"THE GREATEST"
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Tom Johnson vs Isaac Perrins RARE Pairing Of Copper Coins Struck To Commemorate Their Brutal 62 Round Epic Battle Of 1789

Tom Johnson vs Isaac Perrins RARE Pairing Of Copper Coins Struck To Commemorate Their Brutal 62 Round Epic Battle Of 1789

Tom Johnson vs Isaac Perrins RARE pairing of copper coins struck to commemorate their brutal 62 round epic battle of 1789.

The rare copper medals were struck to commemorate each of the contestants. The obverse side of these contained a picture of the respective fighter; the reverse had the Latin inscription Bella! Horrida bella! (a quotation from Virgil which can be translated as "wars, horrible wars") and the words "Strength and magnanimity" in the case of Perrins, and "Science and intrepidity" for that of Johnson. It has been speculated that these may have been produced by Perrins' employers, Boulton and Watt, and that they bear similarities with the work of a French die maker called Ponthon who was supplying the firm with industrial items from at least 1791.


Tom Johnson vs Isaac Perrins
22 October, 1789: Banbury, Oxfordshire, England.
Tom Johnson (age 39) Won-62rds / 1 hr 15min

After five minutes, Johnson eluded a Perrins's blow and floored him with a return blow. The next three rounds were also terminated by Johnson's blows, who confused Perrins by dancing around him and then hitting him at unexpected times. Perrins became irritated by this conduct, and throwing caution aside, went after Johnson with vast resolution. Despite a few sharp hits, he finally got in a knock out blow on Johnson and pressed his advantage for several rounds during which he severely cut Johnson’s lip. Johnson then jumped in and planted a blow over Perrins’s left eye, which cut his eyebrow and began closing his eye. Perrins had began tiring as well, but he then landed a blow that closed one of Johnson’s eyes. Johnson then parried a violent blow from Perrins and landed a quick and severe blow that landed on Perrins’s nose, breaking it open. The bout had gone back and forth, with forty rounds completed to this point. Perrins had seemingly lost most of his strength. He fought low and landed chopping back handed strokes that didn’t have much effect on Johnson. Johnson seemed to improve in strength as the battle continued, though he never began the attack. Perrins, attempting to land severe blows, fell as if from weakness. Johnson hit him in the face as he fell. He seemed to hit Perrins whenever he wanted. Finally, Johnson gathered himself and landed a tremendous blow in the centre of Perrins’s face and knocked him out.



Tom Johnson (whose real name was Jackling) was a Derby man, who came to London as a lad, and worked as a corn porter at Old Swan Stairs. For a heavyweight champion he was very small short, rather: for he stood but 5 feet 9 inches. He must, however, have been made like a barrel, for he weighed 14 stone, and the girth of his chest was enormous.

A story is told, his selflessness and strength were exemplified during this period by the assistance that he gave to a fellow worker who had become ill. Johnson would carry two sacks of corn on each journey between the wharf and the grain warehouse, rather than the usual single sack, up an incline so steep that it was known as Labour-in-vain-hill. He gave the extra money he earned to the family of the sick man until he was able to return work.

Isaac Perrins of Birmingham stood 6' 2" (1.88 m) tall and weighed 238 pounds (108 kg). It was claimed that Perrins had lifted 896 pounds (406 kg) of iron with ease, and he was "universally allowed to possess much skill and excellent bottom". That is, it was acknowledged that he was skilful and courageous. The physical mismatch was later described as a fight between Hercules, in the form of Perrins, and a boy.

The fight took place at Banbury in Oxfordshire on October 22, 1789. The men fought (it is interesting to know when we think of the prizes of the present day) for 250 guineas. Two thirds of the spectator money went to the winner, one third to the loser. The men fought on a turfed stage raised five feet above the ground.

Johnson's method had always been to play a waiting game, to try to understand his opponent's temperament, to take no avoidable risks. He knew that he was a good stayer, so he was accustomed to use his feet and to keep out of distance until he had sized up his man. He would always make rather a long but certain job of a fight than a quick but hazardous one. Johnson's greatest trouble was his passionate temper, which was largely the cause of his downfall two years later in his fight with Big Ben Brain. Isaac Perrins, who had the name of a good natured giant, was the first to lead. He ..." made a blow," Pierce Egan tells us, "which, in all probability, had he not have missed his aim, must have decided the contest, and Johnson been killed, from its dreadful force." But Johnson dodged the blow and countered with a terrific right hander which knocked Perrins down.

At that time prize fighters stood square to each other with their hands level, ready to lead off with either. And in that position a man naturally fell over much easier than from the solid attitude of a few years later till the present time.The next three rounds were Johnson's, for Perrins was shaken by his first fall. Then Perrins gathered himself together, and by sheer weight forced himself, regardless of the blows that rained on him, through the smaller man's guard and knocked him down. And for several rounds in his turn Perrins was the better. He cut Johnson's lip very badly, so that he lost blood, and the betting for some time remained in his favour. Tom Johnson by this time had the measure of his man. The usual waiting game would not serve now. He must not only wait, but he must keep away, and in order to keep away, he must run away. This may not have been wholly admirable from a purely sporting point of view, but we must forgive Johnson a good deal on account of his inches.

