Three Cruikshank character studies depicting Garrell, The Suffolk Champion, Cooper the Gipsy and Thomas Cribb, £4800 at Wimbledon Auctions.

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Three boxing prints of Georgian bare-knuckle fighters proved to be heavy hitters at Wimbledon Auctions (24/20% buyer’s premium) on April 29, selling for 32 times the high estimate.

They came for sale as part of the boxing collection of the late television host William Gladstone Stewart (1933-2017), best known as the presenter of the long-running Channel 4 quiz show Fifteen to One.

The set of three Isaac Robert Cruikshank (1789-1856) character studies depicting ‘Garrell, The Suffolk Champion’, ‘Cooper the Gipsy’ and ‘Thomas Cribb’ carried an estimate of £100-150 but was knocked down for £4800.

The prints are part of a series of more than a dozen boxers in fighting attitude published in 1822-24.

Of this trio, Cribb, the All-England champion between 1808-22, is undoubtedly the best known. Jack Cooper was notorious for killing opponent Patrick O’Leary in 1821 - for which he was charged for manslaughter and given a six-month prison sentence.

On his release he returned to the ring, adding an extra layer of fear to his opponents, and attracting a larger, more bloodthirsty crowd.

Less appears to be known about Garrell, making this perhaps the rarest of the 1822-24 series. The high bidding was probably down to buyers filling gaps in their collections. Most lots in the sale were snapped up by one UK private collector.


Cruikshank boxing print depicting the championship fight between Benjamin Brain and Tom Johnson, £3000 at Wimbledon Auctions.

Other Cruikshank boxing prints achieved favourable returns on the day, including a 15 x 10in (38 x 25cm) hand-coloured print of a championship fight which sold for £3000 (estimate £80-120). The print appears to show the 1791 title bout between Benjamin Brain and Tom Johnson. The fight ended after ‘just’ 18 rounds and 21 minutes with Brain victorious after the favourite Johnson broke a finger on a railing.

Other well-known prize fighters of the time, including James Ward and Daniel Mendoza, are shown in Cruikshank’s image. That the publication date was January 21, 1791, just four days after the fight itself, speaks volumes as to how these highly topical prints were marketed in their day.

Another group of three portraits from other series, featured John Gully (a champion prize fighter who later became MP for Pontefract), John Camel Heenan (the celebrated American fighter who fought Tom Sayers in Farnborough in 1860) and Welsh fighter Turner Ned Turner. These returned £1300 (estimate £80-120).