History | Issue | Premium | Nov 25 2019

A forgotten milestone in British boxing history

Morrison and Tetteh made boxing history this week in 1973 in the first British title fight contested by immigrant boxers
boxing history

BRITISH boxing’s absurd ‘colour bar’ cast an ugly shadow over the domestic scene for almost 40 years. This archaic rule, which effectively barred black and mixed-race boxers from British title fights, was confined to history in 1948 when Dick Turpin, son of a Guyanese father and a white English mother, outpointed Vince Hawkins to become king of the middles.

In the early 1970s, another racial barrier of sorts was being knocked down. In 1968, the BBBofC had passed a rule allowing immigrants to box for British titles if they had lived in the country for at least 10 years. This paved the way for Jamaica-born Bunny Sterling to become the first immigrant British titlist when he stopped Mark Rowe on cuts in 1970. Five years later another Jamaican immigrant, Bunny Johnson, became the first black British heavyweight champion when he demolished Danny McAlinden. Between these two milestones was another landmark fight. It happened this week in 1973.

On November 27 that year, Joe Tetteh, who was born in Ghana, and Jamaica-born Des Morrison took part in the first British title fight contested by two immigrant boxers. It was also the inaugural battle for the light-welterweight crown (today super-lightweight). The 140lb division had been introduced in Britain as junior-welterweight in 1967 but was scrapped in 1969, only to be relaunched as light-welter four years later. The match between Tetteh and Morrison provided an intriguing showcase for the new weight class. Here were two quality operators at opposite ends of their careers – one a seasoned veteran, the other a promising young prospect.

 

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