The Story of Welsh Boxing: Prize Fighters of Wales

by Lawrence Davies


The Story of Welsh Boxing revives the memory of pugilists dating back to the ‘prize fighters’ who fought with sword and staff in the days of James Figg, considered the first Champion of England. For the first time, Lawrence Davies offers a vivid, atmospheric glimpse into the lost world of boxing’s bare-knuckle era, and into the lives of its Welsh heroes

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REVIEW OF The Story of Welsh Boxing


While there is an extensive literature on the history of boxing, the early years of prize fighting have been relatively neglected and regional studies dealing with the fighters from the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries are almost non-existent. In fact, of course, prize fighters were never restricted to London, or to other English centres such as Bristol, and men (occasionally also women) fought in public for prize money all around the British Isles. This is clearly demonstrated in this text by boxing historian Lawrence Davies, which highlights the impact made specifically by Welshmen and chronicles their engagement in the sport. In illuminating the careers of these men, Davies reinforces the universal significance of the sport in enabling individuals to use their physical skills to make a living, though often to the detriment of their health and physical well-being. The text draws on a considerable amount of primary data, not an easy task given, as Davies notes, given moral and religious concerns about prizefighting and the paucity of local newspaper sources in Wales in this period. A significant problem, since newspapers are normally considered to be an important resource for sports historians (although, it has to be said, their reports were not always as ‘accurate’ as is suggested). Nevertheless, the substantial amount of original evidence provided here reinforces the need for historians of prizefighting to look beyond the English diaspora in order to gain a clearer picture of the importance of the activity to our understanding of its place in the sporting and leisure culture of the Georgian and Victorian periods. The characters uncovered in this book, and the way in which their fights were staged and conducted, add significantly to the history of prizefighting and Davies is to be commended for the rigour of his approach and for the details he presents. The only disappointment in this work is the lack of an index, which would have allowed the reader to track individuals more effectively, but that is a relatively minor concern when presented with a rich account that provides so much in terms of context, colour and vibrancy.