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Conan Doyle, boxing and a case of very bad timing

Arthur Conan Doyle was a fan of boxing. It was arguably his favourite sport and his love of it was well known.  If anyone had been in doubt as to his interest those doubts would have been quelled with the publication of his book Rodney Stone in 1896. This book revolved around the bare-knuckle boxing that took place during the British regency period.


In 1910 the American boxing promoter Tex Rickard was looking for a referee for the comeback fight between former American champion James Jeffries and current champion Jack Johnson. It is alleged that the two fighters struggled to agree on a referee for the match that both would consider sufficiently impartial. Apparently one name they could agree on was that of Arthur Conan Doyle and Rickard duly approached  Conan Doyle knowing that his fame would add to the publicity.
Boxing promoter Tex Rickard

While I have no doubt that Conan Doyle would have proved an excellent referee (and better than Rickard himself who ultimately refereed with no previous experience) Rickard could not have picked a worse time to approach him.


At the end of the previous year Conan Doyle had produced a play called The House of Temperley based on his boxing book Rodney Stone. By early 1910 it was clearly a flop and Conan Doyle was forced to quickly convert his Sherlock Holmes story The Speckled Band into a play to replace it and save himself from severe financial loss. Not only was he very busy but I suspect that he was not feeling too pro-boxing at that moment.

Bad timing indeed.....


The fight which Jeffries lost in 1910


Written by Alistair Duncan
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2 comments:

  1. Didn't ACD have a boxing ring in his home?

    ronald_kritter

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  2. I've not read that anywhere and I don't think any of his houses was quite big enough to accommodate one.

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