Saturday 7 January 2012

Boxing letters from 1938

Benny LynchOld-time newspapers really are fascinating. In the absence of TV, radio and archival film they provide an unrivalled insight into the lives of our forebears, including those who once inhabited the boxing world.

While fight reports and other newspaper editorial must conform to style constraints and, to an extent, the agenda of a publication, letters from readers need not. Often a letter will tell us as much about the personality of the letter writer as it does the topic of the letter. Like it or not, what we write can say more about us than we intend.

Aside from that, historical boxing letters can offer a rare insight into fight fans’ opinions of the time (without the distortion of hindsight), shed light on the careers of long-forgotten fighters and tell us about the lost customs of the ring; all with an immediacy that gives one the feeling, if only momentarily, of stepping through time.

The below selection of readers’ letters printed in Britain’s trade paper Boxing in 1938 provides a flavour of the fight game of that era.

Printed 27 April 1938

Lynch-Jurich match

Sir, I fully agree with all that Mr Webster said in last week’s issue of “Boxing” and think that the leading British boys should have the first tilt at Benny Lynch’s title.

If readers will cast their memories back a few years they will remember when Seaman Watson went over to the States to meet Kid Chocolate for the world’s featherweight championship.

The New York State Athletic Commission made Watson give an exhibition in a gymnasium before granting him a permit to box at all in New York – what is good for the goose is good for the boxer.

But, all those things apart, I should like to see Benny Lynch fight Jurich, because one American boxing writer declared recently that Jurich should be rated as the first flyweight in the world, and that he could at any time beat a roomful of Lynchs and Kanes. Personally, I should like to see him do it. I’d much rather him try than I.

I would pick Lynch, Kane, Bostock, Whalley and several other boys to win over Jurich. After all, he has done nothing of note except beat Small Montana, a feat that both Benny Lynch and Tiny Bostock accomplished.

Hoping that you will publish this letter and not consign it to the w.p.b., and wishing you and the good old paper lots of luck.

Yours very sincerely,

Billy Farmer

Interestingly, Billy Farmer's prediction proved accurate.

Lynch faced Jackie Jurich at Paisley Ice Rink, Scotland on 29 June 1938, and won via a twelfth-round knockout. However, he weighed in a staggering six and a half lbs over the flyweight limit and so forfeited his world title.

There were just two more fights in the tragic Scotsman's wonderful career - sadly both defeats - and 1938 proved to be Lynch's last year in the ring. The flyweight legend had succumbed to alcoholism and died eight years later, aged 33.

Also in keeping with the letter writer’s forecast, Peter Kane beat Jurich, on 22 September of that same year, when they met at Anfield football ground for the world title vacated by Lynch - Ed.

Printed 12 Jan 1938

Record of an MC

Sir, Now that I am registered as an MC by the BBB of C under the name of “George” Regan, I would esteem it a favour if you would publish the following record of my achievements as Pat Regan:

I enlisted in HM Forces on September 3, 1914, being at the age of 17 years, serving in France, Salonica and right through the Egyptian campaign from Beersheba to Damascus. As a boxer I was undefeated in the British Army, defeating amongst others A. M. Hunt (RAF) twice, Pte. Proudlove, 8st. 6lb. Champion of India, Driver Brown (RFA), Cpl. Little (RFA), drew with Jim Berry (Australia).

I was discharged from the Army in March, 1919, carrying on my career as a boxer, having no fewer than 137 professional fights, meeting such men as Johnny Sullivan (Albert Hall), Frankie Brown (NSC), Bill Dixon, Johnny Mills (twice), Cpl. Low, Sgt. Sam Cox (champion of Somerset), also having two fights in one night at The Ring, knocking out my first opponent inside of a round, and winning the other, referee Jim Kendrick.

Still while boxing I was acting as MC as well; at The Ring for Dan Sullivan, Plumstead Baths for Fred Nobbs, Lime Grove Baths for Jack Garard (BBB of C), Fulham Baths for Alf Mancini, Manor Place Baths for Ted Broadribb, Ring Gym for Fred Duffett, Winter Gardens, Paddington Baths, and practically all London rings.

It was whilst acting as an MC at The Ring that I was engaged as a dance MC on contract, that is the reason why I could not carry on both at the same time, being so heavily engaged as a dancing MC.

Yours faithfully,

Pat Regan
Licensed now for boxing MC
George Regan.

