Brian London

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Brian London
Muhammad Ali fights Brian London on August 6, 1966.jpg
London fighting Muhammad Ali in 1966
Statistics
Real nameBrian Sydney Harper
Nickname(s)The Blackpool Rock
The British Bulldog
Weight(s)Heavyweight
NationalityBritish
Born(1934-06-19)19 June 1934
West Hartlepool, County Durham, England
Died23 June 2021(2021-06-23) (aged 87)
StanceOrthodox
Boxing record
Total fights58
Wins37
Wins by KO26
Losses20
Draws1

Brian Sidney Harper (19 June 1934 – 23 June 2021), known professionally as Brian London, was an English professional boxer who competed from 1955 to 1970.[1] He held the British and Commonwealth heavyweight title from 1958 to 1959, and twice challenged for the world heavyweight title, losing to Floyd Patterson in 1959 and Muhammad Ali in 1966, both times via knockout. He was one of a quartet of British boxers, with Henry Cooper, Joe Erskine, and Dick Richardson, who dominated the British boxing scene throughout the 1950s and 1960s.

An orthodox fighter, London was 6 feet tall and fought at about 14 stone 12 pounds (208 lbs).[2] His nicknames in the ring were "The British Bulldog" and "The Blackpool Rock".[3][4]

Early life and career[edit]

London was born in West Hartlepool, County Durham, on 19 June 1934.[3][4] He moved to Blackpool when he was 16 years old, where he resided into his later years.[5] His father, Jack London, beat Freddie Mills in 1944 to win the British heavyweight title. He also had a brother, Jack junior, who fought as a light-heavyweight.[6] His father fought under the name "London" rather than Harper, as a homage to an American novelist with this name. Brian never liked the idea of boxing as a child, as he didn't like the idea of having cauliflower ears like his father and his associates.[7] London was spurred to take up boxing during his time in the Royal Air Force for national service, after an officer learned of his familial relations.[8] It wasn't so much of a choice, but rather the expectations of his colleagues.[7] He fought as an amateur before turning professional in 1955.[6]

Professional career[edit]

London made a good start to his career, winning his first twelve bouts, one of which was against RAF light heavyweight boxer Brian Wiltshire (UK) in 1951. He finally lost when he came up against Henry Cooper in May 1956. Cooper stopped him with a technical knockout in the first round.[6] Following this defeat, London continued his winning run, apart from two ten-round points defeats, against Heinz Neuhaus in Dortmund, in 1957 and against the talented American Willie Pastrano in February 1958.[6]

British heavyweight title[edit]

In June 1958, London fought Joe Erskine, the Welsh boxer, for the British and Commonwealth heavyweight titles. The fight was at the White City Stadium, London, and London took the titles with an eighth-round knockout. He followed this in September with a revenge win against Willie Pastrano, by a technical knockout in the fifth round. On 12 January 1959, London lost his titles in a fight against Henry Cooper, losing for the second time to the Londoner by a points decision after fifteen rounds.[6][9]

World title fight[edit]

In May 1959 he was given the chance of a world title fight against current champion Floyd Patterson, but he lost the bout in Indianapolis by a knockout in the eleventh. He also lost to the Cuban Nino Valdez later that year, by a technical knockout in the seventh. However, in January 1960, London bounced back when he beat the American Pete Rademacher by a knockout in the seventh.[6]

Further domestic career[edit]

London challenged Dick Richardson in August 1960 for his European heavyweight title, but lost the bout in Porthcawl, Wales on a technical knockout in the eighth. This result provoked a brawl, when London's father and brother invaded the ring to protest that Richardson had used his head to open a cut on his opponent. When Richardson's trainer shouted a few remarks at London, London replied with an impressive combination of blows, decking him, and chaos broke out. As a result of the incident, London was fined by the British Boxing Board of Control.[3]

London lost to American Eddie Machen in October 1961 by a technical knockout in the tenth,[10] and in April 1963, he lost to Ingemar Johansson of Sweden on points over twelve rounds.[3]

