Bill Lewis vs Freddie Baxter and Archie Sexton vs Laurie Raiteri (lost television coverage of boxing matches; 1933)
18th August 1933 issue of Wireless World reporting on the Sexton-Raiteri match being set for a television broadcast.
On 22nd August 1933, two boxing matches occurred at the Broadcasting House in London. The first of these saw flyweight Bill Lewis narrowly defeat Freddie Baxter by decision in a four-round bout. Later on, professional middleweight boxers Archie Sexton and Lauri Raiteri competed in a three-round exhibition match. These encounters are significant for being the first boxing matches to be televised live in the United Kingdom.
The matches were set to be broadcast when television within the United Kingdom was still in its infancy. For the BBC, 22nd August would mark a year since it started its first regular transmissions. However, a few weeks prior to the bouts, the BBC caused concern among investors when it was seeking exactly how many were regularly viewing its broadcasts. This brought fears that the BBC were re-considering its investment in the new technology, especially when considering that only a maximum of 500 viewers were watching its broadcasts. In fact, the BBC's television anniversary was not to be referred to as a "birthday" to avoid potentially misleading claims broadcasts would be permanent at the Broadcasting House. Nevertheless, the concerns appeared unfounded as the BBC's technicians began working on televising boxing for the first time. The corporation had televised sports before, working with Baird Television Development Company to air the 1931 Epsom Derby. For boxing, the Broadcasting House was harnessed, with a 12 feet ring established in its studio. In contrast to various sources claiming as such, the BBC's upcoming broadcast would not be the first time boxing aired live on television, as CBS station W2XAB had aired numerous matches from 1931 to at least 1932. However, the BBC would be making history for televising the first matches in the United Kingdom, as a rumoured broadcast between Fred Dyer and Billy Overton in October 1931 is not believed to have transpired.
The first confirmed match was a three-round exhibition between middleweights Archie Sexton and Lauri Raiteri. At the time, Sexton was set to challenge Jock McAvoy for the British Empire Middleweight Championship, while Raiteri was eyeing Len Harvey's British Light Heavyweight Championship. While the 18th August 1933 issue of Wireless World confirms this was the first match announced, another would be confirmed in the days leading up to the broadcast. Flyweights and Bethnal Green residents Bill Lewis and Freddie Baxter were also set to compete in a four-round matchup, with Baxter' last ranked match being a win against Larry Meehan on 18th September 1932. There are disputes regarding which match aired first on BBC Television, with most sources claiming the Sexton-Raiteri bout was the first to be televised, while others insist it was the Lewis-Baxter encounter. Analysis of UK newspapers reporting on the fights the next day indicate Lewis and Baxter fought first. Commentary for the matches were provided by Viscount Scarsdale and Jim Mollison.
Overall, the boxers had to adapt, as the studio lacked the bright light they were familiar with during fights. Nevertheless, they persevered through the dim light, which was required so that the television cameras could transmit sufficient quality pictures. It was also observed that the picture quality sometimes gave the impression that the boxers were gliding; when Lewis side-stepped Baxter, some felt it appeared like "Charlie Chaplin on the skating rink." Nevertheless, the September 1933 issue of Television declared the event a "huge success." The Lewis-Baxter fight was deemed a brutal, close affair, with Television stating that the frequency of delivered clinches and punches increased overtime, Lewis narrowly winning by decision. Baxter would continue boxing until 1942. Meanwhile, the result of the Sexton-Raiteri bout was never reported. Sexton would lose his title match against McAvoy, boxing until 1936 before retiring following his loss to Frank Hough on 22nd October 1936, after losing sight in one of his eyes. Meanwhile, Raiteri lost his encounter versus Harvey, eventually retiring in 1937. Ironically, McAvoy and Harvey would face each other for the British Light Heavyweight Championship on 4th April 1938, in what is considered the first televised nonexhibition professional match.
Ultimately, the matches were televised live in a period where there were extremely limited means of directly recording television. While discs such as Phonovision did exist, they were seldom utilised. Thus, no footage of the bouts is believed to have survived.
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- Television Jubilee detailing the broadcast of the matches and noting it occurred during a period of concern for British Television. Retrieved 24th Dec '22
- 18th August 1933 issue of Wireless World reporting on the Sexton-Raiteri match being set for broadcast, and the limited viewership back then. Retrieved 24th Dec '22
- Baird Television detailing the BBC and Baird Television Development Company airing the 1931 Epsom Derby. Retrieved 24th Dec '22
- The Golden Age of Boxing on Radio and Television summarising the broadcast, and noting other influential airings such as the rumoured Dyer-Overton 1931 match and the BBC's coverage of the McAvoy-Harvey encounter. Retrieved 24th Dec '22
- The Origins of Television News in America detailing W2XAB boxing match broadcasts in 1931 onwards. Retrieved 24th Dec '22
- BoxRec detailing Baxter's fight record. Retrieved 24th Dec '22
- TV Studio History claiming the Lewis-Baxter match was the first to be televised. Retrieved 24th Dec '22
- Daily News reporting on the Lewis-Baxter match becoming the first to be televised, noting Lewis won the encounter. Retrieved 24th Dec '22
- 23rd August 1933 issue of Yorkshire Evening Post stating the Lewis-Baxter match occurred first, with Lewis winning narrowly on points. Retrieved 24th Dec '22
- September 1933 issue of Television summarising the Lewis-Baxter match, and declaring the event a "huge success". Retrieved 24th Dec '22
- 11th October 1933 issue of The Courier-Mail reporting on Sexton losing the title match to McAvoy. Retrieved 24th Dec '22
- BoxRec detailing Sexton's fight record. Retrieved 24th Dec '22
- Sports Journalists summarising Sexton's key career highlights, including being forced to retire following an eye injury. Retrieved 24th Dec '22
- BoxRec detailing Raiteri's fight record. Retrieved 24th Dec '22
- TV Dawn detailing the Phonovision discs, one of the few means of recording television back then. Retrieved 24th Dec '22