Randolph Turpin

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Randolph Turpin
Statistics
Real nameRandolph Adolphus Turpin
Nickname(s)The Leamington Licker[1]
Weight(s)Middleweight
Light heavyweight
Height5 ft 9 12 in (1.77 m)
Reach74 12 in (189 cm)
NationalityEnglish
Born(1928-06-07)7 June 1928
Leamington, Warwickshire, England, United Kingdom
Died17 May 1966(1966-05-17) (aged 37)
Leamington, Warwickshire, England, United Kingdom
StanceOrthodox
Boxing record
Total fights75
Wins66
Wins by KO45
Losses8
Draws1
No contests0

Randolph Adolphus Turpin (7 June 1928 – 17 May 1966), better known as Randolph Turpin or Randy Turpin, was an English boxer in the 1940s and 1950s. In 1951 he became world middleweight champion when he defeated Sugar Ray Robinson.[2][3] He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2001.[4]

Statue of Randolph Turpin in Market Square, Warwick, Warwickshire, England

Early Life[edit]

Born in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, to a black father Lionel who was born in British Guyana now known as Guyana in 1896. He had come to England to fight in the First World War. He had met Randolph's mother after coming out of hospital following treatment for his injuries sustained in the battle of the Somme. He died within a year of Randolph's birth, having never really recovered from the lung damage caused by a gas attack. Leaving his mother Beatrice (née Whitehouse, 1904–1974), to raise five children.[5]

Being a widow with five children to look after, Beatrice struggled to make ends meet on a small war pension and had to work from morning to night as a domestic cleaner to earn money. As such she was forced to send Some of her children to live with relatives. However, she remarried in 1931 to a man named Ernest Manley who became stepfather to the children and the family were once again reunited. Beatrice was the daughter of a former bare knuckle fighter and was by all accounts a feisty woman who would tell her children to stand up for themselves when they were subjected to racial abuse.

Randolph was the youngest of the five children. Lionel Jr (commonly known as Dick) was the eldest followed by Joan, John (commonly known as Jackie) and Kathleen. Although he was born in Leamington he actually grew up and went to school in the nearby town of Warwick. He nearly drowned when he was a child when he became trapped underwater while swimming. The accident resulted in a burst eardrum which left him deaf in one ear. He also nearly died from double pneumonia and bronchitis.

Contrary to popular belief his nickname the ‘Leamington Licker’ didn’t come from the fact that he was born in Leamington and was a professional boxer. It originated from his childhood. Randolph, Jackie and Joan were all born in June. Randolph on 7th, Jackie on the 13th and Joan on the 19th. When the month of June came around, because Randolph's birthday came first, he thought that made him the eldest of the three. Joan would tell him that he was the littlest. He would get angry and scream "I'm not the lickerest" and following a bit of goading would charge at her with both fists flailing. As a result 'Licker' became the family nickname for him. [6]

Amateur Career[edit]

He started boxing in the boxing booths at local fairs with his brother Jackie in a double act called Alexander and Moses. Where they fought for nobbins (money thrown into the ring by the spectators). His amateur boxing career commenced at the Leamington Boys Club and continued when he joined the Royal Navy. He actually lost his first contest by decision but then went on to only lose another two contests in a total of 100 fights. He won three national junior titles and won the senior ABA championship in 1945 at welterweight and in 1946 at middleweight. In 1945 he won both the junior and senior ABA titles in the same season, the only person to have completed such a feat. The rules have been changed over the years meaning that junior boxers can no longer enter the senior championships. He also fought for England in the annual televised match against the USA in 1946 and scored a first round knockout in his contest.

Professional Career[edit]

He was approached by many top professional managers but decided to turn professional with George Middleton a local man who managed his brother Dick. He made his professional debut in London on 17 September 1946 stopping Gordon Griffiths. He scored another 14 victories before drawing over six rounds with Mark Hart in 1947. He suffered two defeats in 1948 the first a points decision to Albert Finch over eight rounds and the second a stoppage defeat to Jean Stock. Turpin was knocked down four times and retired on his stool at the end of round five. It was said that these two defeats were as a result of marital problems that he was experiencing at that time. It was said that on the day of the Stock fight he had been notified that his wife had been given custody of his son and he had told his brother Dick that he didn't feel like fighting.

