Saturday 3 November 2012

Sparring partner to Mickey Walker – June 1927 (aged 14)

Nipper Pat Daly aged about 15
"When Mickey Walker was signed up to defend his world middleweight title against Scotsman Tommy Milligan at the Olympia on the above date the whole world of British boxing fans were agog with interest.

Jack Kearns, Walker’s manager, struck camp at Taggs Island, which was situated in the middle of the Thames river at Hampton Court. Kearns, who was the former manager of Jack Dempsey, former heavyweight champion of the world, was very businesslike and arranged what order we would spar with his present champ.

As he looked at me I could see the disappointment in his eyes, and he said, 'You’re far too light for this job.' I weighed 7st-12lb or 110lb, American method. My manager explained to him that I was engaged for my speed, not my strength. Mickey, who was talking to another of his partners, noticed that we were talking, rather excitedly came to us and on hearing the cause of the argument said, 'Okay I’ll just spar with him last to speed me up, and he better be fast.'

I sat at the ringside and watched Mickey spar two rounds each with a Malcolm Campbell, middleweight champion of Scotland and Tom Fowler, a heavyweight who had served his time as a sparring partner to most of our leading heavies. Walker, not a brilliantly clever boxer but clever just the same, with a K.O. punch in either hand, and I was his sparring partner. One of his punches could kill me. Still, I had a job to do and I intended to do it as well as I could.

While watching Mickey spar I had noticed that he would make his partner miss with their initial punch by swaying backward, and then counter [the hopelessly reaching boxer] with his right. At the first opportunity I had, I feinted with my left lead, Mickey drew back from his hips and was temporarily defenceless as I moved forward and connected with a perfect right hand punch on his jaw. Mickey stopped boxing, shook hands, patted me on the back and said, 'That was a great punch kid.'

After I had finished my training I was told that we had been booked to appear at Jimmy Butler’s boxing booth at the Welsh Harp, Hendon in the evening and that I was to stand on the front of the booth and take on all comers. I did two houses, which means I had two fights, three rounds each. Still, it brought my manager in a few shillings and saved me wasting time. I only fought two fights as there was not time for any more, as it was 10pm and the fair was closing down.

(On another occasion, as I had missed a 15 rd contest at Premierland on Sunday, my opponent Young Siki had not turned up, the Prof sent me the next day, Bank Holiday Monday, to work at a boxing booth at Lea Bridge Road. When I started work I created something of a sensation as it seemed that most of the young men in the crowd wanted to take me on as I was 15 years of age, skinny and did not look like a fighter.) 

Still, the time saved me from having several more bouts. I’d had an easy day, only having sparred with the world middleweight champion and fought two opponents at a booth. I was very proud at having sparred with the world’s middleweight champion and also pleased that Mickey had pulled his punches."

- Nipper Pat Daly.

This extract from Nipper Pat Daly’s memoirs is from the critically acclaimed 2011 biography ‘Nipper: The Amazing Story of Boxing’s Wonderboy’. For more information or to buy the book visit

Before the big fight: Walker and Kearns on the cover of Britain's boxing trade paper
From Britain's boxing trade paper (June 1927)
From Britain's boxing trade paper (June 1927)
Daly with his trainer and manager 'Professor' Andrew Newton
In 1929, aged just 16, Nipper Pat Daly appears alongside Walker in 'The Ring' magazine's top-10 world ratings.

Watch a clip of Mickey Walker's world title fight with Tommy Milligan:


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