IF you celebrated your first birthday before World War II, you may have hazy memories of a late ‘40s boxing scene brimming with colour. It was the era of Willie Pep, Sandy Saddler, Jake LaMotta, Marcel Cerdan, Ezzard Charles, Rocky Graziano, an ageing Joe Louis and a peak Sugar Ray Robinson. There were just eight weights then, with one world champion at each. Last month, Britain lost a tangible fighting link to that era with the passing of former Sidcup light-heavyweight Jock Taylor, age 93, on May 22. Though Jock never reached world level, he did win two fights out of two against a boxer who did – Don Cockell.
Jock lacked a well-connected manager, so making it as a pro was an uphill struggle. Nevertheless, he battled to No. 2 contender position in the Boxing News light-heavyweight ratings. The reigning British champ then was world titlist Freddie Mills, who’d won the British crown by defeating Len Harvey in 1942. But Freddie never defended the title in the seven years he held it, much to the chagrin of Taylor and other domestic prospects.
However, Mills was well aware that he might be called on to defend against Jock. He sat ringside for one of Jock’s fights at Croydon Civic Hall. What he would have seen that night was a fighter not unlike himself: a fearless, come-forward crowd-pleaser with remarkable strength and a devastating punch. Taylor, of course, never reached the heights of global star Mills, but he had a career to be proud of, albeit one that could have been even better with the right manager guiding him.