The Great Prize Fight
An acclaimed reconstruction of the fight that can claim to be boxing’s first world championship.
“The Great Prize Fight is a really splendid piece of popular history.”
‘The New York Times’
On the morning of April 17th 1860, in Hampshire, Britain’s foremost fist-fighter, Tom Sayer of Camden Town, fought the American favourite, John C. Heenan, for a prize of £200 and the winner would be heralded as the world champion.
This is the whole story from scratch to finish, vividly evoking the Victorian sporting life of cheering bedlam and lowlife. The sleazy world of the Fancy appears in all its colour; the gamblers, trainers, toffs and thieves, politicians and petty criminals. In the ring are the fighters, their despairing hopes and low-hitting women.
The ensuing fight, two hours of mayhem in and out of the ring, ranks as one of the most outrageous in history. It divided parliament, excited Charles Dickens, prompted a poem by William Thackeray and profited Samuel Smiles of ‘Self Help’ fame while in America the notorious ‘Naked Lady’ of show business, Adah Menken, billed herself as Mrs Heenan and filled the theatre.
The Great Prize Fight was the sensation of its day and strengthened the clamour for ring reform. Within a decade the old code of bare-knuckle pugilism had been replaced by the Queensbury rules and the fight of the century was forgotten, as were the boxers.
This is a tale of violence, humour, grit and courage – a courage that is, in the end, somehow touching and almost noble.
“Alan Lloyd reconstructs the brutal two-hour bout in glorious detail.”
“As a nation, we have always been uncommonly fond of a drink and a punch-up. These twin, Empire-underpinning pursuits coalesce perfectly in Alan Lloyd’s ripsnorting story of the first boxing world championship… thoroughly entertaining… Lloyd’s gentle, enlightening prose cleaves closely to the billed story.”