London fighting Muhammad Ali in 1966
|Real name||Brian Sydney Harper|
|Nickname(s)||The Blackpool Rock|
The British Bulldog
|Born||19 June 1934|
West Hartlepool, County Durham, England
|Wins by KO||26|
Brian Sidney Harper (born 19 June 1934), known professionally as Brian London, is an English retired 20th century heavyweight boxer. He was the British and Commonwealth heavyweight champion 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 9 pounds (205 pounds). His nicknames in the ring were "The British Bulldog" and "The Blackpool Rock".
London was born in West Hartlepool, County Durham, in 1934, and moved to Blackpool when he was 16 years old, where he has lived ever since. 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. London fought as an amateur before turning professional in 1955. He 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. Following this defeat, London continued his winning run, apart from two ten-round point defeats, against Heinz Neuhaus in Dortmund, in 1957 and against the talented American, Willie Pastrano in February 1958.
British heavyweight title
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.
World title fight
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. Rademacher had made history by being the only man to fight for the world heavyweight championship on his professional debut, losing to Floyd Patterson.
Further domestic career
In August 1960, London challenged Dick Richardson 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.
He 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.
His next fight of note was in March 1965, against the young "Golden Boy" of British boxing, Billy Walker. London won on points after ten rounds.
Second world title fight vs Muhammad Ali
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 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 1st 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 displayed a patent degree of hesitation to come forward to engage, and Ali sensing this advanced to the attack flashly, penning him back into a corner and throwing a 12-punch combination in 3 seconds in a showboating display of speed and athleticism, but with a suspicion of Ali holding back, with few of the blows actually connecting or possessing weight behind them, and the one blow that did (the 10th) being just enough to knock London down and end the fight.
In a post-career media interview London described his contest with Ali in stark terms, describing Ali as being:-
"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."
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. Foley had lost a world title fight against Muhammad Ali earlier that year, and London beat him on points over ten rounds.
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. 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.
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.
Retirement and personal life
After retiring from boxing, London became a businessman in his hometown of Blackpool, owning several nightclubs, and is still a fitness fanatic running 12 miles a day. Teetotal all of his life, in 2006 it was revealed that he was still only a few pounds over his fighting weight. He is married with three children.
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".
Like so 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.— Brian London
In 2004, the British Boxing website listed London at number eight in a list of the top ten post World War II British Heavyweight boxers. He is a member of Blackpool Sportsmen's Aid Society (BSAS) which raises funds for local charities and sporting needs in Blackpool.
Professional boxing record
|37 Wins (26 knockouts, 11 decisions), 20 Losses (11 knockouts, 9 decisions), 1 Draw |
