Georges Carpentier vs Ted "Kid" Lewis (lost radio coverage of boxing match; 1922)
On 11th May 1922, professional boxers Georges Carpentier and Ted "Kid" Lewis competed in a match at the Olympia. It saw Carpentier successfully defend his World Light Heavyweight and EBU Heavyweight Titles by KO in controversial fashion, after taking advantage of a referee decision against Lewis. The bout is historic for being the first boxing match to be broadcast live on British radio.
Heading into the bout, Georges Carpentier was the reigning World Light Heavyweight Champion, capturing the belt after beating Battling Levinsky on 12th October 1920. He was also the inaugural EBU Heavyweight Champion, having won the title on 1st June 1913 by beating Bombardier Billy Wells. The Frenchman had a long and illustrious career, having also been part of the first World Heavyweight Championship match to receive live radio coverage, in a losing effort to Jack Dempsey on 2nd July 1921. Meanwhile, Ted "Kid" Lewis was the reigning BBBofC British Light Heavyweight champion after beating Boy McCormick for the belt on 17th November 1921. The Brit had also won the BBBofC British Middleweight and EBU European Middleweight titles. At the time of their clash, Carpentier weighed 175 lbs compared to the Kid's 150. Lewis was also one of the first prominent boxers to wear a mouthpiece during fights, doing so since 1913. This however proved controversial at the time, with Carpentier's camp demanding he remove it for the match.
On the same day as the bout, British radio station 2LO launched. Established by the Marconi Company, it was the second regular radio station to be launched in the United Kingdom, after Marconi had established 2MT in Writtle the year before. With Marconi having gained a licence to broadcast radio in London, 2LO, under the direction of Arthur Burrows, aimed to air the first live UK radio coverage of a boxing match on its opening day, 11th May. Previously, the only sports-related broadcast on British radio was on the 1921 Epsom Derby. Thus, the Carpentier-Lewis match was chosen as it was set to occur at the Olympia in West London, not far from the transmitter at Marconi House. Play-by-play commentary was provided by W. Southey, his announcing at ringside relayed via telephone back to Marconi House and transmitted live.
The fight itself, which was hyped up across the UK, proved controversial. Despite being 25 lbs lighter, it was actually the Kid who gained the upper hand, landing several blows on Carpentier in the first round. However, Lewis was becoming overly-aggressive to referee Joe Palmer's liking, who held Lewis' shoulders to warn the Brit regarding excessive use of holding. The Kid was momentarily distracted by protesting Palmer's call, allowing Carpentier to land a powerful right hook against his opponent. Another right hook to the jaw proved a decisive enough blow for a KO victory, much to the displeasure of the crowd, who made accusations of "foul" during the radio broadcast. However, Palmer felt the attack was within the rules of boxing, giving the Frenchman the victory after just 2:15 of action.
Lewis would later express frustration at how he lost, but remained cordial, stating "I felt cheated, but I didn't bear any grudge". Dempsey, who was present at the Olympia but was busy signing autographs during the fight, noted "It was merely a matter of a game man against a good big man." Carpentier would eventually lose his titles to Battling Siki a bout later on 24th September 1922. He continued boxing until retiring in 1926. Meanwhile, Lewis captured and held three simultaneous Welterweight titles, including the BBBofC, Commonwealth Boxing Council, and EBU European titles, on two separate occasions. He would eventually retire in 1929, and has since been declared one of Britain's best ever boxers. Elsewhere, Marconi followed up its sports coverage with a feature on the Boat Race, but it and other radio station operators would become restricted to just providing sports reports for several years, following pressure from the print media. It would not be until 1927, when the BBC, which also incorporated 2MT and 2LO later in 1922, started regular live radio broadcasts of sporting events by covering the England-Wales rugby match on 15th January 1927.
Ultimately, the radio broadcast occurred during a time period where recordings were virtually non-existent. Acetate or lacquer discs could be used to record sound, but their general impracticality made recordings of outside sports broadcasts few and far between. Among those claimed to be the earliest surviving recordings includes a President Warren Harding speech on 24th May 1922, with the National Archives deeming Woodrow Wilson's Armistice Day Speech in 1923 as the first surviving regular airing. However, it is also noted that no radio recordings alleged to have occurred between 1920-1922 have been verified. Thus, the Carpentier-Lewis radio broadcast is most likely permanently lost. Nevertheless, a film of the entire match is widely available.
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- International Boxing Hall of Fame page on Carpentier. Retrieved 20th Dec '22
- BoxRec detailing Carpentier's fights.
- Yahoo! News summarising the fight and its British radio significance. Retrieved 20th Dec '22
- Talking of Sport: The Story of Radio Commentary summarising early sports commentaries, including noting that print media tried to limit radio's influence early on. Retrieved 20th Dec '22
- The Guardian detailing the Dempsey-Carpentier fight, the first World Heavyweight Championship match to receive live radio coverage. Retrieved 20th Dec '22
- BoxRec detailing Lewis' fights. Retrieved 20th Dec '22
- British Boxers profile on "Kid" Lewis. Retrieved 20th Dec '22
- Boxing's Most Wanted noting Lewis' usage of a mouthpiece and the objections from Carpentier's camp. Retrieved 20th Dec '22
- Radio Broadcasting detailing the early history of Marconi radio stations like 2MT and 2LO, and how it provided live radio coverage of the match. Retrieved 20th Dec '22
- Marconi summarising the launch of 2LO and its broadcast of the fight. Retrieved 20th Dec '22
- International Radio Journalism noting the prior 1921 Epsom Derby broadcast, the match airing, and print media preventing further live sports coverage for five years. Retrieved 20th Dec '22
- Encyclopedia of Radio detailing the BBC's first radio sports broadcasts, as well as earlier British airings. Retrieved 20th Dec '22
- London summarising the radio broadcast, and noting other early sports events coverage like the Boat Race. Retrieved 20th Dec '22
- Ngā Taonga noting most early-1920s airings were never recorded. Retrieved 20th Dec '22
- Old-Time detailing the oldest surviving radio broadcasts and noting no authenticated examples exist between 1920-1922. Retrieved 20th Dec '22
- Benjamin S. Beck detailing various examples claiming to be the earliest surviving radio broadcast. Retrieved 20th Dec '22
- National Archives stating the oldest surviving radio broadcast is Woodrow Wilson's Armistice Day Speech from 1923. Retrieved 20th Dec '22