A selection of short articles on gloved boxers, within this page i will also feature fighters who have competed in both BKB and Gloved.
SHOTTON'S ONE ARMED BANDIT
Joe Louis, Benny Lynch and Henry Armstrong were champions in their respective weight divisions at the same time as the birth of a future British boxer from a small town in the North- east of England.
Maurice Cullen was born on the 30th of December 1937 and shares his birthday with such notable celebrities as Shirley Bassey and the football great Bobby Charlton. He was born in the small town of Wheatley Hill, County Durham and then settled in the nearby pit village of Shotton Colliery. Even though his father fought on the fairground booths in the Northeast, Maurice didn’t realise his potential himself as a fighter until an encounter on the street against a local lad, as a pipe fitter at the colliery Maurice he also began fighting as an Amateur. He entered and won various National Coal Board competitions, this was initially as a Featherweight and then at lightweight.
The ever unassuming and down to earth Maurice became a favourite with the locals and his mantle of “The Pitmen’s Champion” continued throughout his career. Like many fighters before and after him he had his own style of boxing, and with on-going problems with his right hand he developed a wonderful stiff left jab and danced and moved beautifully around the ring, but lacked that big punching power. Perhaps this is the reason that he never gained the recognition that he deserved due to most of his fights being by points. Another unique oddity he had was that he had an unusually low heart rate, the condition is called Bradycardia and it enabled him to outlast many of his opponents on stamina.
In later life it was discovered that he’d endured boxing throughout his amateur and pro career with fractures in his right hand, perhaps if it had been discovered earlier he may well have had more success. At the age of 22 Maurice joined the Professional ranks and made his debut In Middlesbrough on the 9th of November 1959 and scored a points victory over 6 rounds. He continued his unbeaten streak until his 13th fight and lost to Jim McCormack on points, however he got his break when he fought an eliminator for the British Lightweight title in 1962 against Johnny Cooke in Liverpool. Once again his victory was on points over 12 rounds and after 2 more wins and a year later he faced the experienced Dave Charnley for the British Title. The fight was set for the 20th of May 1963 at the King’s Hall in Manchester. Charney was an aggressive boxer, and a heavy hitter, always coming forward, he had fought much more experienced fighters than Cullen and had fought for the world title twice and was the current European Champion. Cullen gained much respect in their fight going the distance with Charney, but lost the decision over 15 rounds, and when Charney retired as the British champion the door was opened once again for Cullen when he fought for the Vacant title on the 8th of April 1965. This was Cullen’s night this time however and he outpointed Dave Coventry in Liverpool and was crowned the British Lightweight Champion.
Cullen went on to defend his title against Vic Andretti twice and Terry Edwards and he achieved winning the Lonsdale belt outright. His win over Terry Edwards was one of few that didn’t end on points and with Cullen’s 5th round win by TKO, even his manager Arthur Boggis came out with a great quote at the stoppage…”It proves that his right hand isn’t just for scratching”.
In 1968 Cullen faced the unbeaten Scotsman Ken Buchanan for the British title who was 23-0-0 at the time and although Cullen did his best to keep the challenger at bay using his jab Buchanan relentless aggression wore Cullen down and after being floored twice in the 6th and 9th he failed to get up in the 11th after being knocked down. Cullen’s reign as champion had ended but considering he had lost to the future great world champion Buchanan it was no shame on him. Two more defeats would follow in the remaining of Cullen’s career and he won his last fight as a pro against Victor Paul in 1970. In total his ring record was 45-8-2, he had always remained a favourite of his native Northeast supporters and following his retirement he still worked, firstly in a chemical factory in nearby Hartlepool and then as a milkman. At the age of 61 while still keeping fit and active he collapsed and had to have a heart by pass, and although the operation went well he suffered a Heart attack and died aged 63 in 2001. He had never earned a fortune in his boxing fights but his legacy as a true gentlemen will last on.
A local newspaper once called him “Shotton’s one armed bandit”.
THE SHOE SHINE BOY DONE GOOD
Too much emphasis in today’s boxing is placed upon the concussive knockout, Mike Tyson epitomised this in the Heavyweight division to a tee, and for many ardent fans of the sport that’s what they want to watch in a fight. Yeah a wins a win, but I would much prefer to see a skilful fighter displaying his craft. Even though in his prime, Tyson had a great defence, it was often overshadowed due to his devastating finishing power.
Certain boxers like Benny Leonard, Pernell Whitaker and more recently James Toney and Floyd Mayweather have used science and the art of hitting without getting hit to their advantage but for the more casual boxing fan they are often deemed as boring. One former boxer who is generally regarded as one of the best defensive boxers of all time, if not the greatest is Gugliermo Papaleo or better known as Willie Pep or Will o’ The Wisp.
Pep was born on September the 9th 1922 and lived in the mainly Italian quarters of Middletown, Connecticut , USA. His first taste of fighting came about when he was protecting his turf when he was young, he would earn money shoe shining for the passing trade, and he came to blows one day with a big lad who tried to take it over and being small he used his movement to evade oncoming punches. He joined a local boxing club and learnt his trade well and he was never bullied again, he was a very competent Amateur, competing in matches from the age of 15.
