An 18th century portrait of boxer George 'The Coachman' Stevenson, whose death in 1741 brought about serious regulatory reform within the sport, is to auction at Bonhams London on January 29.
The pugilistic oil on canvas, which carries a £10,000-15,000 ($16,069-24,105) presale estimate, depicts The (ill-fated) Coachman stripped to the waist, his fists raised in fighting pose.
Alistair Laird, a 19th century paintings specialist at the auction house, commented: "I have never seen an 18th century picture to do with boxing in my 30 years in art auctions. This is an extremely rare image."
Having fought the English champion Jack Broughton for 45 minutes in a fairground booth on Tottenham Court Road on February 17, 1741, Stevenson died of the injuries he had suffered during the fight a few days later. The event inspired Broughton to draw up a list of rules in order to prevent further tragedies. Published in August 1743, the list came to be known as Broughton's Rules, which were universally adhered to by mainstream fighters until 1838.
Before Stevenson's death and the advent of the new laws, boxing was a savage and lawless sport in which rounds were not of fixed length but continued until one of the boxers was knocked or thrown to the ground.
The painting, which is being sold as part of Bonhams' Gentleman's Library Sale, offers us a rare insight into the life of the man whose death provided the catalyst for much needed boxing reforms.
Here at Paul Fraser Collectibles we also have a number of investment-grade boxing collectibles in stock, including this signed vintage photograph of James J Jeffries, who was known as The Boilermaker, and was famed for his extraordinary strength and stamina during his career at the turn of the 20th century.