ALBERT CARROLL was one of Britain’s leading welterweights of the 1950s. He turned pro at 17, earning £5 for his first fight and the approbation of Ted Kid Lewis, who came to his dressing room afterwards. Over the next 10 years Albert fought 56 times, won the Southern Area title and boxed for the British crown.
When I interviewed him a few years back for my book, Fighting Men of London, not only did I unearth a fascinating boxing story but one of the most remarkable life stories I’ve ever heard. It would be impossible to do Albert’s story justice within the confines of this small column, but suffice to say it is one of extreme highs and lows, encompassing success, tragedy, crime and redemption.
Sixty years ago this week Carroll entered the biggest fight of his career. Since turning pro, the Bethnal Green boxer had beaten many of the country’s top welters – Wally Swift, Tony Mancini, Sandy Manuel, Jimmy Croll and Boswell St Louis to name a few – and in June 1959 he outscored Terry Gill for the Southern Area crown. Albert received £400 for that fight (just £225 after expenses), but it earned him a shot at the British title, held by Liverpool’s Tommy Molloy.
After seven years as a pro, working much of the time as an asphalter by day, Albert looked to be on the cusp of earning life-changing money. “I’d read in the paper about Dave Charnley getting 10 grand to fight a 10-rounder against a Frenchman no one had ever heard of,” he explained. “So I thought, well, I’ve gotta get a few quid for fighting Tommy Molloy for the title. The fight went to purse bids and went to Liverpool’s Johnny Best, who offered £1,100 – 60 per cent to the champion, Molloy, and 40 per cent to the challenger, me. So I was gonna get the same for a 15-round championship contest as I did for a 12-round eliminator!”
The disappointment left Albert demoralised. He had four months to prepare for Molloy, but instead of knuckling down to training he spent much of the time on drinking sprees in London’s West End. He recalled: “By then I wasn’t working – I was boxing full-time. I’d go to the gym about three times a week, when it should have been every day. If ever a man cut off his nose to spite his face, it was me.”
Come the fight, on October 14, 1959, Liverpool Stadium was chock-full. Despite his lack of preparation Albert started superbly and dominated the early rounds. “Carroll, faster, smarter and more convincing, was almost coasting to a comfortable points win,” wrote Boxing News. “He was continually beating Molloy to the punch. He was moving inside, scoring all the time with his flashing straight left. The champion looked worried and perplexed.”
But by the 10th round fatigue was setting in. Molloy rocked Albert with a huge right just before the bell. Albert managed to stay out of trouble in the 11th, but in the 12th the champion landed another big right and Albert hit the canvas, prompting referee Billy Jones to wave the fight off. A crowd of Carroll supporters thought the stoppage was premature. They stormed the ring and surrounded Jones before a mob of Merseysiders tore over the ropes from Molloy’s corner. After some heated exchanges the situation was defused, and there were no complaints from Carroll himself.
“The referee stopped it because he saw it was already over,” Albert told me. “I didn’t have the strength to stand up, never mind anything else. But if I’d trained properly, I would have won that fight.” It was the only British title shot Albert received. He retired two years later, aged 26.