Old-time newspapers really are fascinating. In the absence of TV, radio and archival film they provide an unrivalled insight into the lives of our forebears, including those who once inhabited the boxing world.
While fight reports and other newspaper editorial must conform to style constraints and, to an extent, the agenda of a publication, letters from readers need not. Often a letter will tell us as much about the personality of the letter writer as it does the topic of the letter. Like it or not, what we write can say more about us than we intend.
Aside from that, historical boxing letters can offer a rare insight into fight fans’ opinions of the time (without the distortion of hindsight), shed light on the careers of long-forgotten fighters and tell us about the lost customs of the ring; all with an immediacy that gives one the feeling, if only momentarily, of stepping through time.
The below selection of readers’ letters printed in Britain’s trade paper Boxing in 1938 provides a flavour of the fight game of that era.