He embarked on a weight training regime designed by a man called Arthur Batty and built up his physical strength. Weight training was frowned upon in boxing circles because it was thought that it made fighters muscle bound and inflexible in their movements. Turpin proved to be the exception to this rule and many of his future opponents including Sugar Ray Robinson would comment on his immense physical strength. Turpin developed a knockout punch with either hand and became a formidable force for any fighter to deal with.

He then went on a winning streak where he avenged the two defeats that he had suffered and in the process picked up the British Middleweight Title and the vacant European Middleweight Title. Incidentally his brother Dick had been the first non-white fighter to win a British Title when he had beaten Vince Hawkins in 1948 for the British Middleweight Title, following the removal of the colour bar that had been in place.

In 1951 Sugar Ray Robinson who is considered by many to be the greatest boxer of all time embarked on a European tour. The final leg of the tour was a fight for the world title with Randolph Turpin in London. Few people gave Turpin a chance of winning against Robinson and in fact many people thought that it was a mismatch and that Turpin could be badly hurt.[7] Robinson had been unbeaten as an amateur and had only lost one fight out of a total of 132 as a professional and that was to Jake LaMotta. He had subsequently avenged the loss to LaMotta beating him five times.

On the 10th July 1951 a crowd of 18,000 turned up at Earls Court to watch Turpin fight Robinson. Many people listened to the fight on the wireless to see if Turpin could beat Robinson. Turpin was not overawed by the occasion and took the fight to Robinson from the first bell. Robinson had trouble dealing with Turpin’s awkward style of fighting and was manhandled by Turpin in the clinches. By the 15th round Turpin was ahead on points and only had to survive the round to win. At the end of the fight Turpin’s glove was raised by the referee in victory. He was the first British fighter to hold the world middleweight title since Bob Fitzsimmons in 1891. He had become an overnight sporting hero and two days later was given a civic reception before a crowd of 10,000 people in his hometown of Leamington with the mayors of both Leamington and Warwick present.

Boxing in the 1950's was a mainstream sport alongside football and cricket and with the advent of television it was increasing in popularity. Britain was still recovering from the impact of the war and was a bleak place to live for a lot of people, with rationing of food still in place. As such, the victory of a British fighter over an American fighter who was already being regarded as a superstar in the sport of boxing, was something for the whole nation to cheer about.

In order to get the fight with Robinson, Turpin had to sign a contract that contained a 90 day return clause. Meaning that if he won he had to give Robinson a return fight within 90 days of the original fight. The return fight took place on 12th September 1951 at the Polo Grounds, New York before a crowd of 61,370 people. Turpin again gave Robinson a hard fight and it was fairly even going into the 10th round. Robinson sustained a bad cut and in desperation went for a knockout. He managed to knock Turpin down with a big right hand punch. Turpin got up at the count of nine and was then trapped against the ropes and taking a sustained beating when the referee Ruby Goldstein stopped the fight. Some people said that the stoppage was premature but by today’s standards it wasn’t. Turpin’s reign had lasted only 64 days.[8]

Turpin fought Don Cockell in 1952 for the British and Commonwealth Light Heavyweight Titles. He stopped Cockell in the 11th round. Cockell went on to give Rocky Marciano a good fight at heavyweight. He regained the European Middleweight Title in 1953 and was nominated to fight for the vacant world title against Carl 'Bobo' Olsen. The title had become vacant following the retirement of Sugar Ray Robinson.

The fight against Olson took place at Madison Square Gardens in 1953. Turpin who had not trained properly for the fight won the first three rounds but then faded badly and was outpointed over 15 rounds having been floored in the ninth and tenth rounds. Turpin spent much of the fight trapped on the ropes taking punches at close quarters to the head and body. After the fight Turpin was urinating blood indicating that he had suffered damage to his kidneys from Olson's sustained body punches.

With the benefit of hindsight the Olson fight was the turning point in Turpin's career. He was never the same fighter after the punishment he absorbed in that fight and thereafter became a diminished fighting force. In addition he was having trouble making the middleweight weight limit of 72.5 kg.

Turpin suffered a first round stoppage loss to Tiberio Mitri who was not known as a big puncher. In Rome in 1954 when he was caught by a left hook and half punched and half pushed to the canvas. He fell heavily and hit the back of his head on the ring floor, staggering to his feet only to collapse into the ropes before again regaining his feet. The referee decided he was in no fit state to continue and stopped the fight. Mitri had exploited a flaw in Turpin's boxing technique whereby he dropped his right hand which was supposed to protect his chin, leaving him exposed to a left hook. In his younger days his reflexes had been fast enough to prevent such a thing from happening. But as he aged his reflexes began to slow and his punch resistance diminished. In addition he was suffering from eye problems. His eyes had become unaligned and his peripheral vision was starting to deteriorate. The British Board of Boxing control (BBBC) made Turpin have a medical but decided that he was fit enough to continue his career.

