Despite initial opposition to boxing, the first boxing to take place at the venue was in 1918 between The British Empire and The American Services as soldiers and sailors battled each other. A few years later in 1921, Edward VIII Prince of Wales was ringside to witness Welsh great Jimmy Wilde face Pete Harman.
Former world light-heavyweight world champion Georges Carpentier and Australian champion George Cook in 1922 brought in a record £14,000 which at the time was one of the largest Box Office takings. When bouts with prize money were allowed it attracted many foreign greats, including Italian heavyweight and former world champion Primo Carnera who beat Reggie Meen at the Hall in 1930 via 2nd round knockout.
The most famous boxer of all time, Muhammad Ali, didn’t fight a competitive fight at the Hall but he appeared in 2 exhibition bouts in 1971 and 1979. An opponent of Ali and a British treasure, Henry Cooper, graced the Hall on 4 occasions between 1955 and 1965.
1995 saw Prince Naseem Hamed defeat Juan Polo Perez on his rise to world level. Future world champion Nigel Benn fought at the Hall many times, most notably for the Commonwealth middleweight title.
Two of Britain’s most loved heavyweights and former world champions both made their debuts at the Hall, Lennox Lewis and Frank Bruno. Lewis fought at the Hall 7 times, the highlights were knocking out Glenn McCrory in round 2 to defend his British and European title and then to win the British title outright whilst also defending the Commonwealth title with a win over Derek Williams. After making his debut there in 1982, Frank Bruno fought at the Hall 15 times and won all of those fights by knockout.
The Hall has been a happy hunting ground for Welsh fighter with world featherweight champion Howard Winestone appeared at the hall in 1967, defeating America’s Richard Sue on points. In 1981 it was host to Colin Jones’ British and Commonwealth title welterweight rematch with Kirkland Laing, Jones won via 9th round knockout. Joe Calzaghe was the last Welshman to fight at the venue in 1995 when he defeated Stephen Wilson in 8 rounds to become British champion.
The last world championship to be contested at the Royal Albert Hall was between Mexican legend Marco Antonio Barrera and Paul Lloyd in 1999. Also on the show that night was a British heavyweight title fight between Julius Francis and Danny Williams and a young Ricky Hatton learning his trade.
Boxing has remained absent from the Royal Albert Hall since then after nearby residents won a High Court order to end licensing approval but the issue has been resolved following a Court of Appeal decision to overturn that decision, paving the way for Cleverly to take boxing back to the historic venue.