London Prize Ring Rules of 1853
(which succeeded and built upon the
London Prize Ring Rules of 1838)
In 1853, it having been found that
many of the Rules of the Ring, as they then stood, were insufficient to provide
for the various contingencies which were continually arising in prize battles,
an entire revision was determined on, and a committee of gentlemen, members of
the Pugilistic Benevolent Association, undertook the task. When the revision was
complete, the laws were submitted to a general meeting of the members of the
prize ring (being members of the Association), and were unanimously agreed to.
These new rules we now lay before our readers.
1) That the
ring shall be made on turf, and shall be four-and-twenty feet
square, formed of eight stakes and ropes, the latter extending
in double lines , the uppermost line being four feet from the
ground, and the lower two feet from the ground. That in the
centre of the ring a mark be formed, to be termed a scratch; and
that at two opposite corners, as may be selected, spaces be
enclosed by other marks sufficiently large for the reception of
the seconds and bottle-holders, to be entitled “the corners.”
2) That each
man shall be attended to the ring by a second and a
bottle-holder, the former provided with a sponge and the latter
with a bottle of water. That the combatants, on shaking hands,
shall retire until the seconds of each have tossed for choice of
position, which adjusted, the winner shall choose his corner
according to the state of the wind or sun, and conduct his man
thereto, the loser taking the opposite corner.
3) That each
man shall be provided with a handkerchief of a colour suitable
to his own fancy, and that the seconds proceed to entwine these
handkerchiefs at the upper end of one of the center stakes. That
these handkerchiefs shall be called “the colours;” and that the
winner of the battle at its conclusion shall be entitled to
their possession, as the trophy of victory.
That two umpires shall be chosen
by the seconds or backers to watch the progress of the battle,
and take exception to any breach of the rules hereafter stated.
That a referee shall be chosen by the umpires, unless otherwise
agreed on, to whom all disputes shall be referred; and that the
decision of this referee, whatever it may be, shall be final and
strictly binding on all parties, whether as to the matter in
dispute or the issue of the battle. That the umpires shall be
provided with a watch, for the purpose of calling time; and that
they mutually agree upon which this duty shall devolve, the call
of that umpire only to be attended to, and no other person
whatever to interfere in calling time. That the referee shall
withhold all opinion till appealed to by the umpires, and that
the umpires strictly abide by his decision without dispute.
5) That on the
men being stripped, it shall be the duty of the seconds to
examine their drawers, and if any objection arise as to
insertion of improper substances therein, they shall appeal to
their umpires, who, with the concurrence of the referee, shall
direct what alterations shall be made.
in future no spikes be used in fighting boots except those
authorized by the Pugilistic Benevolent Association, which shall
not exceed three-eights of an inch from the sole of the boot,
and shall not be less than one-eight of an inch broad at the
point; and, it shall be in the power of the referee to alter, or
file in any way he pleases, spikes which shall not accord with
the above dimensions, even to filing them away altogether.
7) That both
men being ready, each man shall be conducted to that side of the
scratch next his corner previously chosen; and the seconds on
the one side and the men on the other, having shaken hands, the
former shall immediately return to their corners, and there
remain within the prescribed marks till the round be finished,
on no pretence whatever approaching their principals during the
round, under penalty of 5s. for each offence, at the option of
the referee. The penalty, which will be strictly enforced, to go
to the funds of the Association. The principal to be responsible
for every fine inflicted on his second.
at the conclusion of the round, when one or both of the men
shall be down, the seconds and bottle-holders shall step forward
and carry or conduct their principal to his corner, there
affording him the necessary assistance, and no person whatever
be permitted to interfere with this duty.
9) That at the
expiration of thirty seconds ( unless otherwise agreed upon) the
umpire appointed shall cry “Time,” upon which each man shall
rise from the knee of his bottle-holder and walk to his own side
of the scratch unaided, the seconds and the bottle-holders
remaining at their corner; and that either man failing so to be
at the scratch within eight seconds, shall be deemed to have
lost the battle.
10) That on no
consideration whatever shall any person be permitted to enter
the ring during the battle, nor till it shall have been
concluded; and that in the event of such unfair practice, or the
ropes and stakes being disturbed or removed, it shall be in the
power of the referee to award the victory to that man who in his
honest opinion shall have the best of the contest.
