18th Century Boxing/References to the sport in old newspapers

Discussion in 'Classic Boxing Forum' started by Matty lll, Apr 11, 2018.



  1. Matty lll

    Matty lll Boxing Addict Full Member

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    Bit bored this evening, so just on a whim I thought I would do some research into pre-Queensbury boxing, just from old newspapers and periodicals (I am a history nerd and a boxing fan what can I say). Thought I would transcribe some stuff, maybe some of you guys will find it interesting too, maybe not, but thought I would post.

    It seems that in the last few decades of the century boxing was undergoing a bit of a resurgence.

    'Affairs in England', The Scots Magazine, Jan 1788:
    As for the fight itself:
    It also describes some drama over a possible foul when Humphries second intervened and caught a punch of Mendoza's when Humphries was nearly knocked out of the stage (the umpires apparently said it was OK because he was as good as knocked down), and also talks about the 'stage' being slippery because of the rain which 'proved more unfavourable to Humphries', and how he tried boxing in his stockings and changing his shoes mid-fight. It goes on:

    Apparently there was also some drama about an eye gouge from Mendoza which was 'inhuman and pitiful' but it seems that on the whole Mendoza vs Humphries was a great fight:

    Here's some more:

    'Anecdotes of Boxing', The Universal Magazine of Knowledge and Pleasure, Sep. 1789:
    This one goes on to describe how it became less popular, but "lately seemed to be revived".

    I think it's very cool that even back in the 18th century boxing was treated as a 'science' by some people and there seems to have been a lot of skill involved. The concept of the 'sweet science' must come from earlier references like this (not sure when that exact term was first used though).

    But of course, just like now, not everyone was so positive:

    'Prize Fighting', The Times, Monday, Oct 04, 1790:
    'Boxing', The European magazine, and London review; Jan 1788:
    Well here we are over 200 years later still discussing this savage practice with curious phraseology and ridiculous importance :)

    I think it's interesting to get an insight into the way boxing was in such a different era, but in some ways it doesn't seem so different...
     
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2018
  2. Matty lll

    Matty lll Boxing Addict Full Member

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    Not very interesting itself, but interesting because it's the earliest reference to a boxing match I've found yet:

    From the True Protestant Mercury or Occurrences Forein and Domestick (December 1681):
    This content is protected
     
  3. The Senator

    The Senator Member Full Member

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    Interesting stuff to say the least, I certainly enjoyed reading it.
     
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  4. BitPlayerVesti

    BitPlayerVesti The Ad Wolgast of Googling Stuff Full Member

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    Me and Senya were posting some in some of Glauko's threads.

    Caledonian Mercury - Thursday 28 January 1725
    London, Jan. 21. Yesterday, pursuant to several considerable Wagers laid between some Italian and English Gentlemen at Slaughter's Coffee-house in St. Martin's Lane, there came on a notable Boxing Match at Figg's celebrated Amphitheatre in Oxford Road, between Stopa l'Aqua, a Venetian Gondalier or Waterman, and John Whetacre an English Drover. The Battle was fought with equal Spirit and Resolution on both Sides, but not with equal Sature, Strength or Skill, the Italian being the tallest by several Inches, but the Englishman the most Sturdy, for he received all the Attacks of the Italian without much Hurt or Concen, gave him several terrible Falls without having one himself, and beat him so sorely, that he was forc'd at last to cry out 'Basta, which signify'd that he was basted enough. There was a numerous and uncommon Appearance of Spectators, Count Staremberg and other Foreign Ministers being present, together with several of the English Nobility and Members of Parliament, to see which Nation carry'd the Day​
     
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  5. BitPlayerVesti

    BitPlayerVesti The Ad Wolgast of Googling Stuff Full Member

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    There's actually one account from the 17th century

    Protestant Mercury December 28, 1681 (page 4)
    Yesterdaya Match of Boxing was performed, before his Grace Duke of Albemarl, between the Dukes Foot-man and a Butcher, the latter won the Prize, as he hath done many before, being accounted (though but a little Man) the best at the Exercise in England
     
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  6. Sting like a bean

    Sting like a bean Well-Known Member Full Member

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    There's pretty frequent mention of wrestling in Shakespeare (for instance in As You Like it) and of course fencing "these foils all a length?" but so far as I recall no mention of boxing. The quotes themselves are fascinating, but so is the way the English language abruptly changed from the seventeenth to the eighteenth century and then more or less stabilized for the next three hundred years. The eighteenth century passages here almost could have been written yesterday, but if you go back to the sixteenth century (around the time of Henry VIII) the language is almost unintelligible. Chaucer is even harder to make out, and Beowulf might as well be in Swedish.
     
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2018
  7. Sting like a bean

    Sting like a bean Well-Known Member Full Member

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    I can't get enough of this kind of stuff. People of the eighteenth century tended to think of themselves as the historical culmination of civility, moderation, and reason, but I'm pretty sure there was quite a bit more non-military interpersonal violence then than now, especially around pubs or rural highways. This was also the century in which it came to be seen as more or less socially unacceptable even for gentleman to carry (functional) swords, hence the almost vestigial smallsword and courtsword.

    I wonder how much competitive boxing was was just an organized extension of brawling, and how much kicking and grappling was involved.
     
