Category:Lightweight Division

From Barry Hugman's History of Championship Boxing
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The term ‘light weight’ became popularised in the early part of the 19th century when it had become clear that some bare-knuckle fighters gave away too much weight. One of the earliest contemporary references that can be found relates to Jack Randall, the original ‘Nonpareil’, who weighed in the region of 147lbs. In the 1821 edition of Boxiana, Pierce Egan, in discussing the Randall v Ned Turner affair of 1818, writes: “To conquer Randall seemed the enviable object of all the ‘light weights’”.

In 1829, within the new series of Boxiana, Egan says: “Since the fighting period of the late Jack Randall no boxer of the ‘light weights’ has stood anything like so high on the Pugilistic Role of Fame as Dick Curtis”. There can be no doubt that Curtis, ‘The Pet of the Fancy’, was considered to be the lightweight champion in the 1820s and would be best remembered for his famous 50-minute win over Barney Aaron in 1827. He weighed around 130lbs and was followed in the 1830s by Owen Swift, who was yet another heroic figure around that weight.

From then on the lightweight class involved many memorable bare-knuckle contests, none more so than one on 6 October 1872 when two Englishmen fought for the American title under London Prize Ring Rules and a purse of $2,000, the champion, Arthur Chambers, beating his great rival, Billy Edwards, on a 35th-round disqualification at Squirrel Island, Canada

At the beginning of gloved fighting under Marquess of Queensberry Rules (MoQ Rules), the lightweight band appears to have been all weights between 126lbs and 140lbs and the latter poundage is what the English Amateur Boxing Association also decided on when their championships were eventually launched. Below are the individual weights contested within the lightweight band between November 1871 and August 1877 prior to the first major glove fight taking place in November 1877

126 to 128lbs: This weight class first came to light when Bat Mullins outpointed Jack Ward over five rounds at the Prince of Wales Running Grounds, Bow, London on 16 April 1872 in the final of the Bow Cup. It was later reported in Bells Life on 18 August 1877 that Mullins had retained the cup after being unable to find a proper opponent

128 to 130lbs: On 27 January 1872 Bat Mullins challenged Ted Napper to no avail, followed by the latter challenging the world on 10 February. Further activity came on 4 January 1876 when Punch Dowsett outpointed Bill Green over four rounds at the Griffin Public House, Shoreditch, London to win a silver cup. A few days earlier the pair had been involved in a no-contest as the judges had been unable to find a winner

130 to 132lbs: Ted Napper challenged the world at all weights between 130lbs and 136lbs on 10 February 1872, prior to claiming the world title at 132lbs. Meanwhile, Bat Mullins continued with the knuckles before claiming the 132lbs world gloved title on 1 February 1873. The first test of endurance came on 27 April 1874 when Billy McLeod (131½) drew with Tom Scattergood (126½) over 33 rounds of a finish fight in Cloak Street, Hulme, Manchester. Refereed by the famous bare-knuckle fighter, Ned Donnelly, the fight was broken up by the police, who failed to prove that it was anything other than a sparring match

132 to 134lbs: The earliest note of this weight class came on 6 November 1871 when Bat Mullins outpointed Ted Wyman over three rounds at the Jolly Butchers Public House, Camden Town, London. Just five days later, Mullins beat the same opponent at the same venue to win a 154lbs championship competition. Back at 134lbs, Mullins won yet another championship competition when outpointing Denny Harrington over three rounds at the Spencer Arms Public House, Soho, London, on 6 February 1872. Despite being eliminated by Mullins in an earlier round on 16 January, Ted Napper challenged the world on 10 February 1872. Other competition winners included Young Bill Kennedy, who outpointed Young Donnelly over three rounds on 28 July 1874 and then Bob Purvey over the same distance on 8 September 1874, both contests taking place at the Hall of Science, St Luke’s, London. Next came Punch Dowsett, who outpointed Jem Laxton over three rounds at the same venue on 16 February 1875 and Laxton, who beat Punch Callow by a third-round disqualification at the Griffin Public House, Shoreditch, London on 11 January 1876

134 to 136lbs: Ted Napper challenged the world at the weight on 10 February 1872 and repeated same on 11 December 1875 before announcing on 10 June 1876 that he had retired from boxing

136 to 138lbs: Prior to 1877 there appears to have been no first-class activity in this weight class prior to 1884

138 to 140lbs: English competition winners at 140lbs included Bat Mullins (who outpointed Jim Warden over three rounds at the Royal Victoria Palace Theatre, Southwark, London on 22 March 1872), Lumpy Hughes (who outpointed Tom Hooker over three rounds at the Hall of Science, St Luke’s, London on 12 January 1875), Young William Charlton (who walked over Hughes at the Running Grounds, Hackney Wick, London on 26 July 1875), Bob Habbijam (who outpointed Jem Laxton over three rounds at the Royal Agricultural Hall, Islington, London on 18 March 1876), Laxton (who outpointed Bob’s brother, Punch Habbijam, over three rounds at the St Helena Gardens Concert Rooms, Rotherhithe, London on 27 March 1876), Bob Habbijam (who outpointed Laxton again over three rounds, this time at McDonald’s Music Hall, Hoxton, London on 12 March 1877) and Soldier Robinson (who outpointed Laxton over three rounds at Saddlers Wells Theatre, Clerkenwell, London on 30 March 1877)

Weight Band/Amendments

126lbs to 140lbs (27 November 1877 to 27 August 1895)

128lbs to 140lbs (On 27 August 1895 George Dixon extended his featherweight claim when beating Johnny Griffin at 128lbs)

116lbs to 130lbs (At the end of 1902, Young Corbett, the recognised featherweight champion in America who was increasing in weight, decided to defend the world title at weights up to 130lbs and received fair support in doing so)

126lbs to 140lbs (Following Young Corbett’s defeat at the hands of Jimmy Britt on 25 March 1904, and with Britt remaining in the lightweight ranks, the featherweight limit reverted to 122lbs in America and 126lbs in Britain)

126lbs to 135lbs (On 11 February 1909, the NSC formally introduced eight named weight divisions, the featherweight limit being set at 126lbs and the lightweight limit not to be above 135lbs)

130lbs to 135lbs (On 18 November 1921, the NYSAC introduced the junior lightweight class set at 130lbs when Johnny Dundee beat George KO Chaney on this date to win the title)

Title Contests

Pages in category ‘Lightweight Division’

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