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The New Haven Register sports department is celebrating our 200th birthday by sharing 200 of the most interesting stories relating to sports in Greater New Haven over the past 200 years. Check back daily for historical updates.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

19th century boxing in New Haven

One of the earliest forms of sport in New Haven was boxing, despite the fact that it was illegal for most of the 19th century.

Prize fighting, as it was more commonly known, was a brutal form of entertainment. Fights were fought with bare knuckles, continued until someone scored a knockout and sometimes resulted in death.

Adding to boxing’s poor reputation were the associations with gambling, drinking and shady back-alley deals. Riots were a common occurrence.

Still, if you were interested in attending a prize fight in New Haven in the 1800s, they weren’t hard to find. Bouts were held in private rooms, on steamboats, the backwoods or other clandestine locations to avoid police. This kept the sport from becoming mainstream, yet it still attracted scores of followers.

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