Waterloo's prizefight factor

Historian article

By David Snowdon, published 7th July 2015

The impact of pugilism on the army

Image: 'Pierce Egan celebrates the Boxiana touch as Napoleon is floored'

David Snowdon examines the impact of the world of ‘pugilism' on the army during the Napoleonic Wars and looks at some famous boxers who perished in the battle.

By 1815, one writer, and one sporting publication, had become synonymous with the early nineteenth-century prizefight scene: Pierce Egan (c. 1772-1849), and the Boxiana series (1812-29). Boxiana boasted a wealth of candidates to boost the serried ranks of pugilistic avengers celebrated by the sporting set (known as ‘the Fancy') in their song ‘A Boxing We Will Go', as they relished the prospect of ‘punishing' Napoleon:

‘We've many more would like to floor, / The little upstart King; / And soon for mercy make him roar, / Within a pacious ring' (Boxiana I, p. 481)...

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