Bartley Gorman

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Bartley Gorman V (1 March 1944 – 18 January 2002) was an English 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.

Early life[edit]

Gorman was born in Nottingham, England to a Welsh father and Irish mother on 1 March 1944.[1] His paternal grandfather and great-grandfather were also boxers.[2]

Gorman had his first bare-knuckle fight at the age of 12.[3]


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 1 in (1.85 m) tall and weighed 15 12 stone (98 kg).[3][4]

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 but was set upon by the group, who had reportedly been paid £25,000 to carry out the attack.[5]

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 Celtic brawler.[6] A 10-minute documentary about Gorman was made by Shane Meadows in 1995;[7] Gorman lived in a caravan on grounds that had featured in the documentary. Gorman was building a house in Uttoxeter, but died of liver cancer in January 2002 before it was finished.[8] He was 57 years old.[9] Hundreds of gypsies from across the country came to the town for his funeral.

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.[10][11] 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. ^ Anselmi, Eduardo (September 2009). "Bartley Gorman King of the Gypsies". Maxim. Archived from the original on 2011-07-16. Retrieved 1 March 2013.
  3. ^ a b Moreton, Cole (27 January 2002). "Eyewitness: Last great bare-knuckle champion is laid to rest". The Independent. Archived from the original on 2009-03-02. Retrieved 12 September 2010.
  4. ^ "Bartley Gorman King of the Gypsies". BBC. 5 April 2006. Retrieved 12 September 2010.
  5. ^ Barry, Paul (18 April 2002). "Barenuckle boxer laid bare". Coventry Telegraph. Retrieved 12 September 2010.
  6. ^ "The best boxing bouts of all time". Men's Fitness. Retrieved 12 September 2010.
  7. ^ "King of the Gypsies", Retrieved 24 September 2017
  8. ^ "Gypsy curse on caravan thieves". Sunday Mercury. 2 August 2008. Archived from the original on 2012-03-13. Retrieved 1 March 2013.
  9. ^ "Caravan of 'King of Gipsies' stolen". 4 August 2008. Retrieved 12 September 2010.
  10. ^ Vineyard, Jennifer (17 July 2012). "Tom Hardy explains the inspiration for his Bane voice". Retrieved 22 July 2012.
  11. ^ "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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