London then fought Henry Cooper for the third time in February 1964, when he challenged for his British and Commonwealth titles, as well as the vacant European title. The fight took place in Manchester, and Cooper won on points after fifteen rounds.[6] His next fight of note was in March 1965, against the young "Golden Boy" of British boxing, Billy Walker.[3] London won on points after ten rounds.[11]

Second world title fight vs. Muhammad Ali[edit]

On 6 August 1966 London fought for the World Heavyweight Championship for the second time at the age of 32, when Muhammad Ali came to defend his title at Earl's Court Exhibition Hall in England. Ali at 24 years old with the advantages of height, weight, reach, speed and youth on his side, put on a masterful performance against a clearly out-classed opponent, almost hitting London at will as the fight went on. As London put it in an interview with the BBC: "he was just getting through all the time". Ali bouncingly circled continually, whilst London tracked doggedly after him for the first two rounds seemingly with a strategy of trying to land a single knock-out punch to the American champion. London succeeded in landing only one blow in the match, a left jab to Ali's jaw midway through the first round which caught Ali by surprise and left him for a moment stunned (and wide-open for a follow through right cross, which London failed to take advantage of), but the blow lacked weight and Ali was able to quickly recover. On coming out for the 3rd Round London hesitated to engage. Ali danced him into a corner and threw a rapid 12-punch combination in three seconds, with the tenth knocking London down and ending the fight.[12]

In a post-career media interview, London described Ali as:

Big, fast and he could punch, whereas I was smaller, fatter and couldn't punch. He stopped me in three rounds and that was it, I don't think I hit him. It was good money and I got well paid for it – that's all I fought for. Every fight I ever had I always had a go, but with Muhammad Ali I thought "don't get hurt Brian", and I therefore didn't try, which was wrong, totally wrong.[13]

Later career[edit]

In March 1967, London next fought American, Jerry Quarry, in Los Angeles, losing the fight by a unanimous decision after ten rounds. In November 1967, London had what was to be the last win in his career when he fought the talented American Zora Folley. Folley had lost a world title fight against Muhammad Ali earlier that year, and London beat him on points over ten rounds.[6]

London had continued to fight when he was past his best, and in June 1968, he lost, by a technical knockout to Jack Bodell. In September 1969 he travelled to Oakland, California, to fight Jerry Quarry for the second time, this time being knocked out in the second round.[6] The bout was unusual in that the bell was inadvertently rung as London was getting up after being knocked down in the second. The fighters returned to their corners and the referee, realising that the round had not finished, made them resume. London was then knocked down again and was counted out before the end of the round.[14]

London's last fight was against the up-and-coming young boxer Joe Bugner, who would eventually take the British, Commonwealth and European titles from Henry Cooper. The bout was in May 1970, at Wembley, and Bugner won by a technical knockout in the fifth, signalling an end to London's career.[6]

Retirement and personal life[edit]

After retiring from boxing, London became a businessman in his hometown of Blackpool, owning several nightclubs, and was a fitness fanatic, running 12 miles a day. A teetotaller all of his life, in 2006 it was revealed that London was still only a few pounds over his fighting weight.[5] He was married to Veronica Cliffe. Together, they had three children: Brian, Melanie and Jack.[3] After they divorced, he was in a domestic partnership with Beryl Hunter for 30 years until her death in 2005.[15][4]

In January 1971 English footballer Bobby Moore was embroiled in what became a national media story when he and three other West Ham United players, Jimmy Greaves, Clyde Best and Brian Dear, spent the evening at London's 007 nightclub in Blackpool, the night before an important FA Cup match against Blackpool which they went on to lose 4–0, with then West Ham manager Ron Greenwood and the national media severely criticising the players. Moore later said of the incident, "I'd met Brian London on many occasions and thought it would be nice to look him up. I suppose we all realised at the time that we were leaving ourselves vulnerable".[16][17]

Like many other boxers, London continued fighting long after his prime. He was 22 wins to 3 losses early in his career but lost 17 of his last 33 fights. In judging London's career it should be remembered that he fought some of the best fighters in the world, including four who at some stage were world champions – Ali, Patterson, Johansson and Pastrano.