Turpin went up to light heavyweight (79.38 kg) but could no longer be considered a true world title contender in this weight division, although there was talk of matching him against Archie Moore for the world title. He was fighting bigger men, who were just as strong as him and could absorb his punches whilst punching as hard as he did. Thus taking away some of the advantages he had enjoyed whilst boxing as a middleweight. He still dominated at a domestic level and in 1955 he beat Alex Buxton to take the British and Commonwealth Light Heavyweight Titles. However, in October of that year he was knocked out by the unheralded Canadian dock worker Gordon Wallace. Suffering four knockdowns in the process and announced his retirement.

He came out of retirement in 1956 and scored two wins before losing on points to Hans Stretz in Germany. In November of that year he beat Alex Buxton again for the British Light Heavyweight Title. The BBBC stopped a proposed fight between Turpin and Willie Pastrano from going ahead because they thought that it was not in the best interests of boxing. In other words they thought that Turpin might get hurt, which would damage the image of boxing. He had his final fight in 1958 when he was badly knocked out by Yolande Pompey. Turpin was knocked flat on his back by a right hand punch to the side of the head. He gamely tried to get up four times but each time stumbled whilst trying to regain his feet and fell back onto the canvas before being counted out.

The BBBC stopped him acting as a sparring partner for Terry Downes in 1961 because of their fears concerning the cumulative effect of the punishment he had sustained during his boxing career on his physical health. He had two unlicensed fights (not licensed by the BBBC) in 1963 and 1964 against opponents who were making their professional debut and he stopped both opponents.

Personal life[edit]

After leaving school Randolph worked as a labourer on building sites. In 1945 he decided to join the Royal Navy and was given the title of assistant cook. However, as he was talented at boxing he was allowed to spend most of his time training for upcoming contests. He stayed in the Navy until 1948.

He was charged in 1945 with trying to commit suicide following a lovers' tiff with his then girlfriend Mary Stack after swallowing disinfectant. Attempted suicide was at that time a criminal offence. However, the incident was investigated and was determined to be accidental.

He married his first wife Mary Stack in 1947. However, the marriage wasn't a happy one and she accused him of domestic violence stating that he had attacked her and kicked her in the stomach whilst she was pregnant. Turpin denied the allegations but did admit to slapping her when she had sworn at him and called him names. They had a son together called Randolph Turpin Jr but were eventually divorced. Following the divorce Turpin became estranged from his son.

Turpin met Adele Daniels when training in America for the return fight with Robinson. They started a relationship and he promised to marry her and bring her to England. He lost touch with her when he went back home but they rekindled their relationship when he returned to America for the Olson fight. Following the fight she accused him of sexual assault and of beating her up. Turpin was arrested but she dropped the charges during the trial and settled for an out of court payment. Turpin denied her allegations and stated that she was trying to get her revenge on him for reneging on his promise to marry her. The incident led to Randolph falling out with his brother Dick whom he blamed for telling Daniels what had happened in his first marriage.

Turpin developed a reputation for being a playboy and womanizer during his peak years and was named in a divorce action where a husband alleged that Turpin had committed adultery with his wife.

Turpin met his second wife Gwyneth Price the daughter of a welsh farmer whilst training for the Robinson fight at Gwrych Castle in Wales. They married in 1953 and had four daughters, Gwyneth, Annette, Charmaine and Carmen. Carol Voderman stated in a newspaper article that her Auntie Gwen was married to Randolph Turpin.

Business dealings and bankruptcy[edit]

Turpin bought The Great Ormes Head hotel with his business partner Leslie Salts. The business never made money and Salts pulled out leaving Turpin to run it on his own. It became a drain on his resources and was eventually sold in 1962 prior to Turpin being made bankrupt.