"He had recourse," says Egan, to shifting" that is, he kept out of the way for as long as possible, and then, as by the rules of the Prize-Ring a round only ended when one of the men went down, probably closed and let Perrins throw him. But the spectators approved of this method no better than they would today, and there was a good deal of murmuring against Johnson. At last Perrins, unable to reach his nimble footed antagonist, began to mock at him.

"Why!" he exclaimed to the company at large,"what have you brought me here ? This is not the valiant Johnson, the Champion of England : you have imposed upon me with a mere boy! "

At this Johnson was stung to retort, for he was no coward and was but fighting in the only way which his size allowed. Moreover, Perrins's observation roused his dander, and he blurted out.

" By God, you shall know that Tom Johnson is here!" and immediately flew at his man in a passion of rage and planted a terrific blow over his left eye, so that it closed almost at once.

This incident nearly decides for us that Perrins was not much of a boxer. A wild charge of that sort, particularly by a much smaller man, is seldom difficult to frustrate. And the opinion of the crowd began to veer round. Those who had put their money on Perrins began to hedge. Undaunted by his closed eye, Perrins pulled himself together in the next round and returned as good as he had got, closing Johnson's right eye. And so for a while the fight remained level. Many rounds and very short ones. A half minute's rest between. Much hard punishment given and got, but a great deal of it not of a kind obvious to the inexpert spectator. Quite apart from short arm body blows which are sometimes apt to elude observation, there was wrestling for a fall with which far more rounds ended than with falls from a blow. The effort to throw is exhausting enough, but to be thrown and for a heavy man to fall on top of you is terribly wearing. And though the strength of these two men was prodigious, yet Johnson was the closer knit of the two, from a boxer's point of view the better made.

Now when they had fought forty rounds, Johnson was confident and happy, but he knew that he was pitted against a lionhearted man who was by no means yet worn out. Suddenly he got an opening for a clean straight blow with all his weight behind it. This was a right hander, which struck Perrins on the bridge of his nose and slit it down as though it had been cut with a knife.

The odds were now 100-10 on Johnson, but he had by no means won the fight. Perrins was boxing desperately, striving with his great superiority in reach to close Johnson's remaining eye. He knew very well that many a fight had been won like that, an otherwise unhurt man being forced to throw up the sponge because he was totally blinded by the swelling of his eyes. In the forty first round Johnson either slipped down or deliberately fell without a blow and Perrins and his backers claimed the victory.

If Johnson did actually play this very dirty trick to gain time and have a rest, he deserved to lose.

We don't know what actually happened. The records merely state that he fell without being hit. But the umpires allowed it because that contingency had not been covered in the articles of agreement made before the fight. Perrins now changed his method, attacking his man with chopping blows presumably on the back of the neck and head, and back handed blows which are seldom efficacious. These puzzled Johnson at first, and he took some of them without a return until he learned the knack and guarded himself. And Perrins's strength now began to go: while Johnson, who for a few rounds had seemed tired, began to improve again. But yet he never began the attack. He left that always to the giant. In fact, Johnson did everything to save himself and to make his man do most of the work. Then Perrins, who had lunged forward with a terrific blow, fell forward, partly from his own impetus, and partly from weakness. Johnson, who had stepped aside from the blow, watched him and as he fell hit him in the face with all his might, at the same time tumbling over him.

After that Perrins was done. Every round ended by his falling either from a blow or from sheer weakness. Johnson hit him as he pleased, with the consequence that Perrins's face was fearfully damaged, "with scarce the traces left of a human being." But he refused to give in, and round after round his seconds brought him to the scratch, when he swayed and staggered and struggled for breath and tried to fight on. His pluck in this battle was the inspiration of the Prize-Ring for ever afterwards. More than once Johnson, still strong, sent in tremendous blows which would utterly have finished lesser men, but Isaac Perrins held on until his friends and seconds gave in and refused to let the good fellow fight no more. The match had lasted for an hour and a quarter, during which sixty two rounds had been fought. In many ways it was an unsatisfactory fight, but for cunning (if rather low cunning) on one side and magnificent courage and determination on the other, it must be counted one of the greatest combats of the old days.


Additional Information/Condition

Thomas Johnson

Obverse: Bust to leff

Reverse: “Bella ! Horrida Bella ! ” in a circle with “Science and Intrepidity 1789”

Edge: Plain

The reverse phrase “Bella Horrida Bella” means Wars Horrible Wars



Isaac Perrins

Obverse: Bust to right

Reverse: “Bella ! Horrida Bella ! ” in a circle with “"Strength and magnanimity 1789”

Plain edge Diameter of 34mm.



Both Lovely Examples Of A Unique & Rare Pairing Over 200 Years Old

Price: £225

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Tom Johnson (born Tom Jackling; c. 1750 – 21 January 1797) was a bare knuckle fighter who was referred to as the Champion of England between 1784 and 1791. His involvement in pugilistic prizefighting is generally seen to have coincided with a renewed interest in the sport. Although a strong man, his success was largely attributed to his technical abilities and his calm, analytical approach to despatching his opponents. But Johnson was less prudent outside the ring; he was a gambler and considered by many of his acquaintances to be an easy mark. He is thought to have earned more money from the sport than any other fighter until nearly a century later, but much of it was squandered.

Johnson's first fight probably took place in June 1783 against Jack Jarvis, after he had unintentionally slighted the wagon driver and professional fighter. Jarvis challenged Johnson to fight him as a matter of honour, and was comprehensively beaten in the resulting match. Johnson's success encouraged him to take up the sport professionally. By June 1784 he had declared himself to be the champion, although whether of England or the World is uncertain.

