The well-known British auction company, Bonhams (1793), is selling a 18th century portrait in which a bare fist boxer known as George Stevenson “The coachman”. By an unknown artist, this oil on canvas is valued at around 12,000 to 18,000 euros, a rather high price because it is extremely rare to find a painting from that century that symbolizes boxing, and more because George Stevenson played an important role in the history of the sport, although unfortunately it was not through their victories.
His death on the ring in 1741 at the hands of champion Jack Broughton, forever changed the conception of boxing and inspired the first rules that would transform free punching practice into a more structured sport with concrete limits based on fair play.
Although bare fist fight it was a very popular sport in the ancient world, from Sumer to Ancient GreeceAfter the fall of the Roman Empire, this practice gave way to a more widespread admiration for weapons and martial arts. Today, we can still go to bare-knuckle fighting in certain countries like Russia and Italy, but the true revival of the sport took place in England in the 16th century.
James Figg would be crowned the first world boxing champion. This fighter was an accomplished martial artist, as skilled with a sword and club as he was with bare fists. According to the records of that time (although scarce and unreliable) Figg reigned undefeated champion from 1719 to 1730 and founded a school where he himself taught boxing, fencing with small sabers and baton fighting.
Too built an amphitheater for professional fights that favored the knowledge of this sport. In fact, it became so popular that aristocrats and certain famous people took classes at its school, and flocked to its stadium to watch the fights.
One of Figg's students was Jack broughton, a rower whose muscular physique had been forged by ferrying passengers on a barge across the Thames. Broughton claimed the title of English Heavyweight Champion in 1738 after defeating Figg's successor, George Taylor, a title which sources say he held until 1750. He was a strong and skilled fighter of notable reputation who attracted a large crowd. of public to their fights, so much so that one day a spectator was crushed to death.
On 17 February 1714 in a fairground booth on Tottenham Court Road, at the age of 36, Jack broughton He participated in a tournament with bare knuckles that would radically transform the boxing style that was known until then. Broughton, who was 6 feet tall and weighed nearly 200 pounds, faced George Stevenson, a Yorkshire coachman.
Although Stevenson had better footwork and surpassed him in speed, Broughton's weight was crucial in the outcome of the combat. The showdown ended when the Champion dropped Stevenson with a direct hit to the heart. And sadly Stenvenson's life it would end three weeks later as a result of the serious injuries sustained.
That event left Broughton deeply scarred and promised to do everything in his power to prevent similar tragedies from happening again.
Funded by the Duke of Cumberland, Broughton opened a new amphitheater on March 10, 1743. Stenvenson's passing inspired him to enact a code of conduct for his recently acquired amphitheater, in which he intended to make boxing a more humane sport. and strict.
The rules that Broughton formulated were known as the London Prize Ring Rules. He wrote a total of seven rules, a very small number compared to the number of rules that exist today, yet he was the first to introduce the key concepts that would ensure fair play in the ring. Some ideas that are still valid today.
Here are the London Prize Ring Rules as written:
- That a one-yard square will be drawn in the middle of the stage, and on each fresh set to after a fall or being thrown out of bounds, each Second shall take his Man to the side of the square and place him in front of the another, and until they are cleanly prepared in the lines, it will not be legal for one to hit the other.
- That, in order to prevent any dispute, the time a man rests after a fall, if the Second does not bring his Man to the side of the square, in the space of half a minute, he will be considered a defeated Man.
- That in each main battle, no person should be on the stage, except the Main and their Seconds, the same rule must be observed in the secondary battles, except that in the last, Mr. Broughton is allowed to be on the stage to maintain the decorum, and to assist the knights to access their places, always taking care not to interfere in the battle, and whoever tries to violate these rules will be immediately expelled from the house. Everyone must leave the stage as soon as the champions are undressed, before the placement to begin ("set-to").
- That no champion will be considered defeated, unless he is not located in the line within the time limit, or that his own Second declares him defeated. No second will you be allowed to ask your Man questions, or advise him to give up.
- That in the secondary battles, the winner will have two thirds of the money collected, which will be publicly divided on stage, not admitting any private agreement with the opposite.
- That to prevent disputes, in each main battle the Principals will choose, when taking the stage, from among the knights present two Umpires (referees), who will decide absolutely all the disputes that may arise about the battle; and if the two Umpires cannot agree, the referred Umpires choose a third party, who must decide.
- That no person should strike his Adversary when he is fallen, or taken by the thigh (ham), or any part below the waist. A man on his knees must be considered fallen.
In closing, it would be fair to point out that the origin of boxing gloves Modern is also credited to Jack Broughton.
The glove format he created, (known in English as mufflers), only boxing demonstrations were used to avoid frequent injuries such as broken jaws, bleeding noses or black eyes. However, professional tournaments were still bare-knuckled.
1. "This man's death inspired the first rules of boxing." History Blog.
3. "The Original Warehouse". Kiosk the World.
4. "How did you box before the Queensberry regulation?" Selections mx.