Turpin had been free and easy with his money when in his prime. His attitude towards money was that it was for spending and that as he had earned it he could spend it as he pleased. However, he took this philosophy too far and failed to keep track of his spending. In addition, he became a soft touch for anyone with a hard luck story and gave money away or lent it to people whom he considered to be his friends. His sister Joan said that he came home one day with his pockets bulging with money. He took the money out of his pockets and threw it up into the air as you would confetti and asked the people in the room to count it. When they had finished it came to £17,000. The irony of the story is that it was roughly the same amount that he was said to owe the revenue when he was eventually made bankrupt. During the course of his career he is estimated to have grossed in the region of £300,000 which would be the equivalent of £4,000,000 in today’s money.

He seemed to be under the impression that his manager had already deducted tax before paying his money to him. However, that wasn’t the case and he was held responsible for paying the tax on his earnings. Turpin kept appealing the assessments forwarded to him by the Inland Revenue (HMRC) in the belief that he had already paid the tax due. HMRC assessed him on what they estimated he had earned over the period and sent him a tax bill for £100,000 for unpaid tax for the years where he hadn't made a payment (bearing in mind that the highest rate of tax was a lot higher than it is now).

Turpin had not kept good financial records and couldn’t prove how much money he had received or what had happened to it. He claimed to have never received much of the money that he was said to have earned. Which could have been the case as his manager would have taken 25% under the standard BBBC boxer manager contract. Then there would have been payments to his trainer (which could have been as high as 15% under the standard BBBC boxer trainer contract). Sparring partners had to be paid for plus the cost of hiring the gym in which he trained, travelling expenses and accommodation. All of these payments would have been taken out of the gross figure before he received his payment.

The tax bill was eventually reduced to £17,126 following an emotional appeal by his accountant Max Mitchell in which he said "As time goes on the punching power of a boxer is enfeebled. The longer he pursues his profession his brain through constant pummelling is numbed. His eyes are effected, deafness overtakes him and in effect he is lucky that in the prime of his manhood he doesn't turn into a two legged vegetable. And yet no allowance is given to a boxer by the Inland Revenue for the inevitable remorseless wasting away he undergoes because of the exacting nature of his profession. Is that fair? Therefore I claim that my client's expenses should be allowed although estimated, in view of the tax advantages allowed to industrialists." However, by this time Turpin only had assets worth £1,204 left and was declared bankrupt for an amount of £15,922 in 1962. Under the bankruptcy laws of that time Turpin was ordered to pay two pounds a week towards clearing his debt and was discharged from bankruptcy in 1965.

He had purchased a transport café in Leamington prior to being made bankrupt which was in his wife’s name. The building was under threat of compulsory purchase by the council when he bought it. However he still went ahead. He put up a plaque behind the counter which said 'That which seldom comes back to him who waits is the money he lends to his friends.' He worked at a scrapyard owned by his manager and then started to make a living as a wrestler. He wrestled for a number of years but again made the mistake of not putting money aside to pay the tax bill on his wrestling earnings. To begin with he was billed as a boxer versus a wrestler and was paid over £100 for this type of contest. However, as time went on the novelty of seeing a former world boxing champion in the wrestling ring wore off and he was forced to actually start wrestling and accept in the region of £25 for a contest. To earn sufficient money he started going on wrestling tours throughout the country and to kill the boredom in the evenings would go out with his new wrestling pals. The upshot was that he would end up spending most of the money he earned on these outings.

Death[edit]

Three days before his death Turpin received a demand for unpaid tax from HMRC on his wrestling earnings for £800. However, he had already spent the money he had earned from wrestling and the prospect of being made bankrupt for a second time. Plus the fact that the council had decided to compulsory purchase the property where he lived, to turn it into a car park, may have tipped him over the edge. He had stopped wrestling and the café provided his only source of income.

Since retiring from boxing he had suffered from depression because of his money troubles. In addition his personal doctor stated that he thought Turpin had become punch-drunk from all the blows he had taken to the head during his boxing career. This had led to him becoming morose in his later years. He had become bitter about his boxing career believing that he had been exploited and whenever strangers tried to talk to him about his time in the ring he would change the subject.

He was found dead from gunshot wounds in the flat above the transport café on 17th May 1966.[9] He had a wound to the head (the bullet lodged against his skull and didn’t enter his brain) and a second wound to his heart which killed him. His daughter Carmen who was 17 months old at the time, also had two bullet wounds and it was assumed that he had shot her before taking his own life. His daughter was rushed to hospital and managed to make a full recovery. People wondered how Turpin, who from all accounts had been a doting father to his daughters, could have committed such a heinous act.