In the later years of his fight career, and for some time after it ended, he acted as a second for other prominent fighters and ran a public house. His dissipation outside the ring appears to have resulted in his decision to leave England for Ireland, where he continued to tutor other boxers but eventually resorted to gambling to earn a living. He died a broken man, both physically and financially.

Johnson was inducted into the Pioneer category of the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1995.

Life Before Boxing
Tom Johnson was born in Derby, England in about 1750, although at least one early historian of boxing, Pierce Egan, states that Johnson was born in Yorkshire. His birth name was Thomas Jackling, but he used the name Tom Johnson throughout his fight career.

Johnson moved to London at a young age and spent the next twenty years or so working as a corn porter, loading and unloading sacks of corn from a wharf near to Old Swan Stairs, (Upper) Thames Street.

His selflessness and strength were exemplified during this period by the assistance that he gave to a fellow worker who had become ill. Johnson would carry two sacks of corn on each journey between the wharf and the grain warehouse, rather than the usual single sack, up an incline so steep that it was known as Labour-in-vain-hill. He gave the extra money he earned to the family of the sick man until he was able to return work.

Background to 18th Century Prizefighting
Prizefighting in early 18th century England took many forms rather than just pugilism, which was referred to by noted swordsman and then boxing champion James Figg as "the noble science of defence". But by the middle of the century the term was generally used to denote boxing fights only. The appeal of prizefighting at that time has been compared to that of duelling; historian Adrian Harvey says that:

Patriotic writers often extolled the manly sports of the British, claiming that they reflected a courageous, robust, individualism in which the nation could take pride. Pugilism was regarded as humane and fair and its practice was presented in chivalrous terms. It was also a symbol of national courage, embodying the worth which Englishmen placed upon their own individual honour. The French, it was argued, did not like pugilism because they were not a free people and relied on the authorities to resolve their disputes. By contrast, the British dealt with their own problems in a straightforward manner, according to established rules of fair play.

From a legal standpoint prizefights ran the risk of being classified as disorderly assemblies, but in practice the authorities were mainly concerned about the number of criminals congregating there. Historian Bohun Lynch has been quoted as saying that pickpocketing was rife, and that fights between the various supporters were common. However, the patronage of the aristocracy and the wealthy ensured that any legal scrutiny was generally benign, in particular because fights could take place on private estates. This patronage also explains why London was the centre for the sport; people of wealth tended to congregate in the city during the winter months and in the summer dispersed to their country estates. From 1786, just as Johnson was rising to prominence, there was increased support for the sport because of the interest shown in it by the Prince of Wales (later King George IV) and his brothers, the future King William IV and Duke of Kent. This renewed interest followed a period of malaise which had in large part been due to corruption in the form of "fixing" the fights.

Jack Broughton, a celebrated boxing champion (and another who was also a swordsman), had gone some way to defining the rules of prizefighting in 1743, based on earlier work by Figg, but by Johnson's time the rules were still interpreted very loosely. The style of fighting was also very different from modern boxing; the contestants stood facing each other squarely with their feet in line and their fists raised level in front of them, rather than the present day stance of generally having one foot slightly in front of the other and one fist leading. Brute strength was the primary factor for success and knock downs were frequent, a consequence of the instability inherent in the positioning of the fighters' feet. Rounds were not timed but instead lasted until a man was knocked down, with fighters permitted to wrestle each other to the ground. Moving around the ring, known as shifting, was deprecated and sometimes explicitly prohibited by the rules for a fight; going to ground without being hit could lead to claims that the man still standing had won. The fighters usually each provided an umpire of their choice, and there might also be a third, independent umpire present, to adjudicate between them.

Career As A Fighter
Early Period
Johnson probably began fighting in June 1783, at the age of thirty three, although Brailsford suggests it was 1781 or slightly earlier. Johnson had unintentionally slighted a carman (horse-drawn wagon driver) and fighter called Jack Jarvis, who then called for Johnson to fight him as a matter of honour. Johnson comprehensively battered the experienced Jarvis at Lock's Fields, and his name came to the attention of professional fighters. At that time Johnson had no intention of earning a living from the sport, but he became so goaded by a professional known as The Croydon Drover that a fight was arranged for March 1784, at Kennington Common. Johnson beat the Drover to a pulp in 27 minutes and decided to become a professional.

The success against the Drover was followed by a victory against the ageing professional Stephen "Death" Oliver in June. The fight, which took place at Blackheath in front of thousands of people, was over in a time stated as being either 18 or 35 minutes. Johnson subsequently declared himself to be the champion and challenged all comers. Most contemporary and near contemporary accounts, such as those of Egan, regard this title of champion to mean Champion of England but Barrett O'Hara, writing in 1909, listed Johnson as the fourteenth World Heavyweight Champion. At the time of Johnson's victory, the holder of title of champion was disputed. The previous holder, Duggan Fearns, had disappeared and Harry Sellers, the man Fearns had beaten to win the title in a fight that lasted 90 seconds and was alleged to have been fixed, had died.

Johnson did not fight again until he beat Bill Love, a butcher, at Barnet on 11 or 13 January 1786 in a contest that lasted five minutes and offered a prize of 50 guineas. He then beat Jack Towers the following month at the same place.

