By David Martinez / Boxing Historian / dmboxing.com
Although I wasn’t even born, nor were my parents, an old boxing venue that has always intrigued me is The Ring at Blackfriars, in London, England.
The building, built in 1783, was formerly a Nonconformist chapel and was octagonal in shape with the intent that no devils could hide in the corners. When it was no longer used as a place of worship, it was taken over by former Commonwealth British Empire lightweight champion Dick Burge and he transformed it into a boxing arena in May 1910. Several shows would take place there on a weekly basis.
Burge passed away a few short years later, on March 15, 1918, after contracting pneumonia at the age of 50. Before his death, he asked his wife Bella to ensure that their venue would be kept intact. She did, and kept the shows coming, which essentially resulted in her becoming the world’s first female boxing promoter.
Bella did an excellent job and was loved by the local community, where the pioneering lady promoter would earn the nickname “Bella of Blackfriars“.
The venue was a small but truly comfortable and perfect setting for boxing. To the disappointment of many the majestic building was destroyed in the Blitz of World War II, in October 1940.
My first live boxing experience came about in 1961 as a young boy attending boxing and wrestling matches at the historic grand Olympic Auditorium at 18th & Grand Ave, Los Angeles, California; but The Ring at Blackfriars surely must have been just as grand a venue as there ever was!