A selection of reproduction photographs from Australia’s most extensive archive of its prize-fighting history, the Arnold Thomas Boxing Collection, will go on show at the National Library of Australia on 21 November in a new display entitled Lords of the Ring.

Acquired by the National Library in 2003, the collection is the life’s work of Arnold Thomas, a passionate follower of the sport and collector of its history since childhood. National Library Exhibition Curator Martin Terry said that, at its height, boxing was one of this country’s most popular sports, attracting thousands of people to venues like the Stadium in Sydney.

“Arnold Thomas’s collection is particularly significant because it focuses on that history, the popularity of the sport at the time,” he said

“One of the earliest items in the collection is an image of Larry Foley – it’s an 1877 watercolour portrait from around the time he fought in what was arguably Australia’s first legal professional match under the Queensberry rules. The fight against one Peter Newton lasted for 16 rounds, ending in a draw when police stopped it on the grounds that crowd noise was disturbing the peace.”

The collection also documents internationally important fights such as the controversial 1908 bout in Sydney, where American Jack Johnson defeated
Canadian Tommy Burns to become the first black heavyweight world champion, a result that sparked race riots in America.

The National Library has digitised the Arnold Thomas Collection and it can be seen online at http://nla.gov.au/nla.pic-vn3046935

Display Details:
Lords of the Ring, 21 November 2008 – 5 April 2009, 4th Floor. Open daily. Free.

Media Contact:
Sally Hopman, Media Liaison Manager, National Library of Australia
02 6262 1704 or 0401 226 697