All students of boxing history owe a debt of gratitude to Pierce Egan, the first boxing historian. He was the most popular and successful of English sports journalists, and the public eagerly sought out his vivid descriptions of bare knuckle bouts in the London Weekly Dispatch.
Egan was born in England, probably in 1772. He began publishing his magnum opus, Boxiana, in 1812. A history of boxing containing biographical sketches of fighters, round-by-round descriptions of fights, and other information about the sport and its participants, the work was issued in monthly paperbound sections and sold by subscription. By 1813, enough material had been issued to create the first book-length volume, and, by 1829, Egan published Boxiana as a five-volume set with an additional volume contributed by Jon Bee (John Babcock). Egan's work is often cited by writers discussing the early days of fisticuffs.
Egan also wrote plays, songs, novels, epigrams, and a dictionary of slang; he also appeared on stage as an actor. His knowledge of London's seamier elements lent richness to his reports of criminal trials. His 1821 bestseller, Life in London, is said to have inspired and influenced Charles Dickens. Egan died in 1849.
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Excerpted with permission from 'The Boxing Register' by James B. Roberts and Alexander G. Skutt, copyright © 1999 by McBooks Press. All rights reserved.