11) That the
seconds and bottle-holders shall not interfere, advise, or
direct the adversary of their principal, and shall refrain from
all offensive and irritating expressions, in all respects
conducting themselves with order and decorum, and confine
themselves to the diligent and careful discharge of their duties
to their principals.
12) That in
picking up their men, should the seconds or bottle-holders
wilfully injure the antagonist of their principal, the latter
shall be deemed to have forfeited the battle on the decision of
13) That it
shall be “a fair stand-up fight,” and if either man shall
wilfully throw himself down without receiving a blow, whether
blows shall have previously been exchanged or not, he shall be
deemed to have lost the battle; but that this rule shall not
apply to a man who in a close slips down from the grasp of his
opponent to avoid punishment, or from obvious accident or
butting with the head shall be deemed foul, and the party
resorting to this practice shall be deemed to have lost the
15) That a blow
struck when a man is thrown or down, shall be deemed foul. That
a man with one knee and one hand on the ground, or with both
knees on the ground, shall be deemed down; and a blow given in
either of those positions shall be considered foul, providing
always, that when in such position, the man so down shall not
himself strike or attempt to strike.
That a blow struck below the waistband shall be deemed foul, and that, in
a close, seizing an antagonist below the waist, by the thigh, or otherwise,
shall be deemed foul.
That all attempts to inflict injury by gouging, or tearing the flesh with
the fingers or nails, and biting, shall be deemed foul.
That kicking, or deliberately falling on an antagonist, with the knees or
otherwise when down, shall be deemed a foul.
That all bets shall be paid as the battle-money, after a fight, is awarded.
20) That no
person, on any pretence whatever, shall be permitted to approach
nearer the ring than ten feet, with the exception of the
umpires and referee, and the persons appointed to take charge of
the water or other refreshment for the combatants, who shall
take their seats close to the corners selected by the seconds.
That due notice shall be given by the stakeholder of the day and place where
the battle-money is to be given up, and that he be exonerated from all
responsibility upon obeying the direction of the referee; and that all
parties be strictly bound by these rules; and that in future all articles of
agreement for a contest be entered into with a strict and willing adherence
to the letter and spirit of these rules.
That in the event of magisterial or other interference, or in case of
darkness coming on, the referee shall have the power to name the time and
place for the next meeting, if possible, on the same day, or as soon after
as may be.
23) That should
the fight not be decided on the day, all bets, instead of being
drawn, shall be put together and divided, unless the fight shall
be resumed the same week, between Sunday and Sunday, in which
case the bets shall stand and be decided by the event. That
where the day named in the articles for a fight to come off is
altered to another day in the same week, the bets shall stand.
The battle-money shall remain in the hands of the stakeholder
until fairly won or lost by a fight, unless a draw be mutually
24) That any
pugilist voluntarily quitting the ring previous to the
deliberate judgment of the referee being obtained, shall be
deemed to have lost the fight.
That on an objection being made by the seconds or umpire, the men shall
retire to their corners, and there remain until the decision of the
appointed authorities shall be obtained; that if pronounced “foul,” the
battle shall be at an end, but if “fair,” “time” shall be called by the
party appointed, and the man absent from the scratch in eight seconds after
shall be deemed to have lost the fight. The decision in all cases to be
given promptly and irrevocably, for which purpose the umpires and the
referee should be invariably close together.
That if in a rally at the ropes a man steps outside the ring, to avoid his
antagonist or escape punishment, he shall forfeit the battle.
That the use of hard substances, such as stones, or sticks, or of resin, in
the hand during the battle shall be deemed foul, and that on the requisition
of the seconds, of either man, the accused shall open his hands for the
examination of the referee.
That where a man shall have his antagonist across the ropes in such a
position as to be helpless, and to endanger his life by strangulation or
apoplexy, it shall be in the power of the referee to direct the seconds to
take their man away, and thus conclude the round, and that the man or his
seconds refusing to obey the direction of the referee, shall be deemed the
29) That all
stage fights be as nearly as possible in conformity with the
From Fistiana; or, The Oracle of the Ring.
By the Editor of
“Bell’s Life in London” ( London: William Clement,