This text takes a look at the forgotten world of bare-knuckle prize-fighting, from the heyday of pugilism in the 18th century, to its extinction at the end of the 19th, and its re-emergence this century in the form of illegal underground bouts. James Figg, the notorious prize-fighter, swordsman and bear-baiter, was the first man to help establish fist-fighting as the preferred sport of the masses, who had previously been entertained by such delights as women versus dwarfs and animals fighting in a burning barrel. From the age of Figg, until the late 19th century, prize-fighting was the dominant sport of the landed classes. All the chief combatants were backed by the rich aristocracy and a succession of kings from George I were keen followers of the sport and often to be found at ringside. The author charts the progress of the so-called Championship of England and, interspersed with social observation and biographical detail, he paints a vivid picture of the society in which this sport thrived. The reader is introduced to a variety of fighters including Jack Broughton, Jack Slack, Daniel Mendoza, Jim Belcher, Tom Cribb and Tom Sayers. Their hard drinking and prodigous fight achievements almost beggar belief, but they usually took their toll. Most succumbed to an early grave. The sport all but came to an end with the introduction of the Queensberry Rules in 1867, but that was not the end of the story. Fist-fighting continued underground as an illegal practice, and still does, although it is unrecognizable from its noble heritage. In the final part of the book, laments the decline of bare-knuckle fighting from the late 19th century. The modern-day version is a sickening and brutal world - the sort inhabited by Lenny McLean and Roy Shaw - where kicking, stamping and illegal weapons are more prevalent than the fist.
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Bob Mee, the current boxing correspondent of the Daily Telegraph has been a boxing writer for more than 20 years, during which time he has written extensively for Boxing News and worked title fights around the world for Sky Sports and ITV. He has written several books, most recently a collaboration with veteran fight promoter Mickey Duff, on Duff's autobiography, Twenty and Out.From Publishers Weekly:
Focusing on the gloveless champions that dominated the early history of the sport from the early 18th-century English fighter James Figg through American John L. Sullivan in the late 19th Mee (Lords of the Ring, etc.) provides well-researched, blocky accounts of these fighters, their transnational bouts and the way modern boxing developed through their hits and misses. Combing primary sources (from which he culls 50 b&w illustrations and portraits), Mee, who has covered boxing for more than 20 years for the British Daily Telegraph and Boxing News, situates these men in their times. But while the portraits of the champions are excellent, the off-periods, when there were no great champions, run together indistinguishably. Still, diehards will want to know about Jem Burn, who "lost to Neale after a brave struggle lasting six minutes short of an hour at Moulsey Hurst in December 1824" and will want to distinguish him from Jem Ward, who "was probably the best of the fighters who followed Tom Spring." The end of the book sketches the period after professional boxing adopted Marquis of Queensberry rules, requiring its combatants to don gloves and forcing bare-fist pugilism underground. Mee carries off the whole with enthusiasm and devotion, but he won't be able to lay a glove on the unconverted.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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Book Description HarperCollinsWillow, 2000. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0002189666