My dad was Jack London and I was expected to fight as well. I was never a great fighter. I was just really, really fit.[5]

— Brian London

The British Boxing website listed London at number eight in a list of the top ten post World War II British heavyweight boxers in 2004.[18]

He had a dark sense of humour, and when asked if he would have done anything differently with Muhammad Ali, he replied, "Yeah, I should have shot him".[7] He died on 23 June 2021 at the age of 87. He had suffered a long illness prior to his death.[4][19]

Professional boxing record[edit]

37 Wins (26 knockouts, 11 decisions), 20 Losses (11 knockouts, 9 decisions), 1 Draw [20]
Result Record Opponent Type Round Date Location Notes
Loss 36–20–1 Australia Joe Bugner TKO 5 12 May 1970 United Kingdom Empire Pool, London, England
Loss 36–19–1 United States Jerry Quarry KO 2 3 Sep 1969 United States Oakland Arena, Oakland, California, US
Loss 36–18–1 United States Jim Fletcher TKO 1 10 April 1969 United Kingdom Liverpool Stadium, Liverpool, England
Draw 36–17–1 United States Henry Clark PTS 10 6 Feb 1969 United Kingdom Liverpool Stadium, Liverpool, England
Loss 36–17 United Kingdom Jack Bodell TKO 9 10 Jun 1968 United Kingdom Liverpool Stadium, Liverpool, England
Loss 36–16 Peru Roberto Davila TKO 6 29 Feb 1968 United Kingdom Liverpool Stadium, Liverpool, England
Win 37–15 United States Zora Folley PTS 10 13 Nov 1967 United Kingdom Liverpool Stadium, Liverpool, England
Win 36–15 United States James J. Woody PTS 10 15 Jun 1967 United Kingdom Liverpool Stadium, Liverpool, England
Loss 35–15 United States Jerry Quarry UD 10 9 Mar 1967 United Kingdom Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles, California, US
Loss 35–14 United States Muhammad Ali KO 3 6 August 1966 United Kingdom Earls Court Arena, London, England For WBC heavyweight title
Win 35–13 United States Amos Johnson DQ 7 21 Jun 1966 United Kingdom Liverpool Stadium, Liverpool, England
Loss 34–13 United States Thad Spencer PTS 10 2 May 1966 United Kingdom Belle Vue Zoological Gardens, Manchester, England
Win 34–12 United States Roger Rischer KO 1 20 Sep 1965 United Kingdom Liverpool Stadium, Liverpool, England
Win 33–12 United Kingdom Billy Walker PTS 10 30 Mar 1965 United Kingdom Empire Pool, London, England
Win 32–12 Italy Giorgio Masteghin RTD 4 2 Feb 1965 United Kingdom Tower Circus, Blackpool, England
Win 31–12 United States Chip Johnson TKO 4 15 Dec 1964 United Kingdom Wolverhampton Civic Hall, Wolverhampton, England
Loss 30–12 United Kingdom Johnny Prescott PTS 10 13 Jun 1964 United Kingdom Liverpool Stadium, Liverpool, England
Loss 30–11 United Kingdom Henry Cooper PTS 15 24 Feb 1964 United Kingdom Belle Vue Zoological Gardens, Manchester, England For British, European, and Commonwealth heavyweight titles
Win 30–10 United States Bill Nielsen KO 4 2 Dec 1963 United Kingdom St James Hall, Newcastle, England
Win 29–10 United States Don Warner PTS 8 8 May 1963 United Kingdom Winter Gardens, Blackpool, England
Loss 28–10 Sweden Ingemar Johansson PTS 12 21 April 1963 Sweden Johanneshovs Isstadion, Stockholm, Sweden
Win 28–9 United States Tom McNeeley PTS 10 29 Jan 1963 United Kingdom London Olympia, London, England
Win 27–9 United States Von Clay PTS 10 11 Oct 1962 United Kingdom Tower Circus, Blackpool, England
Win 26–9 United States Howard King KO 6 14 Jun 1962 United Kingdom Blackpool, England
Loss 25–9 Italy Santo Amonti PTS 10 7 Jul 1962 Italy Stadio Mario Rigamonti, Brescia, Italy
