Grave Restored of Rev. Bendigo Thompson, Brobdingnagian Bare Knuckles Champion

By Robert Brizel, Head Real Combat Media Boxing Correspondent

Photo Credit: Emma Percival Photo,

In September of 2019, the grave of the former world bare-knuckles boxing champion was restored, a man from an era long before the rules of the Marquess de Queensberry. The ‘Pride of Nottingham’, at 5’9 3/4″ tall, gigantic for his time long ego, England’s Reverend William ‘Bold Bendigo’ Thompson was a Brobdingnagian boxer of the historical era of centuries past. A tall stylist of exceptional footwork who switched off from orthodox to the southpaw stance and back, his fight weight was 164 to 168 pounds super middleweight by today’s standards. He would later become famous as a reformed drinker turned evangelist.

Thompson was the first noteworthy boxing champion in the pioneer era turned preacher. It was considered incongruous a bare-knuckles boxer, considered savages by many social classes, would reform and preach the Gospel. Other better-known world boxing champions turned preacher like the late Baptist Minister Henry Armstrong and ordained Christian Minister George Foreman came much later in the modern era.

The bare-knuckles champion of England (the historical world bare-knuckles world champion of his era), Thompson was an accomplished runner, acrobat and all-around athlete who was hard to hit in the ring, outmaneuvering opponents from 40 to 50 pounds bigger than he was. Traditionally he fought from the left-handed stance, and was the first to switch stances back and forth, the original inventor of the southpaw stance, to confuse opponents. He was tricky and knew how to go down without being hit when the chips were down in a particular round, which is how timeless rounds ended in the bare-knuckles era.  Thompson lost on a foul to Ben Count in the 75th round in 1938 because of this approach, but regained the title in 1939, won the rematch with Count in 1845.

Thompson claimed an official record of 21-0 in the ring. Cyber Boxing Zone credits Thompson with a bare-knuckles professional record of 18-1, closest to accurate. Historical records of the pioneer era were well documented regarding the champions of the time.