Pugilism, the practice or sport of fighting with bare fists, has a lengthy history. Fighting of this kind took place as part of organised games in Ancient Greece, where it already seems to have been highly developed as a sport, although it was not introduced into the Olympic contests until after about 880 B.C. The sport was later imported, most probably from Greece, to ancient Rome. However, from the fall of the Roman empire until the nineteenth century pugilism seems to have been unknown in Western Europe with the exception of England where references to boxing as a regular sport occur towards the end of the seventeenth century. Little mention of the sport is made before the time of King George I when 'prize-fighters' engaged in public fights for money, mostly armed with the backsword, falchion, foil quarter staff and single stick and to a lesser extent, with bare fists. The most celebrated of these fighters and the one who is considered to be the first champion of England, fighting with bare fists, was James Figg who was champion from 1719-1730. The sport developed in the eighteenth century with the invention of boxing gloves for use in practice, although prize-fights continued to take place with bare knuckles in open spaces, called 'rings', usually in the open air. A fight ended when one pugilist was unable to come to the middle of the ring at the call of the referee at the beginning of a new round, with
each round ending when one fighter either fell or was knocked to the
Little is known about the prizefighter Dick Cain. There is however a reference to him in Trevor C. Wignall, The story of Boxing (London, 1923, p.46) which relates that: One of the first indictmetns for riot and assault was that at Bedrod Assizes in 1841. The two pugilists concerned were Dick Cain of leicester, and E. Adams, of Nottingham, but indicted with them were Lord Chetwynd, R. Maley, Deaf Burke, Owen Swift, Mark Cross, Joseph Goodwyn, Thomas Brown, George Durham, Edward Dawkes and James Walters. The indictment was removed at the instance of Lord Chetwynd by certiorari to the Court of Queen's Bench, but although Cain and Adams and the others pleaded guilty no sentence was passed. Fighting had become such a hole-and-corner affair that it had of necessity to be conducted with the utmost secrecy. This cannot be regarded as remarkable, for it was unquestionably a very unsavoury business.