Boxing on the BNA | The British Newspaper Archive Blog


Hot Off The Press – New Titles This Week

This week at The Archive we’re excited to welcome a very special new sporting title to our collection, as well as a long run of a new regional title. We’ve added 120,212 brand new pages in all over the past seven days – as the presses don’t stop whirring here at the BNA!

Read on to discover more about this week’s brand new titles, as well as the additions we have made to our existing titles (including updates to one of our international titles).

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Starting us off this week is brand new title the Burton Observer and ChronicleWe’ve added nearly 40,000 pages to this title, which appeared every Thursday and was originally priced at one penny. Published in the Staffordshire market town of Burton-upon-Trent, famous for its brewing ties (at one point Burton was responsible for producing one quarter of all beer produced in Great Britain), this title had a heavy focus on local news. You can discover articles relating to local entertainment, local society meetings (including the Scouts), and also all the latest sports results from Burton and the surrounding area.

Burton Observer and Chronicle | 27 July 1911

Talking of sport – our next title is dedicated to one particular sporting arena, that of boxing, and is quite simply called BoxingBoxing was founded in 1909 by Health and Strength journalist and contributor John Murray, who persuaded Health and Strength owner Bill Berry to set up a publication dedicated solely to the sport of boxing. First published on 1 September 1909, it claimed to be ‘The Only Paper in the World Solely Dedicated to the Sport of Boxing.’

And Boxing was international in its outlook too. Published in London, Boxing also had a Paris office, and was distributed throughout Europe, Canada, the United States, as well as what was then the British Empire.

Boxing | 1 January 1910

In its first edition, the new specialist sporting publication laid out its brief mission statement:

‘Boxing’ is not offered to its public with an apology. We claim it is wanted, and wanted badly. It will stand for good clean sport. Its success or failure is in the hands of those who believe in sport of that character. Our energies will be devoted to giving the best paper that time, thought and money can desire. It is up to you, reader, to ‘help a good thing along.’

But what could you expect from an edition of Boxing? Well, with the watch words of ‘Defence’ and ‘Reliance,’ appearing every Thursday, Boxing was richly illustrated with pictures and photographs of bouts and boxers, featuring boxing news, boxing debates and correspondence. It covered both the amateur and professional sport, with boxing news from across the world (including the United States, Australia and New Zealand), as well as specially written boxing fiction (for example Dorrien Esmark’s ‘Striking Romance of the Ring’ – Bob Standon’s Find).

Boxing | 11 September 1909

An initial success, Boxing faced a decline during the 1920s and branched out to cover racing and football. Remarkably, however, the publication survived, and is published to this day as Boxing News, making it the longest running boxing magazine still in publication. In 1996 Boxing News switched to a full colour format, remaining the main trade paper of the sport, and it celebrated its centenary in 2009.

Meanwhile, we have updated six of our existing titles. You’ll find updates to some of our regional titles this week, including Herefordshire’s Bromyard News, Suffolk’s The Halesworth Times and East Suffolk Advertiser, and London’s Marylebone Mercury. By far and away our biggest update of the week, however, is to the Halifax Evening Courierto which we have added nearly 40,000 pages. The Halifax Evening Courier initially appeared every Saturday, before switching to a daily publication pattern and changing its name to the Halifax Daily Courier & Guardian.

Halifax Evening Courier | 3 January 1935

Finally, we’ve added new years to national tabloid the Daily Mirror (1945 and 1952), as well as new pages to international title the Civil and Military Gazette (Pakistan)which was the workplace of poet and writer Rudyard Kipling in the 1880s. You can read more about our collection of international titles here.

Jack Johnson and Boxing

It has been said that Boxing magazine founder John Murray was so inspired by African-American Jack Johnson’s victory that made him World Heavyweight Boxing Champion (the first Black winner of that title), that it was this victory itself that inspired him to set up his historic specialist publication. Whatever the truth of this claim, Boxing closely followed Jack Johnson’s remarkable career, which came at a time when America was in the throes of racial segregation, with Johnson facing the worst types of prejudice.

