Freddie Mills

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Freddie Mills
Freddie Mills in The Hundred Hour Hunt.jpg
Freddie Mills in the 1952 film The Hundred Hour Hunt
Real name Frederick Percival Mills
Nickname(s) Fearless Freddie
Weight(s) Light-heavyweight
Height 5 ft 10 12 in (179 cm)
Reach 72 in (183 cm)
Nationality British
Born (1919-06-26)26 June 1919
Bournemouth, Hampshire, England, UK
Died 25 July 1965(1965-07-25) (aged 46)
London, England, UK
Stance Orthodox
Boxing record
Total fights 101
Wins 76
Wins by KO 49
Losses 18
Draws 7
No contests 0

Frederick Percival "Freddie" Mills (26 June 1919 – 25 July 1965) was an English boxer, and the world light heavyweight champion from 1948 to 1950. He was born in Bournemouth, Hampshire.[1][2] Mills was 5 feet 10 12 inches (179 cm) tall and did not have a sophisticated boxing style; he relied on two-fisted aggression, relentless pressure, and the ability to take punishment to carry him through, and in more cases than not these attributes were sufficient. Mills excelled as a light-heavyweight boxer, but occasionally fought as a heavyweight. He was described as Britain's biggest boxing idol in the post-war period.[3]

After retiring from boxing, Mills took up acting and played character roles in a number of films and was a presenter on the early BBC-TV music show, Six-Five Special (1957), and also ran a successful nightclub until his mysterious death.

Early life[edit]

He was born Frederick Percival Mills in Bournemouth, Hampshire,[1][2] the youngest of the four children of Thomas James Mills, a totter and marine store dealer, and his wife Lottie Hilda Gray. He received a pair of boxing gloves when he was eleven, and he used to spar with his brother Charlie. He attended St Michael's School in Bournemouth until the age of fourteen, and then became an apprentice milkman.[1]

Professional career[edit]

Early career[edit]

Mills began fighting in fairground booths and at venues on the south coast.[4] He had his first official boxing match on 26 February 1936 at the local ice rink (aged 16), and won by a knockout in the first round. His first 64 fights, in 3½ years, against minor light-heavyweights, resulted in 48 wins, 9 losses and 7 draws. He then stepped up in weight class to fight Jock McAvoy, the British and Commonwealth middleweight champion, who had, the previous year, unsuccessfully fought Len Harvey for the British and Commonwealth light-heavyweight titles. The fight against McAvoy took place in Liverpool in August 1940 and Mills won a clear decision over ten rounds.[5]

During the rest of 1940 and 1941, Mills continued to fight. In December 1941, he fought Jack London, a heavyweight who was later (in 1944) to win the British and Commonwealth heavyweight titles. Mills won on points over ten rounds.

British light-heavyweight title[edit]

In February 1942, Mills fought Jock McAvoy again, in a final eliminator for the British light-heavyweight title. The fight, in the Royal Albert Hall, ended after one round when McAvoy was forced to retire with an injured back.[6] The way was open for Mills to challenge Len Harvey for the British and Commonwealth light-heavyweight titles.

The title fight took place on 20 June 1942, at White Hart Lane, Tottenham, in front of a crowd of 30,000. In the second round Mills caught Harvey with a powerful left hook and put him down for a count of nine. When Harvey got up Mills hit him with a left uppercut, knocking through the ropes and off the ring canvas, and in doing so he won via knockout.[7] The fight created a sensation and Mills was talked of as a future challenger for Joe Louis.[4] Mills now had the light-heavyweight titles. Harvey also had a lightly regarded claim to being world champion but Mills never pressed it.

In September 1944, Mills fought Jack London for the vacant British and Commonwealth heavyweight titles. The fight took place at the Kings Hall, Belle Vue, Manchester, with Mills conceding about three stone (19 kilos) in weight. Both men were at the time serving in the Royal Air Force. Mills showed speed and aggression, but London's superior strength and power were evident in the closing stages and the heavier man was awarded the decision after fifteen rounds.[8]

World title fight[edit]

After the London fight Mills was posted to India as a light entertainer, a skill he was to make use of later. In May 1946, he was given a shot at the world light-heavyweight title when he was matched with the current champion, Gus Lesnevich, an American. The fight took place at Harringay Arena in front of 11,000 fans. Mills was not considered a serious threat to Lesnevich but performed better than many expected in what was described as a "slam-bang, punishing contest". Mills was floored heavily in the second round but recovered strongly and was cheered on by the British crowd. In the ninth Mills's aggression appeared to be turning the fight in his favour, and Lesnevich was troubled by cuts above his eyes. In the tenth, however, Lesnevich "exploded" to score two knockdowns and forced the referee to stop the contest.[9]

