1906-05-28 (158lbs) Tom Thomas w pts 15 Pat O’Keefe, NSC, Covent Garden, London, England
1906-05-28 (158lbs) Tom Thomas w pts 15 Pat O'Keefe, NSC, Covent Garden, London, England. Referee: J. H. Douglas. Billed for the English 158lbs championship, although O’Keefe (155½) had the pull over Thomas (156) in reach, landing several solid lefts as the fight progressed, it was the latter’s left-hand work that was the more effective. The Sporting Life reported that at every opportunity Thomas dashed in with a left to the face, which caused the Londoner to measure his length upon the floor on one occasion. From the outset the exchanges were of a fast and vigorous nature for men of their weight, and round after round went the same way before Thomas received the decision. It could not be seen as a great fight as there had been far too much holding, but it was always exciting.
Following this, Thomas remained out of the ring for close on two years after being laid up with rheumatic fever. However, he was still generally recognised as being the champion despite the rise through the ranks of Tom Lancaster and James Tiger Smith, who both claimed the English title with little support. Despite having no experience to talk of, and in the absence of Thomas, Smith would get a shot at the fearsome Sam Langford on 22 April 1907. Following that experience he defended his English title claim against Charlie Allum (w co 1 at the National Sporting Club, Merthyr on 14 November 1907) and Jack Costello (w co 11 at the Norfolk Road Drill Hall, Sheffield on 27 January 1908). It was these two wins that would gain him a crack at Thomas on the latter's return to the ring.
Lancaster's 158lbs English title claim started when he beat Jack Kingsland (w co 18 at Ginnett's Circus, Newcastle on 23 June 1906). He then went on to defend his claim against Alf Rogers (w co 4 at the Running Grounds, Durham on 18 August 1906), Bombardier Davis (w co 7 at Ginnett's Circus on 4 December 1906), Kingsland (w co 14 at Ginnett's Circus on 11 February 1907), Mike Crawley (w pts 20 at Ginnett's Circus on 25 March 1907), Seaman Fred Broadbent (w pts 15 at the NSC on 3 June 1907) and Crawley (w pts 20 at Ginnett's Circus on 23 December 1907) before Thomas re-surfaced.
Having recovered sufficiently to came back to the ring, Thomas took in a catchweight contest over ten rounds against Crawley (w co 5 at the West End School of Arms, Marylebone, London on 30 April 1908) before preparing himself for a defence against Smith on 1 June 1908.