John Lewis was a boxer – or rather a pugilist as they were described in the 1800s. Lewis was a small but successful fighter who claimed the nomenclature of the ‘Little Welsh Champion’. In July 1834 he was in (appropriately enough) the Welsh Harp public house in Holborn, London.
He ordered and drank some porter and became very talkative, telling his fellow drinkers about his exploits and claiming that he could beat anyone.He spoke, the press reported, of boxing as ‘a “hart kalkerlated” (an art calculated) ‘to keep up the spirits of the county’, and said he fought for fame as well as the purse.
This went on for a while until one or more of the assembly became bored of his boasts and took issue with his eulogy of the noble art. Lewis, more worse for wear now from his drinking, challenged anyone who disagreed to take him on.
The landlord, a Mr Rowe, had no desire to see his pub turn into a boxing ring so he had him ejected. Lewis picked himself off the street and charged back in whereupon he was asked to pay for the beer he had drunk. Now the Welshman pretended ‘intoxication’ and refused to pay, so he was kicked out once more.
Somehow though Lewis got in again and went upstairs. Mr Rowe’s servant came down to warn the publican that the boxer was outside his sick wife’s bedroom and he feared he would do her harm. Rowe rushed upstairs and confronted Lewis. The pugilist said he was looking for someone else, and when brought before the Hatton Garden magistrate he repeated his claim. The landlord thought he was up to no good so charged him with a suspected felony.
It was a loose charge but the JP felt it was justified. The boxer had been in and out of the court on charges of being drunk and disorderly several times in the past and so he sent him to the house of correction for a month’s imprisonment.
[from The Morning Chronicle, Friday, July 25, 1834]