|Loss||36–20–1||Joe Bugner||TKO||5||12 May 1970||Empire Pool, Wembley, London|
|Loss||36–19–1||Jerry Quarry||KO||2||3 Sep 1969||Oakland Arena, Oakland, California||London knocked out at 2:30 of the second round.|
|Loss||36–18–1||Jim Fletcher||TKO||1||10 Apr 1969||Liverpool Stadium, Liverpool, Merseyside||Referee stopped the bout at 1:20 of the first round.|
|Draw||36–17–1||Henry Clark||PTS||10||6 Feb 1969||Liverpool Stadium, Liverpool, Merseyside||49.25-49.25.|
|Loss||36–17||Jack Bodell||TKO||9||10 Jun 1968||Liverpool Stadium, Liverpool, Merseyside||BBBofC Heavyweight Title Eliminator.|
|Loss||36–16||Roberto Davila||TKO||6||29 Feb 1968||Liverpool Stadium, Liverpool, Merseyside|
|Win||37–15||Zora Folley||PTS||10||13 Nov 1967||Liverpool Stadium, Liverpool, Merseyside||49.75-48.75.|
|Win||36–15||James J. Woody||PTS||10||15 Aug 1967||Liverpool Stadium, Liverpool, Merseyside||49.25-49.|
|Loss||35–15||Jerry Quarry||UD||10||9 Mar 1967||Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles, California||1-8, 2-8, 2-9.|
|Loss||35–14||Muhammad Ali||KO||3||6 Aug 1966||Earls Court Arena, Kensington, London||World Heavyweight Title. London knocked out at 1:40 of the third round.|
|Win||35–13||Amos Johnson||DQ||7||21 Jun 1966||Liverpool Stadium, Liverpool, Merseyside|
|Loss||34–13||Thad Spencer||PTS||10||2 May 1966||Belle Vue Zoological Gardens, Belle Vue, Manchester|
|Win||34–12||Roger Rischer||KO||1||20 Sep 1965||Liverpool Stadium, Liverpool, Merseyside||Rischer knocked out at 0:50 of the first round.|
|Win||33–12||Billy Walker||PTS||10||30 Mar 1965||Empire Pool, Wembley, London|
|Win||32–12||Giorgio Masteghin||RTD||4||2 Feb 1965||Tower Circus, Blackpool, Lancashire||Masteghin retired at 0:55 of the fourth round.|
|Win||31–12||Chip Johnson||TKO||4||15 Dec 1964||Wolverhampton Civic Hall, Wolverhampton, West Midlands|
|Loss||30–12||Johnny Prescott||PTS||10||13 Aug 1964||Liverpool Stadium, Liverpool, Merseyside|
|Loss||30–11||Henry Cooper||PTS||15||24 Feb 1964||Belle Vue Zoological Gardens, Belle Vue, Manchester||BBBofC/EBU/Commonwealth Heavyweight Titles.|
|Win||30–10||Bill Nielsen||KO||4||2 Dec 1963||St James Hall, Newcastle upon Tyne|
|Win||29–10||Don Warner||PTS||8||8 May 1963||Winter Gardens, Blackpool, Lancashire|
|Loss||28–10||Ingemar Johansson||PTS||12||21 Apr 1963||Johanneshovs Isstadion, Stockholm|
|Win||28–9||Tom McNeeley||PTS||10||29 Jan 1963||London Olympia, Kensington, London|
|Win||27–9||Von Clay||PTS||10||11 Oct 1962||Tower Circus, Blackpool, Lancashire|
|Win||26–9||Howard King||KO||6||14 Aug 1962||Blackpool, Lancashire||King knocked out at 2:17 of the sixth round.|
|Loss||25–9||Santo Amonti||PTS||10||7 Jul 1962||Stadio Mario Rigamonti, Brescia, Lombardy|
|Win||25–8||Young Jack Johnson||PTS||10||26 Feb 1962||Belle Vue Zoological Gardens, Belle Vue, Manchester|
|Loss||24–8||Eddie Machen||RTD||5||17 Oct 1961||Empire Pool, Wembley, London|
|Win||24–7||William Herman Hunter||TKO||8||24 Apr 1961||Manchester, Lancashire|
|Loss||23–7||Dick Richardson||TKO||8||29 Aug 1960||Coney Beach Pleasure Park, Porthcawl||EBU Heavyweight Title.|
|Win||23–6||Pete Rademacher||KO||7||26 Apr 1960||Empire Pool, Wembley, London||Pete knocked out at 0:15 of the seventh round.|
|Loss||22–6||Nino Valdes||TKO||7||1 Dec 1959||Empire Pool, Wembley, London|
|Loss||22–5||Floyd Patterson||KO||11||1 May 1959||Indiana State Fairgrounds Coliseum, Indianapolis, Indiana||World Heavyweight Title. London knocked out at 0:51 of the 11th round.|
|Loss||22–4||Henry Cooper||PTS||15||12 Jan 1959||Empress Hall, Earl's Court, Kensington, London||BBBofC/Commonwealth Heavyweight Titles.|
|Win||22–3||Willie Pastrano||TKO||5||30 Sep 1958||Harringay Arena, Harringay, London|