Less than a month after his punishing fight against Lesnevich, Mills fought British heavyweight Bruce Woodcock, losing a twelve-round fight on points after being knocked down in the fourth. In November 1946, Mills fought another heavyweight, American Joe Baksi. Mills suffered two badly cut eyes and retired after six rounds of what was described as a "disappointingly one-sided contest". [10]

European title[edit]

In September 1947, Mills fought for the vacant European light-heavyweight title against the Belgian, Pol Goffaux, winning by a knockout in the fourth round.[11] He defended the title in February 1948, against the Spaniard Paco Bueno, who was subjected to "terrific punishment" before being knocked out in the second round.[12]

World title[edit]

On 26 July 1948, Mills was matched against Gus Lesnevich for his second attempt at the world light heavyweight title. Mills was in much better shape for this fight, held at the White City Stadium, London in front of a 46,000 crowd. Lesnevich reportedly struggled to make the 175 pound limit, weighing in at 174¾ pounds, whereas Mills came in at 170½. Lesnevich, who was a 1/3 betting favourite, suffered from cuts over the eyes from the opening round as Mills started strongly. The fight then settled down into a "remarkably dull" affair, which drew boos from the crowd and saw both men warned by the referee Teddy Waltham for the lack of action. In the tenth round, Mills rallied and floored Lesnevich heavily on two occasions. Lesnevich launched a "savage attack" in the twelfth and thirteenth rounds, but Mills responded in the last two sessions and at the end of fifteen rounds, the English boxer was awarded the decision by the referee.[13]

In June 1949, Mills again stepped up to heavyweight, when he challenged Bruce Woodcock for his British, Commonwealth and European heavyweight titles. The fight was also recognised as an eliminator for the British version of the World Heavyweight Championship. They fought at the White City Stadium, with Mills conceding twenty pounds in weight to his opponent. Mills bloodied the heavyweight's nose but was floored four times before being knocked out in the fourteenth round.[14]

On 24 January 1950, Mills defended his world title against an American, Joey Maxim, at Earls Court, London. Mills began strongly but Maxim, who "boxed beautifully", began to overhaul him. Mills, according to press reports, looked for a knockout win, but in the tenth round he was floored by a left right combination. Mills took the count in a sitting position before falling sideways and being counted out. Mills was assisted to his corner and was checked by a doctor before leaving the ring.[15] Mills’s reign as world champion was over, and a few weeks later on 16 February he announced his retirement,[16] aged 30.

Personal life[edit]

On 30 September 1948, Mills married Marie McCorkindale, the daughter of his manager, Ted Broadribb, at Herne Hill Methodist Church. She had previously married another boxer, Donald McCorkindale, and had a son by him.[17] Mills and his wife went on to have two daughters. He lived in Denmark Hill in South London until his death.


After retiring, he retained a public presence by making walk-on appearances in various films and becoming a presenter on the BBC pop-music programme Six-Five Special. He also became owner of a restaurant in Soho, which later became a nightclub.[3] He became friends with the Kray Twins, notorious criminals who frequented his club.[18] During the latter stages of his boxing career, Mills suffered from frequent headaches,[19] which continued after his retirement. Mills taught boxing classes at the Streatham youth centre in the early 1960s.[20] After its initial success his nightclub began to fail and he tried to sell it, without success. He sold off what property he had but was in serious financial difficulty.[21]

He was the subject of This Is Your Life in 1961 when he was surprised by Eamonn Andrews in the foyer of London's Earls Court Exhibition Centre.


On 24 July 1965 he was found shot in the head in his car, parked in a cul-de-sac behind his nightclub. He died later in Middlesex Hospital. He had told the nightclub staff that he was going for a nap in his car, something that he often did. A week or two previously he had borrowed a rifle from a friend who ran a shooting gallery. Although the rifle was not in working order when borrowed, it had apparently been repaired and was found in the car alongside him. The coroner’s inquest heard that the angle of the bullet was consistent with a self-inflicted wound, and it ruled his death a suicide.[22]

Mills was buried in Camberwell New Cemetery, South London. Among the pallbearers were Jack Solomons, the boxing promoter and Henry Cooper, British heavyweight champion. His grave has a marble boxing glove on it, beneath which is an urn containing a real boxing glove.[23]

At the time of his death he was heavily in debt to a crime syndicate, which led him to be both depressed and in fear of his life.[24] Following his death, several lurid theories sprang up: such as that Mills, married with children, had been arrested in a public toilet and charged with indecency,[25] or that his suicide had been staged by Chinese gangsters who were seeking to take over his club.[22] It has been claimed that he was about to be exposed as the serial killer known as "Jack the Stripper," the unidentified person responsible for the eight Hammersmith nude murders in 1964-5.[25] In 2002, a book about Mills contained allegations that he indeed had killed the eight women, had had a homosexual relationship with singer Michael Holliday, and possibly also was sexually involved with notorious gangster Ronnie Kray.[26]

