Barney Aaron was among the most popular British-born boxers of his generation. Nicknamed the “Star of the East,” he was especially popular among London’s large Jewish community. A lightweight from the bare-knuckle era, he often fought opponents larger than himself and was the father of Young Barney Aaron, another lightweight of note.
Born in Aldgate, England on November 21, 1800, Aaron is said to have loved boxing as a child. His first known organized prize fight occurred some time during 1819, when be bested a more experienced fighter named William Connelly over sixteen rounds under Broughton’s rules. He lost his second bout, exhausted after seventy-five minutes of fighting with one Manny Lyons. On March 19, 1823, he engaged in an impromptu prizefight against Tom Collins. Though Aaron dominated the action, he injured his left hand and was forced to quit after a half hour of battle. The bout had taken place before a large crowd however and Barney’s performance made him an in-demand fighter for future engagements.
Winning four more bouts before the close of the year, Barney had established himself as one of the most promising Jewish fighter to come along in England since Dutch Sam, a colorful and popular lightweight who had retired a decade earlier. When Aaron took on undefeated Arthur Matthewson in 1824, the bout was regarded by the public as being between the two best lightweights in the world, though an official championship for the division did not yet exist. After fifty-seven rounds, Matthewson prevailed by knocking Aaron out with a punch to the throat. There is no record of Aaron fighting again until 1827, when he again lost by knockout to Dick Curtis after fifty-five minutes of boxing. Despite the loss, he remained an active fighter until his retirement in 1834. His son, known as Young Barney Aaron, was born two years later and would win regard in America as lightweight champion in 1857. After leaving the ring, the elder Barney became a fishmonger and assisted friend boxers in their fights. He passed away at age 50 in Whitechapel and was elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame as a “Pioneer” in 2001.
Roberts, James B. and Alexander G. Skutt. The Boxing Register