IN THE November 1930 edition of The Ring, the top 10 middleweights are ranked in order behind the champion, Mickey Walker. Standing prominently as the number one challenger is the Californian, Dave Shade. Immediately behind him stand two Europeans, Rene De Vos of Belgium, and Britain’s Len Harvey.
Shade had beaten De Vos over 10 rounds at the Yankee Stadium, New York City, in July 1929 but he had never met Harvey. Shade never won the world title, but he stands out as one of the better men never to have done so. His career lasted from 1918 until 1935 and he lost only 28 contests in a 221-bout career, beating such luminaries as Pinkey Mitchell, Augie Ratner, Jimmy Slattery and Ace Hudkins. He also beat a number of British fighters in the States, including Frank Moody, Ted Moore, Bermondsey Billy Wells and Roland Todd.
In the late summer of 1930, he announced that he was coming to London to fight Harvey in an eliminator for the world title. As the bout was to take place in Britain, he was happy that it should be contested over the full 15-round course, something that would not have happened had the bout been held in America. BN described him at the time as “a thoroughly seasoned ring warrior, a man who has fought some of the fastest, toughest, strongest and most skilled middleweights of his time. He has literally fought his way to the front. He can be little, if anything, behind Walker and may even be a more formidable man than the world’s middleweight champion.”
The promoter, Jeff Dickson, sailed over to America in August 1930 to conclude the deal and the fight was fixed for the Royal Albert Hall on September 29. Shade left America on September 2 and, upon arrival in the UK, he set up camp at Fred Dyer’s gymnasium in the Strand, where the accompanying photograph of him was taken. He later completed his training at the Stadium Club in Holborn, and footage of him doing so is currently available on YouTube. Neither of these establishments survived the London Blitz 10 years later.
In previewing the contest BN stated that Shade had engaged Harry Mason, Ted Kid Lewis and the featherweight, Harry Corbett, to help with his preparation. It also stated that Shade’s habit of smoking up to 20 cigars a day was unusual, particularly as the American had asked if he could smoke between rounds! This was probably a publicity stunt but Shade did say that he felt that smoking did not detract at all from his health or his fitness.
In the event, the two men fought out a terrifically close duel in a bout of greatly contrasting styles. As was expected, Harvey “boxed in the upright stance throughout, whereas Shade ducked, bent low, swerved and made Len miss time and again, stepping in himself to drive a hard left or right to the body every time Len’s left went over his head.”
By the end of the 13th there was nothing in it but Harvey then took advantage of Shade getting tired and nicked both rounds to take a close decision. So much for the cigars. Shade was very complementary towards Harvey after the fight and he stayed over here for two more contests, both against Jack Hood, the British welterweight champion at the time, with both contests also taking place at the Royal Albert Hall and both ending as draws.
In the December 1930, The Ring rated Harvey as the number one contender with Shade at number two. Harvey sailed for the States the following year to chase his title shot but lost three bouts in a row, two against Vince Dundee and one to Ben Jeby. He never did get a shot at Walker, with many observers believing he had been stitched up while on American soil.