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National Museum of Australia

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Bare knuckle boxing trophy presented to Australian boxer William Sparkes in England in 1847


On display

Bare knuckle boxing trophy presented to Australian boxer William Sparkes in England in 1847

Object information

Physical description

A sterling silver bare knuckle boxing trophy in the form of a goblet, which has a relatively large cup atop a short thick stem on a small flat circular base. "Presented to W. Sparks / by the Gentlemen of Richmond / for his manly conduct / in the late fight / with Langham, / May 17th 1847" is engraved in the side within a raised foliate cartouche. The remaining areas on the side of the cup are decorated with floral chasing.

Statement of significance

The North Austral collection includes the Sparkes Cup, a mid-nineteenth century engraved silver goblet awarded to Australian bare-knuckle fighter, William Sparkes. Sparkes was given the cup in recognition of his valour and good sportsmanship on the occasion of his defeat by Nat Langham at Richmond, United Kingdom in 1847. The cup is 13.1 cm high and quite deeply tarnished, although the inscription on the cartouche is still readable.

The North Austral Collection is a significant in that it highlights the way in which bare knuckle boxing contributed to the development of Australia's sporting culture and illustrates the close association that boxing has with gambling and the significant amounts of money to be made in the ring, even during periods of national economic hardship. It also attests to the burgeoning competitive sporting relationship between England and Australia. Sparkes was one of the first Australian sportsmen to pursue a career overseas and can be seen as a significant figure in the history of the development of Australian boxing from an underground bare knuckle league to the multimillion dollar enterprise that it is today.

Physical description

On display at the National Museum of Australia.

Object information


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