“THE EVENT EXCITED THE KEENEST INTEREST IN BOTH HEMISPHERES”: TOM SAYERS VS. JOHN HEENAN, APRIL 17, 1860, ORIGINAL LITHOGRAPH DEPICTING ONE OF THE MOST FAMOUS BOXING MATCHES IN THE HISTORY OF THE SPORT
(BOXING). Original Boxing Lithograph. London: George Newbold, 1860. Print measures 41 by 29 inches. Handsomely framed, entire piece measures 45 by 33 inches. $3500.
Original lithograph printed in color depicting the World Championship boxing match between Tom Sayers and John Heenan held at Farnborough on April 17, 1860, one of the most exciting and famed events in the history of pugilism.
Although British champion Tom Sayers was slightly below the average height and weight specifications for boxers of his day, “so great were his strength and courage that he became the most distinguished fighter of his day, and the unconquered champion of England” (DNB). Some forty pounds heavier, John Heenan, commonly known as “Benicia Boy,” was the reigning American champion. The two met in Farnborough, England on April 17, 1860 for the highly anticipated international championship match: “The event excited the keenest interest in both hemispheres, and was witnessed by persons in every rank of society” (DNB). The two contestants fought thirty-seven rounds in two hours and six minutes. Round after round, both boxers struggled to achieve dominance in the ring, until finally, Heenan, recognizing that he could not gain an advantage through blows alone, backed Sayers into “such a position on the ropes that strangulation was imminent” (DNB). Enraged that their national champion was about to be strangled, the crowd burst through the ring and ended the match. The referee declared a draw and both Sayers and Heenan were awarded championship belts. Sayers is depicted on the left; Heenan is on the left. This lithograph was designed from 250 portrait photographs taken specifically for this work and drawn by W. L. Walton.
One five-inch tear (repaired on verso). Otherwise a bright, beautiful original lithograph, commemorating one of the most important contests in boxing history.