Broughton, John (1705-1789) (DNB00)

BROUGHTON, JOHN (1705–1789), pugilist, was born in 1705, but there is no record of his birthplace, although it may be assumed to have been London. As a boy he was apprenticed to a Thames waterman, and, when at work on his own account, he generally plied at Hungerford Stairs.

He is usually considered as the father of British pugilism, combats, previous to his appearance, having been chiefly decided either by backsword or quarterstaff on a raised stage. Accident settled his future career. Having had a difference with a brother waterman, they fought it out; and he showed so much aptitude for the profession which he afterwards adopted, that he gave up his boat and turned public bruiser, for which his height (5 ft. 11 in.) and weight (about 14 stone) peculiarly fitted him.

He attached himself to George Taylor's booth in Tottenham Court Road, and remained there till 1742, patronised by the élite of society, and even royalty itself in the person of the Duke of Cumberland, who procured him a place, which he held until his death, among the yeomen of the guard. But the duke ultimately deserted him. Broughton fought Slack on 11 April 1750, and the duke backed his protégè the champion, it is said, for 10,000l. Broughton lost the fight, having been blinded by his adversary, and the duke never forgave him for being the cause of his loss of money. After this battle Broughton's career as a pugilist was ended. In 1742 he quarrelled with Taylor, and built a theatre for boxing, &c., for himself in Hanway Street, Oxford Street. There he performed until his retirement, when he went to live at Walcot Place, Lambeth. He resided there until his death, on 8 Jan. 1789. He amassed considerable property, some 7,000l., and dying intestate, it went to his niece. He was buried on 21 Jan. 1789 in Lambeth Church, his pall-bearers being, by his own request, Humphries, Mendoza, Big Ben, Ward, Ryan, and Johnston, all noted pugilists. His epitaph was as follows:

Hic jacet
Iohannes Broughton,
Pugil ævi sui præstantissimus.
Die Octavo Ianuarii,
Anno Salutis 1789,
Ætatis suæ 85.

[Capt. Godfrey's Treatise upon the Useful Science of Self-Defence, 1747; Pugilistica; Boxiana; Fistiana; Morning Post, January 1789.]

J. A.