From The Bulletin (1900)

In its 28 April 1900 issue, The Bulletin interviewed my great-grandfather Larry Foley, last of the bare-knuckle boxing champions and later a leading trainer:

Larry Foley [on left] and bookmaker and boxing promoter Jack Thompson. (National Library of Australia)

Larry Foley [on left] and bookmaker and boxing promoter Jack Thompson. (National Library of Australia)


Master-puncher Laurence Foley, in collaboration with a well-known Sydney sporting journalist, is writing a book on the Art of Boxing – which will, no doubt, be called ‘My “Scrap” Book’, with the accent on the ‘scrap’. Larry is still a man of excellent physique, and could, with a few weeks’ training, get through a respectable battle – though it might not compare in vigor with those he fought 30 years ago against old-time champion ‘Sandy Ross’ –‘For Foley and the Green’ as the almost-forgotten ballad had it. Foley’s comfortable residence at Waverley, Sydney is frequently visited by the sporting cognoscenti from England and America, where the retired champion’s name is very well known, indeed, and it was to an American visitor who pilgrimaged to the shrine of St. Laurence, in company with a Bulletin man, that Foley unburdened himself recently – somewhat to the following effect:

Larry Foley boxing, Hunt, C. H. (Charles Henry), 187-? (National Library of Australia)

Larry Foley boxing, Hunt, C. H. (Charles Henry), 187-? (National Library of Australia)

…The Australian eats meat with a big – big – whatever letter meat commences with. It doesn’t matter what their occupation is, if they’re reared on meat they are natural fighters, and game. Of course, it’s better if they’ve got an Irish father – see what I mean – but a meat diet’s the principle thing. They used to tell a yarn about me trainin’ two holy bishops of the Church to spar, and that they had a habit of scrappin’ at my place. Well, it ain’t quite true; but couldn’t Archbishop Vaughan use ‘em! See what I mean! Down on my knees I went to his lordship on the wharf, when he was goin’ away, and, says he, ‘My blessin’ on you, Laurence.’ Then he added, ‘It’s one champion seein’ another off.’ Rest his soul! An’ one of my relations; he’s a priest, you know – a meat-fed priest. He’s up in Queensland now, an’ of course, out of respect for his holy office, he doesn’t go ‘lookin’ for it’, but, for a priest, he has a very dirty left and a good right – eye, toe, an’ hand all in line. We sent him to Ireland to make a priest of him. Jim Punch an’ me took out his passage. The shippin’-clerk looks at Tom an’ looks at me, an’ says, ‘Rowing man or pug?’ meanin’ my nephew, for there’s a discount of 20 per cent on professionals. ‘No’, says I, ‘the young feller’s a-goin’ into the church’…

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