Bombardier Billy Wells vs "Iron" William Ian Hague heavyweight championship of England and Lord Lonsdale's gold challenge belt and purse worth £700 early 20th Century commemorative souvenir silk.
Early 20th century silk commemorative, printed with the Flowers of the Union and inscribed Bombadier Billy Wells, of Southend Defeated Ian Hague of Mexborough on 24th April 1911 for the Heavy Weight Championship of England, and Lord Lonsdale's Gold Challenge Belt, and Purse Value £700. Measrues 36" x 33".
Bombardier Billy Wells vs "Iron" William Ian Hague
National Sporting Club, Covent Garden.
National Sporting Club (1891-1929) British Heavy Title
This fight was for the first heavyweight Lonsdale belt
Bombadier Billy Wells won by a knockout in the sixth round. This was in April 1911. That same year in the October, he was matched to fight the current World heavyweight champion, Jack Johnson. But the fight was cancelled by Home Secretary, Winston Churchill due to protests by opponents of contests between races and religious opponents of excessive prize money, led by Baptist minister Frederick Brotherton Meyer.
A ’colour bar’ remained in British boxing until 1947. It was
for the fight against “Iron Man” Hague that Wells was the
first heavyweight boxer to be awarded The Lonsdale Belt,
which had been introduced for British champions at all
weights in 1909.
Condition very good (slight threadbare in a few areas due to age, minor staining & fold creases. However, colours vibrant with little or no fading)
Bombardier Billy Wells
William Thomas Wells, better known as Bombardier Billy Wells (31 August 1889 – 12 June 1967), was an English heavyweight. Fighting under the name "Bombardier Billy Wells", he was British and British Empire Champion from 1911 until 1919, defending his title fourteen times. In 1911 he became the first Heavyweight to win the Lonsdale Belt, which had been introduced for British champions at all weights in 1909.
Wells, who was 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m) and was between 182 and 192 lb (83 and 87 kg), fought with an orthodox style.
Wells was born at 250 Cable Street, Stepney, in the East End of London. He was the eldest of five brothers and was one of nine children. His parents were William Thomas Wells, a musician, and Emily Rhoda Farrier, a laundress. He attended Broad Street elementary school, Queensbury until about the age of twelve, then becoming a messenger boy. He began to box as an amateur during this period.
In 1906, Wells joined the Royal Artillery as a gunner. He was posted to Rawalpindi where he boxed in divisional and all-India championships, with great success. He was promoted to a bombardier, and began training full-time with the help of a civilian coach. It became apparent that Wells was good enough to make a living from boxing, so in 1910, he bought himself out of the army and returned to Britain. This was at a time when boxing was becoming very popular as a spectator sport, in Britain and elsewhere.
Wells had his first professional fight on 8 June 1910, against Gunner Joe Mills, winning on points over six rounds. In his first eight fights he recorded seven wins and one defeat. In his next fight he fought for the British Heavyweight Title, at the National Sporting Club, Covent Garden, London. The fight was in April 1911 against Iron (William) Hague, the holder, and Wells won by a knockout in the sixth round of twenty.
Wells was matched to fight the current World heavyweight champion, Jack Johnson, in London in October 1911, but religious opponents of excessive prize money, led by Baptist minister Frederick Brotherton Meyer, and opponents of contests between the races, caused the fight to be cancelled by Winston Churchill, who was then Home Secretary. A 'colour bar' remained in British boxing until 1947.
In December 1911, Wells fought Fred Storbeck at Covent Garden for the British Empire Heavyweight Title, scoring a knockout in the eleventh round to gain his second title in one year.
In June 1913, Wells fought the extremely talented Frenchman Georges Carpentier for the European Heavyweight Title. The bout was held in Ghent, Belgium, and Wells lost by a knockout in the fourth round.
Wells defended his British heavyweight title three times in 1913, and then in December of the same year, he had a rematch with Carpentier for his European title. The bout was held at Covent garden, but again Carpentier won, this time by a knockout in the first round.
Wells continued to box and successfully defend his British heavyweight title, even after the start of World War I. In May 1915, Wells joined up for military service (in the Welsh Regiment) and was later made a sergeant. He continued to box until the end of 1916, and in 1917 was sent to France to organize physical training amongst the troops.
After the end of the war, Wells resumed his boxing career. His fourteenth defence of his British heavyweight title, and of his British Empire title was against Joe Beckett, a boxer whom he had beaten on points two months previously. The bout was held in February 1919, in Holborn, London, and Beckett won by a knockout in the fifth round to take Wells’ titles.
Wells then had five more bouts, winning them all, before having a rematch against Beckett in May 1920. The bout was held at Olympia, Kensington, but again Wells was knocked out, this time in the third round.
Wells continued to fight, having eight (?) more bouts, winning five and losing six. His last fight was in April 1925.
In 1911, he published a book, Modern Boxing: a Practical Guide to Present Day Methods.
On 7 September 1912, Wells married Ellen Kilroy, the daughter of a publican. They had five children before eventually parting.
In 1923, he published the book, Physical energy: Showing how physical and mental energy may be developed by means of the practice of boxing, Publisher: T.W. Laurie.
The Lonsdale Belt that Wells won was the original heavyweight belt and was crafted from 22 carat gold unlike later belts. The belt was kept at the Royal Artillery Barracks in Woolwich, South East London, but is now at Larkhill, Salisbury following the move of the home of the Royal Artillery and is still not on display to the general public.
Wells was also famous for being the third person to fill the role of the "gongman" - the figure seen striking the gong in the introduction to J. Arthur Rank films.
He lived in Ealing, London and died there on 11 June 1967, aged 77. His ashes were laid to rest in the crypt of St. Mary's parish church in Hanwell, west London.
James William "Iron" Hague (6 November 1885 – 18 August 1951) was a born in Mexborough, South Yorkshire. He was the British heavyweight champion between 1909 and 1911. He fought for the Yorkshire heavyweight title against Dick Parkes at Doncaster on 8 April 1905, winning in the fifth round. He then went on to beat a steady stream of English heavyweights, many by knockouts. He was invited to enter the Heavyweight Novice competition held at the National Sporting Club, London in January 1908. This was a series of fights of three rounds only. He won this with a series of knockouts. After a few more wins he was invited to fight Gunner Jim Moir for the English Heavyweight title on 19 April 1909. He won this in the first round with a knockout, creating a new boxing record for the fastest victory of a title. His homecoming was a splendid affair with thousands lining the streets of his home town. He defended the title once against Bill Chase, knocking him out in the sixth round, but lost it on 24 April 1911 to the up and coming Bombardier Billy Wells. This fight was for the first Lonsdale Belt.
Shortly after winning the title, "Iron" Hague agreed to fight Sam Langford, the coloured boxer from Canada. Langford is rated as being in the top 10 fighters of all time. Hague, controversially at the time, did not believe in a 'Colour Bar' for boxing. He was quoted as saying that "unless all men are allowed to freely compete, how can you ever find the true champion?". Langford knocked Hague out in the fourth round. Langford said in later years that in all his time in boxing no one hit him as hard as the punch he took from "Iron" Hague. This huge left from Hague knocked Langford down and he only just managed to rally. Hague had broken his hand with the punch, which marred his performance thereafter. After retiring from boxing, Hague took the King's shilling in the First World War and joined the Grenadier Guards. On discovering his former boxing glory they had him box once more on behalf of the regiment. He saw military action in several battles such as the Somme and Passchendaele. "Iron" Hague died in his daughter's arms in Mexborough aged 65 on 18 August 1951. He is buried in Mexborough Cemetery.