The final fight of Johnson's early period, during which the stake money was relatively low, was his comprehensive win over a ponderous fighter called Fry for a prize of 50 guineas at Kingston. The fight, which lasted less than 30 minutes, ended with Fry badly beaten up and Johnson with barely a scratch on him. This fight did not attract many supporters of the sport; it took place on 6 June 1786 and was therefore during the period when the wealthy were away from London.

Consolidation
Johnson had developed to be an exceptional fighter, and a rarity in his day because he used his brain as well as his strength. A barrel chested man, he weighed around 196 pounds (89 kg) and his height was variously stated in the range of 5' 8" (1.73 m) to 5' 10" (1.78 m). He was known for his coolness under pressure and he took time to analyse his opponent's strengths, weaknesses and technique. He did not retreat from the fight but avoided risk and was careful not to expose himself too much to attack, although his guard was described as "inelegant" by Egan. That writer also explained that he "worked round his antagonist in a way peculiar to himself, that so puzzled his adversary to find out his intent, that he was frequently thrown off his guard, by which manoeuvring Johnson often gained the most important advantages." All of this meant that his fights were not usually of short duration; he made certain of the outcome rather than risking anything.

Having exhausted challengers in London, he took on Bristolian professional Bill Warr for 200 guineas at Oakhampton, Berkshire on 18 January 1787, although the manner of his victory on this occasion was "scarcely worthy of being called a fight", according to The Sportsman's Magazine. Warr had to resort to shifting and falling to the ground in order to stay in the contest, and as both tactics were regarded as underhand he attracted the ire of the crowd. He survived for almost 90 minutes until a choice blow from Johnson caused Warr to run from the ring, despite the protestations of his second.

A hiatus in Johnson's boxing career followed, with no challengers coming forward until the Irish champion Michael Ryan took an interest. The fight at Wraysbury, then in Buckinghamshire, on either 18 or 19 December 1787 saw Richard Humphries ("The Gentleman Boxer") acting as Johnson's second and Daniel Mendoza as his bottle-holder. Ryan was the favourite to win before the fight, and he had Johnson reeling against the rails of the ring with a blow to the head after almost 20 minutes had elapsed. Johnsons' second stepped in to prevent a second strike and this enraged the crowd because they believed Ryan could continue hitting until Johnson fell to the ground. They encouraged Ryan to declare himself victor as a consequence of this foul but he refused, as he wanted to win by means other than a technicality. He allowed Johnson to recover and then, in the space of the next ten minutes, lost the bout.

Financial security
The nature of the fight with Ryan led to a much anticipated rematch at Cassiobury Park, Hertfordshire on 11 February 1789. At stake was prize money of 600 guineas, as well as Johnson's title of champion. Humphries again acted as Johnson's second and a man called Jackson was his bottle-holder. The fight consisted of one round of mutually displayed skill, during which Johnson was felled, and thereafter was brutal passion. Egan described it as

The set-to was one of the finest ever witnessed and much science was displayed; the parries and feints eliciting general admiration ... (The second round) was terrible beyond description – science seemed forgotten – and they appeared like two blacksmiths at an anvil, when Ryan received a knock down blow. The battle was well sustained on both sides for some time; but Ryan's passion getting the better of him, he began to lose ground. Ryan's head and eyes made a dreadful appearance and Johnson was severely punished.

It was over in 33 minutes, when Ryan gave up the fight. One spectator, a Mr Hollingsworth, who was a corn factor and had at one time employed Johnson, was so impressed and pleased with how much he had made from betting on Johnson that he settled a £20 per annum gift for life on the fighter.

A proposed bout later in the same year against Ben Bryan (sometimes known as Ben Brian, Ben Brain or Ben Bryant) came to nothing. Bryan had been a collier in Kingswood, Bristol before moving to London to fight. He was seen as a strong potential challenger, having already won two fights in the provinces and then won against John Boone (known as "The Fighting Grenadier"), a man called Corbally, and Tom Tring. The prize money was set at £1000, but Bryan became ill and had to withdraw, forfeiting his staked deposit of £100.

Later in 1789 fighters from the Birmingham area issued a series of challenges to opponents based around London, intended to demonstrate the level of organisation and confidence among the Birmingham boxers and their supporters. Three of the challenges were accepted, including that from Isaac Perrins to Tom Johnson. Perrins, who has been described as "the knock-kneed hammerman from Soho", had already issued a general challenge, offering to fight any man in England for a prize of 500 guineas, having beaten all challengers in the counties around Birmingham.

The Perrins–Johnson fight took place at Banbury on 22 October 1789, billed as a battle between Birmingham and London as well as for the English Championship. The venue had been intended to be Newmarket during a race meeting but permission could not be obtained. The two men were about the same age but physically very different. Perrins stood 6' 2" (1.88 m) tall and weighed 238 pounds (108 kg). It was claimed that he had lifted 896 pounds (406 kg) of iron with ease, and he was "universally allowed to possess much skill and excellent bottom". That is, it was acknowledged that he was skillful and courageous. The physical mismatch was later described as a fight between Hercules, in the form of Perrins, and a boy.

