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Left: a pair of early 19th century Staffordshire pearlware figures modelled after bare-knuckle boxers Tom Cribb and Tom Molineaux who fought for a ‘world title’ of sorts, estimated at £3000-5000 at Tennants. Right: a Staffordshire model of boxers, c.1860, depicting John C Heenan and Tom Sayers, estimated at £100-150 at Hansons.

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Cribb was born in Bristol the son of a coal worker, and Molineaux arrived in London from Virginia, via New York, in search of fame and fortune (although the truth behind Molineaux’s early years is unclear and probably greatly embellished).

The pair first met in the ring in Oxfordshire in December 1810 in front of a vast crowd. The younger Molineaux nearly won, but timely intervention from Cribb’s supporters gave the older boxer time to recover and he won the bout. Molineaux challenged Cribb to a rematch, which took place in September 1811. Cribb broke Molineaux’s jaw and put him on the ground in just 19 minutes.

Another later Staffordshire model of boxers comes up for auction a day earlier, at Hansons of Etwall, this time as a single group, c.1860, depicting Heenan and Sayers from the late Dennis Silk collection of Staffordshire portrait figures.

This fight between American boxer John C Heenan and the English boxer Tom Sayers in Hampshire on April 17, 1860, is also claimed as the first ‘world title’ international boxing match. An illegal affair, it lasted two hours and 27 minutes – 42 rounds – until the police, brandishing magistrates’ warrants, stormed the ring to stop it.

Estimate on November 12 is £100-150.

tennants.co.uk

hansonsauctioneers.co.uk