Search the Collection

John Gully (1783-1863), Prizefighter and racehorse owner

Sitter in 5 portraits
The prize-fighter John Gully's life story is an archetypal tale of social mobility. His career began with a notorious bare-knuckle fight in 1805 against Henry Pearce, nicknamed the 'Game Chicken', while Gully was in a debtor's prison. Organised by 'The Fancy' - the group of dedicated aristocratic followers of the ring - the prize for winning was his release from gaol. He later fought Pearce in front of a huge crowd which included the Duke of Clarence (later William IV). Despite several impressive victories, he retired to become a race-horse owner. His horses won the Derby many times and made his fortune. In 1832 he turned his attention to politics and became MP for Pontefract.