The following year while aged 16 and weighing only 105 lbs he fought an opponent who would in later years become one of the best pound for pounds ever Sugar Ray Robinson although with coming from New York where the amateurs were not able to earn money for fighting he used a fake name and travelled to peps home town where the amateurs were able to fight for a purse. Giving away over 25lbs Pep lost a points decision to the future great. Aged only 17 Pep turned pro and racked up an impressive 25 win streak by fighting in nearby venues, but as he became more experienced he travelled further afield, he ended up fighting in Michigan, and in California and the calibre of his opponents grew. He beat the likes of Eddie Flores, Joey Archibold and Won the New England featherweight title in his then 42nd fight after yet another win, this time on points over 12 rounds, he was getting noticed in the world of boxing with a 42-0-0 record.
Unlike todays boxers who can challenge for a world title quite rapidly Pep would have to fight another 10 times before his big chance came, and in his 53rd fight he challenged the experienced World Champion Chalky Wright for the Featherweight crown. After 15 hard rounds Pep was announced as the winner and “THE NEW” World Champion, his winning streak continued through 1943 while Pep was still only 21 and had an impressive 61-0 tally. His first taste of defeat ironically came in a non-title bout against Sammy Angott a Pennsylvanian boxer nicknamed “The Clutch” for his spoiling tactics, he was a tough durable boxer weighing more than a Stone heavier than Pep and who was knocked out only once in his 135 fight career and fought some of the greats including SSR, Henry Armstrong and Ike Williams. Pep served for around 18 months in the forces during World War 2 and after suffering a perforated eardrum he was discharged and continued his career as a boxer.
One great story is Pep’s bout in 1946 against Jackie Graves in which he would show just how a great defensive boxer he was, it’s rumoured he even contacted the press and told them that in round 3 he would win the round with-out throwing a single punch. Pep apparently carried a press report in his wallet of that predicted 3rd round show of skill and yet many years later it may have been taken out of context after reports that he meant he would win the round without landing a punch as opposed to not throwing one. But whatever the truth is Pep was the master of evasion.Tragedy struck for Pep however January the 5th 1947 when he was involved in a plane crash, not only did he survive the crash when 3 unfortunate passengers died but he was back in the ring in June that year after doctors feared he may never fight again. During his short convalescence he had to wear a body and leg cast and a back brace yet he came back and continued his winning streak of 73 fights since his loss to Sammy Angott, and won 26 on the trot since the plane crash. Many believed that although he kept winning he had lost some of his speed and reflexes after the crash.
On the 29th of October 1948 he collided with his would be Nemesis and arch rival in the shape of Sandy Saddler, who was nearly 3 inches taller than the 5ft 3 Pep, for the Featherweight Crown at Madison Square Gardens. The pair fought 4 times altogether with Pep losing the title in their first meeting by a 4th round KO. Reporters at ringside suggested that Pep would have demolished Saddler if not for the air crash, but I guess that’s up for debate. Even though Saddler was a great fighter himself, he lacked the ring finesse of Pep but had a big KO punch, he was strong and powerful and had a terrific left hand in which he was capable a landing it as a powerful jab as well as a sickening uppercut. On Feb 11th 1949 the pair would fight again, Pep displayed his ring craft and avoided getting caught up in a brawl and after 15 rounds of brilliance Pep reclaimed the title on points. Ring magazine voted it as fight of the year in 1949 and to highlight his magic like jab he possessed Pep threw 37 jabs in a row in the first round.Their third encounter at the Yankee Stadium witnessed by over 30,000 spectators resulted in Pep sustaining a dislocated shoulder around the 2nd round after constant clinching and didn’t come out of his corner for the 8th, although he was ahead at the time by the judge’s scorecards. His face was a mess after Saddler rubbed the laces of his gloves while in close and the dirty tactics continued in their fourth and final meeting on September the 26th 1951. Saddler continued his tactic of using his laces to scuff Peps face and after a wrestling match in which almost every foul was committed by both men Saddler once again won after Peps eye swelled so bad that the fight was stopped after the 9th. Due to their dirty fight which even resulted in the ref getting pushed over during the constant holding and hitting both fighters were suspended by the boxing commission of New York State.
Below is a YouTube clip of their 4th clash
Although Pep never fought for the title again his remaining fights were mostly wins, his only losses since the 4th meeting with Saddler were from Tommy Collins, Gil Gadilli, Tommy Gibbs, Hogan Bassey, and Sonny Leon in 1959 after which he announced his retirement. Like many fighters before and after him he made a return to the ring 6 years later and lost only one more bout against Calvin Woodland in 1966 in which it would be his last competitive fight, although he did have a few exhibitions as late as 1975, aged 53. His record of 229 wins-11 losses and 1 draw is unthinkable in today’s boxing and considering he wasn’t renowned as a huge puncher he did have 65 wins by way of knockout.Pep was rumoured to have earned in excess of 1 million yet with his love of gambling and women he spent and lost the vast majority on it. He is quoted as saying, “My first five wives were good housekeepers,” he once explained. “Each of them kept the house when she left.” In total he married 6 times.After his retirement he also refereed a few fights and worked as a deputy state commissioner in Connecticut, his legacy was confirmed, if it needed to be when he was elected into the International Boxing hall of fame in 1990.Apart from his gambling problems and his money lost on his various wives the only blot on his long career was that he was accused of throwing a fight against Lulu Velez back in 1954, in which he was knocked out in 2 rounds against the virtually unknown fighter, he always firmly denied this and when interviewed and questioned about taking a “Dive” it’s obvious by his stare to the reporter how angry he was at this accusation made by Sports illustrated. Pep sadly passed away on November the 23rd 2006, aged 84 at West Hill Convalescent Home in Rocky Hill, Connecticut after suffering from Alzheimers for quite a few years. His old friend and rival in the ring Sandy Saddler died 5 years previous and also suffered from the same affliction as Pep.
