Sunday 25 September 2011

Rescued from the archives: 1 - Dick Greaves v Roy Hilton

One of the joys of researching and compiling boxers' records from before the war is to do so in the knowledge that these records, unlike those of the 1950s onwards, can never be completed. So many contests took place in those days that each record produced can only ever be the summary of contests that have been found thus far.

Each bout found, therefore, adds a little extra to the record, and there is great satisfaction to be had in watching them grow. For instance, back in 2006 my record for Sam Minto contained details of 281 professional contests. After a further five years' research, ably assisted by fellow record compiler Richard Ireland, the total had grown to 331 bouts. Many of these additional bouts were located in aged newspapers. This is where Colindale Newspaper Library comes in.

This wonderful institution contains a copy of virtually every newspaper printed in the UK and is further supplemented by a large collection of overseas newspapers. I visit the library about four times a year for about four or five days each time. Richard travels up one day per week. Between us we are slowly working our way through hundreds of local newspapers in a search for long forgotten boxing contests that were not reported in Boxing News.

Although it is an arduous and gruelling task, it is also hugely rewarding and enjoyable. One is transported back in time by reports of long-forgotten murders, scandals and rail disasters, a world of coal mines and football matches where the star players were called Bert, Ted and Wilf and played in front of 50,000 spectators for a fiver a week.

Last week I was researching the Lancashire area for the early 1930s and came across a bill in Warrington for which I had previously had only scant details. As well as detailed reports of the contests, from which I could properly complete the bill, there was also a magnificent picture. It is very rare indeed to get pictures of boxing matches in the newspapers of this period and the one I saw on page 9 of the Warrington Guardian (edition: Saturday February 28th 1931) was a real beauty.

The contest had taken place at the Parr Hall in Warrington the previous Monday evening and the two principals, Dick Greaves of Salford and Roy Hilton of Hollinwood, had boxed twelve close rounds with the verdict going to Greaves.

These two were very typical of the boxers of that period. I have traced 83 bouts for Greaves and 89 for Hilton. I have no doubt that they both had in excess of 100 contests and I hope one day to be able to prove this. Neither of them was good enough to get close to an area title shot, let alone a match for a Lonsdale belt. They regularly boxed 12 and 15 rounders and averaged about eight contests per year.

The promoter of the bouts was Harry Adler, about whom I know nothing. Harry, I imagine, was a local businessman of some sort who had an interest in the noble art and enough money to gamble on running the occasional boxing tournament. He promoted another show at the same venue two weeks later but then nothing further as far as I can tell.

Hilton and Greaves would have met at about 9 stone. They would have been properly contracted and would have earned around £8 to £10 each for the contest. I am pretty sure that the bill was licensed by the newly formed British Boxing Board of Control (BBBC) and the event would have attracted about 1,000 spectators, each paying from 1s (5p) to stand to about 4s (20p) to sit at ringside.

The referee for the contest was Captain Norman Fitchett of Cheadle, a good class featherweight from 20 years previously. Fitchett was a very active referee in rings around Lancashire and Yorkshire at this time.

So, another bout added to the records of two fine boxers, and a marvellous memento of the occasion rescued from the vaults of the newspaper library and reproduced here. I am particularly pleased by the discovery as until now I had never seen a picture of either boxer. So many of these fine fighters are forgotten now and to be able to bring them back into the limelight is especially rewarding.

I hope to make this a regular feature and when I return to Colindale later this year I hope to dig out another similar photo and rescue it from ‘archive oblivion’.


  1. Great article this Miles, just imagine a purse of £10 in 1931? That must have been a fortune in those days!
    Parr Hall is still standing, I also recall there was a boxer called Albert Parr from Warrington who boxed in the 1980's, must be a link there?

  2. A very interesting article! Thank you! My grandfather, Arthur Maskill boxed for the army during the first WW. He must have been fairly good as my 93 year old mother has just given a boxing championship medal to me which belonged to my Grandad. She said he was a bare knuckle fighter before the war and won every bout going on to win several boxing tournaments while in France during the Great War. I can't however find any on-line documentation for him! Please could you tell me where I might begin my search please?

  3. Given the appropriate name of the website, I wish to ask about any info you may have regarding an early lightweight "Bill or Billy Adams" from Canning Town. In 1906 he fought (and won) the Lt.Wt. championship of WV, USA (a.k.a., "the Colonies"). He defended his title successfully 5 more times (Though pro fighting had become illegal)). I have his 1906 contract for his defense of the lightweight title. The handbill I have shows him sparring with the then Heavyweight Champ, "Battling Hooker", at an "Athletic Show", referencing his fighting experience from his native home of Canning Town. The fight was "Right After The High Dive." He became a promoter of Golden Gloves and was a lifelong friend of Jack Dempsey. (Dempsey gave my Dad his first set of gloves in the '30's; have pics after the War of Dempsey and Bill Adams). Any info from his home would be greatly appreciated. Bill Adams, Jr.

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