The two men – the ‘Tipton Slasher’ from Birmingham and his younger challenger from Brighton – met to decide the British heavyweight champion on the Isle of Grain in Medway, Kent, on June 16, 1857. The fight was to be for £100 per side plus the new Championship belt.
Even in an era of no formal weight divisions, it had been considered foolhardy to match Sayers, a 10st 10lb man of 5ft 8in, against Perry, a 14st six-footer. Perry himself had been so confident of winning that he sold his pub in Spon Lane, Staffordshire, and staked the proceeds on himself at odds of 6-4. In fact, he was totally outclassed and lost to Sayer in 10 rounds.
The oil canvas, in a period gilt wood frame, was brought to Fellows in Birmingham from a local family, who had possession of the painting for over 100 years. Although not the work of a professional artist, it conveyed much of the atmosphere of a 19th century prize fight.
Estimated to bring £250-300 on February 17, it sold via thesaleroom.com for £2400 (plus 23% buyer’s premium).
Auctioneer and antiques specialist Kevin Jackson said: “I was fully prepared for there to be a lot of interest. Both of these fighters were champions of their time and it’s always a privilege to sell something with such fascinating history.”