THE TITANIC BOXERS
Just before midnight on the 14th of April 1912 the passenger ship deemed as unsinkable, the Titanic, which had sailed from Southampton on her maiden voyage only 4 days previous, struck an iceberg. Just over 2 hours later it eventually sunk leading to over 1500 passengers and crew losing their lives, many succumbing to the near freezing icy waters of the Atlantic.While the motion picture Titanic told the tale of Jack and Rose, many who died have remained forgotten in the years that have passed and regardless of wealth or social status they will be entwined in history together.
Two of those souls that perished on that fateful night were Professional boxers and close friends Leslie Williams and Dai Bowen, both from the Rhonda Valley in Wales. Williams, a talented Bantamweight boxer and Dai the Welsh Lightweight Champion were travelling to the United States to pursue a lucrative career in the American ring after their coach George Cundick had arranged a series of fights for them both with the Pennsylvanian Promoter and manager Frank Torreyson. A fight was already lined up for Dai on his arrival against an American fighter named Packey McFarland.Bowen’s body was sadly never found although Williams frozen body was and he was buried at sea on the 22nd of April.
Ironically Jimmy Wilde was turned down for the trip as the promoters believed him to be too small and another Welsh boxer, Eddie Morgan, who eventually fought Johnny Kilbane, unsuccessfully for the world title three times escaped a probable watery grave when he and his wife overslept in their hotel after a night of passion and missed the launch of Titanic.
What’s five million dollars’ worth, when I have the love of five million Cubans”? This was a poignant reply by perhaps the greatest Amateur boxer of all time in response to being offered a fight with Mohammed Ali for a reputed $5 million in the 1970’s.
Teofilo Stevenson was born in the area of Las tunas, Cuba on the 29th march 1952. His mother was born and bred in Cuba whereas his Father Teofilo Stevenson Snr was an immigrant from the Caribbean island of Saint Vincent. TS Snr was a large powerful man who had competed in amateur boxing himself but after a short spell of seven bouts he quit as he wasn’t happy with the way young and promising fighters were helped financially in the Red State.
The former national light heavyweight champion John Herrera perhaps kick started the young Teofilo’s career and from the age of 9 he improved radically At the age of 14 he fought in his first match and after beating some great fighters in the national championships he was chosen to represent his country in the Central American and Caribbean championship aged 17. Despite losing in the final it was a great result and his fellow countrymen considered him to be the best in Cuba at light-heavyweight which in itself was a great achievement.
Under the watchful eye of his coaches he went on to improve as a fighter and his accomplishments in later years made sure that the world would always remember him to be not only Cuba’s greatest boxer but perhaps the finest boxer never to turn Professional.With 3 Gold Olympic medals and numerous World Championship medals behind him the 6ft 3 Boxer retired from the sport in 1984 after Cuba boycotted the Summer Olympics, many believe he may have won a fourth title but we shall never know.
He only suffered 22 defeats throughout his career having competed in 302 bouts. He remained loyal to his amateur status and to Cuba’s stance on professional sport.With having such a glittering career and winning so many medals it’s a little sad that when his name is mentioned most Boxing enthusiasts come back to the old question…
WOULD HE HAVE BEATEN ALI? Teofilo Stevenson died on June 11th 2012 aged 60. R.I.P
PERHAPS THE GREATEST AMATEUR AND PROFESSIONAL HEAVYWEIGHT BOXERS TOGETHER
HUNGARY FOR A WORLD TITLE
Born on March the 25th 1926, The Hungarian born boxer Laszlo Papp was an exceptional amateur boxer and remained unbeaten in the professional ranks.
Lazlo came from a working class family in Budapest, and his interest in the fight came from his father, a time served plumber who sadly passed away in 1937 after battling cancer when Lazlo was aged only 11.
From an early age Lazlo was a decent sportsman, he played football, athletics and wrestling, he realised his greatest assets when he joined a boxing team at the age of 18 year. Obviously with Hungary being a communist country Professional boxing was outlawed, yet it had great strength in the unpaid ranks.The Budapest railway sports club that Lazlo joined was run by the head coach Zsigmond Adler, the club also helped Lazlo find work, carrying heavy parcels all day and this certainly helped to build up the strength and stamina for his days as a fighter.
In his first 3 years as a fighter he lost only one on points out of 51, and knocked 47 of his opponents out, many of which fell when he landed his tremendous left hook. He was a natural southpaw Boxer and this in itself coupled with a KO punch baffled many of his opponents, although the downfall of being a big hitter is the danger of suffering hand damage, Lazlo often had spells out of the ring due to injuries to his brittle hands.
The Olympics beckoned for Lazlo and in 1948 he travelled to London to compete in the biggest stage of amateur boxing, he won his preliminary bouts knocking 3 out of his first 4 opponents before facing the Brit Johny Wright. After a shaky start Lazlo proved his class when he came on strong and eventually went on to win and with it the Middleweight Gold Medal.
