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Pug in the poets' corner
Mitchell Rawson
July 10, 1961
Bob Gregson was a boxing bard who hit below the beat and bit and gouged in the clichés
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July 10, 1961

Pug In The Poets' Corner

Bob Gregson was a boxing bard who hit below the beat and bit and gouged in the clichés

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Prizefighters are a versatile lot who are likely to turn their hands to many things besides punching. Mickey Walker is a painter whose work has its admirers. Gene Tunney once lectured at Yale on Shakespeare. Hundreds of boxers have been actors on the stage and screen. Further back in history at least two fighters were prominent in politics. John Morrissey went to the U.S. Congress (1870) and John Gully to the British Parliament (1832).

And once there was a pugilist who was a poet.

He was not much of a poet but he was greatly cherished by Thomas Moore. His name was Bob Gregson, and Moore wrote of him:

For a short turn-up at a sonnet,
A round of odes, or pastoral bout,
All Lombard Street to nine-pence on it,
Bobby's the boy would clean them out!

Gregson was a big man from Lancashire, standing 6 feet 1½ inches and fighting at 15 stone 6, or 216 pounds. He is said to have won many bareknuckle battles before he went up to London. If Bob was not a great man in the ring, he was a tough and dangerous one. He fought two of the best men of his time for the championship of England. His first opponent inside the ropes of the classic London Prize Ring was John Gully, the future M.P. The two fought each other for 36 bloody rounds in a ring pitched on turf; it almost ended in mutual exhaustion, but when they were both staggering like drunken men Gully managed to land a last feeble punch. Down went Gregson.

That was in October 1807. In the following May they confronted each other again. Once more Gully won, then announced his retirement.

This left the championship vacant, and it was agreed that Gregson should fight the promising Tom Cribb. They met in October 1808. After 23 rounds Gregson was unable to come up to the scratch and Cribb won.

Gregson retired and became a saloonkeeper. The Castle in Holborn, London, also known as Bob's Chophouse, was for several years the prime resort of the Fancy—including Tom Moore. And it was there that Bob began to display his poetic gift in the lyrics to be sung at sporting dinners.

Moore's favorite among these was composed before the fight between Tom Cribb and Tom Molineaux, the American Negro challenger:

...John Bull cries aloud,
We're neither poor nor proud,
But open to all nations, let them
come from where they will.
The British lads that's here
Quite strangers are to fear—
Here's Tom Cribb, with bumpers
round, for he can them mill!

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