|Win||21–3||Joe Erskine||KO||8||3 Jun 1958||White City Stadium, White City, London||BBBofC/Commonwealth Heavyweight Titles.|
|Loss||20–3||Willie Pastrano||PTS||10||25 Feb 1958||Harringay Arena, Harringay, London|
|Win||20–2||Howie Turner||PTS||10||10 Dec 1957||Harringay Arena, Harringay, London|
|Win||19–2||Kitione Lave||PTS||10||12 Aug 1957||Greyhound Stadium, West Hartlepool, County Durham||Commonwealth Heavyweight Title Eliminator.|
|Win||18–2||Peter Bates||KO||2||1 Jul 1957||Engineer's Club, West Hartlepool, County Durham||Bates knocked out at 2:14 of the second round.|
|Win||17–2||Willy Schagen||KO||1||27 May 1957||Maindy Stadium, Cardiff|
|Win||16–2||Robert Duquesne||KO||1||5 Mar 1957||Embassy Sportsdrome, Birmingham, West Midlands|
|Loss||15–2||Heinz Neuhaus||PTS||10||3 Feb 1957||Westfalenhallen, Dortmund, North Rhine-Westphalia|
|Win||15–1||Werner Wiegand||KO||2||19 Nov 1956||St James Hall, Newcastle upon Tyne|
|Win||14–1||Trevor Snell||KO||2||27 Aug 1956||Maindy Stadium, Cardiff|
|Win||13–1||George Naufahu||TKO||4||9 Jul 1956||Engineer's Club, West Hartlepool, County Durham|
|Loss||12–1||Henry Cooper||TKO||1||1 May 1956||Empress Hall, Earl's Court, Kensington, London|
|Win||12–0||Jose Peyre||TKO||1||13 Mar 1956||Harringay Arena, Harringay, London||Referee stopped the bout at 1:10 of the first round.|
|Win||11–0||Jim Cooper||TKO||4||17 Jan 1956||Streatham Ice Arena, Streatham, London, England|
|Win||10–0||Basil Kew||TKO||2||6 Dec 1955||Harringay Arena, Harringay, London|
|Win||9–0||Prosper Beck||KO||1||11 Nov 1955||Belle Vue Zoological Gardens, Belle Vue, Manchester|
|Win||8–0||Simon Templar||TKO||7||24 Oct 1955||Middlesbrough, Yorkshire|
|Win||7–0||José González Sales||TKO||3||7 Oct 1955||Belle Vue Zoological Gardens, Belle Vue, Manchester|
|Win||6–0||Robert Eugene||PTS||8||8 Aug 1955||Engineer's Club, West Hartlepool, County Durham|
|Win||5–0||Paddy Slavin||TKO||2||11 Jul 1955||Engineer's Club, West Hartlepool, County Durham|
|Win||4–0||Dinny Powell||KO||4||6 Jun 1955||St James Hall, Newcastle upon Tyne|
|Win||3–0||Hugh McDonald||KO||2||23 May 1955||Engineer's Club, West Hartlepool, County Durham|
|Win||2–0||Frank Walshaw||KO||2||18 Apr 1955||Birmingham, West Midlands|
|Win||1–0||Dennis Lockton||TKO||1||22 Mar 1955||Empress Hall, Earl's Court, Kensington, London|
| British Heavyweight Champion
Commonwealth Heavyweight Champion
3 June 1958 – 12 January 1959
- Mee, Bob (8 December 2005). "Fight night in great tradition". Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 5 May 2013. Retrieved 12 March 2008.
- "Boxer Brian's book is set to be a big hitter". Blackpool Gazette. 27 March 2006. Retrieved 12 March 2008.
- Amato, Jim (26 March 2006). "Brian London: He Did England Proud". East Side Boxing. Archived from the original on 20 March 2008. Retrieved 2008-03-12.
- "Happened on this day - 12 January". BBC Sport. 13 January 2002. Retrieved 12 March 2008.
- 'Muhammad Ali vs Brian London full fight', published on Youtube 18 January 2009. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zWnt4Z2Z9N0
- Interview with Brian London, 'When Ali Came to Britain' (2012), television documentary made by ITV Sport. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2256051/
- "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.
- "The Truth About Blackpool". Bobby Moore online. Archived from the original on 24 August 2007. Retrieved 12 March 2008.
- "BBN's Top Ten post-war Heavyweights". BritishBoxing.net. 28 July 2004. Archived from the original on 18 July 2011. Retrieved 12 March 2008.
- Riddle, John (2008). Hartlepool People: A Tribute to the Town's Rich, Famous and Infamous, Cormorant Publishing Hartlepool, ISBN 978-0-9558593-0-4
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