Retro: Day that Doncaster boxer became national champion

Iron Hague in ring

Iron Hague in ring

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It was in this month, 1909, that a young boxer from Mexborough reached the pinnacle of his career, to become the Heavyweight Champion of England.

James William ‘Iron’ Hague had gained his nickname at a young age, due to his ability to withstand pain.

He beat experienced boxer and title holder for three years, Gunner Moir, in London’s National Sporting Club on the evening of April 19, in a knockout lasting just two minutes 47 seconds. His prize money for the victory was £650.

Hordes of people, reputedly up to 50,000, gathered at Mexborough railway station to welcome their young hero home, then paraded him through the streets of the town in a carriage drawn by men.

Hague grew up in Woodruff Row, Mexborough, and went to work first in Denaby Main Colliery on leaving school. He was only there a short time then was employed at Phoenix Glassworks.

His talent was spotted at a young age, by Jim Watson, the owner of a boxing booth in which his young protege won his first fight. Boxing was gaining popularity and such booths often made the rounds of towns and villages.

Two local landlords added their weight to form a management and promotions team and helped to further his career.

His first professional fight was in 1904 at the Volunteer Drill Hall, Doncaster.

He knocked out American Dan Lewis in the third round. Aged 19, he went on to beat Dick Parks to become Pitman Heavyweight Champion in April 1905, then quickly followed up to become the Heavyweight Champion of Yorkshire, beating Albert Rodgers. Further notable successes ensued before he received the invitation to fight ex-serviceman Gunner Moir.

Later, Hague served with the army in WWl and was injured badly in a mustard gas attack. He died in 1951. (Photos: Peter Tuffrey)