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Boxers of Yesteryear: Female Pugilists 1872

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Illustrated Police News 13 April 1872

Boxers of Yesteryear

Our American Cousins are rather ingenious in inventing new sensations. The last novelty is a match made between two female competitors for fistic honours in the prize ring. The ladies are at present undergoing a rigid course of training.

In the morning at six o’ clock they get up and drink a cup of tea, and eat a piece of brown bread; then get on their bloomer costumes, heavy-soled shoes, and dog-trot with their trainer for five miles. They then bathe, and are rubbed down in the most approved style, and permitted to rest in bed one hour.

At nine o’ clock they breakfast, usually on mutton chops, brown bread, baked potatoes and coffee. No butter is allowed them. At eleven they drink a glass of porter, and then go sparring or striking the sand-bags. This exercise lasts about thirty minutes, when the trainer steps up and they have two hours of boxing. Then a bath and the usual rubbing down, and then their dinner, which is pretty well the same as breakfast, a beefsteak or mutton chop, potatoes, or coffee.

Then a rest of thirty minutes and then a walk or dog-trot with their trainer of a mile and repeat. Then a half-hour’s exercise with the sand-bags – that is, striking from the shoulder a bag of sand suspended about the height of their breasts, and weighing 175 pounds. This, we believe, is done to harden their fists, or “flukes” as the trainer calls them. After this exercise a cup of tea without the lacteal fluid or saccharine matter, and a piece of dry toast is given them for supper.

The evening, until about 8.30, when they retire punctually to rest, is spent talking over the approaching fight, making small bets on who gets the first blood and the feminine who goes first to grass.

Illustrated Police News 13 April 1872


The Illustrated Police News was a weekly illustrated newspaper which was one of the earliest British tabloids. It featured sensational and melodramatic reports and illustrations of murders and hangings and was a direct descendant of the execution broadsheets of the 18th century.

First published in 1864, and founded by George Purkess, who was a London publisher who already specialised in the publication of cheap "true stories" of crime, accidents and domestic disaster. 

The Illustrated Police News ended publication in 1938. It was inspired by The Illustrated London News which had been launched in 1842 and revealed that newspapers with illustrations could achieve very high sales.

Its standards of illustration and tone were reminiscent of the old Newgate Calendar and the popular "Penny dreadfuls", and it gained a reputation for sensationalism during the Jack the Ripper murders of 1888.

 By 1897, the topics covered also diversified. Previously news unrelated to disaster had filled no more than a single column, but new popular items were now published. These included sporting news, with as much as a whole page devoted to boxing in almost every issue.

Around the turn of the 20th century The Illustrated Police News ran numerous articles dealing with the "alien immigration question" that promoted xenophobic attitudes and paranoia amongs its mostly working-class readership.