Evaluation as a boxer[edit]

The boxing statistics site BoxRec rates Mills as the fourteenth-best British boxer of all time, the second-best British boxer of all time in the light-heavyweight division (behind John Conteh), and the thirty-sixth-best light-heavyweight in the history of boxing.[27]

Selected filmography[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Michael Horsfield (May 2011). "Boxing Champ was not run of the Mills". Snapshots. Bournemouth Echo. Retrieved 9 September 2012. 
  2. ^ a b "Bournemouth, Garden by the Sea" (PDF). Diamond Jubilee Civic Honours Bid. Bournemouth County Council. May 2011. Retrieved 9 September 2012. 
  3. ^ a b "Former Boxer is Show Business Hit". Saskatoon Star-Phoenix. 29 April 1958. Retrieved 2012-05-20. 
  4. ^ a b "Freddie Mills May Win Heavy Crown for Britain". Painesville Telegraph. 8 December 1942. Retrieved 2012-05-21. 
  5. ^ "Mills Beats British Champ". Leader-Post. 9 August 1940. Retrieved 2012-05-20. 
  6. ^ "Jock McAvoy Hurt: Mills Wins Match". Milwaukee Journal. 23 February 1942. Retrieved 2012-05-20. 
  7. ^ "Boxing - Freddie Mills Knocks Out Len Harvey - British Pathé". Retrieved 2012-05-20. 
  8. ^ "Jack London Wins". The Maple Leaf. 16 September 1944. Retrieved 2012-05-20. 
  9. ^ "Mills Much Tougher than Champ Expected". Calgary Herald. 15 May 1946. Retrieved 2012-05-20. 
  10. ^ "Joe Baksi Beats Freddie Mills". Indian Express. 7 November 1946. Retrieved 2012-05-20. 
  11. ^ "Mills Wins European Title". Spokane Daily Chronicle. 8 September 1947. Retrieved 2012-05-20. 
  12. ^ "Two Rounds Suffice for Mills to Win". Indian Express. 9 February 1948. Retrieved 2012-05-20. 
  13. ^ "Freddie Mills decisions Gus Lesnevich in Sensational Ring Upset". The Spokesman-Review. 27 July 1948. Retrieved 2012-05-20. 
  14. ^ "Bruce Woodcock Score 14-round Kayo over Freddie Mills". Schenectady Gazette. 3 June 1949. Retrieved 2012-05-20. 
  15. ^ "Maxim Kayoes Freddie Mills". St Petersburg Times. 25 January 1950. Retrieved 2012-05-20. 
  16. ^ A.A.P (17 February 1950). "Freddie Mills retires". The Mercury. Retrieved 20 May 2012. 
  17. ^ "Freddie Mills Marries". Montreal Gazette. 1 October 1948. Retrieved 2012-05-20. 
  18. ^ "ARGUELLO DEATH ANOTHER TRAGEDY". Sporting Life. Retrieved 2012-05-20. 
  19. ^ "Mills-Lesnevich Title Fight Is Off". Milwaukee Journal. 7 August 1948. Retrieved 2012-05-20. 
  20. ^ AP (11 April 1962). "The old ring game (for better or worse)" (PDF). Binghamton Press. Retrieved 20 May 2012. 
  21. ^ Tony Thompson, crime correspondent (2004-07-12). "How boxing champion was driven to suicide by threat from Krays". London: Guardian. Retrieved 2012-05-21. 
  22. ^ a b "The ten strangest sporting deaths". London: The Observer. 8 February 2004. Retrieved 1 June 2009. 
  23. ^ "Freddie Mills, Camberwell New Cemetery and Crematorium, Find a grave". 1919-06-26. Retrieved 2012-05-20. 
  24. ^ King, Ray (1998), Hands, Feet & Balls, p. 246, ISBN 0953446700 
  25. ^ a b Tony Thompson, crime correspondent (2001-11-04). "Boxing hero Freddie Mills 'murdered eight women'". London: Guardian. Retrieved 2012-05-20. 
  26. ^ Thompson, Tony (2001-11-04). "Boxing hero Freddie Mills 'murdered eight women'". The Guardian. London. 
  27. ^ "BoxRec Boxing Records". Retrieved 2012-05-20. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Gus Lesnevich
World Light Heavyweight Champion
26 July 1948 – 24 January 1950
Succeeded by
Joey Maxim