FIRST met Brian London in 1985 when I was a professional boxer myself. Brian was a truly wonderful man. He was wise with his money and always very witty. The following year I got together with his daughter, Melanie, and he seemed to take the news quite well!
He was a private man but he was always there for advice if you needed it. The rules of life that he lived by were very simple and effective: Keep yourself fit, never drink, never smoke and don’t borrow money from anyone or lend it to anyone. He would always say that borrowing or lending money would be one of the quickest ways to ruin a friendship. He was right.
He was proud of his boxing career and made no secret of the fact he was in the sport for the money. That money allowed him to be successful after boxing. Brian had several clubs and was a shrewd businessman. He kept himself fit and enjoyed his life. Too many fighters go into retirement spending too much time worrying about the past. Brian was never like that, he always looked forward and that taught me a lot when I retired myself in 1991.
The criticism around his showing in the Muhammad Ali fight never bothered him. He accepted that people had their opinions and didn’t think twice about it. But getting criticised for losing to Muhammad Ali in 1966, when he was at his very best, was ridiculous. Brian always used to say that Angelo Dundee, Ali’s trainer, knew that Brian was a dangerous opponent and it was the plan to get him out of there early. Not like when he fought Henry Cooper in 1963 when he was playing around for four rounds and then got caught. Dundee was working with Roger Rischer, another heavyweight, when Brian knocked him in the first round the year before he took on Ali. ‘This guy can fight, he’s rough and tough and we need to get on him from the first bell’ Dundee told Ali. You could tell that he was taking the fight seriously.
Watch the fight back and Brian was doing okay until he got knocked out by a 12-punch combination in round three. I’m not sure what anyone expected him to do about that.
In public Brian would joke about that fight. When asked if he’d have done anything differently, he smiled and said, ‘I’d have taken a gun into the ring and shot him. That was the only way I’d have beaten him that night.’ Brian was a great talker and was still doing after dinner speeches up until 10 years ago. He’d always have the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand. Though he took his life and finances seriously, he was never afraid to make a joke at his own expense.
He had three great children. His daughter Melanie was the best thing he ever gave me. She’s a wonderful girl and a credit to her dad. Though he did used to say he had two sons and one daughter, and the daughter was the best fighter!
He fought during a very competitive era in Britain when they didn’t think twice about fighting each other. There was a long-standing rivalry between the Londons and the Coopers that stemmed from their amateur days. I think Brian was unlucky not to beat Henry in two of their three fights. But it was a time when it didn’t matter if you lost a fight, you’d learn from it and come again.
Too much importance is put on unbeaten records these days. It all started with Mickey Duff and Terry Lawless in the seventies when they’d bring over these terrible opponents just to pad records. But Brian’s record was far from padded, he’d fight anyone and never ducked anyone.He could have competed in any era and he deserves a lot of respect.