The first five minutes of competition saw neither man strike a blow and then when Perrins tried to make contact Johnson dodged and felled Perrins in return. Although Perrins recovered to hold the upper hand in the first few rounds, Johnson then began to dance around the ring, forcing Perrins to follow in order to make a fight of it. This was the first time in his career that Johnson had found it necessary to resort to this tactic of shifting. It confused Perrins because of it being contrary to the custom at the time, but the rules for this particular fight did not prevent it. Nor did they specify what should happen if a contestant fell to the ground, which is what Johnson did in order to avoid being hit, this action was thought by the spectators to be unsporting but was permitted by the two umpires. Before long both fighters showed signs of their opponent's attacks, with first Perrins and then Johnson suffering cut eyes and then further damage to their faces. By the fight's end Perrins' head "had scarcely the traces left of a human being", according to Egan in his history of boxing. The contest lasted 62 rounds, which took a total of 75 minutes to complete, until Perrins became totally exhausted. Tony Gee has said that Perrins had overwhelming physical advantages but, owing to his naïvety, no clause was inserted in the articles of agreement to prevent "shifting" ... Moreover, Perrins was inexperienced in the subterfuges of the sport and found himself outwitted by his artful adversary.

Perrins' supporters had gambled heavily on him because of his reputation and his advantage in size. In the event it was a major supporter of Johnson, a Thomas Bullock, who gained; he won £20,000 (equivalent to £220,000 as of 2010) from his bets in favour of Johnson and gifted the victor £1,000.

The event was recorded in The Gentleman's Magazine of that month:

... a great boxing match took place ... between two bruisers, Perrins and Johnson: for which a turf stage had been erected 5 foot 6 inches high, and about 40 feet square. The combatants set-to at one in the afternoon; and, after sixty two rounds of fair and hard fighting, victory was declared in favour of Johnson, exactly at fifteen minutes after two. The number of persons of family and fortune, who interested themselves in this brutal conquest, is astonishing: many of whom, it is proper to add, paid dearly for their diversion.

The contestants received 250 guineas each, with Johnson also receiving two thirds of the entrance takings (after costs) and Perrins receiving the other third. The net takings were £800, and the number of spectators was variously stated as being 3,000 or 5,000. Johnson called on Perrins and left him a guinea to buy himself a drink before leaving Banbury. The fight had proved to be "one of the hardest, cleanest and most brilliant encounters that ever took place". As O'Hara put it, "The stevedore at 33 has become at 39 the Croesus of the ring."

Copper medals were struck to commemorate each of the contestants. The obverse side of these contained a picture of the respective fighter; the reverse had the Latin inscription Bella! Horrida bella! (a quotation from Virgil which can be translated as "wars, horrible wars") and the words "Strength and magnanimity" in the case of Perrins, and "Science and intrepidity" for that of Johnson. Chaloner has speculated that these may have been produced by Perrins' employers, Boulton and Watt, and says that they bear similarities with the work of a French die maker called Ponthon who was supplying the firm with industrial items from at least 1791. The National Portrait Gallery holds two pictures of the Banbury fight, one an etching published by George Smeeton in 1812, and the other by Joseph Grozer in 1789.

Last Fight
Ben Bryan now challenged Johnson once more. He had recovered from his previous illness and won a fight at Banbury against Jacombs, another of the Birmingham challengers, on the day after Johnson's victory against Perrins. Subsequently, Bryan had drawn a 180 round contest with Bill Hooper, also known as "The Tinman", regarding which The Sportsman's Magazine claimed "A more ridiculous match never took place in the annals of pugilism."

The Duke of Hamilton supplied Bryan's stake to fight Johnson in a contest for a prize of 500 guineas held at Wrotham, Kent. Although it is thought that he held property worth £5,000 by the end of the 1780s, and had earned the equivalent of US$125,000 in 1789 alone (including money earned from betting on himself), Johnson had to rely on friends to provide his stake because he had spent all of his money. He was a gambling man and an "easy mark", attracting people who gladly took his money from him. Brailsford has commented that this dissipation in his personal life was at odds with his cautious, calculated approach when in the prize ring.

Johnson was a clear favourite to win the match, which took place on 17 January 1791 and attracted even more spectators than had been present for the Perrins fight. He had Joe Ward as his second and Mendoza as his bottle holder, with those roles for Bryan being filled by Warr and Humphries. The brutality of the initial fighting was shared by both men. Johnson's nerve failed him, as did his command of the techniques that had served him well. O'Hara describes that he fought "like a wild man" and, throwing caution to the wind, broke a metacarpal in his middle finger after the momentum created by throwing a wild punch caused him to crash into the ring rail and then to the floor. This was the turning point, and O'Hara describes the situation as, "Frightfully beaten, his fists useless, his eyes closed, bathed in blood, and without the chance even of turning the tide with a lucky punch, he refuses to surrender." He had to resort to shifting once more and eventually to wrestling with the hair of Bryan, which generated much disapprobation among the crowd. Eventually Bryan forced Johnson to the floor and beat him unconscious. Johnson had lost the fight, and his status as champion, in 21 minutes. Egan speculated that Johnson's change in style, evident from the outset of the fight might have been due to either genuine concern about Bryan's abilities or from his gambling problems; either way, "there was a miserable falling off in him altogether!"

Egan wrote that Johnson was the nearest any boxer had come to matching the skill of Jack Broughton. He was thought to have earned more money during his reign as champion than any other fighter until John L. Sullivan almost a century later. Jack Anderson, a modern historian of the sport, has summarised the early boxing writers as agreeing the period of Johnson's reign as champion "rescued the declining sport and heralded the beginning of a golden age".

