Schedule News Current Champs WAIL! Encyclopedia Links Store Home
The Cyber Boxing Zone Encyclopedia -- English Bare Knuckle Champion
BORN 1750; Derby, Yorkshire, England (Some sources report 1760) DIED January 21 1797; Cork, Ireland HEIGHT.. 5-10 WEIGHT 202 lbs BACKER Bullock, Earl of Surrey Johnson was a splendid champion of great skill, surprising strength, coolness of disposition and temper and the highest order of courage, durability and ambition
He was inducted into the Ring Boxing Hall of Fame in 1985 and the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1995
Tom Johnson is credited with restoring respectability to the sport, which had been victim of questionable decisions and fixed fights. (Does this sound familiar?) In Puglistica, Johnson is described as follows: "His strength, science and 'bottom' gave him rank superior to all his contemporaries. But his greatest excellence was his surprising coolness and judgment."
His 1789 victory over 328-pound Isaac Perrin was commemorated in a bronze medallion. He retired after losing to "Big Ben" Brain in 1791.
Curiously, although he is credited with improving the prizefighting's respectability, it is his controversial actions during the first Mendoza-Humphries match that is his enduring legacy. In that fight, Johnson was serving as second to Richard Humphries. Mendoza the "Jew" knocked Humphries sprawling and he sagged helplessly against the rail surrounding the stage. The "Light of Israel" launched what should have been the knockout blow.
Mendoza described what happened next in his memoirs:
"[A]t a very critical period of the battle, I aimed a blow, which, in all probability, would have proved decisive, had not his second Johnson unfairly caught the same, and thereby deprived me of a very favorable chance of gaining the victory."
To the consternation of many, the umpire ruled that Johnson acted appropriately. Mendoza lost the fight a half-hour later after falling on the rain-soaked stage, which caused "excruciating pain" in his "loins." This incident is immortalized in the print entitled "Foul Play, or Humphries and Johnson a Match for Mendoza."
© 1998 The Cyber Boxing Zone1783 Jun Jack Jarvis Walworth, Eng (15:00) W -Some sources report "Championship of England" 1784 Mar Croydon Drover London, Eng (27:00) W Jun Stephen "Death" Oliver Blacksheath, Eng (35:00) W -Some sources report "Championship of England" 1786 Jan 11 Bill Love Barnet, Eng (4:00) W Feb 11 Jack Towers Barnet, Eng (15:00) W 1787 Jan 18 William Warr Oakingham, Eng (1:20:00) W -Championship of England; Some sources report 1:40:00 Jul 5 William Fry Kingston, Eng (30:00) W -Championship of England; Some sources report less than "half an hour" in June 1786 Dec 19 Michael Ryan Wradsbury, Eng (24:00) W -Championship of England; Some sources report 30:00 1789 Feb 11 Michael Ryan Rickmansworth, Eng (33:00) W 12 -Championship of England Sep "Big" Ben Brain SCH -This bout was scheduled but not held; Brain was ill Oct 22 Isaac Perrins Banbury, Eng (1:15:00) W 62 -Championship of England; Some sources report 11/22/89 1790 -Johnson announced his retirement from the ring and relinquished the Championship of England (only to return later) -Johnson announced his comeback and reclaimed the Championship of England 1791 Jan 17 "Big" Ben Brain Wrotham, Eng (21:00) L 18 -Championship of England *** Assistance Was Provided By Sergei Yurchenko ***
Record courtesy of Jan Skotnicki, Historian, International Boxing Research Organization
[Return to Top]