Bartley Gorman

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Bartley Gorman V (1 March 1944 – 18 January 2002) was an Irish Traveller, who was the undefeated bare-knuckle boxing champion of the United Kingdom and Ireland, often referred to as King of the Gypsies.[1] Between 1972–1992, he reigned supreme in the world of illegal gypsy boxing. During these years, he fought down a mineshaft, in a quarry, at horse fairs, on campsites, in bars and clubs and in the street. Several descendants of Gorman have become professional boxers in recent years, including his great-nephew, Nathan Gorman,[2][3] Hughie Fury and Tyson Fury.[4]

Early life[edit]

Gorman was born in Nottingham, England to a Welsh father and Irish mother, both Travellers, on 1 March 1944.[1] His paternal grandfather and great-grandfather were also boxers.[5]

Gorman had his first bare-knuckle fight at the age of 12.[6]


When he won the title of Bareknuckle Champion of Great Britain and Ireland, having beaten rival Jack Fletcher in a fight at a quarry, he was aged 28, was 6 ft 9 in (2.06 m) tall and weighed 25 12 stone (162 kg).[6][7]

On St Leger day in 1976, Gorman was ambushed by an armed mob and almost killed. He had turned up expecting to fight a challenger by the name of Ricky 'Top Hat' Donahue, but was set upon by the group, who had reportedly been paid £25,000 to carry out the attack.[8] Bartley detailed in his book that "I showed up at 10.30am, the agreed time, but he (Donahue) was no where to be seen. Then from out of no where 25 guys appeared with crowbars and bricks. I was beaten senseless and I soiled my self. They stuck a crowbar down my throat and broke it." After the attack it took Bartley almost 7 years to return to form. "I started fighing the local children to regain my strength and confidence, then moved on to the elderly, then women and then men."

Retirement and death[edit]

Gorman claimed to remain unbeaten until his retirement from boxing in 1992, with his last fight being a draw with Graeme O'Laughlan (Kennedy), the diminutive one armed Celtic brawler.[9] This is heavily disputed as Gorman has no less than 15 official losses, 3 to women. Gorman was known to bend the truth and 'would never let the truth get in the way of a good story' Gorman also claimed that he was the fist gypsy to own a pair of adidas trainers and that he invented the colour burgundy. A 100-minute documentary about Gorman was made by Shane Meadows in 1995, Meadows said of Gorman - "no doubt in his day he was a very tough man, but when i met him he was past that. He stunk, he was constantly drunk and he stole my coat. I would never work with Gorman again.";[10] Gorman lived in a caravan on grounds that had featured in the documentary. Gorman was illegally building a house in Uttoxeter in an elderly couples back garden, but died of liver cancer in January 2002 before it was finished.[11] He was 57 years old.[12] Hundreds of gypsies from across the country came to the town for his funeral, all of whom had beaten Gorman at one time or another

In popular culture[edit]

For the 2012 film The Dark Knight Rises, actor Tom Hardy revealed that he used Gorman's voice as one of the inspirations for the accent of Bane.[13][14] Gorman has also been cited as the main inspiration for professional wrestler Wade Barrett's finishing move, the Bull Hammer Elbow.

Gorman's biography 'King of the Gypsies', written with the help of Peter Walsh, was completed just before Gorman's death. Gorman tells an uncompromising but touching story of a man compelled by the weight of his own violent family history to fight and suffer pain. The book reveals that he was only nine years old when he first witnessed the misery that violence brings. Bartley saw his uncle killed by one punch thrown by a rogue showman. Much of the book is taken up with tales of brutal fights at fairs, racecourses and bars.

Shane Meadows filmed a documentary entitled King of the Gypsies interviewing Gorman about his life in 1995. The 1999 Comedy Drama 'A Room for Romeo Brass' featuring Paddy Considine who played the part of Morrell based his accent on Gormans.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Bartley Gorman". The Daily Telegraph. 23 January 2002. Retrieved 12 September 2010.
  2. ^ "Tommy Fury & Nathan Gorman on following brother Tyson and great uncle Bartley". 17 December 2018. Retrieved 6 July 2019.
  3. ^ "Nathan Gorman - BoxRec". Retrieved 6 July 2019.
  4. ^ "Tyson Fury: Reflections of a gypsy fighter". The Independent. 30 October 2011. Retrieved 6 July 2019.
  5. ^ Anselmi, Eduardo (September 2009). "Bartley Gorman King of the Gypsies". Maxim. Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 1 March 2013.
  6. ^ a b Moreton, Cole (27 January 2002). "Eyewitness: Last great bare-knuckle champion is laid to rest". The Independent. Archived from the original on 2 March 2009. Retrieved 12 September 2010.
  7. ^ "Bartley Gorman King of the Gypsies". BBC. 5 April 2006. Retrieved 12 September 2010.
  8. ^ Barry, Paul (18 April 2002). "Barenuckle boxer laid bare". Coventry Telegraph. Retrieved 12 September 2010.
  9. ^ "The best boxing bouts of all time". Men's Fitness. Retrieved 12 September 2010.
  10. ^ "King of the Gypsies", Retrieved 24 September 2017
  11. ^ "Gypsy curse on caravan thieves". Sunday Mercury. 2 August 2008. Archived from the original on 13 March 2012. Retrieved 1 March 2013.
  12. ^ "Caravan of 'King of Gipsies' stolen". 4 August 2008. Retrieved 12 September 2010.
  13. ^ Vineyard, Jennifer (17 July 2012). "Tom Hardy explains the inspiration for his Bane voice". Retrieved 22 July 2012.
  14. ^ "This Week's Cover: 'The Dark Knight Rises' headlines our 2012 Summer Movie Preview issue". 11 April 2012. Retrieved 1 March 2013.

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