegal, it thrived under the support and protection of the aristocracy, notably Prince William, Duke of Cumberland, a son of George II. His nephew, the Prince of Wales - who later became George III was also passionate about pugilism and where royalty led, the rest followed. Dr Neil Carter of the International Centre for Sport History and culture at De Montfort University explains how the subculture of boxing was led by a group of wealthy influential backers known as 'The Fancy' a group of thrill seekers for whom gambling on a bout was part of the risk.Boxing was an underground, cultish fashion until the birth of sports journalism when Sunday newspapers, such as 'Bell's Life' and 'Weekly Dispatch' started to cover it.

Readers, Nyasha Hatendi, Brian Bowles and Stuart McLoughlin
Producer: Garth Brameld.

  • Fighting Back

    Fighting Back

    Clare Balding looks at the relationship between boxing and Britain's ethnic minorities.

    Listen to Fighting Back


Lucy Lunt
Sara Conkey
Garth Brameld



  1. Image for Sport and the British

    Sport and the British

    Clare Balding charts the role sport has played in Britain. This 30 part series will be broadcast…

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