WHAT a fantastic set of fighters there are in this week’s photo. You can say what you like about Terry Lawless, and his connection with the Duff, Barrett and Levene promotional syndicate, but he certainly knew how to produce world-class fighters. Prior to the emergence of Frank Warren in the early 1980s, these three promoters had a virtual stranglehold at the top level of British boxing, and they were responsible for most of the most important shows held at that time. They staged regular shows on a Tuesday night at either the Royal Albert Hall or the Wembley Arena and at least one of the lads featured opposite appeared on most, of not all, of the bills held between 1977 and 1981.
Terry Lawless started out as a boxing manager in 1956, and his gym was, for many years, on the first floor of the Royal Oak pub in Canning Town. The pub became a haven for the East Enders who liked a pint as well as their boxing. Lawless learnt the ropes as an assistant to Al Phillips, the Aldgate Tiger, a man who ran a very successful stable of fighters after his own ring days were over. Lawless was quite a successful businessman, owning a string of shops in the retail trade, but boxing was his first love and by the 1970s he was probably the UK’s leading, and most well-known trainer, and the lads pictured were the cream of his crop.
Most readers will easily recognise Charlie Magri, Jim Watt and Maurice Hope but I wonder how many of you can name them all? On the left is John L Gardner, British, Commonwealth and European heavyweight champion. John was a very decent heavyweight, but as his career fell between those of Joe Bugner and Frank Bruno, it is easy to forget him, but I loved the way he demolished Paul Sykes in 1979 and the game contest he gave Jimmy Young in the same year.
Next to John is the great Jimmy Batten. This lad was an outstanding schoolboy, one of the very best since the war, and he more than fulfilled his potential as a pro. Batten was involved in some of the most exciting battles for the British title over the 15-round course at light-middleweight and he won the Lonsdale Belt outright, with each contest ending within the distance. Let us also not forget his game scrap with the great Roberto Duran. Charlie Magri is unmistakable and his achievements are very well known, one of London’s best-ever flyweights. On either side of Charlie are Johnny Waldron and Jimmy Flint. Waldron was a very good amateur who started out at Beccles, where he won many titles, before moving to Fairburn House BC, and then Repton in the early 1970s. While at Repton he won the London amateur title in 1975. As a pro, Johnny never quite made it, and after a brief career of only 12 contests, of which he lost only one, he went on to make a name for himself on the unlicensed circuit. Johnny was a proper hard man, and his life story is colourful.
Flint was one of my favourite fighters, he was a devastating puncher at featherweight and very exciting, and he has gone on to forge a second career as an actor. Maurice Hope was an accomplished WBC belt-holder at light-middleweight. He had two great scraps with Rocky Mattioli and it took a fighter of the calibre of Wilfred Benítez to eventually dethrone him, and I think it a shame that his achievements are less remembered than they should be today, for he was a great fighter. The last of the bunch is Jim Watt. Jim signed with Lawless in 1976, and Terry turned his career around, guiding him to the WBC title in just a few years. What a set of contests these boxers would give against their counterparts today.