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Then in on February 2 Caunt fought Nick Ward on Crookham Common for the Heavyweight Championship of England where the crowd forced the referee to disqualify Caunt for an alleged blow striking Ward while he was down. Caunt avenged this defeat on May 11 of the same year, defeating Ward in 35 rounds at Long Marsden to become the Heavyweight Champion of England. On September 10, Caunt sailed to America to challenge Tom Hyer to a world championship bout, but Hyer never replied.

In he was challenged for the English heavyweight title by William Thompson. On September 9 Caunt lost at Stoney Stratford with a disputable decision after 93 rounds where it was alleged that Caunt went down without a blow striking him. Caunt denied this accusation and announced his retirement, only to return for a final attempt at the heavyweight crown 12 years later. Retirement and attempted comeback Between and Caunt worked as farm labourer and then became the landlord of "The Coach and Horses" pub at St.

Martin's Lane, a business that made him very prosperous until a fire destroyed the pub and killed two of his children. In his final fight on 21 September , Caunt fought Nat Langham at Home Circuit where after 60 rounds both men were too exhausted to continue and a draw was declared. Death and legacy He died of pneumonia on September 10, at an address in St. Martin's Lane in London. Ben Caunt is buried outside the north transept of the Parish Church of St. Mary Magdalene in Hucknall close to the grave of two of his children who died in the Coach and Horses fire.

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It is said that "Big Ben", the hour bell of the clock-tower of the Palace of Westminster, is named after this English Heavyweight Champion. A large and ponderous man known affectionately in the House as "Big Ben", he is said to have given an impressively long speech on the subject. When, at the end of this oratorical marathon, Sir Benjamin sank back into his seat, a wag in the chamber shouted out: "Why not call him Big Ben and have done with it? This, at least, is the most commonly accepted story. However, according to the booklet written for the old Ministry of Works by Alan Phillips : "Like other nice stories, this has no documentary support; Hansard failed to record the interjection.

The Times had been alluding to 'Big Ben of Westminster' since Probably, the derivation must be sought more remotely. The current champion of the prize ring was Benjamin Caunt, who had fought terrific battles with Bendigo, and who in lasted sixty rounds of a drawn contest in his final appearance at the age of As Caunt at one period scaled 17 stone lbs, or kilogrammes , his nickname was Big Ben, and that was readily bestowed by the populace on any object the heaviest of its class.

So the anonymous MP may have snatched at what was already a catchphrase. Jem Mace 8 April — 30 November was an English boxing champion. He was born at Beeston, Norfolk. Although nicknamed "The Gypsy", he denied Romani ethnicity in his autobiography. A middleweight, he succeeded in outboxing heavier opponents thanks to his dancing style, clever defensive tactics and powerful, accurate punching. After an apprenticeship in the boxing booth of Nat Langham, he made his debut in and, in , he won the title of Champion of England by defeating Sam Hurst at Medway Island, Kent. He successfully defended it in against Tom King, but was defeated by King later that year.

King then retired. In Mace was once again recognised as a champion following his defeat of Joe Goss at Purfleet, Essex. Bare-knuckle boxing was an outlawed sport and, as such, its exponents were always liable for arrest and prosecution. In Mace was arrested on the night before his scheduled title defence against Ned O'Baldwin.

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He was bound over in court not to fight again. In he relocated to the USA where prizefighting was still flourishing. He toured with the celebrated American boxer John C Heenan giving exhibitions of glove boxing. He defended his title twice against another American, Joe Coburn, in On both occasions Mace secured a draw. Following an attempt on his life in Mississippi, he returned to England.

In , he was back in America, this time as a glove boxer and, in a historic early clash under Queensberry Rules, he defeated Bill Davis at Virginia City, Nevada. From to Mace lived in Australia where his long series of exhibitions paved the way for the worldwide acceptance of glove boxing. With the help of his protege, Larry Foley, he schooled a generation of Australian boxers, notably the Caribbean-born Peter Jackson. In , at the age of fifty-eight, he fought in an exhibition with the Birmingham fighter Charlie Mitchell. Corbett as "the man to whom we owe the changes that have elevated the sport".

Mace continued as a purely exhibition boxer and his last recorded entry into the ring was in when he was 78 years of age.

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As Mace rose to become the British champion he supplemented his income with exhibition work in the popular Victorian traveling circuses, even becoming a circus proprietor himself for a short time. Indeed it was the trashing of his violin by three thugs in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, and his subsequent beating of them in fistic duels in the street, which led him to enter the prize ring. He was also a notable performer of Grecian Statues routines.

