Britainís First Heavyweight Boxing Champ
At the outset it should be stated that in the pre-Marquis of Queensbury Rules era Ė they were used from 1865 onwards Ė title holders can be the subject of much debate, given that bare-knuckle fighting was for some time an illegal pursuit carried on clandestinely; and that champion status was sometimes effectively by acclamation.
Thomas King, born in Stepney in East London , is generally regarded as our first world heavyweight champion. A sailor who became a docker, and not averse to the odd brawl, his reputation as a street-fighter led to training by a retired champion, Jem Ward. King lost his effort to take the English title from Jem Mace in 1862, but succeeded a year later, clearing the way for a crack at the admittedly unofficial title of American John C. Heenan, who in the dubious ways of the times had won or been accorded it in a recent drawn bout.
Their match took place as many did on a remote farm, Cockmounts, near Wadhurst in East Sussex. Heenan was a brawler and grappler, King a puncher with boxing guile. The Briton emerged victorious in the 24th round, a medium-length contest for the age.
For the record the first British world heavyweight champ in the Queensbury Rules era was Bob Fitzsimmons, born in Helston , Cornwall , who took the title in 1896 in a match in Texas; though New Zealand where his family emigrated when he was a child and America where he resided for much of his life have contesting claims on him.
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