For many fighters winning one gold medal would be a huge achievement but Lazlo did what no other fighter had ever done. He went on to win Gold at the next 2 Olympics in 1952 and 1956, bringing his tally to 3 consecutive gold medals. Perhaps his most famous victory as an amateur was against Jose Torres in the 1956 games, who himself went on to become the WBA and WBC World Middleweight champion. After a successful amateur career he was then granted permission to fight in the paid ranks, this was a first at the time due to the iron curtain beliefs in professional sportsmen, he believed he could emulate his prowess as a professional as he had done as an amateur.
He turned Pro at the age of 31 and within 5 years he had won the European Middleweight title, stopping Chris Christensen in 7 rounds, if it wasn’t for his constant hand damage he sustained in many of his fights it would have come sooner.
He defended his title a total of 6 times, the last one being in 1964, and many pundits awaited a World title shot for the European champion. In 1965 Lazlo was the main contender and in line for a challenge against Joey Giardello. The fight was set the arrangements made and it looked like the former Olympic Champion would add the world crown to his list of achievements, but sadly Lazlo was called back to Hungary by the Authorities who subsequently revoked his passport which sadly ended his days as a fighter and he ended up having to relinquish his European title and he never fought again.
He ended up retiring with an unbeaten record of 27-0-2 and lost only 12 bouts as an amateur out of more than 300, with 55 of the wins by first round KO.Although he had his career curtailed by the powers that be he never gave up on his love of boxing and became Hungary’s national boxing coach for over 20 years. He passed away aged 77 in his native Budapest and his story remains an inspiration for many of today’s fighters be it amateur or pro. A year Before Lazlo passed away on the 16th of October 2003 he was inducted into boxing’s international hall of fame.
He was quoted as saying “I believe I had a good chance of winning the title as I had defeated others who defeated Giardello,” he said. “This is my one big regret in life.”
Prior to Neville Chamberlain’s famous speech, which was broadcast at 11.15 on the 3rd of September 1939 to let the British people and its allies know that WW2 was declared against Germany, a battle in the ring between two British boxers was to take place. Even though the boxers concerned were not household names outside of our little island it goes down as one of the best entertaining bouts seen in a British ring.
On the 3rd of February 1939 the same month that the first Anderson Shelter was built in preparation for the inevitable, Eric Boon from Cambridgeshire and Arthur Danahar from Bethnall Green entered the ring for the British Lightweight Championship at the Harringay Arena on the 23rd of Feb in front of a packed house.
Boon had previously won the title in December 1938 aged only 19 when he defeated Dave Crowley and even though on paper Danahar didn’t qualify for the challenge as other fighters perhaps deserved the chance first, it was the fight the public wanted and the board of control gave its blessing knowing the great match that lay ahead.. Boon was the much more experienced fighter who was muscular and thick set as well as a great counter puncher and hard hitter against the slick Danahar aged 20 who was slim, tall and a text book boxer, he was unbeaten as a pro in 14 fights and in 1937 had won the ABA Lightweight title.
Due to the excitement of the bout it was the first time the BBC was given permission to televise a boxing match and the first time a bout was shown live as a PPV, two cinemas the Marble Arch Pavilion and the Tatler News Theatre screened the fight and had a full house at both venues. It’s estimated that over 10,000 people watched the bout outside the arena itself and many who had never seen a fight before.Even though both fighters weighed around 9 stone 9, Boon was 4 inches shorter and had a 5 inch reach disadvantage. He looked like a fully grown man when they entered the ring in comparison to Danahar who looked immature and weak as he had very little muscle on him compared to the man he was due to face.
When the bell went Boon adopted his familiar flat footed style ready to unleash his power shots while on the ball of his feet Danahar remained in his upright position striking the champion with classic straight jabs while keeping a tight guard. Not only did Danahar keep out of the way from Boon’s big swings he also aimed for his body and kept this up until around the 7th round. It was boxer v fighter as the classic scientific boxer was outpointing the champion and Danahar even took some good shots without faltering in the slightest.
The crowd were possibly seeing the title slip from the grasp of Boon as his eye which had been the target of some wonderful accurate punches began to close. Boons main asset was his unreliquishing supply of energy and brute strength which had been fully tested in his previous bouts compared to Danahar who had previously never fought beyond 8 rounds.Danahar faltered in the 8th and the writing was perhaps on the wall when a hook to the jaw by Boon sent his crashing to the floor in the 8th, he showed great composure and remained calm and took full advantage of the count and he arose in time and back to clever boxing but the sheer strength of Boon had him down again towards the end of the round.
He once again beat the count and even though not visibly hurt Boon knew he had the power to hurt him and went all out to end the fight but the bell went before he had time. In the 9th and 10th the tide turned slightly when Boon was sent to the canvass himself twice and even though they were short counts the crowd went wild thinking there might be an upset.Boon came out in the 11th round with renewed vigour and this time the straight leads were bouncing off him more now and were walking through everything which Danahar landed. Boon sent his man crashing down again but this time the air of confidence shown by Danahar was gone, he was badly hurt and the bell saved him from being counted out. Returning to the corner with the aid of his seconds they tried their best to get him ready for the 12th. The crowd and everyone watching this epic bout knew that Boon had lost most of the early rounds, he was boxing one eyed due to the damage from the long straight left leads and felt perhaps he needed a KO to guarantee victory. Danahar had his own game plan and he felt if he could last till the 15th he may gain a narrow points victory.Coming out for the 12th Danahar tried in vain to keep Boon at bay, the punches were scoring but did nothing to deter the champion, he became the prey and Boon the hunter pushed forward knocking him down twice more, the crowd showed their admiration for this brave warrior as each time he somehow got to his feet on shaky legs. In the 13th Boon sent his man to the floor 3 times, instinct had took over as he managed to yet again get up each time while still trying to throw what were now vain attempts at left jabs.
