Boxing in Regency England
Published on May 11, 2012 by lahilden | Views: 3800
Boxing in Regency England was a popular sport.  The most famous of the Regency era boxers was “Gentleman” John Jackson.  Although he was considered England’s heavyweight champ, he only fought professionally three times, loosing once.  He opened a school to teach boxing from his rooms on Bond Street, next to Angelo’s Fencing Academy.

Jackson's style was referred to as the scientific style of boxing, which included nimble footwork, slightly bent body posture, and making sure your punches were the best distance to be most effective.  Jackson claimed that fighting with your entire body was ineffective against the power of a well-trained fist.  He’s accredited with keeping the sport honest and developed the equivalent of the Boxing Commission in the Pugilistic Club.

Fights were often heavily gambled upon and a Banker was appointed to hold the purse for all the bettors.  While practicing the sport of boxing was allowed, true matches were often frowned upon by the magistrates and so they were often held out of the city.

In a Regency boxing match, an eight-foot squared area was roped off on the ground with a stake at each corner.  Each fighter had a knee man and a bottle man.  The knee man would knell so the boxer could sit on his knee to rest between rounds.  The bottle man supplied water and a sponge to wipe down, as well as a bite of orange for a burst of energy.  These men also kept times on the rounds and the breaks.  Two umpires kept the fight fair and any questions were given to the referee if the two umpires couldn’t agree.

Like modern boxing, there were rounds, but in the Regency era, each round lasted until one of the men was knocked off his feet.  A fight could last up to 50 rounds.  Breaks between rounds were 30 seconds.  Bouts were fought with bare knuckles and bare chests.  Yikes, this does not sound like something I’d want to watch.  Although boxing gloves were invented in the late 1700’s, they were not required to be used until 1867, when the Marquis of Queensberry drew up rules on boxing.

Proper women were not to attend boxing matches.  Although some less concerned about their reputations did attend.  Some women even took private lessons in their homes as a form of exercise.  Regency men often visited Gentleman Jackson’s saloon.  Practicing the sport was received far better in society than viewing the sport as a spectator.  It was considered an honor to box with Jackson himself.  The famous poet, Lord Byron relates in his diary that he received instruction in boxing from Jackson.

Jackson did arrange some boxing demonstrations for the aristocracy, which included the Emperor of Russia, the King of Prussia, the Prince of Wales, and the Prince of Mecklenburg.  For George IV’s coronation, Jackson recruited 18 prizefighters to serve as guards to keep the crowds in line.

Some famous Regency boxers were Jem Belcher, Tom Cribb, and Daniel Mendoza.

The record of the longest bareknuckle fight was 6 hours and 15 minutes in a match between James Kelly and Jonathon Smith in Australia in 1855, when Smith gave in after 17 rounds.