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This week in 1960

boxing history
Northern Irish legend John Caldwell and Welsh greats Brian Curvis and Howard Winstone were in action 60 years ago this week

SIXTY years ago the world stood on the precipice of some truly ground-breaking developments – counterculture and the social revolution, the moon landing, the civil rights movement, risqué new fashions and music unlike anything heard before. Norms of all kinds were about to be remodelled, but boxing would survive the decade largely unchanged. So, what was happening in British boxing this week in 1960?

Red-hot unbeaten flyweight prospect John Caldwell [pictured] got off to a flying start to the new decade by knocking out Spaniard Young Martin, a former European champ, inside three rounds at Streatham Ice Rink. It was the 21-year-old Belfast man’s first pro appearance in England and his 15th paid outing. Before the knockout, Martin had been ranked as number-one contender for his former crown by the EBU.

“It took the audacious and tough Irish boy only one round to fathom out a way past the unorthodox stance of his experienced, 70-odd bout opponent,” observed Boxing News. John floored the Spaniard five times in the third round before putting him down for keeps.

In his next contest, Caldwell beat the reigning European champ Risto Luukkonen in a non-title affair, and in October 1960 he wrested the British crown from Plean’s Frankie Jones with another third-round KO. In May 1961, Caldwell won a version of the world bantamweight title, but he lost his championship claim in Sao Paulo to the legendary Eder Jofre, whom he met for the undisputed crown. Back in Britain, John won British and Empire bantamweight honours.

On the Streatham undercard, another rising star was on show. Slick Swansea southpaw Brian Curvis made it 10 pro wins out of 10 with an eighth-round stoppage of rugged fellow Welshman Terry Burnett (Cardiff). The fight was a warm-up for Brian’s crucial February 24 battle with Albert Carroll (Bethnal Green), an unofficial British title eliminator. Curvis would outpoint Carroll in Cardiff, collect the Empire welterweight belt from Australia’s George Barnes in May, and the British crown from Nottingham’s Wally Swift that November. Brian would successfully defend both titles six times, winning two Lonsdale Belts outright. An exceptional talent, he got just one shot at world honours, losing on points to the great Emile Griffith in 1964.

Also this week in 1960, another Welsh boxing icon was carving out his legend. Smethwick’s Colin Salcombe was the unfortunate recipient of a one-sided shellacking from Merthyr maestro Howard Winstone in Birmingham’s Embassy Sportsdrome. “This was Winstone’s 13th bout,” noted BN, “and, conceding over eight pounds in weight to the hard-punching local boy, the fight appeared close on paper. It turned out to be merely a hard workout for Merthyr’s fine exponent of the arts and crafts… Referee Chris Maggs stepped in to call a halt after six one-sided rounds.” Eventually capturing British, European and world featherweight titles, Winstone would go down as one of Britain’s’ finest ever 126lb boxers and, like Curvis, the winner of two Lonsdale Belts outright.

Back in 1960, televised boxing was relatively novel and Ron Olver wrote a Telefight News column for BN, scrutinising boxing on the box. “It’s nice to be able to see the filmed highlights of a major contest, but I hope the BBC will immediately discontinue the policy of trying to make viewers believe that every fight they screen in edited form is a thriller,” wrote Olver in February 1960 under the heading “Edited Films are Misleading”. He continued: “Our job, and I hope the BBC considers it theirs too, is to educate the public fistically, not to mislead them. And an edited film which picks out only the chief moments of action is as misleading as anything.” One wonders what Ron would have made of the modern-day hyping of fights via YouTube and social media.

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