The Lonsdale belt, awarded to the aptly named boxer Johnnie Basham in 1914, 1915 and 1916 will be offered for sale in Bonhams, Chester’s Sporting Memorabilia sale on 19th June valued at £30,000-£35,000.
With a central oval enamel portrait of two boxers and an engraved ‘National Sporting Club Welter Weight Championship’ the belt consists of red white and blue silk ribbon running the entire length and a further four enamel painted boxing scenes. It is engraved with fight details and winners names and comes complete with the original blue velvet wood case and lock.
Johnnie Basham was a Welsh boxer who became British and European champion at both welter and middleweight boxing. His career was defined not only by his success but also through the death in the ring of opponent Harry Price. Basham faced manslaughter charges for the death of Price despite much public sympathy, but was later acquitted when the magistrate concluded that the fight had taken place sportingly.
In 1912, Basham joined the Royal Welch Fusiliers and was stationed in Wrexham, north Wales. His first title fight was in 1914, just as the First World War began. His competitive boxing career slowed during the war as Basham was sent to the Western Front in France which bore the brunt of the action. Basham continued to train however, and was one of a group of fighters known as ‘The Famous Six’, an elite corps of Army Physical Training Instructors. Johnnie Basham won the title the two successive years in 1915 and 1916.
In his later years, Basham lived a meager existence. He was said to often wear his Lonsdale belt and walk into a pub in the hope of being bought a drink. A war hero and a champion boxer, Basham was a popular figure. The people of his home town in Newport, Wales, organized a boxing tournament in his name, the proceeds of which would provide Johnnie with a pension. Sadly, just one week before the tournament in 1947 Johnnie Basham died. A huge crowd turned out for his funeral. A simple wooden cross marked his grave for 40 years until 1987 when a boxing tournament was arranged between Newport and its German twin town. Advertising went out and by the evening of the same day enough money was raised to pay for a handsome headstone.