Out for the count

He may not have done much for the career of Oscar Wilde, whom he accused of being a "somdomite" (sic), setting in train the sequence of events which led to Wilde's eventual downfall, but the eighth Marquis of Queensberry helped propel one James J Corbett to global fame and fortune. It was under the revolutionary Queensberry rules that the nifty Corbett (above, centre) became the first world heavyweight boxing champion, on 7 September, 1892, beating John L Sullivan (above, right) in 21 rounds at the Century Club in New Orleans. Under Queensberry's rules, boxing gloves became compulsory and rounds were restricted to three minutes with a one minute rest in between. Prior to this, free-for-all bare-knuckle fighting was the norm, and casualties were legion: Irishman Simon Byrne died after a bout which lasted three hours 16 minutes, the longest ever, while American James Elliott used to wet his hands with turpentine and go for his opponents' eyes, hoping to blind them at least temporarily. Corbett held the title for five years and went on to be a successful stage and screen actor, but his reputation as "Gentleman Jim" has received a knocking recently from biographer Patrick Myler, who accuses the champ of being arrogant, quick-tempered, racist and a womaniser, and reveals that Corbett's second wife accused him of holding a lighted cigar to her face and threatening to shoot her.

It was the judges they were threatening to shoot on 13 March this year, after a draw was declared between Evander Holyfield (above, centre) and Britain's Lennox Lewis (above, right) in the latest World Heavyweight Championship fight, held at Madison Square Gardens in New York. Talk abounded of fixes, backhanders and the allegedly malign influence of promoter Don King. How, for example, did judge Eugenia Williams give the fifth round to Holyfield when he was pinned on the ropes for 45 seconds without striking a blow, and Lewis threw twice as many punches? As The Independent put it at the time, this "cannot be regarded as anything other than one of boxing's great injustices". Or, in the words of Lewis's manager Frank Maloney, "We were robbed. It's an absolute con. This result has set boxing back to the dark ages."

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