Life After Boxing
Johnson acted as second to various fighters around the period of his rise and fall. He performed this duty for Tom Tyne ("The Tailor") at Croydon on 1 July 1788 and at Horton Moor on 24 March 1790, having previously done so for a fighter called Savage who had taken on Jack Doyle at Stepney Fields on 22 November 1787. He also acted twice for Humphries, in his fights against Mendoza at Odiham on 9 January 1788, when Mendoza sprained his ankle on the slippery surface, and at Stilton on 9 May 1789. There was much controversy at the latter, with O'Hara reporting that this caused Mendoza's second, a Captain Brown, to call Johnson a blackguard; Johnson responded by threatening "to punch Brown into Eternity." Johnson switched fighters and seconded Mendoza against Humphries at Doncaster on 29 September 1790, and again in a contest against Warr near Croydon in May 1792. Similarly, he acted as second for Hooper when he fought George Maddox at Sydenham Common on 10 February 1794 and for Tom "Paddington" Jones at Blackheath on 10 May 1794. Other occasions when he acted as second include for John Jackson (near to Croydon, 9 June 1788; and against Mendoza at Hornchurch on 15 April 1795), and Joe Ward (at Hyde Park, date unknown).

After his defeat by Bryan he bought and ran a public house, The Grapes, in Duke Street, Lincoln's Inn Fields, London. Retired prize fighters at that time often received the proceeds of a financial collection from their supporters to enable them to buy a licence to operate such premises: "today's fighter was merely tomorrow's publican in waiting". In a 1901 review of sporting prints titled The old and new pugilism, which lamented the passing of the style and the discipline of prizefighting, "the goal of the successful pugilist was a sporting public house ... they were generally in side or back streets, where the house did not command a transient trade. Most of these sporting "pubs" had a large room at the back or upstairs, which was open one night a week (preferably Saturday), for public sparring, which was always conducted by a pugilist of some note."

The Grapes soon became known as a haunt of gamblers and criminals, which probably lost Johnson his licence to operate the premises. Subsequently he sought wagers at horse race meetings and cockpits, refusing to pay if he lost and instead challenging the victor to a fight. Johnson moved to Copper Alley, Dublin, but had to leave after magistrates determined that his premises were "not proving so consonant to the principles of propriety, as was wished". He then went to Cork, where he tried to earn a living by teaching boxing. Finding that unrewarding he turned once again to gambling, and according to Dennis Brailsford "His deterioration was rapid. Both his health and his spirit were broken". He died in Cork on 21 January 1797, aged 47.

Johnson tutored George Ingleston (The Brewer) and was at least a supporter of Jones, on whom he once bet £100 to win a fight. He also taught a man called Simpson, who went on to fight Jones in 1804.

Johnson's brother, Bill Jackling, also did some boxing. He lost to Elias Spray some time prior to Spray's 1805 fight against Joseph Bourkes, a perennial challenger for the championship.












Isaac Perrins was an English bare knuckle prize fighter and 18th century engineer. A man reputed to possess prodigious strength but a mild manner, he fought and lost one of the most notorious boxing matches of the era, a physically mismatched contest against the English Champion Tom Johnson. Such was the mismatch that Perrins was described as Hercules fighting a boy.

During the period when he was prizefighting Perrins worked for Boulton and Watt, manufacturers of steam engines, based at their Soho Foundry, Birmingham, but also travelled around the country and at times acted as an informant on people who were thought to have breached his employer's patents. In the later years of his life he also ran a public house in Manchester and undertook engineering work on his own account. He was appointed to lead the Manchester fire brigade in 1799, and died a little over 12 months later in the performance of his duties.

Early Life
There is little information regarding Issac Perrins' early life, but he was probably born in about 1751. His father, also called Isaac, worked for Boulton and Watt erecting stationary steam engines in the West Midlands until his death in 1780. In that year Isaac junior was offered work in Cornwall by the business but turned it down. He subsequently accepted a Birmingham based job with the firm in 1782.

Prizefighting
Bareknuckle fighting was "particularly popular" in Birmingham during Perrins' lifetime. From a legal standpoint such fights ran the risk of being classified as disorderly assemblies but in practice the authorities were concerned mainly about the number of criminals congregating there. The patronage of the aristocracy including royal princes and dukes and other wealthy people ensured that any legal scrutiny was generally benign, in particular because fights could take place on private estates. There was increased support for the sport from around 1786 because of the interest shown in it by the Prince of Wales (later King George IV) and his brothers, the future King William IV and Duke of Kent.

Prizefighting in early 18th century England took many forms rather than just pugilism, which was referred to by noted swordsman and then boxing champion James Figg as "the noble science of defence". By the middle of the century the term was generally used to denote boxing fights only. The appeal of prizefighting at that time has been compared to that of duelling, with historian Adrian Harvey saying that Patriotic writers often extolled the manly sports of the British, claiming that they reflected a courageous, robust, individualism in which the nation could take pride. Pugilism was regarded as humane and fair and its practice was presented in chivalrous terms. It was also a symbol of national courage, embodying the worth which Englishmen placed upon their own individual honour. The French, it was argued, did not like pugilism because they were not a free people and relied on the authorities to resolve their disputes. By contrast, the British dealt with their own problems in a straightforward manner, according to established rules of fair play.

