Famous Fights always had a small section of responses to readers' questions, see above. Readers would mail in a question and the paper would answer after consulting their huge library. I wonder if readers of this site would actually be able to answer some queries that other readers and myself have... 1. The Castle Tavern
1. The Castle Tavern, Holborn, London. The Castle Tavern is mentioned throughout all of the old boxing books, but where is it? From the description in Famous Fights we learn that it is near to Chancery Lane tube station. Does anyone know its address, or has it perhaps been renamed as Cittie of Yorke?
2. Jemmy Robinson. I can't find anything on Robinson other than what's been covered already on this site. Can you give his year of birth or other information on him?
3. Jack Johnson. Although Johnson would only have been an up and coming challenger when Famous Fights was published, he was a name to be reckoned with. I can't find any mentions of Johnson in my collection (I have about 125 issues of the 156 published) - have you found anything?
4. Corbett-Fitzsimmons. Corbett-Fitz was covered by the paper, but it is an issue I am lacking. I dread to think how biased the writer would be in the match-up, and the glee with which the final blow would be dealt. Do you have this issue, and would you be prepared to write a brief synopsis for this site?
5. Police Budget. The Police Budget was a newspaper at the turn of the last century. I have seen Police Gazette, Police News and other crime and sporting papers, but I've never seen a Police Budget. If you have a copy I'd be very grateful to hear from you; does it have large pages, how much crime, sport and gossip, and how many pages?
If you can help, you're very welcome to post a reply below. You can leave an anonymous message if you prefer, or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks guys.
In the Owen Swift versus Hammer Lane fight of 1834, Lane repeatedly picked up his opponent and threw him to the ground. And just for good measure, when Swift was down, Lane would follow-up by falling on his opponent.
Bantamweight Palmer, to the left, had just come off three losses, so was now being written as a fighter past his best, but the article says that the brilliance of his brief career has seldom been surpassed. According to the writer, “Quick and agile as a cat, he was here, there and everywhere, putting into execution more dodges and expedients than any two ordinary men. He is termed the ‘box of tricks’... his head work was simply marvellous, and very frequently he has been known not to attempt to defend himself with his arms at all, but to stand up to his opponent and dodge the blows solely by the wonderful rapidity with which he would manipulate his little head-piece. His footwork too, was a perfect study.”
Straight wins in his early fights led to a contest with Walter Croot, a good boxer who had won a Frank Hinde tournament at Central Hall, Holborn, London. They met at the National Sporting Club, with Croot the strong favourite, but “Palmer danced around Croot, like a cooper round a tub, for seventeen rounds, and his brilliant victory placed him at one bound in the front rank of the bantams.”
Descriptions of Palmers wins over Stanton, Plimmer, a draw with Dixon, and wins over Willis, Murphy, Stanton again, are given, and then two big wins against Dave Sullivan and Billy Rotchford, left Palmer as the man to beat in the bantamweight division. But the finish to Palmer’s career came when he met one of the very best of the lighter men, Terry McGovern, and was stopped in one round. The article ends with Palmer’s loss to Harry Harris just a few weeks before the issue went to press.
With issue 54, editor Harold Furniss began his Pugilistic Chronology, which aimed to give the full records of the great men of boxing and prize fighting. Here's his introduction, followed by the first page of the article. I'm happy to email anyone this page if they are interested.
"Pugilistic Chronology - an authentic record of the prize ring from the time of Figg to the present day
In response to numerous requests from readers of Famous Fights, we have decided to commence in this week's number, and to continue week by week until complete, an accurate record of the performances of the Champions of England, as well as of the lesser lights of the Prize Ring, from the time of James Figg, the first Champion of England, up to the present day.
The only chronology of the Ring, Fistiana, has long been out of print, and though copies may occasionally be picked up they, as a, rule, command prices which are somewhat beyond the means of the man in the street. It is to supply to those interested in matters pugilistic a complete and reliable history of the results of prize battles from 1719 AD that this series has been compiled.
Man's memory is not infallible, and many of our readers must, from time to time, have felt the need of access to some handy work of reference on boxing history to settle some little dispute, and thus obviate the necessity of writing to the editor of one of the sporting papers.
A chronology naturally follows dates rather than alphabetical order, and accordingly we propose to commence with the Champion of a particular period - in this case 1719, James Figg, the first Champion of England - and, after recording his performances, to detail the feats of his contemporary pugilists of lesser note. To avoid useless repetition, the particulars of a light will be given under the name of the winner and the loser's record of that contest will be found under the name of his antagonist."
The first entry is that of Figg:
Figg, James, a native of Thame, Oxfordshire; opened a theatre in Oxford Road for teaching broadsword, cudgelplay, singlestick, and boxing, 1719; b. Sutton, b. Tom Buck, b. Bob Stokes, bn. by Ned Sutton, b. Ned Sutton; died December 8, 1734. Was the first to assume the title of Champion of England.
Also on this page is Broughton, Slack, Mendoza, Brain and about 30 other fighters.
He won this first fight, and afterwards won several more. In March 1847 he was matched with Johnny Peach. In freezing weather conditions the combatants shivered and jogged on the spot to keep warm (see image below).
As the crowd grew restless, a bright spark shouted that if they wanted to keep warm the best thing to do was fight, which caused Jemmy to laugh. Both fighters were lightweights and weighed in at around 120 pounds. Here's how Famous Fights describes our men.
