James Figg (1695 – 7 December 1734) was an English bare-knuckle boxer. He is widely recognized the first English bare-knuckle boxing champion, reigning from 1719 to 1734. Jack Dempsey called him the father of modern boxing. Many of the bouts at the time consisted of boxing, wrestling and fencing with sharp swords. Figg was also a great fencer that engaged in sword duels and singlestick matches. He was born in Thame in Oxfordshire and fought his early prize fights there. In 1719 he started his own school and taught boxing, fencing, and quarterstaff. William Hogarth painted his portrait. Although records were not as precise back then, the common belief is that Figg had a record of 269-1 in 270 fights. His only loss came when Ned Sutton beat him to claim the title. Figg demanded a rematch, which he won, and also went on to retire Sutton in a rubber match. After 1734 he largely gave up fighting, and relied on his three protégés to bring in spectators: Bob Whittaker, Jack Broughton, and George Taylor. Taylor took over Figg's business upon Figg's death in 1740, though Broughton went on to become his most famous protégé.
Figg was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1992. A blue plaque dedicated to him was unveiled at The James Figg Pub (formerly The Greyhound Inn), Cornmarket, Thame, on 14 April 2011.
James Figg's great-grandson appears as a central character in the Marc Olden novel Poe Must Die and appears alongside other historical figures including Edgar Allan Poe and Charles Dickens. Whilst he is a fictional adaption, Olden's character references the life and experiences of the real Figg.
- Thame Local History
- James Figg's record at CyberBoxingZone
- James Figg entry at the International Boxing Hall of Fame Website
- Article on James Figg by Iain Abernethy
- Figg article at the England History website