Wednesday, 28 September 2011

London's beautiful boxing arena was KO'd by Hitler

The ornately crafted front of the Alcazar, Edmonton'The prettiest open-air boxing arena in the world' was how Boxing (forerunner to today's Boxing News) described the Alcazar, Edmonton, a leading London fight arena of the 1920s and '30s devastated in 1940 by a Luftwaffe bomb.

Opened on 28 June 1913, the Alcazar was a cinema sited on the west side of Fore Street in Edmonton, almost opposite Fairfield Road and just a few yards north of Angel Road. The building was whitewashed and alcoved to look like a Moorish palace, and in the winter boxing was held in a large ballroom behind and adjoining it.

What made the venue exceptional, however, were the picturesque gardens behind the cinema. When the weather was warm fights were held outside in a ring that stood amid sloping grass banks, fruit trees in full bloom, flower beds and a stream. The ground was a sort of amphitheatre, bound by the stately trees in the gardens of the adjacent well-to-do houses that stretched to the railway line, which ran from Liverpool Street to Enfield Town.

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.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Joe Rolfe – puncher and gentleman

Joe Rolfe (Bermondsey)The name Joe Rolfe may mean nothing to you, and that's not surprising, for it's 82 years since it last decorated the sporting headlines and billposters of London. In the 1920s it was a name synonymous with gameness, sportsmanship, fighting skill and a fearsome right hand; a name bellowed loudly all around the south London district of Bermondsey, a place famed for its docks, its tanneries, and its fearless fighting men.

Joe Rolfe started life there on 20 December 1901 with the given name of Joseph Olliffe. Aged eight he joined Bermondsey's renowned Fisher amateur boxing club, he married early at age 16, but to his dismay found work on the local docks hard to come by. It was through sheer necessity that he decided to turn pro, and attempted to get himself onto the bill at the famous Covent Garden National Sporting Club (NSC), which at the time ran novices' competitions in support of the main bouts.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Previously unpublished British boxing history photos

Ahead of the launch of our website boxinghistory.org.uk we've put together a video to give you a taste of what's to come.

It features some outstanding photos of old-time British fighters, most of which have never before been seen online. Enjoy!

Monday, 12 September 2011

Charlie Hardcastle - a forgotten champion

Before the Second World War being a British Boxing Champion provided no guarantee of great wealth. Many champions boxed professionally whilst holding down a full time job. Many of these jobs were arduous. A fine example of this is Charlie Hardcastle of Barnsley. His trainer, Jack Goodwin, wrote that after winning the British Featherweight Title on a Monday evening in 1917 “Hardcastle went back to Barnsley and on the Wednesday the new featherweight champion was at work in the pit once more”. There was, of course, a war on and Charlie was in a reserved occupation which meant that, although he was spared from the trenches, he had to contribute to the war effort nonetheless.

Boxing: out of the past and onto your PC

'The Sweet Science is joined onto the past like a man's arm to his shoulder.'
- A.J. Liebling, The Sweet Science

Times out of number boxing has been described as the hardest game of all: a tired clich̩ perhaps, but certainly one that rings true. In my experience Рalbeit from outside the ropes Рthe noble art is also apt to provide more drama and intrigue, more excitement and thrills, and yet more frustration and heartbreak than any sport around.

No athlete trains harder than a top-class boxer. None puts himself through greater pain or at greater risk for our entertainment. Lethal fighting machines with the grace of ballerinas, improbable twists and turns, superhuman feats of endurance and bravery beyond reason… you'll find it all in the roped-off square, where the seemingly impossible becomes a reality.