Printed 20 April 1938

Jim Clough’s Plaint

Sir, I was quite interested to read in your issue of March 23 Dick Corbett’s letter about having to go on the dole. I myself am having to stand idle, because of my winning contests. I have sent dozens of letters, but got very few replies.

My last two contests were at Morecambe and Manchester, top of the bill. I well won them both, as printed in our “Bible”, but now I am again on the waiting list.

I can read of boys I have beaten on more than one occasion boxing quite regularly. Win or lose, they keep on getting contests.

My record is one of the best, for of 139 contests I have won 128 of them, and boxed for one promoter on nearly 40 occasions. Some of those I have beaten are: Evan Morris, Fred Wilcox (2), Alec Alston (2), Tiger Ison, Johnny Truesdale, Tony Butcher, Billy Vincent, Stan Hughes, etc.

I am now a 9st. 9lb. boy and would like to box the NSC boy, Danahar, and bet him £10 on the result, or pay for Dick Corbett a supper.

Hoping you will give this a little space in our weekly.

Yours sincerely,

Jim Clough
Newton-le-Willows, Lancs.

Former British bantamweight champion Dick Corbett had written to the Editor:

Having recently defeated John Cusick and Benny Caplan, both at 9 st. 4lb. and Frankie Hill at 9 st. 11lb., though I am barely a featherweight, I cannot get Johnny McGrory, Freddie Miller or other leading featherweights to meet me.

Under the circumstances I now throw out a challenge to Jimmy Walsh, Dave Crowley, Harry Mizler, or any other leading lightweight in Great Britain, in the hope that one of these will come along and give me a contest. Failing their so doing I will either have to challenge heavyweights or go on the dole.

Printed 30 March 1938

Open letter to Ted Barter

Dear Barter, I desire to address you purely as a consistent follower of the great game of boxing; in fact, as just one of the masses who flock to see you and others like yourself give of their best in the roped square for our entertainment.

Actually, you do not know me, but I have seen many of your previous fights, and although but a middleweight, I have known you to meet and beat many of the beef trust. Well done!

More recently you met Billy Bird at the Club; you were beaten – decisively. But what of it?

I am convinced that Bird will always beat you, and to meet him ever again will serve no purpose.

Strangely enough, however, I am also convinced that you will come to beat men who can easily beat Bird! Why? Because Bird is your jinx-man, just as Bird and many another fighter has a jinx-man!

So do not be discouraged, and let me say that if you fight half as well as you did in beating Toohig at Mitcham last Monday – after the Bird affair – in all your future battles, you must go a long way upon the somewhat hard road to a championship. Carry on, Barter!

Sydney Ward
North Cheam.

Printed 20 April 1938

Billy Blyth’s reply

Sir, I read in our paper recently that one of your readers had made an inquiry regarding myself.

I regret to inform anyone that might be interested that I have been resting since October last due to bad hands, and was to have made a reappearance this week at Mitcham Baths, but as luck would have it my hand cracked up during training, so I have been advised to lay off for a further six months.

So that I will not lose contact with the grand game I have opened a boxing club in Walthamstow, where I am bringing along some promising boys. During the summer we arrange hiking, swimming and other outdoor pastimes. I would consider it a great favour if you would make this known a bit for me. By the way, you may be interested to know that before I took up boxing I was a former dance band leader and dancing MC. I found this too tame, so I embarked upon a fistic career.

I hope to be back in the ring very soon again to start where I left off. I should also like to thank your reader for his kind enquiry.

Yours in sport,

Billy Blyth
Walthamstow E17.

Printed 12 Jan 1938

Excusing Benny Caplan

Sir, As a close friend and incidentally his hairdresser, I must take up the cudgels on behalf of Benny Caplan. The majority of newspaper writers were unanimous that the display given by Caplan was not his true form.

My own impression, which was confirmed by B.C. was that he had not really recovered from his attack of fish poisoning. He sustained this illness in October and was laid up for two months.

I have seen Benny in pretty well every one of his London fights, and sincerely hope that the display given the other night will be forgotten by his supporters.

Hoping you will give me this opportunity to make excuses for B. Caplan.

Yours very truly,

Alf Gilbert
London, E1.

Printed 27 April 1938

Sammy Shaw has it

Sir, I want to bring to your notice a boy whom you have seen in action at some of the bigger boxing shows in London, a boy who has caused a furore, by his wonderful non-stop fighting abilities, viz., Sammy Shaw, of Hull, aged 18, weight 8.10, and still growing.

In 1934 Sammy Shaw won the Jockeys’ and Stable Boys’ Championship at 6 stone. He did the same in 1935, at 6.7; in 1936, he continued by winning the same championship at 7 stone, and again in 1937 at 7.7.