Win 25–8 United States Young Jack Johnson PTS 10 26 Feb 1962 United Kingdom Belle Vue Zoological Gardens, Manchester, England
Loss 24–8 United States Eddie Machen RTD 5 17 Oct 1961 United Kingdom Empire Pool, London, England
Win 24–7 United States William Herman Hunter TKO 8 24 April 1961 United Kingdom Manchester, England
Loss 23–7 Wales Dick Richardson TKO 8 29 Jun 1960 United Kingdom Coney Beach Pleasure Park, Porthcawl, Wales For European heavyweight title
Win 23–6 United States Pete Rademacher KO 7 26 April 1960 United Kingdom Empire Pool, London, England
Loss 22–6 Cuba Nino Valdes TKO 7 1 Dec 1959 United Kingdom Empire Pool, London, England
Loss 22–5 United States Floyd Patterson KO 11 1 May 1959 United States Indiana State Fairgrounds Coliseum, Indianapolis, Indiana, US For world heavyweight title
Loss 22–4 United Kingdom Henry Cooper PTS 15 12 Jan 1959 United Kingdom Empress Hall, London, England Lost British and Commonwealth heavyweight titles
Win 22–3 United States Willie Pastrano TKO 5 30 Sep 1958 United Kingdom Harringay Arena, London, England
Win 21–3 United Kingdom Joe Erskine KO 8 3 Jun 1958 United Kingdom White City Stadium, London, England Won British and Commonwealth heavyweight titles
Loss 20–3 United States Willie Pastrano PTS 10 25 Feb 1958 United Kingdom Harringay Arena, London, England
Win 20–2 United States Howie Turner PTS 10 10 Dec 1957 United Kingdom Harringay Arena, London, England
Win 19–2 Tonga Kitione Lave PTS 10 12 Jun 1957 United Kingdom Greyhound Stadium, West Hartlepool, England
Win 18–2 United Kingdom Peter Bates KO 2 1 Jul 1957 United Kingdom Engineer's Club, West Hartlepool, England
Win 17–2 Netherlands Willy Schagen KO 1 27 May 1957 United Kingdom Maindy Stadium, Cardiff, Wales
Win 16–2 France Robert Duquesne KO 1 5 Mar 1957 United Kingdom Embassy Sportsdrome, Birmingham, England
Loss 15–2 Germany Heinz Neuhaus PTS 10 3 Feb 1957 Germany Westfalenhallen, Dortmund, Germany
Win 15–1 Luxembourg Werner Wiegand KO 2 19 Nov 1956 United Kingdom St James Hall, Newcastle, England
Win 14–1 United Kingdom Trevor Snell KO 2 27 Jun 1956 United Kingdom Maindy Stadium, Cardiff, Wales
Win 13–1 Tonga George Naufahu TKO 4 9 Jul 1956 United Kingdom Engineer's Club, West Hartlepool, England
Loss 12–1 United Kingdom Henry Cooper TKO 1 1 May 1956 United Kingdom Empress Hall, London, England
Win 12–0 Belgium Jose Peyre TKO 1 13 Mar 1956 United Kingdom Harringay Arena, London, England
Win 11–0 United Kingdom Jim Cooper TKO 4 17 Jan 1956 United Kingdom Streatham Ice Arena, London, England
Win 10–0 United States Basil Kew TKO 2 6 Dec 1955 United Kingdom Harringay Arena, London, England
Win 9–0 Belgium Prosper Beck KO 1 11 Nov 1955 United Kingdom Belle Vue Zoological Gardens, Manchester, England
Win 8–0 Jamaica Simon Templar TKO 7 24 Oct 1955 United Kingdom Middlesbrough, England
Win 7–0 Spain José González Sales TKO 3 7 Oct 1955 United Kingdom Belle Vue Zoological Gardens, Manchester, England
Win 6–0 Belgium Robert Eugene PTS 8 8 Jun 1955 United Kingdom Engineer's Club, West Hartlepool, England
Win 5–0 Northern Ireland Paddy Slavin TKO 2 11 Jul 1955 United Kingdom Engineer's Club, West Hartlepool, England
Win 4–0 United Kingdom Dinny Powell KO 4 6 Jun 1955 United Kingdom St James Hall, Newcastle, England
Win 3–0 Scotland Hugh McDonald KO 2 23 May 1955 United Kingdom Engineer's Club, West Hartlepool, England
Win 2–0 United Kingdom Frank Walshaw KO 2 18 April 1955 United Kingdom Birmingham, England
Win 1–0 United Kingdom Dennis Lockton TKO 1 22 Mar 1955 United Kingdom Empress Hall, London, England

