MANCHESTER EX-BOXERS CHAIRMAN
I first started boxing at 13 years of age. As there were no clubs in the Collyhurst and Miles Platting area, I joined the Ardwick Lads Boxing Club, which was run by Billy Hayes in 1950, helped in the gym by Tommy Farraquer, Billy Gordon and Bill Mercer. There were some very good boxers in the gym at that time, the likes of Lol Brotherton, his brother, Young Billy Hayes, Billy Noble, Norman Mercer, Eddie Marsland, Brian Gordon and quite a lot more, and there were two lads who had just come from Jamaica, Johnny Elliott and Del Willis.
As a schoolboy boxer at the time, I used to like the different places we used to box around the North West — we even went by coach. I remember the subs were 6 pence a week for three nights’ training and I used to like the running track they had at the back of the Club in Palmersten Street. I never missed my training, even though I had to get two buses to the gym, one from Queens Road, and one from Ashton New Road, and then a long walk down Hilkirk Street.
During my time at Ardwick, I had 30 contests, of which I only lost 9, and enjoyed every moment I was there. By the time I got to 16, I started going to Jack Bates Gym with a mate of mine called Andy Lambert, which was behind a barber’s shop on Rochdale Road in Collyhurst, and was called Harry the Barber’s, run by Harry Toff.
Jack Bates was a great trainer, who years before, trained Jackie Brown, World Flyweight Champion, Johnny King, British Bantamweight Champion, Jock McAvoy, the British Middleweight Champion, Tony Finnan and many more from the Collyhurst area.
In the Gym at that time were Tommy Proffit, Stan Skinkiss, and Andy Lambert, who turned pro at 16 years of age. The Gym was very small, so not long after, Jack Bates took over, the Rainbow Gym, which was in Jessy Ann Street at the side of the Big Queens on Queens Road. At 17.1/2 years old, I turned pro myself in 1955. The Gym was soon full of top professionals: Frank Johnson, British Lightweight Champion, his brother, Jackie Braddock, Neville Tetlow, Denis Lockton, Jackie Tiller, Stan Skinkiss and Bobby Skinkiss.
Jack’s chief trainer and corner man was Tommy Finnan and the sparring was top class — he put me in with Jackie Tiller, Bobby Skinkiss and Tommy Higgins, before he retired. I also moved around with Frankie Johnson, and one lad I sparred with, Mickey Roach, a top bantamweight, at the time, who was in the R.A.F. tragically drowned in the river at Preston.
I myself fought in various parts of the country: 4s rounds and 6s rounds. Jack used to send us out on boxing booths, Joe Plant’s in Wythenshawe and Matt Moran’s in Daisy Nook, Failsworth. I had many contests on the booths — it was a good learning process.
At almost 21, I had to leave my job as a bricklayer and do my National Service in the Army, joining the King’s Regiment at Formby Barracks. After basic training, we moved to Brentwood in Essex, and I was soon attached to the boxing team, then as a coach. The King’s team was full of talent, Syd Mellor, a P.T.I. from Hulme, Alfie Matthews from Liverpool, also Jimmy Brown and Tony Brown, Vic Parry, George Bayliss, to name but a few.
After boxing in various parts of London, the Battalion was posted to Kenya. Although still a coach, I was able to box out there. After first winning the Battalion Belt at Bantamweight, myself and some of the King’s boxers were invited to join the Kenyan International team who were in training for a match against Uganda. I had to fight the Kenyan Champion, Ali Juma over 4 rounds, and I won on points. Then we had to have a return, and I also won that one on points. Then along with some other lads from the Army out there, we boxed for Kenya against Uganda in Nairobi in 1959. I fought John Sentigo and won on points.
After getting demobbed, I was out of boxing for a number of years until the late 1970s, when along with a good friend of mine, John Donnelly, I started the Fox Amateur Boxing Club. The Club is still going strong today, and I’m still the Chief Coach. I’ll tell you more about the Club’s achievements at a later date.
Yours in sport,