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The centenary of Freddie Mills

Freddie Mills
Paying tribute to Freddie Mills in what would’ve been his 100th year. Simon Euan Smith's latest EBA newsletter

AS usual the London EBA’s monthly meeting was lively and well-attended, with the raffle raising £410. One raffle prize-winner was former British and European cruiserweight champion Sammy Reeson, who is the beneficiary at this year’s Gary Davidson Golf Classic, due to be held on Wednesday August 28 at the Darenth Valley Golf Club, Shoreham, Kent, TN14 7SA. Organiser Tommy Mulholland took the mic to say there were still vacancies, for people wanting to play (£70 per head) or just attend the meal in the evening (£40). Tommy can be contacted on 0208 857 0747 or 0795 7433 896.

A few days before the meeting there was another golf day/evening meal, organised by LEBA committee member Bob Cheeseman, Johnny Scanlon and Doug Donaghey. This was to commemorate the centenary of Freddie Mills’ birth, and among those present was Freddie’s daughter, Susan. Mills of course was world, European and British light-heavyweight champion, and his death in 1965, aged 46, remains a mystery. One who disputes the suicide theory is LEBA member Sam Soraf, who knew Freddie well and gave some fascinating reminiscences at the dinner. “Freddie died on a Sunday,” Sam said. “I was with him on the Thursday night, talking till about five o’clock on the Friday morning, and he was totally normal. The last thing I said to him was, ‘I’ll be round Monday morning.’”

Other LEBA members present included President Stephen Powell, Chairman Charlie Wright, committee member Peter Stanley, Mickey Kingwell, Peter Cragg and Johnny Kramer – and the last-named is to be the subject of the next Essex EBA scrapbook. These are always well put together, and I’ll look forward to it. Johnny boxed as a pro between 1959 and 1970, and fought some of the best welters and middleweights around. He beat former conqueror Len Gibbs for the vacant Southern Area middleweight title in 1966 and made successful defences against Gibbs and future European, British and Commonwealth champion Bunny Sterling, finally losing to Sterling on a cut. His final two bouts were in Australia – a very creditable points win over New Zealand’s Kahu Mahanga and a cuts loss to Australian Tony Mundine (a future Sterling conqueror). The one sad note on an otherwise marvellous day and evening was that former British super-welterweight champion Jimmy Batten was taken ill on the golf course, and had to be taken to hospital. Jimmy’s a staunch LEBA member, and does a lot to raise money for good causes. Everyone wishes him a speedy recovery.

Back to the London meeting, there were congratulations for writer Melanie Lloyd on being invited to freelance for Sky, and for LEBA Vice-President and former world flyweight champion Charlie Magri for successfully taking part in a sponsored East End walk in aid of St. Joseph’s Hospice. A minute’s silence was held to mark the passing of Pernell Whitaker, Barry McGuigan’s daughter Danika, Harry Doherty, Joe Lally and Peggy Delaney – the last-named a loyal member, along with late husband Mick. Like most EBAs, London supports today’s fighters, pro and amateur – referred to as LEBA’s ‘Young Guns’ – and we were delighted to welcome two of them, Northolt ABC heavyweight Jamie Jervis and his middleweight brother, Bobby. Both appreciated their welcome.

I was pleased to hear from Ipswich EBA Secretary Erik Roper that some of their memorabilia is to be put on permanent display at Ipswich Museum. “In total five trophies have been taken,” Erik said, “along with a commemorative plate given to us by LEBA. Also a montage of old photographs.” That’s great to hear. The publicity for the Association will be invaluable – it will raise its profile locally, and with luck lead to more people joining.

Well done Essex EBA, whose recent sponsored walk raised nearly £2,500 for the Ringside Rest and Care Home. And congratulations to my old friend and former Central Area light-heavyweight champion Pat Thompson, whom I covered many times in the ‘70s, on becoming the new Essex President.

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