In 1846/47, just across the hallowed waters of our beloved River Irwell; long before it was given status as a city, Salford gave birth to a thumping great little boxing character. His name was: Arthur Chambers.
Small in stature but large in heart he had a queer but not unpleasant face and was a much loved member of the local community. It was while he was still quite young that his fistic talents became obvious to everyone. Although his official boxing career didn’t really take off proper until 1864 after he had served in and left the romantic domain of the Royal Navy.
His first paid fights; which were actually illegal at the time, were in Manchester and surrounding districts, including two notable wins at Mode Wheel Locks on the Manchester Ship Canal, and a couple of well remembered battle royals at the Fiddlers Ferry crossing point in Cheshire, and he was lucky in some ways even to be allowed to box there because both these sites were infamous as locations for the old bare knuckle brigade and they didn’t like new comers. But someone must have recognized the potential in him and decided to let him gain a bit of experience by fighting there. Success followed success and soon he was fighting nationwide; and regardless of the size or weight difference between him and his opponents he kayoed almost everyone they put in front of him. But by themselves kudos and respect were not reward enough for the money hungry Arthur.
Finding it inconvenient to be poor, and possessing an extremely agile business mind to match his agile body he couldn’t resist (and who could blame him) the lure of more lucrative paydays offered abroad, so he spread his wings and set off across the ocean for America.
He arrived in the states in 1871, in 1872 after only one year of fighting on foreign soil he fought for and won the lightweight championship of America by defeating the notorious dirty fighter Billy Edwards in 26 rounds. The strange thing about this fight was, although they were fighting for the American title both these men were English, Billy came from Birmingham and of course Arthur came from Salford. And if that’s not strange enough for you, the fight actually took place in Canada! He continued with his winning ways until 1877 when he had the middle finger of his left hand amputated. With his boxing career put on hold indefinitely Arthur didn’t give up hope and managed to stay close to the fight game by taking up refereeing. But he still had fire in his belly and this wasn’t enough for him and two years later he was fighting again and back to his winning ways. Within months, and in what is said to be the greatest lightweight title fight of all time, he won the championship again by defeating the notorious Irish clog-dancing battler John H Clark. The fight was an amazing 136 round marathon match which ended with Clark being disqualified.
When, at the turn of the century and after much deliberation Arthur finally decided to hang his gloves up for good, he purchased a bar in Philadelphia and after injecting vast amounts of cash into the project converted part of it into one of the most successful boxing gyms of the day. And still wishing to keep his finger (not the missing one of course) on the trigger of boxing which was going through some major changes at the time, he continued to contribute to the sport by taking up refereeing again; supplemented by some very lucrative match making activities which in turn led him to become the chief financial backer of his good friend, the legendary: John L Sullivan.
So it comes as no surprise (although it should because business wise it is a direct conflict of interests,) to learn that the great John L actually fought in Chambers’ saloon (against Paddy Ryan,) with Chambers acting as the umpire.
Arthur Chambers died in 1923 and thirty one years later in 1954 he was elected into the Ring Boxing Hall of Fame, although another 46 years had to pass before he was finally inducted into the, International Boxing Hall of Fame.
It has been suggested to me that he was actually lightweight champion of the world, but sadly, I could not find any documentary evidence to confirm this.


L. Yearsley