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  8. Matty lll

    Matty lll Boxing Addict Full Member

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    Ah I didn't realise there was already another thread on here!
     
  9. Matty lll

    Matty lll Boxing Addict Full Member

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    Yes, I always imagine clinch-fighting and grappling to have played a bigger role before the introduction of gloves, but that isn't mentioned much in the Mendoza-Humphries one I posted...perhaps it was a part of the fight, but just not exciting enough to comment on. Gonna keep digging, the best ones are those that actually describe the match.
     
  10. BitPlayerVesti

    BitPlayerVesti The Ad Wolgast of Googling Stuff Full Member

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    It's just in the heavyweight champions threads from those periods. I found a couple Jack Slack ones I can post too.
     
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  11. Matty lll

    Matty lll Boxing Addict Full Member

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    Please do, there is an MMA/striking analyst who uses the pseudonym Jack Slack (named for the boxer of course), so I'd be very interested to read about the original man!
     
  12. Matty lll

    Matty lll Boxing Addict Full Member

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    Yes other than a few stylistic throwbacks to older scripts (the long S that looks like an F), and some spelling variations, 18th century english is very readable for modern folks. Not a whole lot different from modern english.

    I'm fine with most kinds of early modern english though, I am a history postgrad and I specialise in the 17th century. Sometimes the writing can be very difficult though, my paleography skills aren't the best.
     
  13. BitPlayerVesti

    BitPlayerVesti The Ad Wolgast of Googling Stuff Full Member

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    The Ipswich Journal - Saturday 21 April 1750
    19. Extracts from the Norwich Papers, concerning the Battle between Boughton and Slack
    From Norwich Gazette
    ------Altho' none were admitted under double Price, the House was full be Half an Hour after Eight, and the Champion mounted the Stage (by his Royal Highness the Duke's Command) at Ten. Broughton gave Slack Ten Guineas to fight for the whole House, and not divide it, as usual, which amoun'ed to upwards of 200l. The Odds before Fighting were ten to one; and when Broughton wen on the Stage, he treated his Antagonist with the greatest Contempt and Disdain, and even laughed at the Blows Slack gave him.

    From Norwich Mercury
    Soon after the first Onset, Broughton threw Slack a dreadfull Fall, which entirely depriv'd him of his Senses and Strength for some time; when as he was put upon his Legs, he either fell down, or was with ease knocked down by his Antagonist, and it was, generally, thought impossible for him to recover: Yet when it was least expected, he revived, and as Broughton was attacking, Slack buck great Luck planted a straight Blow directly in his Eye, which gave a Check to his Fury.-- This was soon after follower by several severe Blows of the like kind, and tho' Broughton was by much the strongest and heaviest Man, yest Slack shifted so artfully, and avoided the Falls so dexterously (even when laid hold on) that there was very little Advantage got by Broughton in this respect: In short, after a most bloody Fight, which lasted exactly Fourteen Minutes, in which the Odds from Ten to One, and in common from Six to One, were more than once brought even, Mr. Broughton after exerting the utmost Effort and Arts that Nature could put forth, or Judgment devise, was forced to yield to the Younger Heroe, not in Words indeed, for he was past Utterance.

    Derby Mercury - Friday 13 April 1750
    The grand Boxing-Match between Broughton and Slack, which has been the Subject of so much Conversation amoung the modern English Heroes of all Rank, was fought Yesterday. The House was full very early. At Eleven the Champions mounted; and Broughton was fairly beat in 14 Minutes and 11 Seconds, as near as could be computed. The first two Minutes the Odds on Broughton's Head were 20 to 1, but Slack soon recovering himself changed the Betts, by closing the Eyes of his Antagonist, and following him close at the same Time, gained a complete Victory, to the no small Mortification of the Knowingones, who were finely taken in. Before they began, Broughton gave Slack the Ten Guimeas to fight him, according to his Promise, which Slack immediately betted against a hundred Guineas offered by a Gentleman against him.--The Money received at the Door amounted to 130l. besides 200 Tickets at a Guinea and Half a Guinea each. So that it is thought, what with the Money received at the Door, that for the Tickets, (as they fought for the whole house) and the Odds Slack took, that he did not clear less than 600l.
     
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  14. Senya13

    Senya13 Boxing Junkie Full Member

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    1750-02-03 The Ipswich Journal (page 2)
    F. London, Thursday, Feb. 1.
    Yesterday was fought at Broughton's Amphitheatre, a Boxing-Match which held 25 Minutes, between George Taylor and John Slack, when the former, with some Difficulty, beat his Antagonist. Before the battle began, the Odds were three to one against Slack, but at one time the Bets became even.
     
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  15. Senya13

    Senya13 Boxing Junkie Full Member

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    1749-04-22 The Ipswich Journal (page 2)
    Norwich, April 15. 'On Wednesday last was decided at Broughton's Amphitheatre, the great Battle between Slack and Field; it lasted 38 Minutes; Upon a severe Fall, the first of any Consequence, Field gave out. The Box was 80 Guineas. They were both in good Order, having taken great Care of themselves; but Slack fights now too well ever to lose with the other.' Nor. Mer.
     
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