Showell's Dictionary of Birmingham reported that although pugilism was long practised in the area the first local records it could find were of a prizefight on 7 October 1782 at Coleshill between Isaac Perrins, "the knock-kneed hammerman from Soho", and a professional called Jemmy Sargent. The fighters received 100 guineas each. Perrins won in around six minutes, after knocking Sargent down thirteen times. Perrins' friends apparently won £1,500 with their betting. This record is an exception to the rule: the records of fights are not detailed for this period and particularly so in the case of those which did not involve men from London. Unless a death or some other remarkable incident occurred, the information is scarce.


Tom Johnson fighting Isaac Perrins at Banbury in 1789
London was the premier centre for boxing because the aristocratic supporters of the sport dispersed to their country estates during the summer months but tended to congregate in the city for the winter period. Birmingham was often portrayed as second only to London for the sport and in 1789 there were a series of challenges issued by fighters from the Birmingham area to opponents based around London. The challenges were intended to demonstrate the level of organisation and confidence among the Birmingham boxers and their supporters. Three of these challenges were accepted, including that from Perrins to Tom Johnson. Perrins had already issued a general challenge, offering to fight any man in England for a prize of 500 guineas, having beaten all challengers in the counties around Birmingham.

The Perrins – Johnson fight took place at Banbury on 22 October 1789 and was billed as a battle between Birmingham and London as well as for the English Championship. The venue had been intended to be Newmarket during a race meeting but permission could not be obtained. The two men were around the same age but physically very different. Perrins stood 6' 2" (1.88 m) tall and weighed 238 pounds (108 kg), while Johnson was 5' 10" (1.78 m) and weighed 196 pounds (89 kg). It was claimed that Perrins had lifted 896 pounds (406 kg) of iron with ease, and he was "universally allowed to possess much skill and excellent bottom". That is, it was acknowledged that he was skilful and courageous. The physical mismatch was later described as a fight between Hercules, in the form of Perrins, and a boy.

The first five minutes of competition saw neither man strike a blow and then when Perrins tried to make contact Johnson dodged and felled Perrins in return. Although Perrins recovered to hold the upper hand in the first few rounds, Johnson then began to dance around the ring, forcing Perrins to follow to make a fight of it. This "shifting" confused Perrins because the custom at the time was for the fighters to stand still and hit each other, but the rules for this particular fight did not prevent it. Nor did they specify what should happen if a contestant fell to the ground, which is what Johnson did to avoid being hit this action was thought by the spectators to be unsporting but was permitted by the two umpires. Before long both fighters showed signs of their opponent's attacks, with first Perrins and then Johnson suffering cut eyes and then further damage to their faces. By the fight's end Perrins' head "had scarcely the traces left of a human being", according to Pierce Egan in his history of boxing. The contest lasted 62 rounds, which took a total of 75 minutes to complete, until Perrins became totally exhausted. Tony Gee has said that

Perrins had overwhelming physical advantages but, owing to his naïvety, no clause was inserted in the articles of agreement to prevent "shifting" ... Moreover, Perrins was inexperienced in the subterfuges of the sport and found himself outwitted by his artful adversary.

A celebrated champion, Jack Broughton, and his supporters had gone some way to codifying some rules in 1743, based on work by an earlier champion called James Figg, but by Johnson's time they were still very loose in interpretation and implementation.

Perrins' supporters had gambled heavily on him because of his reputation and his advantage in size. In the event it was a major supporter of Johnson, a Thomas Bullock, who gained; he won £20,000 (equivalent to £220,000 in 2010)[17] from his bets in favour of Johnson and gifted the victor £1,000.

The event was recorded in The Gentleman's Magazine of that month

... a great boxing match took place ... between two bruisers, Perrins and Johnson: for which a turf stage had been erected 5 foot 6 inches high, and about 40 feet square. The combatants set to at one in the afternoon; and, after sixty two rounds of fair and hard fighting, victory was declared in favour of Johnson, exactly at fifteen minutes after two. The number of persons of family and fortune, who interested themselves in this brutal conquest, is astonishing: many of whom, it is proper to add, paid dearly for their diversion.

The contestants received 250 guineas each, with Johnson also receiving two thirds of the entrance takings (after costs) and Perrins receiving the other third. The net takings were £800, with the number of spectators variously stated as being 3,000 or 5,000. Johnson called on Perrins and left him a guinea to buy himself a drink before leaving Banbury. The fight had proved to be "one of the hardest, cleanest and most brilliant encounters that ever took place".

Copper medals were struck to commemorate each of the contestants. The obverse side of these contained a picture of the respective fighter; the reverse had the Latin inscription Bella! Horrida bella! (a quotation from Virgil which can be translated as wars, horrible wars) and the words Strength and magnanimity in the case of Perrins, and Science and intrepidity for that of Johnson. Chaloner has speculated that these may have been produced by his employers and says that they bear similarities with the work of a French die maker called Ponthon who was supplying the firm with industrial items from at least 1791. The National Portrait Gallery holds two pictures of the Banbury fight, one being an etching published by George Smeeton in 1812, and the other by Joseph Grozer in 1789.

