They bred them tough in the old days. I came across an account from the Staffordshire Advertiser from August 1813 of a local boxing match
“A severe pugilistic contest took place near Cheadle between a blacksmith and a mason. It continued about 4 hours and 150 rounds were fought. The black smith was obliged to leave off fighting in order to go to work. About 1000 were present”.
I has always had an interest in boxing. An early memory is getting up to listen to the first Liston- Ali fight in 1964 on the radio and was able, as a child, to recite all the names of the heavy weight champoins of the world in my childhood- Burns, Johnson, Willard, Dempsey, Tunney, etc
Bare knuckle bouts bore little relation to boxing today. Kicking, biting and gouging were not allowed, but wrestling was. The opponent could be thrown to the ground . It was not allowed to strike a man when he was down. A round ended when the boxer was felled. There was a 30 second break before the next round. Rounds could be any length. and the fight continued to the fighter was injured or exhausted. There were no referees as the spectators were the guardians of fair play
There was nothing genteel about the sport. It was memorably described by a 19th century writer as 'a vulgar and tumultuous rabble of vagrants, drunkards, ruffian brawlers, and gambling desperadoes'. The argot of the time is wonderfully conveyed in a contemporary report in the Era newspaper It is a description of a 90 round contest between Hugh McStavik a fighter from Liverpool and George Harrison from Manchester at Madeley in July 1845 which the Liverpudlian won.
“Hughy Mc as a cunning little general in the PR drawing his last battle prior to this with Allan McPhee who by proving to the world that personal animosity does not exist in the boxing league actually trained Liverpool's pet . Hugh is 25 about 5 7 and well made, brown complexion and a downy customer. He is a good natured lad but like all the outer outers he has indulged rather too liberally in what the Buffaloes call the “ holy gatter. This lavish adoration to the jolly god made the backers of Harrison think that a few bustling rounds would soon set his bellows in active play and force him to yield”