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The Bare-knuckle Essentials

March 2024
1min read


Joe Louis, as pointed out in “America’s Great Black Hope” (October/November, 1978), remembered his 1938 championship fight with Max Schmeling vividly. Many ex-fighters, boxing fans will attest, do remember their best fights, and sometimes their worst fights, and sometimes all their fights, and are willing to talk about them in minute, frequently numbing detail.

But not David John Lewis, apparently. He was born in Penderin, Glamorgan, South Wales, in 1845, and by the time he emigrated to this country in 1869 as his grandson, Thomas H. Lewis of Bethesda, Maryland, tells us, he had become the bare-knuckle heavyweight champion of Wales. He was a coal miner and labor organizer by trade, moving from state to state to follow the work, and boxing all the while—this in the days when a knockdown was the end of a round and a knockout the end of a fight, and bouts often went on for hours. Lewis fought in Iowa, Pennsylvania, Colorado, and Washington during his American career, and must have accumulated a rich body of anecdotes along the way. If so, one could never tell from a.letter written five years before his death in 1927, and passed on to us by his grandson:

“I will try to tell something about the Ring and my SaIf now. you wanted to now the names of the Boys that i fought in the Old Country I was only a Boy my Salph at that time, the first yong man that i fought was wat Porot I won in 15 round, the next was… Wm Jones. I won in 18 round, and then I fout Jack Issac for 10 Pound a side it was a draw fight in 1 hower and 45 minutes, a cusin to old Dave Issac he is in Seattle now. and thats all in Wales and then I Came to America.

“About my fights in amerca. Fighting is a Bad game it tis Bad for the Eyes, my first fight was with a man of the name Barney Cambell for $1000 a side and after Fighting 87 Rounds in one howere 50 miniutes they called a foule on me.

“A man I Fought the name was J’f6rge McLeary 10 Rounds I won at Braysville. the next man was Jack Thomas 6 Rounds I won at Lucas Iowa. I Fought Barney Cambell again to at Ledville Colorado. I won in 4 Rounds with gloves the next I fought was Mike Alegre 10 Rounds I nock him out in 2 Rounds. I Fought a man at Franklin Wash. I forgot his name I won in 7 Rounds that was the Last.”

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