SOUTHWARK Fair, wrote Pierce Egan, “was an uncommon scene of attraction to the inhabitants in and contiguous to London.” Granted to the city by royal decree in 1462, it marked the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary and was held annually from September 7-9. By the early 18th century, it had become a raucous event lasting two weeks. There were jugglers and magicians, drummer girls and giants, puppeteers, pimps, pickpockets, and peep shows. There was James Figg. Advertisements were handed out in the crowd announcing the time and place where he would demonstrate his skill as a crippler and face-mangler. He established an amphitheatre just across the Thames to teach “the noble art of defence” though in his day, boxing was an unruly affair consisting of not only bare-knuckle brawling, but throws, submission holds, hair-pulling, and eye-gouging. You could, literally, kick a man when he was down.
The only man ever to defeat Figg was Ned Sutton. After a return match in 1727, Sutton may have wished none was ever had. The first round was fought with cutlasses, the second with bare fists (after both men finished off a bottle of port), and the third with clubs. It ended when Figg bashed Sutton’s knee in.
Subscribe now to keep reading
We're chuffed you’re enjoying our website, but I'm afraid you need to be a subscriber to read this story.
As a subscriber you'll get access to all online content, including weekly issues - you can opt for digital only or print and digital - plus an online archive of weekly digital editions back to January 2012.
You'll also be helping to support our editorial independence so we can continue to get to the heart of the stories that truly matter to you, the reader. Every subscription we secure will go directly to ensuring that Boxing News retains its voice for many years to come.
If you're not ready to subscribe there are plenty of free articles on the site you can enjoy by registering
To enjoy premium content such as this story, and to get the weekly issue you will need to subscribe
Got an account? Sign in
USE PROMO CODE: SUMMER10
*SALE ENDS 31 AUGUST