Don’t mess with Tom Sayers

THE famous tomb of Karl Marx in Highgate Cemetery almost suffered an awful disaster. Vandals attacked in 1970, first trying to obliterate it by blowing it up and then attempting to de-nose, if that’s a word, the stone bust. A Special Branch report I saw sight of a few years back found: “The nose had been sawn through with a fine hacksaw blade from within approximately a quarter of an inch of the nostrils.” A close call.

But surely nobody would dare attack what is my favourite spot in the cemetery, the tomb of Victorian boxer Thomas (Tom) Sayers. Tucked away off the path, it is loyally guarded by a beautiful stone dog. This is Lion, Tom’s faithful canine friend and chief mourner among 100,000 at his funeral march in Camden Town back in 1865. I remembered the legend of Sayers while watching the ludicrous set-piece press conference between this weekend’s boxing headline-makers David Haye and Dereck Chisora held at Gilgamesh on Wednesday afternoon.The theatrical prop of a fence standing between the two of them while they called each other names did not make up for the lack of poetry. I tried to explain it here. Sayers, who died a national hero and left a legend behind him, would surely have been horrified if he could have ever known where his sport would end up.

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