HC Deb 01 November 1911 vol 30 cc871-2

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is aware that the action which his predecessor felt compelled to take in connection with the abandoned boxing contest between Jack Johnson and Bombardier Wells has had the effect of causing ground landlords and lessees of many halls in London to refuse to allow legitimate boxing matches to be decided at their premises; and whether he can see his way to make a statement which will allay the unrest, and do away with the uncertainty which prevails not only amongst ground landlords and lessees of the halls but also amongst boxers and boxing promoters?


I have not heard anything of the alleged effect of my predecessor's action on ground landlords and lessees. The decision of the High Court in the proceedings by the District Railway against Earl's Court, Limited, had a much more direct bearing on their position than anything done by my right hon. Friend. The law on the subject of boxing contests is well established. My predecessor was advised by the Law Officers that, if the object and intent of the combatants is to subdue each other by violent blows until one can endure it no longer, the contest is illegal; and that, on the other hand, a sparring match in which the object is to win by skill and not by the severity of the injuries inflicted is lawful. The difficulty is not in the law, but in ascertaining whether any contest will or will not be kept within the law—a question which depends not merely on the rules which are to apply but on the way in which the fight is actually conducted. A boxing match which, so far as the rules are concerned, would be legal, may in fact degenerate into a prize fight; and no doubt, having regard to the decision of the High Court, ground landlords and lessees are well advised in taking steps for their own protection.


Does the right hon. Gentleman think that if there was any possible chance of Wells beating Johnson there would have been any talk about the matter?