The crowd seemed to be split in opinion as to whether the ref should stop the fight and the end came when Danahar was sent crashing heavily on his back, this time the ref called a halt to the fight and Boon was declared the winner.
BELOW IS A CLIP FROM YOUTUBE ON THIS EPIC BOUT.
One northeast boxer who seems to have been forgotten in the realms of time is the Featherweight Frank Robson, although he never achieved worldwide claim nor indeed had a vast amount of fights compared to other fighters of the time he did enter the ring with some of the best fighters around and fought around the world.Spike as he was known hailed from South Shields which is on the Northeast coast and was born in 1877; he amassed 29 fights in his pro career with a record of 15-10-4..He had his first pro fight at the age of 23 and after a KO win he fought for the 122lb English title against George Phalin and won this fight billed as a championship fight by a first round knockout.On the 11th of April 1903 he entered the ring with no other than the former world champion and first ever black world champion George Dixon aka “Kid Chocolate” who at this stage of his career had fought well over 100 bouts. Although past his best Dixon was still regarded as the favourite in the fight and Robson not only won the bout on points over 15 rounds at the Ginnett’s circus in Newcastle but also beat Dixon again in a return bout just over a month later and this time it was fought over 20 rounds. He career now stood at 4 wins from 4 boutsEven though he fought for many English titles at a weight from 122-126lb most were not recognised due to them only being over 2 minutes, however in 1905 he fought for the British Featherweight title against Joe Bowker and lost narrowly over 20 rounds. A year later however in 1906 he once again fought for the British title and this time won the fight over the experienced Johnny Summers who was disqualified in the 4th round for hitting low.Robson had already tasted fighting in the USA and had 3 fights with the talented “Harlem” Tommy Murphy winning 2 and losing one. He continued to fight in America in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and although he lost four and drew 1 it was against the likes of Abe Attell and the great Joe Ganns. His next fight was in New York against the American Terry McGovern and it’s reported by the papers that Robson fought well and deserved more than a draw which was recorded.Robson returned home soon after his fight in New York and had nearly a 2 year layoff before fighting no other than Jim Driscoll at the National Sporting Club, Covent Garden, London on the 18th of April 1910. It was for the British title and for a purse of £5,000 but Driscoll was something special who at the time had a fight record of 49-1-3, Robson tried his best but was knocked out in the 15th round, the defeat did not deter him from a rematch with Driscoll around 7 months later and once again he lost to Peerless Jim by TKO in the 7th.in what would be Robson’s final fight.Spike passed away in 1957 aged 69.
The video below shows one of Spikes fights against the great Jim Driscoll..
FIGHTING FOR HIS LIFE
Not many fighters go into a fight knowing that the only way to survive a bout and live is to win but this is exactly what would happen to Victor Perez after a successful career in the Boxing ring.
“Young” Victor Perez as he was to be known was born in Tunisia on the 18th of October 1911, he lived in the Jewish part of the town in Tunis with his family and had always wanted to be a boxer, after stepping between the ropes at the age of 14 his days of a fighter had only just started.
He was a small guy for a fighter at only 5ft 1 and never exceeded any more than 118lbs but was relentless in the ring. Born without a big telling KO punch he made up this shortfall with the ability to land clusters of punches, and after only two years from wanting to emulate his idol the Senegal boxer Battling Siki, he had his first professional fight aged just 16. He achieved a win in this first bout and continued to remain unbeaten for the next 26 fights.
His first loss was to Leo Hermal in Paris in 1929 and all of his fights upto this stage had been fought in France, Tunisia and Algeria. Perez eventually became the French Flyweight champion in 1930 aged just 19 and the World Champion in 1931 knocking out Frankie Genaro in the 2nd round.Even though he lost the title in his first defence he continued to try and regain it but never did and had his last fight in 1938 by which time he had clocked up an impressive 91 wins with 15 draws and 28 losses. Many believe his constant partying and his success with hoards of women derailed what could have been an even greater fight legacy and yet although his professional career was now over his battle had just begun.
Perez finally settled and lived in Paris where he was a well-known sporting celebrity before the 2nd world war had begun and tragically when France eventually fell and became occupied by the Germans he was rounded up by the Nazi’s and taken the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland with numbers totalling nearly 1000 on October the 10th 1943.Once the Nazi’s became aware of who he was and his fighting pedigree they arranged bouts between fellow prisoners twice a week. The only prize for the winner in these particular bouts was a little bread, for the loser it meant being executed by being shot. In the 2 years that Perez was help captive in Auschwitz it’s believed that he won 140 fights all by KO.