He grew too heavy to ride, but continued his boxing as a professional, beating some of the best youngsters at his weight in 1937, including Harry (Kid) Silver (twice), being the only boy to do this, Jud Hill, Tommy Kid Scott, Young Priestley, Boy Pearson, Hebbleston (of Sheffield), B. Lewis (of Swansea), Young Drummer (of Liverpool), Young noble (of Leeds), and quite a few others.

Sammy Shaw is in the dairy business in Hull, where he has been put by his dad, and all his earnings are invested in this project.

Sammy Shaw is what the public have been clamouring for. He has personality, speed, and punch!

He thrilled them at the Stadium Club, London, on the Jockeys’ boxing show, thrilled them at the Harringay Arena, when he defeated Harry (Kid) Silver; also at the National Sporting Club show at Earl’s Court.

Every time Sammy Shaw enters the ring the fans know that they are going to see action, with a capital A, for he gives all he has got, and never fails to please.

Sammy Shaw weighs in the region of 8.10, and will not be asked to make any other than his natural weight, for within a very short time this ex-jockey will be among the idols of the fans.

Yours sincerely,

Johnny Sharpe
London, E1.

Printed 11 May 1938

Reply to A. Smith

Sir, In last week’s issue of “Boxing” Mr A. Smith, of Wellingborough, wonders if some of the writers have ever seen Jock McAvoy in action or realise just how good he is, and then goes on to say that Jock would beat any two middleweights, with the exception of Roderick and Hyams, on the same night.

Might I ask Mr Smith whether he has ever seen Ginger Sadd, the Norwich middleweight, in action or in person. He has not a mark on him, and must be really clever to keep that head of his moving all the time. Ginger has fought the best in the country. He would give Jack Hyams the fight of his life, if not beat him, at 11st. 6lb.

Perhaps Mr Smith remembers the last lad who hailed from Norwich to face Jock McAvoy. When the match was made they said he hadn’t a dog’s chance. I am referring to gallant and plucky old Jack Forster, of Norwich; when he took McAvoy all the way to a points decision on Jock’s own ground; and “Mac” was mighty good then.

I have never had the good fortune of seeing McAvoy in action, so I don’t know how good he really is. But a lad who can run John Henry Lewis to a points decision over 15 rounds in America, well, ’nuf said!

Give Ginger Sadd and George Davis their due. Here are two good boys, and they should battle it out for the right to meet the champion. They would, I am sure, fight as they have never done before to bring honour to their respective towns.

Wishing you and the old “Bible” every success.

Yours in sport,

E. Dix
Great Yarmouth.

As per E. Dix's suggestion, Ginger Sadd and George Davis met later that month (30 May 1938) with Sadd finishing a points winner.

Sadd duly got a shot at Jock McAvoy's British middleweight crown a year later but lost on points. The venue: King's Hall, Belle Vue, Manchester. The date: 22 May 1939

Additionally, in December 1938 Sadd fought Jack Hyams at Harringay Arena and, as Mr Dix had forecast, won the fight (on points) - Ed.

LinkPrinted 15 June 1938

A Lincoln Gym

Sir, While reading through this week’s “Boxing” I came across the paragraph where a Lincoln gentleman was asking about a gymnasium round about Lincoln. You answered that you did not know of one.

I have the best equipped gym round these parts in Nottingham, where I train Frank Bonser, Jack Robinson, Frank Parkes, etc. George Marsden also trains with me when he is not away fighting and working in Woods’s boxing booth. I am licensed under the BBB of C, and would feel it a great honour if you mentioned these facts in “Boxing”.

With sincere wishes for the continued success of your paper, which all my boys buy and read.

I used to box in London round about 1914 and 1915 in the name of Young Ticehurst, of Chelsea. I trained under Mr Jimmy Lambert at Lambeth, and used to spar with Alec Lambert and Alf Mansfield. I also fought Joe Bloomfield at the old NSC, and Johnny Curly, of Lambeth, at Mr Lambert’s Church Street shows off the Edgware Road – I remain,

yours truly,

Bert Fletcher
(Late of Marylebone).

Printed 15 June 1938

Scotch and Irish

Sir, Re the article, “Jim Warnock’s Return To Ring”, written by “Timekeeper”, a correspondent of “Ireland’s Saturday Night”. He writes that Fred Tennant has been knocked out by Snowball Frame in three rounds. I don’t know if Frame sent in a part of his record to “Timekeeper” or not, therefore I cannot blame him for the above.