After winning the heavyweight title in 1909, which he defended until 1915, Jack Johnson faced former undefeated heavyweight boxer James J. Jefferies in what was then dubbed ‘The Fight of the Century’ at Reno. For the white majority, this offered a chance for Jeffries (a white man) to defeat Johnson (the son of enslaved parents), thereby putting him back in his ‘place’. But it did not go like that; Johnson was the undisputed victor of the fight, and films of the fight were banned across the United States.

‘The Fight of the Century’ Jeffries versus Johnson | The Tatler | 20 July 1910

Meanwhile, Boxing gave space to Jack Johnson to express his views on the intense racial prejudice he faced. In an article published in October 1910, it quoted a letter from Johnson to his Australian friend Mr Hicks Hardy:

I need not tell you that in America the racial question is very rampant just now. Our country taken from us is ruled by whites, and any sign of superiority on our part is regarded as a crime. They regard people of my colour little better than dogs. Education does not count, neither does refinement nor high breeding. Colour with them is everything.

He goes on to call out the hypocrisy of his fellow countrymen:

These people – these Christians – attend church, pray regularly, and yet pick out of the New and Old Testaments only those things which are agreeable to themselves. Worse than this, the very clergyman recognise that unless they pander to the popular taste they might as well shut up shop. My blood boils when I think of these things, and only deep and solemn prayer calms me.

Jack Johnson arrives in Plymouth with his wife | Leeds Mercury | 14 June 1911

The next year, in 1911, Jack Johnson came on tour to Great Britain, Boxing advertising a bout between Johnson and English Champion Bombardier Billy Wells. But this fight was not to go ahead, reflecting the same racial bias that was rampant on the other side of the Atlantic. The ‘Stop the Fight’ movement campaigned against the Johnson and Wells bout, nominally citing a distaste against prize-fighting.

Boxing | 16 September 1911

The truth, however, was far more disturbing. There was a fear that a Johnson win would stir up feelings within Britain’s Black population, leading them to ‘forget their place.’ But Billy Wells was more than prepared to face Johnson, recognising his skill and talent, even penning an article in Boxing to that effect:

He is the recognised, universally admitted champion, and so doesn’t have to challenge. His mere presence and his expressed willingness to accept any challenge from any reputable aspirant is in itself all-sufficient. He was, in fact, challenging the people of England, and it seemed to me that it would be a rather poor thing for England if he was allowed to go away able to say, if he cared so to do, that there wasn’t a single man in the country with pluck enough to accept his offer.

Bombardier Billy Wells (this time on the football pitch) | The Tatler | 24 December 1913

But the fight did not happen, the racist campaign against it proving successful and establishing the colour bar that would prevent Black boxers competing in British championship bouts.

But that did not stop Jack Johnson. He went on to win more World Championships – seizing 80 wins in 114 fights, with 45 knock out victories in total, and inspiring as he did so perhaps the world’s most famous boxer – none other than Muhammad Ali.

Jack Johnson was also a keen racer, here is pictured ‘on his motor racing car’ | The Tatler | 16 November 1910

New Titles
Years Added
Burton Observer and Chronicle 1911-1949, 1951-1979
Boxing 1909-1912
Updated Titles

This week we have updated six of our existing titles.

You can learn more about each of the titles we add to every week by clicking on their names. On each paper’s title page, you can read a FREE sample issue, learn more about our current holdings, and our plans for digitisation.

Title Years Added
Civil & Military Gazette (Pakistan) 1894, 1906, 1910-1912
Halifax Evening Courier 1914, 1935-1937, 1944-1958
Daily Mirror 1945, 1952
The Halesworth Times and East Suffolk Advertiser. 1887, 1900-1926
Bromyard News 1955-1960
Marylebone Mercury 1938

You can keep up to date with all the latest additions by visiting the recently added page.  You can even look ahead to see what we’re going to add tomorrow.


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