Many times he was pitted against men many times bigger and heavier than himself but his training in the past helped him survive these gruesome acts of fighting that entertained the Nazi officers who would wager bets as to who would win.In 1945 when the Germans realised the war was lost many of the death camps were evacuated, just months before liberation came Perez and other prisoners totalling 31 out of the original 1000 set off in the winter on a death march and within only 3 days he was shot dead after apparently sharing some of the bread he had won in his fights to fellow prisoners…
A PHOTO OF VICTOR PEREZ AND A MOVIE ABOUT HIM WHICH WAS MADE IN 2013
THE GONG MAN
Maurice Cullen and Ken Buchanan
The "Gong Man” is Symbolic of that classic era of Movies produced by the Rank Organisation, it was used as a trademark in the opening credits in their films for over 50 years, although the gong was actually made of Papier Mache and the noise of the gong was actually that from a Chinese instrument called a Tam Tam.
The most famous of the men behind the Gong was a British boxer named Billy Wells, who was chosen for his great physique and popularity at the time.
William Thomas Wells, was born on the 31st of August 1887 (or in 1889 depending on the various references) in Mile End, which later became part of the district of Stepney in 1925, in the East End of London. Coming from a large family of 9 siblings, Billy was the eldest of 5 brothers, fortunately his parents both worked, his father, was a musician and his mother a Laundress, times were hard during the onset of the 20th century, especially in the East End.
Many workhouses existed for the impoverished and Mile End was at the epicentre of buildings erected to look after the poorest of people. Billy’s interest and the beginning of his fighting career in Amateur boxing began around the age of 12; he had left school at this age, which was common then, and his first paid job was as a messenger boy. It’s assumed that after the death of his father, William Thomas Wells Senior, in 1905, Billy decided to join the Royal Artillery as a gunner, he was aged 18 at this time and was soon posted to Rawalpindi. Since the British invasion and occupation in 1851 it had become the biggest British Army garrison in British India, with a full infrustructure in place, including a railway
Boxing was still a big part in Billy’s life and as well as being promoted to the rank of Bombardier, he entered and won many boxing bouts while in active service, including him winning the All India Amateur Championships in 1909, by beating Private Clohessey. His promotion of Bombardier gave him many advantages as far as his fighting career was concerned and by this time he was being coached in boxing by a civilian trainer and his future in the Pro ranks beckoned. After buying himself out of the Army in 1910 after only 4 years, Billy took the long trip back to London and in the same year he had fought and won his first 6 fights, winning 5 by KO.
Weighing in at around 182-192 lbs and 6ft 3, Billy was a technically gifted fighter; he used his jab to keep his opponents at bay, and moved around the ring well using his height and reach advantage to great effect. He also had a decent hard right hand and considering he had only just turned Pro in 1910 he captured the public’s attention as a future contender for the Heavyweight crown, and in only his 9th fight he fought William Hague, the Yorkshire-man, for the British Heavyweight Title in which he won by a 6th round KO on the 24th April 1911. He had also fought for the British Empire Title against Dan Flynn the month previous and won over 20 rounds. As well as being the British Empire and British Champion, the fight with the “Iron Man”, Hague, became historic, as it was the first time the heavyweight Lonsdale belt was up for grabs.
The fantastic belt, which was the brainchild of Lord Samuel Wallace Lonsdale was given to boxers who won the British title, and if they defended it 3 times it was theirs to keep. The original belts, first introduced in 1909 was first won by the Lightweight Boxer Freddie welsh, they were made of porcelain and twenty-two carat gold, supported by red, white and blue fabric, whereas in late years the cost of making them was reduced by making them in nine carat gold.
During the early and middle of the 20th century, many fights were not given approval and were frowned upon due to the colour bar. In 1911, Billy was due to meet the world Champion Jack Johnson, it was arranged for the contest to take place in London on the 2nd of October, but after objections by the then Home secretary Winston Churchill and church leaders the fight was cancelled. Billy did however defend his British Empire Title in London on the 18th of December against Fred Storbeck in which Billy won by a KO in the 11th round.
Before the year was out Billy showed another talent way from the ring, by publishing his first book, titled, Modern Boxing: a Practical Guide to Present Day Methods . In boxing terms 1912 was a quieter year for Billy, he travelled to America and was beaten by a KO in the 3rd round by the hard hitter Al Palzer in New York, but in his second fight in the states he knocked out New Yorker Tm Kennedy in 8 rounds in Kennedy’s hometown, before returning back to London. He defended his British Empire Title once more in December, winning by a KO in the 2nd round, but not before getting married in September to Ellen Kilroy, with whom he would have 5 children by.
Whereas 1912 was relatively quiet for Billy, 1913 was hectic to say the least, he fought 6 times in this year, but more importantly, he was involved in 5 title fights. To start off the year he travelled back to the states and took on Ed “Gunboat” Smith in New York and was once again found to be lacking when caught on the chin by this hard hitter, the fight was over when Billy was stopped by a KO in the 2nd round. Europe beckoned that year for the Bombardier and the EBU title with it but unfortunately he was twice unsuccessful in winning the crown by being knocked out by George Carpentier, once in Belgium and the next time in London. He did however defend his British Heavyweight Title 3 times in that year. When the war started Billy continued to box and he joined up in 1915 and was made sergeant, due to his previous military experience, his fitness and fighting ability led him to being sent to France in 1917 to train the troops. He just never made it into the big league, as his power to take a punch let him down when facing more elite fighters. It’s said he lacked a killer instinct and bad ass attitude, but he continued boxing right up until 1925 and in total his record was 41-11-0 with 34 wins by KO, he also defended his British title a total of 13 times before losing it and the Empire Title to Joe Beckett in 1919.
