Charley Mitchell's 1888 boxing belt for sale at Heritage Auctions

E.Baines

E.Baines

2015-07-21 09:53:56

A 19th century World Championship boxing belt could bring more than $30,000 when it crosses the block at Heritage later this month.

The belt dates back to 1888 and a notorious bout between John L. Sullivan, an Irish-American fighter known as the 'Boston Strong Boy' and English title contender Charley Mitchell.

The pair had first fought in New York in 1883, in a bare-knuckle bout using London Prize Ring Rules. The rematch took place 1888, held at the Baron Rothschild's chateau at Chantilly, France.

In front of a baying crown, the two men fought for more than three hours, spanning 39 rounds in the pouring rain. By the end of the brutal bout both men were almost unrecognizable and had lost a lot of blood. The illegal fight was finally stopped by a squad of armed French police, who arrested the fighters and hauled them off to jail. They later skipped bail and fled back across the English Channel, with the fight officially called a draw.

Sullivan then claimed Mitchell had used evasive tactics throughout the fight, stating "when the fight was over, a track like a sheep run was to be noticed all around the ring". However, English fans saw the draw as a victory for Mitchell, the much smaller fighter who had held his own against the reigning world champion.

They presented Mitchell with this belt, at an amazing cost of £10,000, which bears the engraving: "Presented to Charles Mitchell to Commemorate His Gallant Fight with John L. Sullivan for the Championship of the World on March 10th 1888 near Paris Resulting in a Draw, 39 Rounds being Fought, in 3 Hours 11 Minutes."

“Few early boxing relics survive from this era and Mitchell’s belt is one of the most coveted,” said Chris Ivy, Director of Sports Auctions at Heritage Auctions. “Mitchell’s countrymen gifted this rather elaborate belt to him on his valor and effort in the ring. The belt is both a piece of sporting history as well as English history.”

The belt last surfaced in 1979, sold to a group of investors amongst a collection of historic boxing memorabilia. Described as "one of the most spectacular relics of 19th century pugilism ever to surface in the collecting hobby", the belt will cross the block as Heritage Auctions Platinum Night Sports sale in Texas on July 30.

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