PLENTY to read in the latest round of EBA newsletters. Several interesting articles in Mug’s Alley (Merseyside Former Boxers’ Association), but what fascinated me most was the reproduction, on the back page, of the programme for a Manny Goodall promotion on March 5, 1977. Topping the bill was Liverpool’s own John Conteh, defending his WBC light-heavyweight title against American Len Hutchins. On the undercard, Leon Spinks – America’s light-heavyweight Olympic champion the previous year – was having his second professional outing, at heavyweight. Both won quickly – Conteh in three rounds, Spinks (against Bolton’s Peter Freeman) in the first. Who could have foreseen that less than a year later, Spinks would upset the great Muhammad Ali and become world heavyweight champion in his eighth pro fight? The programme cost 50 pence, and ticket prices started at £5.50, up to £30 ringside. Happy days, eh?
Inside the newsletter are detailed articles on two fine African featherweights – Nigeria’s Hogan “Kid” Bassey and Ghanaian Roy Ankrah – both of whom boxed at Liverpool Stadium. Bassey, who went on to become world champion, appeared there several times, against some quality opponents. Ankrah beat local Tom Bailey over 10 rounds in July 1950 and later won the Commonwealth title. The next Merseyside meeting takes place this Sunday (July 7) at The Crosby Suite, Adelphi Hotel, Liverpool at 11.30am.
The Leicester EBA newsletter reports that former heavyweight Rocky Campbell was a surprise attendee at their recent meeting. That’s good to hear, and I hope you’ll keep on going, Rocky. Managed initially by Leicester’s Johnny Griffin, and subsequently by former European and Commonwealth featherweight champion Al Phillips, Rocky campaigned from 1965 to 1975, winning 22 and drawing three of 43 contests. He met the best in Britain and scored some creditable wins on the continent, including forcing ex-European heavyweight champion Jose Urtain to retire after five rounds in Valencia.
I saw Rocky box several times. The first show I attended at Shoreditch Town Hall, in December 1968, had Rocky topping the bill against Roy Enifer. Rocky was actually a late substitute but pushed Enifer all the way, losing a close eight-round verdict. In September 1974, while on the BN staff, I went to Birmingham to cover Rocky against Dave Roden for the vacant Midlands Area title (Rocky’s first bout since the Urtain triumph). Roden was the local favourite but Rocky won well over 10 rounds, dropping his man three times. It was Solihull in May 1975 for Rocky’s return with Richard Dunn, whom Rocky had previously shocked with a first-round knockout. Dunn got revenge via seventh-round stoppage, and next time out beat Bunny Johnson for the British and Commonwealth titles. Rocky never boxed again.
Bunny Johnson, of course, is now the president of the Central (Midlands) Ex-Boxers Association, and their latest newsletter has a detailed analysis of the current heavyweight scene, with quotes from Dillian Whyte, Dereck Chisora, Dave Allen, David Price, Daniel Dubois, Nathan Gorman and Joe Joyce. As I’ve said before, it’s vital that EBAs show they’re following the present scene, not just reminiscing about the past – and articles like this make it absolutely clear.