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At various times, he was also a professional runner, publican, circus proprietor and racehorse owner. He kept a saloon in New York City for several years, and later a hotel in Melbourne. Mace was married three times, twice bigamously, and fathered at least fourteen children by five women. He is believed to have had an affair with the famous American actress Adah Isaacs Menken. During his life he made a considerable fortune but, due to his compulsive gambling, it was squandered. He ended his life as a penniless busker in Jarrow, Durham and was buried in an unmarked grave at Anfield Cemetery, Liverpool.

Tom Molineaux — was a African-American bare-knuckle boxer. He spent much of his career in Great Britain and Ireland, where he had some notable successes. Early life Born into slavery in Virginia, Molineaux was trained by his father, also a fighter, as was Molineaux's twin brother. He boxed with other slaves to entertain plantation owners.

Molineaux earned his owner a large sum of money in winnings on bets, was granted his freedom, and moved to England where he expected to be able to earn money as a professional boxer. Egan wrote that few people, including Cribb, expected the fight to last very long; there was betting that Cribb would win in the first ten rounds. However, Molineaux proved a powerful and intelligent fighter and the two battered each other heavily. There was a disturbance in the nineteenth round as Molineaux and Cribb were locked in a wrestler's hold legal under the rules of the time so that neither could hit the other nor escape.

The referee stood by, uncertain as to whether he should break the two apart, and the dissatisfied crowd pushed into the ring. In the confusion Molineaux hurt his left hand; Egan could not tell if it had been broken. There was also dispute over whether Cribb had managed to return to the line before the allowed thirty seconds had passed.

If he had not, Molineaux would have won, but in the confusion the referee could not tell and the fight went on. After the 34th round Molineaux said he could not continue but his second persuaded him to return to the ring, where he was defeated in the 35th round. The return fight on 28 September, at Thistleton Gap in Rutland was watched by 15, people. Molineaux, though still hitting Cribb with great power, was out-fought; Cribb broke his jaw and finally knocked him out in the 11th round. After the fight Richmond and Molineaux parted. Post-boxing life Molineaux's boxing career ended in After a stint in a debtor's prison he became increasingly dependent on alcohol, and died penniless in the regimental bandroom in Galway in Ireland three years later from liver failure.

He was 34 years old.


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Tom Sayers 15 or 25 May — 8 November was an English bare-knuckle prize fighter. There were no formal weight divisions at the time, and although Sayers was only five feet eight inches tall and never weighed much more than pounds, he frequently fought much bigger men. In a career which lasted from until , he lost only one of sixteen bouts.

It ended in chaos when the spectators invaded the ring, and the referee finally declared a draw.

At the age of six, Tom became a Jack in the Water, earning a few coppers performing small duties for holidaymakers and fishermen on Brighton beach. Claims that he attended school in may be unfounded, and he never learned to read or write. At the age of thirteen, he went to London, where he stayed with his sister Eliza and her husband Robert King, a builder. Sayers became a bricklayer, and for the next seven years shuttled between his home town and the capital. In , he finally settled in the capital, taking up residence in the notorious slum of Agar Town, just north of where St Pancras Station now stands.

Although the prize ring had long been illegal, it continued as an underground activity, and Sayers, having earned a considerable reputation from a number of informal fights, decided to try to make a living with his fists. His first contest as a professional was in March , when he defeated Abe Couch or Crouch. This was Sayers's toughest fight so far, and a combination of illness and inexperience contributed to his first and only defeat. The wily Langham gained the upper hand by temporarily blinding his opponent with frequent blows to the eyes.

Still, Sayers had fought well, and defeat did not damage his career. To make matters worse, on top of an expensive failure to set himself up as a publican, he had great difficulty arranging another payday in the ring: after one further victory, men of his own size considered him just too dangerous. Finally and in desperation, he took the bold step of challenging a leading heavyweight.


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  • The convention — though it was never a formal rule — was that men fought others of their own size, and few gave him much chance against the highly-regarded Harry Paulson. Sayers, however, was undaunted, and in January , a convincing victory raised him to a new level. Thus it was that the following year he fought Bill Perry, the Tipton Slasher, for the national championship.

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    Although written off by most of the experts, Sayers won comfortably, and went on to defeat several more opponents before accepting in a challenge from US champion John Camel Heenan, known as the Benicia Boy. Sayer's letter accepting Heenan fight. By this time the prize ring was in utter disrepute — and virtually ignored by everyone outside the ranks of the Fancy, as the followers of boxing were known — yet the Sayers—Heenan fight caught the public imagination on both sides of the Atlantic.

    Efforts of a number of concerned citizens to have the illegal event prevented came to nothing, and the battle took place at Farnborough in Hampshire on the morning of Tuesday, 17 April It was on the face of it an unequal contest: Sayers was conceding forty pounds in weight, five inches in height and eight years in age.