Bruce Woodcock (boxer)
He held the British and Empire heavyweight titles from 1945 to 1950, and was the European heavyweight champion 1946-1949. He had a large fanbase, and his participation in a competition often resulted in sellout crowds. His biggest wins were over Lee Savold, Gus Lesnevich, Lee Oma, Freddie Mills, Johnny Ralph, Jack London and Bert Gilroy.
Woodcock began his career in 1942, winning all of his first 20 bouts, all by stoppage. This set him up for his first title bout. In July 1945, at White Hart Lane, Tottenham, Woodcock defeated the current champion Jack London to take the British and Empire heavyweight tiles. Woodcock won by a knockout in round six after having London down three times in that round.
He bounced back impressively from this by defeating Freddie Mills and Gus Lesnevich either side of winning the European Title from Paul Albert Renet. Woodcock went on to win his next 3 fights, including a successful defence of his European Title before suffering his second loss.
At Harringay in 1947 Woodcock earned a reputation for bravery when he fought Joe Baksi. He was floored 3 times in the first round and twice in the second and yet tried to come back before the referee stopped it in the seventh.
Again, Woodcock bounced back in impressive fashion, scoring wins over world rated opponents such as Lee Oma and Lee Savold, followed by a win over talented Johnny Ralph for the British Empire Title (now known as Commonwealth Title)
Upon the retirement of World heavyweight champion Joe Louis, on June 6, 1950, the British promoter Jack Solomons matched Woodcock with American Lee Savold (who Woodcock had previously beaten) for the vacant world title at White City before over 50,000 spectators. This was done under the auspices of the British Boxing Board of Control and recognised throughout Europe and the Commonwealth but not in the USA. In the event, a 15 round contest, Woodcock's left eye sustained a bad cut, and the fight was stopped in the fourth round.
Woodcock was to fight just once more, on 14 November 1950. In this bout he lost his British and Empire Titles to Jack Gardner by an 11th round TKO.
Woodcock was known as a skilled and aggressive boxer with a good punch, however his face was vulnerable as the result of reopened cuts sustained through many bouts, and he was small for a heavyweight, putting him at a disadvantage on occasion. Nevertheless, he was a top contender and Britain's best and bravest heavyweight hope in the second half of the nineteen forties.
Bruce grew up in the Balby area of Doncaster and, in his youth, was known to be a member of the 'Carr Hill' gang, a mixture of girls and boys who grew up together within the area. In December 1946, he married Nora Speight (b 14 July 1922 Doncaster; d. 2 July 2008), with whom he had one son, Bruce, and one daughter, Janet. Although Bruce himself was a well known, well respected boxer, so also was his brother, Billy, who himself fought. The family were renowned for their boxing and wrestling prowess within the Balby region, where they grew up.
He ended his days in retirement after running a pub in his home town of Doncaster, where he died.
- Ronnie Wharton (2005), ‘’Fighting Men of the North’’, Tempus Publishing Limited, ISBN 0-7524-3551-5