The Bare-knuckle Champions of England

English ChampionNicknameReign BeginsEnds 
James Figg 17191730retires
Tom Pipes 17301735 
George TaylorThe Barber17351738 
Jack Broughton  17381750 
Jack Slack 1750 1760 
William StevensThe Nailer17601761 
George MeggsThe Collier17611762 
George Millsom 17621765 
Tom JuchauThe Disher17651766 
William DartsThe Dyer17661769 
Tom LyonsThe Waterman17691769retires
Peter Corcoran 17711776 
Harry Sellers 17761780vacated
Duggan Fearns  1780vacated
Tom Johnson 17841791 
Benjamin BrainBig Ben17911794dies
Daniel Mendoza The Jew17941795 
John JacksonGentleman17951795retires
Thomas Owen 17961797 
Jack Bartholomew 17971800 
Jem Belcher 18001803 
"Hen" PearceThe Game Chicken18031806retires
John Gully 18071808retires
Tom Cribb 18091822retires
Tom SpringThe Light Tapper18231824 
Tom CannonThe Great Gun of Windsor18241825 
Jem WardThe Black Diamond18251827 
Peter CrawleyYoung Rump Steak18271827retires
Jem Ward 18281832 
James BurkeThe Deaf 'un18331839 
William ThompsonBendigo18391840 
Ben CauntThe Torkard Giant18401841 
Nick Ward 18411841 
Ben CauntThe Torkard Giant18411845 
William ThompsonBendigo18451850retires
William PerryThe Tipton Slasher18501851 
Harry Broome 18511856 
Tom PaddockRedditch Needlepointer18561858 
Tom SayersThe Brighton Boy18581860retires
Sam HurstThe Staleybridge Infant18601861 
Jem MaceThe Gypsy18611862 
Tom KingThe Fighting Sailor18621863retires
Jem MaceThe Gypsy18661871vacates

The fighter

The most extraordinary character ever to own a Derby winner was surely one John Gully, a former prize fighter, who won the race twice and every other Classic race in the English Calendar as well.

He achieved his initial public notoriety with a defeat. Bare-knuckled, he fought the reigning champion Henry Pearce in 1805 and was beaten in the fifty-ninth round! He was paid 500 for his efforts, but the following year was so impoverished that he had to walk from London to Doncaster races.

He won two subsequent fights, which lasted 36 and 28 rounds respectively, and then retired from the ring. Not surprisingly, his conversation was said to have become very slow: "Every word seemed to weigh a pound." Nevertheless. he decided to concentrate on horse racing and politics.He was elected MP for Pontefract, and as his respectability and wealth grew became a colliery owner, but racing and betting were his first love.

He suffered something of a setback in the St.Leger of 1827 when he ran Marmeluke, an extremely nervous animal by all accounts. Jockeys on the other runners (and, it was alleged at the time, the starter) conspired to ensure that there were a series of false starts and delays and Marmeluke was beaten. It cost Gully 40,000 in bets.

After a series of further unfortunate incidents Sam Day trained Pyrrhus The Fist to win Gully his first Derby in 1846. In 1854, Gully owned another Derby winner, Andover, in partnership with a money-lender called Henry Padwick.

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© D.W. 2000 This site last updated March 2003 by webmaster