In 1923 "Bombardier" Billy Wells, wrote "Physical Energy." Inside, Wells, 8 time British Champion, describes his method of Physical Culture using Boxing. In it, he builds his case for why it is superior to previous methods of Physical Culture, explaining that the primary ingredient of health is "nervous energy," describing how lack of "nervous energy" due to ineffective, or outdated Physical Culture methods allow illnesses ranging from anaemia, to "Incipient Tuberculosis." All of which, and more, may be cured by his method. Further, use of his method will promote intelligence, due to the fact that "nerve energy" is a primary component of intellect and creativity. The original book is intended for an upscale audience with heavy weight, high rag, paper and artist attributed photos of the Wells himself posing in the manner of a Greek God, in the buff, complete with a fig leaf. This book offers an absolutely fascinating and priceless look at theories of health and fitness in the early 1920's
In the same year, 1923, this Silent Pathe News video shows Billy in Ireland, playing golf and skipping.
In the 1930’s Billy became the Landlord of the Red Lion Pub in Handcross, the pub dates back to the 1500’s and it played host to many travelling boxing booths during the early 20th century. Bombardier Billy Wells as the original Hammer Productions Ltd anvil man in the 30’s To cement the Hammer image in the eyes of the public a special logo was filmed, featuring a muscular man banging a hammer on an anvil in a rhythm which in Morse code spelt out ‘Hammer’. The ‘Hammer man’ was British and European heavyweight boxing champion Bombardier Billy Wells. Just two years later Wells would become associated with another (longer lasting) iconic image – that of the first Rank ‘Gong Man’. BBC London managed to track down Billy’s historic original Lonsdale belt and they found out that it is kept at The Royal Artillery Barracks in Woolwich, South East London,the belt however is not on display to the general public.
“Bombardier” Billy Wells sadly passed away on the 12th June 1967 aged 77 returning to his beloved East-end, where he had grew up as a child, his ashes were laid to rest in the crypt of St. Mary's parish church in Hanwell, west London.
LETS ALL RAISE A GLASS TO THE GONG MAN HIMSELF
THE HARLEM COFFEE COOLER
The Black Pugilist Frank Craig who was widely known as “The Harlem Coffee Cooler” fought from the backstreets of Harlem, New York, to the highest echelon’s in the boxing ring, in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Frank fought some of the biggest names in the sport and although he fought in the Middleweight and Light-heavyweight divisions he often faced much bigger opponents.
Weighing in between 153 and 169 lbs the 5ft 10 fighter’s birthplace and even the year that he was born in is subject to much debate. Reports suggest 1868 and others at 1870, and it is also unclear as to whether he was born in Born in Columbus, or New York City. What is known is that he was born on April Fool’s Day.
His nickname originated from his early unorganised bouts in Harlem and his first reported fight took place in 1891.Like many black boxers during this time they were either not allowed to or were dismissed as a rightful challenge for a legitimate world title so many black fighters had to fight for the various “Coloured Titles”. Frank had a fight against Middleweight champ Joe Butler in Philadelphia on 18 March 1893 and although he lost the fight he earned a rematch the following year and this time he was successful, winning in round 4 and in doing so became the “Coloured Middleweight Champion of the World”
In the following year as capturing the title he sailed for England and decided to never defend the title which went vacant and continued his fighting away from the USA. Like many fighters before and after he earned extra cash by performing in plays and exhibition bouts, many of these exhibitions were against Amateur champions in various weights, including Heavyweights. It was common in this era of boxing that foreigners could fight for English titles and in 1895 he did just that and lost out on a Middleweight title losing to Dan Creedon in the 20th round. In 1898 he fought the tough and durable Northeast of England boxer George Crisp at the Ginnetts Circus in Newcastle, who although he had fought some decent fighters he often had to concede a lot of weight when competing at the top flight. Frank went onto to beat crisp in a bout promoted in some reports as the Heavyweight championship of Britain and in others as the World 160lb title.
Whatever the authenticity surrounding some his previous fights, Frank’s big opportunity came in 1899 when he fought for the American and World Middleweight title against Tommy Ryan, who had up to this stage already won the welterweight championship and had only lost once in a 63 fight career. Frank must have shocked everyone who witnessed the fight by putting Ryan down in the second round at the Coney Island Athletic club in Brooklyn, New York, but although he put up a brave account of himself he was stopped in the 10th round, bravely getting up time after time after hitting the canvas 9 times in round 9 and once in the 10th.
Frank continued to fight competitively well into the 20th century and after having a 10 year layoff from the ring he fought Jim Rideout in Hackney, London in 1922, he lost this 3 round fight and it was to be his last in a career which spanned nearly 30 years. His official fight record ended with 68-36-9 with 42 knockouts and this excludes the many exhibition bouts he took part in throughout this time. In his long career Frank had fought the likes of Jack Root, Jack O’Brien, Paddy Slavin among many others and died in London in his 70’s, in the city which had adopted him as one of their own.