His death was ruled to be suicide at the inquest. Many people wondered how a man who had shown such courage and determination in the boxing ring could have thrown the towel in, concerning his own life. However, his family believed that he had been murdered and that it had been made to look like suicide. The reason being that he had left a typed letter written in 1964 stating that attempts had been made on his life to prevent him from getting money that he was owed and from talking to the authorities about business deals in the world of boxing. He stated that he was not scared of death but that they had now started threatening to harm his wife and children. He implied that the boxing promoter Jack Solomons was involved although there is no evidence to back up this allegation. He had also been badly beaten up by four men. He had brushed it off at the time, stating that it must have just been some of the fans who had taken a disliking to him following one of his wrestling contests.

He had drifted apart from his brothers and sisters because they didn't get on with his wife Gwyneth and in a suicide note left pinned to the door of the room where he was found. He had told her not to give anything to them and that she should go back to Wales because that was the place where they had been happiest.

His death came less than a year after that of Freddie Mills who was Britain's other post-war boxing world champion. He had also died under mysterious circumstances and was also ruled to have taken his own life, although some claimed he had been murdered by gangsters.

Memorial[edit]

Due to the circumstances behind his death Turpin became somewhat of a forgotten hero. Turpin was inducted as a member of the International Boxing Hall Of Fame in Canastota, New York in 2001. There is a statue of him in Market Square, Warwick. On his headstone it states that he was 38 when he died. He was actually 37 as he was 20 days short of his 38th birthday.

At his funeral the Reverend Eugene Haselden said "Randolph was a simple man (in the sense of being down to earth) who was surrounded by friends and well-wishers, when he was at the height of his fame. But when his fame and fortune were gone, he was deserted."

Following his comeback after the loss to Gordon Wallace. Turpin wrote a poem titled 'The comeback road' the last verse of which is as follows:

"So we leave this game which was hard and cruel.

And down at the show on a ringside stool.

We’ll watch the next man, just one more fool."

Professional boxing record[edit]

Professional record summary
75 fights 66 wins 8 losses
By knockout 44 5
By decision 22 3
Draws 1

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Hall of Fame Friday: Randy Turpin". 13 March 2010. Retrieved 4 January 2019.
  2. ^ "Why we should not forget the ephemeral glory of Randolph Turpin". The Independent. 10 July 2018. Retrieved 4 January 2019.
  3. ^ "Watch Sixty-four Day Hero: A Boxer's Tale". BFI Player. Retrieved 4 January 2019.
  4. ^ "The Voice of Sport salutes Randolph Turpin". www.voice-online.co.uk. Retrieved 4 January 2019.
  5. ^ Frith, David (2001). Silence of the Heart - Cricket Suicides. Edinburgh, Scotland: Mainstream Publishing. p. 18. ISBN 184018406X.
  6. ^ Jackie Turpin Battling Jack Turpin: You Gotta Fight Back
  7. ^ "The remarkable night Sugar Ray Robinson met his match, recalls Steve Bunce". The Independent. 4 July 2016. Retrieved 4 January 2019.
  8. ^ Mee, Bob (10 July 2001). "Turpin the legend is back on his pedestal". Retrieved 4 January 2019 – via www.telegraph.co.uk.
  9. ^ "On This Day: Boxer Randolph Turpin kills himself after trying to murder daughter". uk.eurosport.yahoo.com. Retrieved 4 January 2019.

Further reading[edit]

  • James Morton Fighters: The Sad Lives and Deaths of Freddie Mills and Randolph Turpin, Time Warner Paperbacks, 2005. ISBN 0-7515-3321-1
  • Kirk Lake The Last Night of the Leamington Licker, Rough Trade Books, 2018.
  • Jack Birtley The Tragedy of Randolph Turpin, New English Library Ltd, 1975. ISBN 0450023567
  • Jackie Turpin Battling Jack Turpin: You Gotta Fight Back, Mainstream Publishing Company (Edinburgh) Ltd, 2005. ISBN 1845960645

External links[edit]

Achievements
Vacant
Title last held by
Tiberio Mitri
EBU Middleweight Champion
27 February 1951 – 2 May 1954
Succeeded by
Tiberio Mitri
Preceded by
Sugar Ray Robinson
World Middleweight Champion
10 July 1951 – 12 September 1951
Succeeded by
Sugar Ray Robinson
Titles in pretence
Vacant World Middleweight Champion
BBBC recognition

9 June 1953 – 21 October 1953
Lost bid for undisputed title