5th March 1891. The Noble Art.
Hugh Lowther (1855-1944), was first President of the yellow-liveried, Automobile Association (AA).
Lowther, 5th Earl of Lonsdale, the ‘Yellow Earl’, once wealthy from Cumbrian coal and iron, was also first president of the National Sporting Club (NSC) founded Today in 1891, which was to do so much to promote boxing as a sport.
The Club originally in Covent Garden, London, was an exclusive private venue, founded by John Fleming and A.F. ’Peggy’ Bettinson, where members of over a 1,000 watched boxing bouts in silence. One influential member was the Marquis of Queensberry who gave his name to the strict Queensbury Rules for the sport.
In 1909 the Lonsdale Belt made of porcelain and 22 caret gold was introduced for each boxing weight, to be retained if the boxer successfully defended his title twice. The heavy-weight, Henry Cooper who died in 2011 was the only one to win three Belts outright.(1)
The Belt later became 9 carets and 22 were issued (20 outright), by the NSC before in 1938 based at the Hotel Splendide, Piccadilly the club declined into liquidation to be superseded by the more business-minded British Board of Boxing Control.
In the early days ‘bare-knuckle’ fighting flourished before boxing became regularised, particularly after The R v Coney court case which pronounced that the ‘practice constituted an assault occasioning bodily harm’, ending a style of boxing, which promptly went on ‘underground’.
Famous boxers of the ‘bare-knuckle’ days were William ‘Bendigo’ Thompson, Tom Cribb, Jem Mace, and John L Sullivan the last to win a ‘world championship’ in 1882 against Paddy Ryan
One early writer was Pierce Egan (1772-1849) who by 1812 had established himself as the leader of reporting on sporting events-mainly prize-fighting and horse-racing-which writings were collected in four volumes the Illustrated Boxiana. or ‘sketches of ancient and modern pugilism‘.
It was described as the ‘sweet science of bruising’ and contested under the London Prize Ring Rules. These were laid down in 1838 and revised in 1853 and drafted by Jack Broughton. These were later suspended and replaced by the Queensbury Rules.
One modern phenomena resulting from the pen of Egan is ‘Tom & Jerry’ a phrase ‘for younger riotous behaviour in 19thc London’: Days & Nights of Jerry Hawthorne and his elegant friend Corinthian Tom of 1823.
(1a) In 1987 one could only earn one Belt for fighting in the same weight.
(1b) A Lonsdale Belt was sold in 2011 won in 1926 by ‘Gentleman’ Jack Hood and later licensee of the Bell, Tanworth-in-Arden.
(1c) When Randolph Turpin’s Belt was sold it fetched £23,000, and ‘Bombardier Billy’ Wells’ 1911 Belt is now at the Royal Artillery Depot, Woolwich.
‘The Chicken’ was a boxer in Dickens’ Dombey and Son and some kind of protector and pal of Toots. Sherlock Holmes was also an exponent of the ‘Noble Art’, and there is a racist reference to a pugilist in the Three Gables.
Hugh Lonsdale saw service in the Boer War and raised a Pals’ Battalion in WWI, The Lonsdale Border Regiment. His reckless living however later forced him to sell his Cumberland estates and houses.
Ref: wikipedia.org/lord_ lonsdale/Pic.