Journal of Manly Arts
June 2005

by Professor A. Austen
Originally published in Outing magazine, 1891 p140-143

WHEN, with the international contest between Sayers and Heenan, prize fighting and all its odious train of barbarities died a natural death, it seemed as though the daystar of pure amateur boxing had arisen and the Queensberry rules adopted by gentlemen for gentlemen seemed to assure its future. The enemy was, however, apparently scotched, not killed, and the professional sporting man, not to be deprived of such an easy means of making money, soon subtracted from, added to, twisted and turned about the rules and applied them to glove fights between pugilists under the guise of boxing matches, and it is needless to say with the same degrading effect upon boxing as a branch of athletics in which gentlemen might compete as had developed upon the prize ring.

No attraction is so great to a certain debased class of mind as a fight as a fight between two men, and the so-called promoter, under the guise of elevating the art, reaped rich harvests.

There should be, and formerly did exist, a wide distinction between a prizefight between two professionals and a boxing competition between two amateurs, but the difference has so narrowed of late that it would tax the judgment of the average man to say which was the more coarse or brutal, the professional fist or glove fight promoted by professional sporting men or the boxing tournament by so-called amateur athletic associations. Encouraged sometimes by prominent authorities, it is little wonder that the fast or semi-fast man about town has developed a fad for seeing such fights, not because he understands boxing or desires to do so, but in order that he may be able to tell the “biggest” in regard to the number of knock outs or the quantity of blood he saw spilt at a particular amateur athletic club tournament. Approaching still nearer the methods of the professional speculator, many more or less prominent real and sham amateur athletic clubs have fed this fad and profited by degrading one of the branches of athletics they were presumably instituted to elevate.

Institutions of high standing and refinement, and the better sort of amateur athletic clubs, encourage, it is true, boxing as a means to several ends, including self defense, amusement and exercise, and in all these style is essential. The art of boxing is more in the manner than the doing. It is what you make it; skill and refinement alone render it worthy of being classed as an art. Like fencing, which emanated from cutting and slashing affrays, boxing is the outcome of rough and tumble fights, wherein kicking, gouging and biting were concomitant parts. Civilization demands the suppression of brutality. What was considered rational amusement in the early part of the century, when the mayors of Bath and Bristol were frequently present at the annual pugilistic competitions between the two towns, is deemed brutal now.

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June 2005