I boxed Frame on four occasions, drawing three times, and the last time we met I stopped him in seven rounds; also please mention the fact that I have never been knocked out by anybody since I started boxing 10 years ago, and have participated in over 500 contests in all parts of Britain. I know I was no champion, but I don’t like people to ask me, “When did Snowball Frame knock you out?” I am very “touchy” that way.

I trust I am in order writing to you, dear Editor, so with all due respect to “Ireland’s Saturday Night”, this letter, if printed, is of more value to me in your paper.

Yours in anticipation,

Freddy Tennant (a regular reader)

Printed 1 June 1938

Re Hal Bagwell

Sir, To win 71 fights and draw 10 and not lose a single one is a record any boxer could be proud of, but Hal Bagwell, Gloucester’s popular bantamweight, not only holds this record but has achieved it before reaching the age of 20.

I am delighted to know that Bagwell’s manager, Billy Wagner, is now prepared to receive offers of a fight to take place in Gloucester with any bantams, with sidestakes of £50. It was announced from the ring at our local open-air tournament last week that this is being advertised in “Boxing” and I can assure any interested manager or boxer that whoever meets our local boy will receive a good, clean open fight.

I have no interest in the fight except that of a local enthusiast, who follows Bagwell’s progress with admiration.

Yours faithfully,

J.C. Pritchard,


15 June 1938

Re Hal Bagwell

Sir, Having noted Mr Pritchard’s remarks concerning Hal Bagwell, of Gloucester, I would like to correct these, and add a few more facts.

Bagwell, at 19 years of age, has, apart from booth fights, had fewer than 30 contests, of which he has drawn four and won the rest.

Nevertheless, he is, according to Mr Fred Tekell (who is well known to “Boxing”), the cleverest lad produced in Gloucester since Jack Ward and Sapper O’Neil, and I think he is destined to go a long way in the boxing world.

He is being trained by Billy Wagner (ex-middleweight champion of the West) and has his next contest on Friday, when Capt. Prince-Cox stages his first show in Gloucester. Bagwell’s opponent will be Jimmy Regan, of Bulford, who has been boxing as “The Dixie Kid”.

Maybe readers of “Boxing” will wonder why they have not heard of Bagwell before. Here are the reasons: Of Bagwell’s 30 contests, the majority have been staged by me in Cirencester, where I have been promoting for the past two years.

As my shows were unlicensed, the results were never sent to “Boxing” for obvious reasons.

However, owing to interference by the BBB of C I have decided to give up promoting myself and am now assisting a licensed promoter.

Wishing your paper, which I have been a reader of for six years, every success.

I remain, yours faithfully,

Fred Cole
Tetbury, Glos.


Printed 29 June 1938

Re Hal Bagwell

Sir, I note Mr Fred Coles reply to my letter, correcting my figure of Bagwell’s wins.

I only quote the figure given by promoter Dave Derfield in the programme of May 16, when Bagwell fought and beat George Bick (Blaenavon). He gives: Fought 80, won 70, drawn 10. However, as Mr Coles points out, a number of these have been fought in the booths, and I quite agree. I would add though, that Bagwell has fought quite a number of real “scraps” in the booth, which I have seen. A recent one in friend Gage’s booth at Stroud, had the crowd on their toes, and it was a crowd.

Since this, our Gloucester bantam has now fought the “Dixie Kid”, and won in fine style, and I, like many more, predict a great future for him.

Captain A. Prince-Cox, our Gloucester promoter, hopes to match him with Kirby very shortly. I also hope to see hime figure in a Hereford tournament when winter shows come round again.

We Gloucester folk greatly appreciated the opportunity of seeing Tommy Farr in action at our recent show. He seems to have been very popular, and had a good reception. Droog, the Dutch champion, rather disappointed us, being quickly disposed of by Darkie Ellis.

Dick Corbett and Young Beckett fought a very interesting, if not a whirlwind, fight. Have these two ever met before?

Yours faithfully,

J.C. Pritchard,

Hal Bagwell would go on to amass one of the longest unbeaten runs in boxing history, and for years was included in 'The Guiness Book of Records'.

'The Ring Record Book' claimed Bagwell held a 180-fight winning streak, but quite how this figure was reached is unclear.

According to the available fight data for Bagwell, he remained unbeaten for 60 successive pro fights - or 10 years and three months - from August 1938 until November 1948.

A tremendous feat all the same! - Ed.


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