Frank made the headlines away from the ring also when he was involved in a murder case; it involved the English actress Jesse Mcintosh, the Vaudeville star. The following is from the Telegraph newspaper from 1913
“Jessie Mcintosh, an English actress, was recently murdered at a convivial gathering of negro music hall artists at Bloomsbury. The shot is alleged to have been fired by Annie Gross, a negress, with whose husband Miss Mcintosh is said to have been living. • After the shooting of Miss Mcintosh Mrs. Gross is alleged to have pointed the revolver at her husband, but the cartridges were exhausted. Craig was afterwards arrested on a charge of being an accessory to the murder”
He was later released without charge and Annie Gross was convicted of murder and sentenced to 5 years imprisonment.
Frank Craig and his boxing exploits were also mentioned in a famous love letter from Mark Twain to his wife Livy. When her writer/ lecturer husband famous for “The Adventures of huckleberry Finn” novel, among others, went to see one of Franks fights at the New York athletic Club, against Joe Ellingsworth on December 30, 1893 and the letter below is what he wrote to his wife
.“Mr. Archbold of the Standard Oil got tickets for us & he & Mr. Rogers & Dr. Rice & I went to the Athletic Club last Saturday night & saw the Coffee Cooler dress off another prize fighter in great style. There were 10 rounds; but at the end of the fifth the Coffee Cooler knocked the white man down & he couldn't get up any more. A round consists of only 3 minutes; then the men retire to their corners and sit down and lean their heads back against a post and gasp and pant like fishes, while one man fans them with a fan, another with a table-cloth, another rubs their legs and sponges off their faces and shoulders and blows sprays of water in their faces from his own mouth. Only one minute is allowed for this; then time is called and they jump up and go to fighting again. It is absorbingly interesting”- Letter to Olivia Clemens, January 4, 1894, reprinted in The Love Letters of Mark Twain, (Harper & Bros., 1949
Craig was also involved in an incident in the town of Sunderland, in the North-east of England, around August 1900. Like many boxers of the time, extra revenue could be gained by appearing in music halls giving boxing exhibitions, as part of these appearances, the night ended by the fighter offering anyone in the audience to come forward to see if they could last three rounds, for a £5 prize. On this particular day in Sunderland a burley shipyard worker, known as a ruffian fancied his chances to win the wager but was knocked unconscious within a minute. The local crowd took great dislike to seeing their man embarrassed and threw whatever was at hand at Craig, Some-thing struck him and he was laid beside the fallen man as the crowd closed in to the stage to give his comeuppance, Craig managed to stumble to his dressing room and it took hours for the police to quell the mob. It became known as “The Sunderland Riot” and even an innocent black man was attacked outside the theatre when they believed it was Craig himself.
There are many Australian Boxers that have achieved fame and notoriety throughout the years of both the Bareknuckle and Gloved eras of pugilisim and yet few of the true natives of Australia, the Aboriginies, are remembered for their accomplishments in the ring.
One fine example of this is the boxer Jerry Jerome, i first came across this fighter after talking to his Great Grandson Domo Blewonski on facebook.
Born in Jimbour Station which was one of the great homesteads in Queensland, Australia in 1874, Jerry grew up with his parents, farm labourer Woolen Charlie and his mother Guli. Due to the area that he lived and worked in he grew to be an accomplished horserider and Stockman, taking care of the livestock. The hard work at the station gave him the strength, endurance and naturally athletic physique to help him when he took up boxing .
Although he never recieved any coaching or lessons he was obviously a natural fighter
TO BE CONTINUED.
Many fighters have nicknames that they are often referred to and George Harris Martin was no exception. Known as “The Black Pearl” Harris was perhaps one of the best middleweight boxers of his time, although because of the colour of his skin his wasn’t able to get a fight for the official world title. Born in Washington, in the district of Columbia, his full fighting career is somewhat a mystery and indeed his actual date of birth is subject to controversy, some reports suggest 1865, while other say 1867.
Standing at around 5ft 6 he was an aggressive squat , muscular fighter, he never stopped throwing punches from the opening bell and was quite happy to get hit himself to land his own punches on the inside, aiming for both body and head. Perhaps the way he fought coupled with his great endurance and the ability to take a punch he was a man often avoided by other fighters. He often had to concede weight to keep active and considering he weighed around 150lbs he often met and beat heavyweight boxers.
Boxrec have the fights recorded by Harris and it quotes his stats as 53 wins, 11 losses and 1 loss by a newspaper decision and 15 draws although the local newspapers in Minnesota, in which he lived and settled believed he had well over 100 fights and it seems as the years go by more new fights are uncovered.
As well as fighting notable opponents such as Charley Holcombe, Bobby Dodds, and the highly rated Dick Moore twice in which he beat him twice, he also fought the heavyweight Bob Fitzsimmons in a 4 round exhibition fight. The win which I guess meant the most to him was on the 2nd of May 1887 in which he claimed the Coloured Middle-Weight Championship of the world against Frank Taylor when he knocked Taylor out in the 38th round which lasted over 2hrs.
He had 26 straight victories until 1891 when he lost against Jerry Heggerty and in the same year lost his Coloured Middleweight title against Ed Binney.Although he continued fighting until 1900 he was a shadow of himself and coupled with a divorce his best days were well past, he drank regularly and frequented the clubs and pubs most nights.On April the 26th 1903 aged only 38 he died of a heart attack while walking in the street in Saint Paul, Minnesota. He was buried in the nearby Maplewood Cemetery in which its reported supporters from all races and religions attended in their masses to pay homage.
THE BLACK PEARL