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When Bootle’s ‘Iron Man’ took on the great Emile Griffith

Emile Griffith
This week 55 years ago, Bootle ‘Iron Man’ Harry Scott faced the daunting task of tackling the brilliant Emile Griffith

THEY say fortune favours the brave and that’s a mantra Bootle middleweight Harry Scott could have taken heart from this week in 1965. The great Emile Griffith was in Britain looking to complete a hat-trick of wins in this country, and Scott was tasked with facing him as a late substitute.

In his first UK visit, the Virgin Islander had dominated Britain’s superb 147lb champ Brian Curvis in a world welterweight title defence in London, causing the Welshman to say modestly: “I think Emile is a great fighter and a great champion. I lost to a far better man.” Two months later, Griffith returned to London to crush British lightweight titlist Dave Charnley in nine one-sided rounds.

For his third British fight, at the Royal Albert Hall on October 4, 1965, Emile was to have met British middleweight champion Wally Swift. But when Swift sustained an injury, promoter Mike Barrett had the brainwave of drafting in Scott as a top-notch replacement.

The Bootle man had shot into the world middleweight ratings five months earlier when he outscored number-four-rated Rubin “Hurricane” Carter (later portrayed by Denzel Washington in a film about his life) at the Royal Albert Hall. That was the second meeting between Scott and Carter, Harry having lost on a cut eye when they’d met a month earlier. Intriguingly, Carter had stopped Griffith inside a round in 1963 and was still the only man to have beaten him inside time. So, there was some hope that “Iron Man” Scott could win in similar fashion given his size advantage over Emile.

There was much speculation over what Griffith would weigh for this middleweight clash. He was said to be struggling to make welterweight and BN predicted he would come in at around 150lbs, which would mean conceding around 10lbs to Scott, but our prediction was slightly out. Come the fight, Scott scaled 160 1/2lbs and Griffith came in at 154lbs, his highest fighting weight to date.
Emile looked out of sorts in the first round, with Scott starting aggressively and forcing the pace. Griffith was warned for holding, kidney punching and careless use of the head, and “did not look like a champion of the world in this opening round” according to our reporter, who felt “Scott won the first round without any shadow of doubt.” This was, however, Harry’s best round of the fight.

Emile improved in round two but was largely employing spoiling tactics, and BN felt Scott was still in control. Gradually, though, Griffith warmed to his task and from the fourth round took over.

From the fifth, the writing was on the wall. Pumping in shots from all angles, Griffith damaged Scott’s nose and ear as the brave Bootle man could only hope to spoil and run to stay out of danger. To his credit, Harry did not visit the canvas, but his manager Arthur Boggis’ decision to retire him at the end of the seventh was a smart one. Despite a slow start, Griffith had confirmed the gulf in class between himself and the Brit.

Emile was just six months away from ripping the world middleweight crown from Dick Tiger and would carry on at the sport’s top level for over a decade.

Harry would fight on for another eight years and was destined to go down as one of the best British middleweights never to fight for the national crown. He lost three final title eliminators – to Wally Swift, Les McAteer and Bunny Sterling, all of whom became British champions. As well as Griffith, Scott faced another three world titlists: Nino Benvenuti, Sandro Mazzinghi and Alan Minter.

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