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Mee, Bob (8 December 2005). "Fight night in great tradition". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 5 May 2013. Retrieved 12 March 2008.
  2. ^ Wolstencroft, Pete (6 November 2013). "Brian London the original Blackpool Rock". British Boxing BBTV. Retrieved 25 June 2021.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Rawling, John (24 June 2021). "Brian London obituary". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 24 June 2021.
  4. ^ a b c d "Brian London, boxer known as 'the Blackpool Rock' who fought Muhammad Ali for the world heavyweight title – obituary". The Daily Telegraph. 23 June 2021. Retrieved 24 June 2021. (subscription required)
  5. ^ a b c "Boxer Brian's book is set to be a big hitter". Blackpool Gazette. 27 March 2006. Retrieved 12 March 2008.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Amato, Jim (26 March 2006). "Brian London: He Did England Proud". East Side Boxing. Archived from the original on 20 March 2008. Retrieved 12 March 2008.
  7. ^ a b c "Brian London Obituary". The Times. 25 June 2021.
  8. ^ "Boxer Brian London who fought Muhammad Ali for world title dies". BBC News. 24 June 2021. Retrieved 24 June 2021.
  9. ^ "Happened on this day - 12 January". BBC Sport. 13 January 2002. Retrieved 12 March 2008.
  10. ^ "Machen Gains Knockout as Brian London Quits After 5th". The New York Times. Associated Press. 18 October 1961. p. 59. Retrieved 24 June 2021. (subscription required)
  11. ^ "London Outpoints Walker In 10-Round Wembley Bout". The New York Times. Reuters. 31 March 1965. p. 31. Retrieved 24 June 2021. (subscription required)
  12. ^ 'Muhammad Ali vs Brian London full fight', published on Youtube 18 January 2009. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zWnt4Z2Z9N0
  13. ^ Interview with Brian London, When Ali Came to Britain (2012), television documentary by ITV Sport. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2256051/
  14. ^ "Quarry Topples London in Second". The New York Times. United Press International. 4 September 1969. p. 58. Retrieved 24 June 2021. (subscription required)
  15. ^ "Brian London obituary".
  16. ^ "Blackpool 4, West Ham 0, FA Cup third round, 2 January 1971: Boozy Bobby's night of shame". Blackpool Gazette. 20 September 2006. Retrieved 12 March 2008.
  17. ^ "The Truth About Blackpool". Bobby Moore online. Archived from the original on 24 August 2007. Retrieved 12 March 2008.
  18. ^ "BBN's Top Ten post-war Heavyweights". BritishBoxing.net. 28 July 2004. Archived from the original on 18 July 2011. Retrieved 12 March 2008.
  19. ^ "Former heavyweight boxer Brian London – known as the Blackpool Rock – dies aged 87". Lancashire Post. 23 June 2021.
  20. ^ "BoxRec". boxrec.com.

Further reading[edit]

  • Riddle, John (2008). Hartlepool People: A Tribute to the Town's Rich, Famous and Infamous, Cormorant Publishing Hartlepool, ISBN 978-0-9558593-0-4

External links[edit]

Achievements
Preceded by British Heavyweight Champion
Commonwealth Heavyweight Champion

3 June 1958 – 12 January 1959
Succeeded by