Quote Originally Posted by A.M. View Post
It sounds like it was a continuation of Elizabethan Prize Playing.
The spectacle was basically similar, but the social contexts were very different; the Elizabethan prize-fights were semi-commercial "gradings" for professional swordsmen and their most direct descendants were the purely commercial, professional "Prizes" of the stage gladiators, arranged by entrepreneurs like James Figg during the 1700s.

The weapon Prizes were ancient history (having been largely replaced by bare-knuckle boxing) by the time the Army started staging "Grand Assaults", which were strictly amateur contests, in the early 19th century. By the 1890s, though, things had come full-circle and some "assault-at-arms"-type shows were being performed by professional athlete/entertainers.