Brian London: Heavyweight boxing champion known as ‘The Blackpool Rock’

Because the youngest son of the legendary British and Commonwealth boxing champion Jack London, it was maybe inevitable that Brian London, who has died aged 87, would comply with each his father and elder brother into the skilled battle recreation. Having loved success as an newbie, over the course of a curler coaster 15-year skilled profession, “The Blackpool Rock”, as he was famously recognized, remained a headline-grabbing competitor. Nevertheless, whereas greater than able to difficult all the large names of the period, a few of his performances might simply as simply disappoint as excite. Emulating his father’s achievement in claiming the British heavyweight title, he was additionally the primary British boxer to twice problem for the world heavyweight crown.

Brian Sydney Harper was the youngest of two boys, born right into a celebrated boxing household in West Hartlepool. Like his father and brother, he too later adopted the surname of the good American creator Jack London, who coated the game for quite a few boxing magazines. Quickly after shifting from his native northeast to settle completely on Lancashire’s Fylde coast, he started his boxing apprenticeship at Blackpool Boys’ Membership. After working briefly as a rock curler, spelling out “BLACKPOOL” in the midst of the exhausting, stick-shaped boiled sugar confectionary, his sporting abilities had been additional honed throughout Nationwide Service within the royal air power. Alongside the 1954 Inter Companies Boxing Championship, he additionally gained RAF, ISBA and ABA titles. That very same yr he additionally defeated the Canadian champion Gerry Buchanan to take heavyweight gold on the Vancouver Empire Video games.

Turning skilled in March 1955, in his debut bout, his explosive punching energy disposed of Dennis Lockton in just one spherical. Combating as soon as a month, primarily in provincial halls, different early victims included Dinny Powell and the Irish champion, Paddy Slavin, whereas Robert Eugene grew to become the primary to take him the gap. In a bit below 12 months, this 6ft 14 stone, beautifully match, tough, powerful, bruiser of a fighter managed to power his approach up the heavyweight rankings. Immediately recognisable along with his lantern jaw, by now he was starting to construct a burgeoning fan base and arouse the curiosity of the media. Nevertheless, a brutal introduction to the chilly actuality of the professional recreation got here at Earls Courtroom in Might 1956, when Henry Cooper knocked him out in a stunning first-round defeat.

London shakes fingers with Muhammad Ali earlier than their Earls Courtroom world title bout in 1966

(AFP/Getty)

Quickly regrouping, London then proceeded to take out George Naufahu in 4 rounds, outpointed Kitione Lave and Howie Turner, each over 10 rounds and, in a televised bout in Birmingham, impressed when knocking out Frenchman Robert Duquesne within the first spherical. He additionally had his first style of the vagaries of continental judging when he misplaced a hotly disputed 10-round factors resolution to the German European champion Henry Neuhaus, in Dortmund. By now nevertheless, main promoter Jack Solomons, conscious that in London he had a real field workplace draw, arrange a problem contest for the British and Empire heavyweight title between London and the Welshman Joe Erskine, on the White Metropolis in June 1958. London knocked him out within the eighth spherical.

Whereas holding the title for six months, London loved a tremendous victory over the American Willie Pastrano earlier than being outpointed in his first title defence, crushed for a second time by Cooper. Refused permission by the British Boxing Board of Management to then battle Floyd Patterson for the world title in Indianapolis three months later, London went forward anyway, shedding within the eleventh spherical. In agreeing to a battle based mostly on the purse on provide, it wouldn’t be the final time London discovered himself a sufferer of haphazard administration that each one too typically did little to reinforce his profession. A wiser and extra skilled nook staff would even have been a profit when he stepped up at school. Because of taking the Patterson battle, London discovered himself fined £1,000 and banned for six months.

Combating Joe Bugner earlier than a five-round defeat at Wembley’s Empire Pool in 1970

(Getty)

Bother flared once more in August 1960 when, at Coney Seaside, Porthcawl, London tried to seize the European title from native hero Dick Richardson. This open-air contest, watched by a crowd of 38,000, turned out to be an incredible disappointment. As London piled on the factors, within the eighth spherical of a considerably foul-strewn contest, Richardson’s head opened up an previous reduce over London’s eye. Along with his nook unable to stem the bleeding, referee Andrew Smythe duly stopped the competition in Richardson’s favour. Completely incensed, the London household rushed throughout the ring en masse to confront the opposing camp. A full-blooded free-for-all dubbed “The Brawl in Porthcawl”, duly adopted. Fined an extra £1,000, this time London was banned for 3 months.

Of his 58 skilled contests, three particularly drew stinging criticism as each the press and supporters questioned his tactical acumen, basic strategy and general motivation. The primary was that 1959 battle with Patterson. The second was his encounter two years later with the extremely gifted however surprisingly underrated American Eddie Machen, when his nook threw within the towel after solely 5 rounds. London all the time argued that Machen was among the finest boxers he ever fought. Nevertheless, it was his problem for the world heavyweight title with Muhammad Ali at Earls Courtroom in August 1966, that undoubtedly ranks as his most forgettable. Knocked out in three rounds, such a lamentable capitulation actually had a long-lasting impact on his standing with the boxing public.

He did additionally participate in lots of much more memorable contests. The likes of Ingemar Johansson, Zora Folley and Pastrano had been amongst those that introduced out the perfect in him. His battle with Billy Walkerin March 1965 additionally stays an interesting encounter, the Londoner’s energy and ambition pitted in opposition to the northerner’s higher expertise. Having survived an early onslaught, London’s unrefined however moderately sound fundamental method allowed him to breach Walker’s defences and win on factors. The American Folley he outworked, outpunched and outfought in November 1967. Sadly, he was by no means on the races when, in Might 1970, a younger and energetic Joe Bugner hammered him to a five-round defeat at Wembley’s Empire Pool. It proved to be his remaining battle; retiring that yr, in all he gained 37, drew one and misplaced twenty of his contests.

Having seen at firsthand the numerous difficulties attributable to his father’s monetary profligacy, London invested his ring earnings correctly. Regardless of by no means touching alcohol, for a few years he owned a extremely in style and massively profitable Blackpool nightspot, the 007 Membership. In January 1971, the venue made nationwide headlines as London performed mine host to West Ham footballers Bobby Moore, Jimmy Greaves, Clyde Greatest and Brian Expensive. Feeling sure that their FA Cup third-round tie with Blackpool would fall sufferer to the freezing climate, the quartet sought some late-night leisure and duly discovered it. Sadly for them, the pitch was deemed playable and the sport went forward; when the Hammers subsequently misplaced 4-0, with Moore and Greaves within the beginning line-up, irate followers joined the press in calling for the quartet to be sacked.

As for London himself, he remained a preferred and approachable determine within the resort, frequently circling Stanley Park on his day by day run or enjoying golf on the course reverse his luxurious dwelling. As we speak the boxing mantle has handed to his grandson, Jack, who shows early promise.

Marrying Veronica Cliff in 1958, they divorced in 1980. He’s survived by two sons and a daughter.

Brian London, boxer, born 19 June 1934, died 23 June 2021


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