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Boxing in the Blitz

Ernie Roderick
Larry Braysher
Ernie Roderick and Eric Boon boxed at Anfield. Simon Euan Smith on this episode from boxing history

TIME to look at some EBA newsletters. Mug’s Alley (Merseyside Former Boxers’ Association) devotes over four pages to an in-depth look at a bout held under the worst conditions possible – in the middle of the Blitz. It was at Liverpool Football Club’s home ground, Anfield, and it pitted two fine British champions – welter Ernie Roderick and lightweight Eric Boon – in a non-title 10-rounder. The date was September 21 1940, and in the preceding month Liverpool, an important port, had received plenty of attention from the Luftwaffe. The boxing show was held in the afternoon, instead of the evening, and British Boxing Board of Control officials asked promoter Johnny Best Sr if he planned to call it off. “Not unless they drop a bomb on the pitch,” he replied.

The show duly went on, and – as so often – the good big ‘un beat the good little ‘un, the smart boxing Roderick beating the big punching Boon on points. They would meet again, boxing at Harringay in 1947, with Roderick defending his title, and the result was the same.

I remember meeting Boon when he came to the Boxing News office in the 70s. He kept us all fascinated with stories of his career, and explained how his training as a blacksmith enabled him to time his blows so that they would cause maximum damage.

He was a very nice man, very modest about his achievements. In December 1974 London EBA Vice-President Dave Crowley, whom Boon KO’d in 13 rounds to take the British title, died suddenly – and I rang Eric to give him the news. “For 10 rounds, I was losing all the way,” he said. “He completely baffled me … if I hadn’t knocked him out, there was no way I had even a hope of winning.” Eric didn’t mention that when they met again he KO’d Crowley in seven.

Elsewhere in Mug’s Alley is an interesting fact – only two boxers won both an NSC Belt and a Lonsdale Belt outright, Nel Tarleton (featherweight) and Johnny King (bantam). The pair actually clashed three times, for a points win each and a draw – their final meeting seeing Tarleton retain his British title over 15 rounds.

Merseyside’s next meeting will be on Sunday, October 6 at 11.30, at The Crosby Suite, Adelphi Hotel, Liverpool.

The Scottish EBA’s next meeting will be held at 12.30 p.m. on Sunday, October 13 at The Iron Horse, West Nile Street, Glasgow. Their current newsletter has an interesting article on Chic Calderwood, a fine light-heavyweight from Craigneux who won British and Commonwealth titles and once boxed brilliantly to outpoint the very skilful American, Willie Pastrano (who went on to get a world title shot – and win it). Calderwod was unlucky in two European title bouts in Italy – a questionable verdict against Giulio Rinaldi and a “no contest” against Piero del Papa, when the open-air bout had to be halted owing to rain. Less than two months later Calderwood went to Puerto Rico to try to wrest the world title from Jose Torres (who had dethroned Pastrano) – but was KO’d in two rounds. And less than a month after that – November 12 1966 – Chic was killed in a road crash, aged just 29.

Torres’ next defence saw him lose the title to Nigeria’s Dick Tiger, who was stepping up from middleweight – and was very popular in the UK. Had Chic lived, a Tiger v Calderwood match would certainly have sold well – and who’s to say Calderwood’s skills, and size advantage, might not have prevailed against the tough, aggressive Tiger?

Tiger had just lost his world middleweight belt to reigning world welterweight champion Emile Griffith – who is featured in the current Brighton EBA newsletter, and was also popular over here, with 1964 wins at Wembley over Brian Curvis (title defence) and Dave Charnley. Brighton’s next meeting will be held at 12 noon on Sunday, October 13 at The Romans Pub, 33 Manor Hall Road, Southwick.

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