Monday, 3 May 2010

Bare Knucklehead

A little chat with my mum on Saturday revealed I have a (slightly) famous ancestor .
Tom Sayers , Brighton boy and Champion Bare Knuckle boxer .
Read the text I`ve copied , it never ceases to amaze me how tough people were in times gone by , we are all sissys now .

Tom Sayers (1826-1865)
Bare knuckle prize-fighter who fought for the first international boxing championship

Tom SayersThey called him ‘The Little Wonder’, and it was a title that he certainly earned. Tom Sayers, who stood only 5 feet 8 inches and weighed under 11 stone, was perhaps the last great bare knuckle boxing champion of England, holding the title from 1858 to 1860 and battling the American champion, John C. Heenan, for the championship of the world, the first time such an honour had been formally contested.

Born in Brighton, Sayers left school at 13, still illiterate, and became an apprentice bricklayer. He spent most of his 11-year career fighting men considerably bigger than himself, yet lost only one bout. Bricklaying built up his fists and The Little Wonder was renowned for his exceptionally sharp knuckles, a major advantage in the days before gloves became compulsory. Sayers’s first victory, on a muddy Wandsworth Common, was over an Irish navvy who stood 6’3”. The Little Wonder, fighting in bare feet, stayed with his opponent for two hours and 20 minutes until the mud clinging to the latter’s boots at last began to slow him down. He later defeated William Perry, ‘The Tipton Slasher’, to win the English heavyweight championship. Sayers’s match with Heenan, lasting well over two hours, was ruled a draw, though the American was left in a critical condition and spent two days recovering in a darkened room. Sayers’s backers then persuaded him to retire.

The champion’s private life was unhappy; his wife was unfaithful to him, bearing at least four children by a lover, and Sayers drank heavily to drown his sorrows after his retirement, ending his life a virtual alcoholic. Aristocratic patrons raised £3,000 for the champion and he lived on that small fortune until his death, from tuberculosis, at the age of only 39.


  1. Sharp knuckles?
    I suppose that is an advantage....

  2. Yeah , I know ~ Ouch !
    To be honest , it`s the idea of `the Tipton Slasher` that`s piqued my interest.

  3. What a great story.

    Bare knuckle boxing was tough, but no deaths were ever recorded in official bouts because it did too much damage to the hands to hit your opponent in the head.