It is possible that his last fight was an 85 minute contest at Shrewsbury in July 1790. This was widely reported in the London press and that of provincial cities but was subsequently denied by newspapers more local to the event. There were unsuccessful attempts after that date to match him against Ben Bryan (sometimes known as Ben Brian, Ben Brain or Ben Bryant), who had by that time defeated Johnson. Indeed, these attempts, conducted by Daniel Mendoza, did not help the cause of his employment with Boulton and Watt as the firm thought that they were a distraction and expressed concern regarding his commitment to his work.

Despite the brutal nature of prizefighting, it was the opinion of boxing historian Henry Downes Miles, in his book Pugilistica, that Perrins was of a "lamb-like disposition" and an intelligent, modest, discerning, and well-liked man. He was also jolly, full of anecdotes, and ever ready to sing a tune, all of which stood him in good stead when he became a publican. Nonetheless, he was "an erratic histrionic genius, whose reckless riot ruined and extinguished his higher gifts".

Work
Employed as a foreman by Boulton and Watt in Birmingham, Perrins was sent around the country by the firm. In 1787 he visited Scotland, from where he reported on an invention by the Symingtons which might possibly have infringed a patent held by his employers, although Watt was disparaging of the device and its creator. He installed the first Boulton and Watt stationary steam engine in Manchester, at Drinkwater's Mill in 1789. He was there again by June 1791, when he spotted a copy of a Boulton and Watt product in Deansgate, one of many examples which infringed the firm's patents. An engine had been built by Joshua Wrigley and used a "smokeless fire-place" similar to one patented by Boulton and Watt, although in this instance the matter was not pursued any further by them.

His position in the firm was sufficiently elevated that he received business correspondence at the factory; for example, a letter to Perrins survives from October 1791, when a John Stratford sought his advice. Perrins was educated and literate by the standards of his time, although economic historian Eric Robinson has said that all engine erectors needed to be literate to understand fitting instructions sent to their work site by their employers.

Perrins eventually moved to Manchester permanently in 1793, to run a public house. This was not an unusual thing for retired prize fighters then: they often received the proceeds of a financial collection by their supporters to enable them to buy a licence to operate such premises and "today's fighter was merely tomorrow's publican in waiting". In a 1901 review of sporting prints titled The old and new pugilism, which lamented the passing of the style and the discipline of prize-fighting, "the goal of the successful pugilist was a sporting public house ... they were generally in side or back streets, where the house did not command a transient trade. Most of these sporting "pubs" had a large room at the back or upstairs, which was open one night a week (preferably Saturday), for public sparring, which was always conducted by a pugilist of some note."

As well as running his public house, Perrins continued to do work for Boulton and Watt, and was an accredited engine erector for them. In 1794 he was dismissed from employment by them due to his drunkenness. He had also been arguing with another of the firm's engineers, James Lawson, had upset customers with his manner and was accused of failing to maintain the engines in the Manchester area to a satisfactory standard. He tried to rebuff the last charge in particular, on the grounds that the firm did not pay him a retainer for the maintenance work

If you had allowed me a competency to have kept them clean, I should not be afraid of durtying my hands with doing it as some of your servants are that you send here with ruffles at hands and powdered heads, more like some Lord than an engineer. It cannot be thought that I can lose my time and neglect my own business without some consideration for it

Even after this setback he still did some work for the firm. He tracked down and informed the firm of patent infringing copies of their engines in Leeds between 1795–1796 and probably also did the same thing subsequently in Lancashire.

Scholes's Manchester and Salford Directory for 1797 shows Perrins as a "victualler and engineer", living at the Fire Engine public house, 24 Leigh Street. (The street is listed as being off George Street, which was in turn off Great Ancoats Street. It is now called George Leigh Street.) His entry in the directory is an early use of the term "engineer" found in Mancunian documents, the job description at that time being a relatively new one. It has been stated that at the time of his death he was running another public house, the Neptune, but historian W. H. Chaloner believes the source of the statement to be unreliable.

In 1800 he was still doing engineering work for his former employers, who were beset with manufacturing problems and a shortage of engine-erectors. He was also running his own business engaged in general millwrighting and was still called upon by various Manchester engine owners who preferred to use his services for their machine erection and maintenance needs than those of Boulton and Watt. He had moved to New Street, Hanover Street and in December 1799 was appointed to the position of conductor of firemen and inspector of engines by the Manchester police commissioners, positions which effectively put him in charge of the fire brigade. One source – the one considered unreliable by Chaloner – has stated that he had held the position for 20 years prior to his death.

Death
Perrins' death at the age of 50 was announced on 10 December 1800 in the Annual Register, which noted him as being an "engine-worker". The Register said that

This pugilistic hero will ever be remembered for the well-contested battle he fought with the celebrated Johnson ... Perrins possessed most astonishing muscular power, which rendered him well calculated for a bruiser, to which was united a disposition the most placid and amiable. His death was occasioned by too violently exerting himself in assisting to save life and property at a fire in Manchester.

However, this announcement of his demise was premature as in fact he died on 6 January 1801 after contracting a fever because of his exertions during the rescue, which had occurred during a huge fire that burned all through the night of 10 December. The fire may be that described in The Annals of Manchester: "warehouses in Hodson Square were burnt down December 10, caused damages to the extent of £50,000, exclusive of the buildings". On 29 December 1800 he had been awarded £20 per annum by the commissioners for "meritorious services".

A memorial to Perrins and his wife, Mary (who had predeceased him by a few months), was placed at St John's Church, Byrom Street, Manchester.