BRIAN LONDON of Blackpool was the first post-war Briton to fight twice for the heavyweight championship of the world. The first was a 1959 11th round knockout defeat to the then champion Floyd Patterson, at the Fairgrounds Coliseum in Indianapolis, Indiana. The second was against Muhammad Ali for his world title at Earls Court Arena in London on August 6, 1966.
COMING into this fight Ali had just recorded his second stoppage victory over British fan favourite Henry Cooper at Arsenal’s Highbury Stadium. A bad cut over Cooper’s eye meant the bout was stopped in the sixth round.
LONDON however had been beaten three times by Copper. The first meeting of the three ended with a first round TKO victory for Cooper. The other two were point’s defeats over 15 rounds, because of this it was no surprise Ali was a 15-to-1 betting favourite going into the fight.
HAD London upset the odds he would have been the first winner of the Boxing News Gold cup. This was a unique trophy, which was valued at over 1,000 guineas when it was first purchased in the 1930s. It had been kept in a secret strong room in London and had been promised to the first British boxer to win the world heavyweight title.
GOING into this fight Ali was reportedly in financial trouble. He allegedly owed alimony to his ex-wife, was in debt to lawyers and had numerous lawsuits pending against him. Then there was his alliance to the Black Muslim movement, which was a drain on his finances and on his popularity. The biggest threat to Ali’s finances though was a pending induction into the U.S. Army; this was the main reason behind Ali’s increased activity.
LONDON had claimed before the fight that he hated boxing, and still did, he only became a professional after he found out that he could earn more fighting in one night than he could in a week of making Blackpool rock.
BEFORE the fight Ali said that because London was so big and strong he was expecting a tough fight. Ali stated that he was ready and anticipating going 10 rounds or even the full distance. This was not to be the case.
ALI knocked London down for the first time early in the third round, and the challenger stayed down. London was unable to get back to his feet and beat the count bringing an early end to a largely disappointing night.
AFTER the fight Ali described London as a gentleman stating; “he didn’t throw any low punches, he did not grab and hold me, and he did not try and butt me and did not break any rules. He’s a gentleman.” While London quipped: “I’d like a return, but only if you put a 50-pound weight on each ankle!”
WHEN asked at a charity dinner years after the fight if there was anything London should have done in the fight, to help turn it in his favour, London responded, “Yeah, I should have shot him… I got myself into a position to fight him, but I was nowhere near good enough to fight with him.”