I WAS packing for a family trip to Llandudno when this assignment was handed down to me from BN Towers. I wondered how I would go about finding, and getting to, a bona fide ‘traditional boxing pub’, as most of them have closed down. Sure, the Tom Cribb in the West End and a few others are still scattered about, yet they are marketed towards theatre-goers and tourists rather than serving as places where boxing aficionados can gather.
Initially, boxing pubs stemmed from prizefighting’s status as an illegal pursuit. Public Houses could secretly stage fights, bets could also be placed there, and by the 1840s they had become central to what would become modern-day boxing. Some ex-fighters, Cribb among them, started a long tradition of entering the pub game after calling time on their careers.
In the bare-knuckle era, James Figg established a boxing academy at The Adam & Eve pub in London. By 1943, the Thomas A Becket pub opened a gym on its second floor, attracting a clientele that went on to include the likes of Henry Cooper and the Krays. It is now a garish TGI Fridays-style food place, its heritage only reflected via a blue plaque that commemorates Cooper and by its status as a listed ‘asset of community value’.