“The Black, whose beautifully-symmetrical frame elicited general admiration stood 5ft. 5in, and though his legs were light and thin there could be no doubt that his limbs, back and chest were well-clothed with muscle. His attitude was very graceful; he stood lightly poised on the balls of his feet, and every motion of his body was as springy as if he had been made of india rubber. Peach stood 5ft. 6in, and, though not so symmetrical and muscular as his opponent, seemed sturdier on his pins. But his posture was not so artistic as his opponent's, nor was there the same look of self-reliance on his face”
Prior to the fight, Peach hadn't taken much notice of Jemmy. Jemmy would be yet another scalp on Peach's ring record, but as they faced each other, Peach smelt a rat. Jemmy wasn't here to be beaten, he was there to do the beating.
Both fighters started cautiously, Peach threw the first punch but Jemmy blocked it. Suddenly he landed a one-two on the left ear and over the left eye. The sudden attack disconcerted Peach, who fell without a blow. Almost instantly the betting was in Jemmy's favour. Jemmy knocked Peach to the ground, and the writer described Peach as now 'sulking'. After a few feints, further punches, wrestling holds, stopping and hitting, Jemmy had shown he was the superior fighter in every department.
Peach looked glum. Knowing the battle was lost he attempted some trickery by falling without being hit, but on rising fell for good reason as Jemmy's fist landed on his chin. Peach had met his master. His heart was gone. He made some stands up until the 19th round but then regularly fell without being hit at all. Sometimes Peach wasn't quick enough even with these tactics and Jemmy's fist battered Peach. The beating took its toll on Jemmy's right hand which bled and may have been broken. Jemmy jabbed and used his right hand sparingly. But a fierce punch to the ear was enough to knock Peach dizzy and his main backer threw in the sponge. Peach was carried from the ring and spent much time in bed.
The final paragraph is a sad one.
“As for Jemmy, he quitted the arena as fresh as when he entered it. His friends were enthusiastic in their admiration of his prowess, as they had a right to be, for I doubt whether the Prize Ring has ever seen a cleverer fighter of his weight than Jemmy Robinson. His subsequent victories over Mullett and Horridge proved him to be a first rater, and his death, of cholera, in 1849, cut short a career as promising as any my memory can recall.”
Readers might notice that the illustrations here are slightly cruder than those previously shown. Maybe the illustrator, Ferdinand Fissi, had to rush them. There's probably a good reason for this. The team behind Famous Fights were busy and just about to launch a sister paper Famous Crimes. The back cover gives a quarter page advert for the forthcoming publication. Several of these are on eBay at the moment, see Famous Crimes.
Jack Cooper was 'the best gipsy of them all', and according to Famous Fights, would have went to his grave with an unbeaten record if 'town life' hadn't softened him. We learn that as the Coopers had always been famous as a fighting tribe of gipsies, a lot was expected of Jack in his first appearance in the ring. His opponent, West-Country Dick had made a name for himself, but was knocked out in minutes. Jack earned five pounds for his efforts. A return match was hastily arranged one hour later! Jack won this too.
Jack beat two Irishmen O'Leary and Dent, and by now had a fearsome reputation. A return with O'Leary ended in disaster with the death of the Irishman. Jack was charged with manslaughter and spent six months in prison.
Soon after his release Jack was back in the ring. That he had killed a man in the ring led to fear in his opponents, but much larger crowds, all wanting to see the Gipsy hard man.
Now we're used to nicknames like Mighty Mike, Iron Mike, Simply the Best, Real Deal, etc, so why Jack's next opponent Stephen Strong was given his nickname Iron-Arm Cabbage is probably long lost in history, but Famous Fights suggests two reasons, firstly that he liked cabbage, and secondly because he was a tailor. I'll leave this website's readers to fathom out more plausible explanations than these.
Cabbage had fought many fighters and was assisted by Tom Cribb and Tom Belcher. We hear that Cabbage was a difficult man to train 'for if there was a petticoat or a pint of beer in reach he was bound to go for it.' Cabbage was not the favourite with the betting men, he was much older than Jack Cooper, and had poor vision in one eye, possibly completely blind in that eye.
The fight took place on 26 March 1823. As he entered the ring, Jack looked strong, weighing in at what a light-middleweight of today would scale, and unusually he appeared taller than he was as he walked on tip-toe. Cabbage is described as in a battle-hardened state, features flattened from old wars, and unkindly described as hideous looking.
As the fight began Cabbage took control, fierce and dashing, his punch rate was very high and Jack didn't like this style at all. Jack was dropped to the floor, and later on was thrown by Cabbage. Wrestling holds were allowed back then, and one of Cabbage's throws had Jack landing on his head. Some in the crowd imagined Jack's neck to be broken. Jack was groggy and in trouble, but a single blow in the fourteenth round from Jack looked to have knocked out Cabbage. But Cabbage rose to the scratch and slammed a fist into Jack's temple, dropping him instantly. For another twenty rounds Cabbage had all the fight, Cooper falling to his knee or being completely knocked down. But Jack was in better condition than Cabbage, and as the minutes ticked by, Cabbage's strength was sapping. Jack got new wind and with a single cracking blow knocked Cabbage to the ground, leaving a huge gash on Cabbage's temple. Cabbage arose, tried to throw his man, which gained him cheers from the crowd, but it was over. He had no strength.
Jack Cooper finished the fight efficiently, With Cabbage almost blinded from blood in his remaining eye, his seconds threw in the sponge and Cooper was hailed the winner of a most sensational battle.