1901-04-22 (126lbs) Jack Roberts w co 8 (15) Billy Smith, NSC, Covent Garden, London, England
1901-04-22 (126lbs) Jack Roberts w co 8 (15) Billy Smith, NSC, Covent Garden, London, England. Referee: J. H. Douglas. Billed for the English (world) 126lbs title, the opening six rounds were spent with Smith (125½) boxing off the back foot and using the left jab to advantage, while Roberts (125) constantly forced matters. Both men had landed heavily, and while Roberts’ features were the more marked it was anybody’s fight at that stage. Although the seventh session saw Roberts getting on top, rocking Smith with right hands to the head, very few would have seen what was in store. At the start of the eighth it was noticeable that Smith was limping, and after both men had visited the floor together Roberts twice dropped the American-based fighter, the second occasion seeing him counted out in sitting position. Carried from the ring, Smith was removed to Charing Cross Hospital where he died two days later.
Following Smith’s demise, Roberts, who stayed at his rival’s side throughout the trauma, along with nine leading lights of the NSC, including ‘Peggy’ Bettinson and the referee, were committed to the Old Bailey and charged with feloniously killing and slaying Smith. The case came before Mr Justice Grantham, and the leading counsel for the prosecution, Mr R. D. Muir, let it be known that the case was being brought in an effort to stop boxing competitions rather than to exact punishment upon the accused”. With most people in and around boxing recognising that this was a test case after all the evidence had been heard from both prosecution and defence the learned judge summed up: “Now I cannot help saying that I am afraid, if my charges to juries were looked at, it would be found that I had on many occasions advised people to use their fists instead of using the knife. It is much better for the man to use the weapon that God has given him, namely his fists, because it is not so dangerous, and that is why it is that a great number of people are fond of boxing. On the other hand, it is very desirable that proper boxing under proper rules should be kept up; all people should not be afraid of using their fists when necessary…Therefore the counsel for the prosecution are as right as the counsel for the defence are, to keep up the sport of England”. The jury’s verdict in this case was one of accidental death. They found that it was a boxing contest and the defenders were ‘Not Guilty’.
Prior to the trial, on 11 May, Roberts had once again announced his retirement despite continuing to claim the championship.