Our antiques expert Allan Blackburn pulls no punches when looking at this area of sporting nostalgia...
As undefeated British champion Anthony Joshua defends his World Heavyweight titles against Russian former Olympic gold medal winner Alexander Povetkin this Saturday (September 22) at Wembley, today’s feature is boxing gloves.
A very specific field, but in the massive global sporting collectables market, boxing memorabilia ranks second only to American football, ahead of other sports such as golf, motorsports and even football.
Boxing is one of the oldest contact sports, dating back to Ancient Greece.
Boxing collectables include fight memorabilia such as autographs, tickets, posters, even towels and gum-shields. However, the most sought-after items are boxing gloves; right at the centre of the action, beautifully crafted items with a very specific job to do.
The originator of the modern boxing glove was eighteenth-century English champion fighter Jack Broughton, who, like most boxers of his time, fought “bare-knuckled”. Broughton created gloves (known as “mufflers”) for the aristocracy to practise boxing at the gym without injury, however public competitions continued bare-fisted. Leather boxing gloves became popular in the nineteenth century after many years of trials and development.
Antique boxing gloves are hard to find in good condition and can be difficult to store or display, but they are unbeatable for their embodiment of dedication, victory and loss – literally blood, sweat and tears.
Boxing websites specialise in signed gloves, shorts, belts and ephemera. Because modern boxers sign a lot, prices are lower than you might imagine, with gloves from Nigel Benn available for £100, to ones signed by Muhammed Ali starting at £600-£800. The provenance of being in a “big fight” raises the stakes, with much-loved British champion Henry Cooper’s Gold Heavyweight belt selling for a knockout £49,250 in 2012. In this country the beautiful “Lonsdale” belts (given to any boxer who wins three championship bouts at any weight), can fetch up to £100,000 or more.
If Joshua beats Povetkin and goes on to take on Deontay Wilder next April, the value of his autographed items will likewise rise, so this is where canny collectors are hoping to make a heavyweight profit.