Tom “Light Tapper” Spring born Thomas Winter in 1795 in Fownhope was England’s Bare-knuckle prize fighting Champion in 1823. Born in Witchend he originally started his career as a butcher in the village and was to be in good company with other great boxers of his time such as Jem Belcher, John Gulley, Bill Neat and Peter “Young Rumpsteak” Crawley all of whom were butchers too.
He was not quite the leviathan brute that so many of his opponents were, he was not a big hitter; in fact he had rather fragile hands. Instead, he relied on his fast, repetitive “springing-style” punching, and nimble footwork to dodge the counter attacks, earning himself the nick-names of ‘Ladies Maid Fighter’ and ‘Light Tapper’ which reflected his fighting style.
Inspired by Spring and ‘The Fair Play Club’, The Marquis of Queensberry [1844 – 1900] a fighter himself supervised the compilation of new governing rules of boxing in 1867 to make the sport more popular. The ‘Queensberry Rules’ were adopted for amateur boxing giving boxers clear guidelines for bouts. It banned wrestling, insisted on the wearing of gloves and imposed three minute rounds, which resulted in bare-knuckle fighting going underground.
Spring was all but forgotten until 1951 when a Herefordshire police sergeant, A V Lucas formed the Tom Spring Memorial Committee to fund a memorial in West Norwood, London where Spring was buried. A memorial made from a cider press can also be found at Spring’s birthplace in Woolhope mill.
So before you visit your local Herefordshire butcher be sure to gen up on the ‘Queensbury Rules’, you never know when they may come in handy!
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