Saturday, 6 June 2015

The Stylist From Stepney

By O. F. Snelling

This article is reproduced with the kind permission of Derek O’Dell, Editor and Producer of ‘The Southern Ex-Boxer’, in which it was first published in 1997.


Harry Mizler with brother Moe and trainer Nat Sellar
I have often been asked: ‘Who was the finest stylist you ever saw?’ My answer has always been the same, for I saw the man box when I was in my teens, and I never saw anyone who quite compared with him, up to the present time. I am now over 80.

He was not a world-beater, and nobody could ever say that he was one of the finest ringsters of all time. But he was certainly one of the most pleasing to watch, if you have a feeling for grace and aesthetics within the ropes. He was an artist, if not quite of the absolute first class, and his name was Harry Mizler.

He was born at the beginning of the year 1913, and he was usually billed as hailing from St. George's, although Stepney has often been mentioned as his birthplace. It comes to much the same thing. Certainly, he was a London East Ender, and he grew up in the 1920s in the heart of the Jewish community, where so many pugilists like Ted 'Kid' Lewis, Jack 'Kid' Berg, and Benny Caplan made their starts.

Harry was tutored by ‘big’ brother, Moe Mizler, who was in fact a very tiny but extremely capable flyweight who mixed with some of the best of his time, including legends of that era like 'Nipper' Pat Daly. The youthful Harry took to the game very early, and he soon showed signs of being a boxing prodigy.

Monday, 23 February 2015

George Naufahu of Tonga, boxer, trainer and a well-respected Chesterfield character



George Naufahu, one of that fine group of Tongans who came to Britain in the mid nineteen-fifties, died on February 13th aged 88. The victim of a stroke, George’s passing will be greatly mourned not only by the  many people associated with the game in and around Chesterfield, but also by many who remember him in his native Tonga, ten thousand miles away. He is to be buried today at the Salem Methodist Independent Chapel in Chesterfield.
George arrived in Britain in 1956 aged 29.   He joined the same stable as his compatriot Kitione Lave and trained initially at the Cantley Saw Mills Gymnasium near Doncaster. He weighed fourteen and a half stone and he claimed to have had 50 amateur and 38 professional contests prior to making his British debut.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Johnny Hughes – British and World Title Claimant, Promoter and Film Extra

Johnny Hughes in his prime
Remembering Johnny Hughes (Bloomsbury), the early 20th-century British and world title claimant who became a promoter and film extra.

Recently I heard from June Hurst, granddaughter of Bloomsbury flyweight Johnny Hughes, who boxed professionally from around 1900 to 1923 and was one of the best British boxers of the day. But like many top men of that era he is now largely forgotten.

Eminent boxing writer and historian Gilbert Odd described Johnny as ‘a rough, tearaway fighter with a punch a lightweight would have envied. He could be outpointed providing he didn’t knock you out first.’ While old-time fight journalist Charlie Rose remembered him as ‘one of the toughest and hardest-hitting flyweights that I can recall’.

He said: ‘Though barely 8st, this great little battler from Bloomsbury often gave half a stone to high-class men, and brought home the bacon by exploding dynamite in his right glove against either the point, the heart or the short ribs. Johnny also carried a dangerous left hook in his repertoire of punches, and could locate the “mark” with it more efficiently than most.’

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Johnny Barton of Lancaster - an obituary by Larry Braysher

Lancaster lost one of its sporting legends of the past when former professional boxer Johnny Barton died recently in a Morecambe nursing home aged ninety. Johnny, whose real name was Chippendale, started his boxing career during the Second World War whilst he was serving in the Royal Navy, but it was after he was demobbed in 1945 that it gained momentum.

Known as the ‘Fighting Lumberjack’ Johnny’s two biggest assets were his ability to take a punch without any adverse effect he was never knocked out or stopped (except on cuts) in his sixty two bouts, something he attributed to the thick muscular neck which he developed and also his incredible physical strength that helped him become a fearsome puncher. Johnny had done heavy manual jobs all his working life and it certainly paid dividends during his ring career.

These qualities helped Johhny become one of the country’s foremost light-heavyweights of the immediate post-war era. However, although it seems astonishing these days, during his time in the ring Johnny never boxed for a title.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Boxing in Morecambe Bay - a new book by Larry Braysher

In 2012 boxing historian and collector Larry Braysher produced a neat little book on the history of boxing in Morecambe entitled ‘Boxing by the Sea’.   Copies of this informative book are still available directly from the author.

To complete his historical overview of boxing in the area Larry has now written a second volume which covers boxing and boxers from the local communities of the area around Morecambe bay, particularly Lancaster but also including Heysham and the other small towns and villages that produced such good fighters throughout the twentieth century.

Every facet of the sport is included in this journey through the decades with anecdotes, amusing stories and reminiscences to enhance the wealth of statistical information on boxers from the area.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Pride of Poplar Boxing Statue Does London Proud

A statue to honour Britain’s youngest-ever world boxing champion, Teddy Baldock, has been unveiled in east London. 

It had been 82 years since his last professional fight and 43 years since his death, but rumour had it a London boxing legend was back in town and about to make a comeback. Incredibly, the rumour was true...

