On This Day: Welsh legend Brian Curvis died in 2012

Brian Curvis
Gareth Jones pays tribute to a Welsh hero of the ring – Brian Curvis

BRIAN CURVIS, the former British and Empire welterweight champion from Swansea, died on January 9, 2012 in his adopted Middlesbrough, aged 74.

A stylish southpaw, he also challenged for the world title, losing a points decision to the outstanding Emile Griffith at Wembley in September 1964.

One of the best boxers produced by Wales since the war, it was ironic that he should be wearing the white of England when he first caught the eye of fans in his homeland. A national serviceman in the RAOC, he won the ABA title in an Army vest and the English promptly selected him for the 1958 Empire Games, to be held in Cardiff.

Cpl B. Nancurvis – his full surname betrayed his family’s Cornish origins – duly won a bronze medal. Perhaps his semi-final defeat was just as well. Seeing one of their own collecting a gold for England might have been hard to take for the crowd in the Sophia Gardens Pavilion.

Brian was introduced to the sport by his father, Dai, who was determined his four sons would follow the other stars he had produced in the old stable loft occupied by his Swansea Premier club. The two older boys saw their prospects ruined by the war, but the third, Cliff, won the same belts his younger brother would acquire a decade later. Cliff succeeded his late father in charge of Brian’s training, although he could only work the corner when the Board lifted their bizarre ban on blood relatives in 1964. By then the youngster was already a double champion.

First, in May 1960, came the Empire crown, taken from the head of Australian banana farmer George Barnes with a wide points decision at the Vetch Field in his hometown. Six months later Curvis travelled to Nottingham to outscore local hero Wally Swift and add the Lonsdale Belt. He was to make six successful defences and never lost either title in the ring.

After climbing off the canvas to outpoint national lightweight king Dave Charnley over 10 rounds, the Welshman was given his shot at Griffith, the New York-based Virgin Islander who was making the sixth defence of his second reign. It was all too easy, only Curvis’s courage seeing him through a fight in which he was floored three times.

An attempt to add the vacant European honour ended in a bloodstained retirement loss in Paris against Jean Josselin and six months later, frustrated by the Board’s refusal to recognise a planned clash with new champion Curtis Cokes as a world title fight, Brian called it a day.


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