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The Cyber Boxing Zone Encyclopedia -- English Bare Knuckle Champion

Peter Corcoran
(the "Irish Champion")

BORN   c. 1740; Athy, County Kildare, Ireland
DIED c. 1784
HEIGHT.. 5-11
WEIGHT 186 lbs
BACKER Colonel Dennis O'Kelly
Corcoran was extremely strong, a hard hitter with each fist and was tough and game; But, he possessed little boxing skill and was quite dishonest in his fights

Peter Corcoran
(British Bare Knuckle Heavyweight Champion 1771-1776)

By
James Mahon

Life

Peter Corcoran was born in 1740 at Athy Co. Kildare, Ireland. He was the son a Farm Labourer, and from an early age he too worked on local farms. In the early 1760ís he fled Athy to escape the law. It is alleged that Corcoran killed a local man in a drunken brawl about a woman. Corcoran left Athy, and he never returned.

Corcoran fled to England and he first settled in Birmingham where he secured work as a Coal Heaver. He later moved to Portsmouth where he became a sailor. It was at this time that Corcoran first became involved in Prize fighting.

On becoming a Prize fighter, Corcoran moved to London, where he rented a Public House (drinking bar). His first premises were "The Black Horse Inn" at St. Giles in Londonís East End. As his fighting career prospered, he moved to larger premises, "The Blakeny Arms" at St. Martinís Lane. However the business was not a success, and he suffered major financial losses. These financial difficulties are often offered as a motive for throwing the Sellars fight.

Immediately after the Sellars fight his business fortunes improved. The improvement however was short lived. Within a year he was evicted from the Public House. There are no details of his death, other he died in poverty and his funeral expenses had to be paid for by public subscription. It is a sad postscript to the life of the first Irishman to win the British Bare Knuckle Title.

Fighting Career

Peter Corcoran first gained a reputation as a competent fighter, when he was a sailor at Portsmouth. He was encouraged to move to London to further his career. In London he attracted the attention of Colonel Dennis Kelly, an Irishman, who was a noted racehorse owner and gambler. Kelly became Corcoranís sponsor and arranged prizefights for him.

Corcoranís first major fight was on September 4th. 1769, at Hyde Park in London, when he easily defeated Bill Turner. At the time Turner was considered one of the leading fighters in England. Over the next year Corcoran met and defeated three other leading contenders. They were Tom Dalton, Joe Davis and Bob Smiler "The Bricklayer". Following these victories, Corcoran challenged the then champion Bill Darts.

Darts faced Corcoran in the title fight, at Epsom Downís racecourse on May 18th. 1771. The fight was held after the Epsom Derby horse race.

The fight was the shortest championship title fight on record. Corcoran knocked Darts out in less than a minute. The fight is shrouded in controversy, as Colonel Kelly won a very large wager on the outcome of the fight.

Corcoran held the title for 5 years. During this time he defended it on mummeries occasions. The only leading contender he faced in these defences was Sam Peters. This fight was staged at Waltham Abbey in 1774. Corcoran emerged as an easy victor over his highly rated challenger.

Corcoran lost the title on October 16th. 1776, when he was defeated by Harry Sellars. The fight was held in a ring erected beside "The Crown Inn" in Staines, Middlesex. Corcoran was the betting favourite to retain the title, however he was defeated in a contest, which last 32 rounds.

It is highly probable that Corcoran threw this fight. Before the fight Corcoran was in severe financial difficulties, after the fight these debts mysteriously disappeared. The Sellars fight was Corcoranís last major fight. There are no further mentions of Corcoran engaging in any further contests.

Undated (1765-1768)
          -Corcoran defeated a number of minor fighters and was 
           considered to be the Irish Champion

1769
       -Corcoran challenged Tom Lyons to a fight but Lyons declined

Sep  4 Bill Turner               London, Eng                 (20:00)  W 11
          -Some sources report Turner as the winner

1770
       "Bricklayer" Bob Smiler   London, Eng                          W   
       Tom Dalton                London, Eng                          W   
       Joe Davis                 Moorfields, Eng                      W   

1771
May 18 William Darts             Epsom Races, Eng                     W  1
          -Championship of England

          -British sportsmen claimed that Captain O'Kelly, the famous turfman,
           bribed Darts to lose the fight with Corcoran; Darts was ostricized
           by the British sports and then retired

1774
Jun    Sam Peters                Waltham Abbey, Eng          (15:00)  W  3

1776
Oct 10 Harry Sellars             Staines, Eng                         L   
          -Championship of England;
          There is a good chance that Corcoran "threw" this fight;
          Some sources report "L 32" in 28 minutes;
          Some sources report "L 18" in 32 minutes

Record courtesy of Jan Skotnicki, Historian, International Boxing Research Organization
 

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