Yesterday, at Langdon Park in Poplar, east London, hundreds gathered to watch the unveiling of a life-size bronze statue fashioned in the likeness of Britain’s youngest-ever world boxing champion, Teddy Baldock, a star of the 1920s ring. The statue, which is the work of expert sculptor Carl Payne, has been erected at the Spotlight youth centre, fittingly just a few hundred yards from Baldock’s one-time Byron Street home.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

The tragic death of Tom Simmonette

One of the most difficult things to deal with when researching the history of boxing is in coming across the occasional sad reference to an old ring warrior who met his end in the boxing ring in which he fought. There have been surprisingly few ring deaths in the long history of the sport but those that did occur left, inevitably, a deep wound to those within the sport who came into contact with the boxer and, most particularly, to the members of his family. Even today I am sometimes contacted by people whose ancestor died in this way and it is gratifying for me to find that whilst the boxer, and the circumstances leading to his death, are long-forgotten, the memory of the boxer is still cherished by those ancestors living today.

Late last year I heard from Thomas and Joan Simmonette following the passing of Thomas's father 'Tam' Simmonette of Uddingston, South Lanarkshire. Tam was the son of Robert, whose brother Tom died following a contest in January 1922. Tam had photos and information about Tom and he told his story to the family. Joan and Tom wish Tom's story to be told and for his memory to live on. Together with the items that I held on Tom already we can pay tribute to him today.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

George Markwick – Heavy Hitter from a Sleepy Sussex Village

The quaint West Sussex village of Cuckfield has never been a breeding-ground of boxers. It did produce one man, though, who made his mark as an amateur and professional – a heavyweight of the 1930s and 40s called George Markwick.

Markwick was born in Cuckfield in 1916, and as a 'regular' with the Royal Artillery he won the heavyweight championship of the British Army in 1937. He had around 70 amateur contests and lost only six. Two of these defeats were to Sweden's Olle Tandberg, who became European heavyweight champion as a pro.

Markwick made his professional debut on 10 May 1937 when he knocked out Gunner Read in four rounds at the Holborn Stadium. He stayed unbeaten in his first 27 pro fights, 22 of them ending inside the distance, which proves what a puncher he was. But in fight number 28, Markwick was stopped in the seventh round by fellow big-hitter Len Rowlands (Dagenham) at the Devonshire Club in a scheduled eight-rounder. It had been a hard-fought battle which for a while seemed as though it could go either way.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Two-Fisted Gentlemen: a history of boxing in Widnes and Runcorn

Two-Fisted Gentlemen: a history of boxing in Widnes and Runcorn (1900-1960). Paperback; 277 pages; many rare photos & boxing illustrations with a comprehensive index John Sinnott has recently produced this excellent book on the rich boxing history of Widnes and Runcorn. 

Born in Widnes, Cheshire in 1951, John’s interest in local boxing history began in 1984 when he started to research his own family history and discovered several local newspaper articles from the 1930s and 1940s written by his great uncle Pat Sinnott (1882-1949). The subject of some of these articles related to a number of former Widnes boxers, whom Pat had known personally and watched some of their contests from the ringside. After more than 25 years John has finally realised his long-held desire to see his ‘labour of love’ translated into a book to be enjoyed by avid readers of boxing history everywhere. 

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Jimmy Wilde’s genius

Jimmy Wilde
Boxing News reader Norman Allen-Jones penned the below letter in response to an article that appeared in that paper on 27 June 1951, in which contributor Bill Evans had written the following about the secret of Wilde’s phenomenal punch:

‘Speed plus timing did the trick. Of course, he was unorthodox. He could bring across a punch from an unexpected angle and take an opponent unawares. For this reason he was neither a good coach nor a good example to the young – in a boxing sense only, I mean! He could show you just how he punched, but he alone could punch that way. Boys who watched him and tried to fight on the same pattern were wasting their time… I dislike the word “freak” applied to people like the Tylorstown Terror. He wasn’t that at all – just a genius.’

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Panama Al Brown thrills British fight fans


At 5 feet 11 with long spindly arms and legs and not a spare ounce of flesh on his wiry body, it’s astonishing that Al Brown ever made the 8 stone 6 lb bantamweight limit, let alone that he dominated that division as few others have done. 

What made Brown all the more remarkable was that in spite of his willowy appearance he was tremendously strong and carried the punch of a man two or three weight classes heavier.

He simply toyed with many of his opponents who – typically conceding half a foot or more in height and being similarly disadvantaged in reach – could find no antidote for those lead-pipe arms, that jack-in-the-box style and nimble footwork. Often they resorted to charging in and were laid out flat by Brown’s slicing uppercuts, delivered with startling speed and timing.

Latin America's first world boxing champion

Brown had taken up boxing belatedly, his interest piqued by watching American soldiers box when he worked as a clerk for the US Shipping Board at the Panama Canal Zone.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Death of Bob Darley - Army and Navy Featherweight Champion 1908 and 1909

In the Sporting Life dated Tuesday March 27th 1917 the following notice appeared:

REPORTED DEATH OF SERVICE CHAMPION AT BAGHDAD

We have received a communication from Mr J J Johnson informing us of the death of Sgt. Major Bob Darley, the well-known featherweight boxer. It appears that he was taken prisoner when Kut fell, but was so weak and ill that he was left in hospital in Baghdad, and died there last October. 

Darley, who was attached to the West Kent Regiment, will be remembered as winning the Navy and Army featherweight championships in 1908 and 1909, while in civilian rings he won several money matches. Standing with right hand and foot foremost, he was an awkward proposition to all 9st. men.