Sport by Dr Denise Amos


Photograph courtesy of Nottingham Local Studies Library.

A sport that has been popular in Nottinghamshire for way over a century is boxing. Although the sport has changed dramatically from the ‘bare-knuckle’ fights which took place in the nineteenth century, Nottinghamshire still produces boxers of world class status. The most infamous was William Thompson ‘Bendigo’, champion of All-England 1840-45. He was born in New Yard, off Parliament Street in Nottingham in 1811 and died in 1880, one of a large family whose father was a skilled lace maker. On reaching the age of 21 years Bendigo began his career as a prizefighter and in 1835 defeated Ben Caunt and went on to become champion of England. At the age of 39 years he retired from prize fighting but began to drink heavily and was imprisoned 28 times. He died in Beeston and his tombstone is in Bath Street cemetery. His legend continued with a pub in Sneinton named after him and also a city and county named after him in Victoria, Australia because of his fighting ability.

Another famous prize fighter of a similar period was Harry Paulson born in 1819 in Paxton Gate, Newark. In 1856 he is alleged to have gone 100 rounds with Tom Sayers, a younger man and the champion of England. His memorial is in Nottingham General Cemetery.

In more recent times Nottingham has produced several class fighters. Wally Swift a 23 year old Raleigh cycle mechanic from Bilborough was crowned welterweight champion of Great Britain on 1 February 1960 and British middle weight champion in 1964. He died in 2012.

In 1967 Johnny Pritchett from Bingham added the Empire title to his British middleweight crown in November 1967. David Needham outpointed Irishman, Paddy McGuire, in the most memorable of British bantamweight champion at the Ice Stadium in December 1974.

In 1982 Herol ‘Bomber’ Graham became Commonwealth light middleweight champion. He followed this by taking the vacant British middle weight in 90 seconds at Shoreditch and was ranked 6th in the world. He successfully defended his British middleweight in 1989.

The most recent boxing champion is Carl Froch from Gedling. He became English super-middleweight champion in 2003. He made his US debut, beating Costa Rican Henry Porras in eight rounds to become world champion and followed this in 2008 by becoming world super middle weight after beating Canadian Jean Pascal in 12 rounds. In 2011 he was defeated on points in the final of the Super Six in Atlanta City. He fought American Yusaf Mack at Nottingham on 17 November 2012 in defence of his super middleweight title and convincingly beat Mack in three rounds. Froch won at Wembley arena on 31 May 2014 where he knocked out George Groves in the 8th round in the IBF super middleweight and WBA super world middleweight. This was a return match for a previous bad-tempered fight against Groves on 23 November 2013.