Terry Downes

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Terry Downes
Nickname(s)Paddington Express
Weight(s)Middleweight, light heavyweight
Height5 ft 9 in (175 cm)
Reach69 in (175 cm)
Born(1936-05-09)9 May 1936
Paddington, London, England
Died6 October 2017(2017-10-06) (aged 81)
London, England
Boxing record
Total fights44
Wins by KO28

Terry Downes, BEM (9 May 1936 – 6 October 2017) was a British middleweight boxer,[1] occasional film actor, and businessman. He was nicknamed the "Paddington Express" for his aggressive fighting style.[2]

At the time of his death, Downes was Britain's oldest surviving former world champion. He held the world middleweight title (the version recognised by Europe, New York, and Massachusetts) for ten months from 1961-62.[3]

Early life[edit]

Terry Downes was born in Paddington, London. His father Richard worked as a mechanic, and his mother Hilda in a department store.[4] Downes boxed as a junior for the Fisher ABC.[5] He moved with his parents to the United States in 1952, while still a teenager, to live with his trapeze artist sister Sylvia, who had lost an arm in a traffic accident, going on to serve in the US Marine Corps from 1954–56, being recruited after boxing against them for the YMCA.[5][6] In the marines he won several amateur trophies, including the all-services championship and the Amateur Golden Gloves.[5] He missed out on selection for the US Olympic team, being ruled ineligible on residence grounds, and after his term of service, he returned to London and turned professional.[5][2][7]

Professional boxing career[edit]

Managed by Sam Burns, Downes won his first two pro fights before a defeat to future world champion Dick Tiger.[5] After building up a record of 16 wins and 3 defeats, Downes won the British middleweight title, vacated by Pat McAteer's retirement, by beating Phil Edwards on 30 September 1958 at the Harringay Arena, London. In 1959, Downes lost and won back the title from John "Cowboy" McCormack. On 5 July 1960, Downes successfully defended the title against Edwards again.

Downes lost his first World Title shot to Paul Pender in Boston in January 1961.[5] The following July, however, Downes fought Pender again, this time in London, and defeated the American in front of a raucous Wembley crowd, with Pender retiring at the end of the ninth round with cuts over both eyes.[5][8][9] Downes was recognised as world champion by The Ring magazine in August 1961,[10] and was named Sports Writers' Association Sportsman of the Year later that year.[11] Pender won the title back the following year, defeating Downes in Boston once more, this time on points.[5]

Downes responded to the loss of his title by winning his next seven bouts, including a win over Sugar Ray Robinson in September 1962.[5] Robinson was, however, 41 at the time, and when asked after the fight how it felt to beat a boxer of such esteem, Downes famously replied, "I didn't beat Sugar Ray, I beat his ghost."[4] Downes moved up to light heavyweight in 1963,[12] winning his first three fights at the weight before facing Willie Pastrano for the world title in Manchester on 30 November 1964. Downes was knocked down twice in the 11th round, while reportedly well ahead on points, and Pastrano retained his title when referee Andrew Smyth controversially waved it off – it was to be Downes' last fight.[5][13]

Downes was famous for a number of quips. After a particularly brutal fight early in his career against Dick Tiger, Downes was asked who he wanted to fight next. He replied, "The bastard who made this match", in reference to Mickey Duff.[7]

Downes fought six world champions and beat three: Robinson, Pender and Joey Giardello. His record was: 44 fights, 35 wins (28 KOs), 9 losses.

Acting career[edit]

Post-boxing, Downes acted occasionally between 1965 and 1990, usually appearing a thug, villain or bodyguard. One of his more prominent roles was in Roman Polanski's 1967 film The Fearless Vampire Killers, in which he played "Koukol", a hunchbacked servant.[4][14] His other film credits included appearances in A Study in Terror (1965), Five Ashore in Singapore (1967), The Golden Lady (1979), If You Go Down in the Woods Today (1981), and the Derek Jarman film Caravaggio (1986).[4][14]


Other business interests[edit]

During his boxing career, Downes had set up a chain of betting shops with Burns. By the early 1970s they had 90 shops, and these were taken over by William Hill, with Burns acting as managing director into the 1980s.[5] Downes also owned a car dealership and a nightclub,[4] and worked as a boxing manager, working with British title challenger Colin Lake in the late 1960s.[15]

Personal life[edit]

Downes and his wife Barbara (nee Clarke) were married from 1958[16] until his death in 2017. They had four children and eight grandchildren.[5]

Downes was awarded the British Empire Medal in 2012, in recognition of his sporting achievements and charity work.[4] He died on 6 October 2017, aged 81.[5][17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Terry Downes". Cyber Boxing Zone. 9 May 1936. Retrieved 13 August 2012.
  2. ^ a b Deane McGowen (14 January 1961). "Pender Favored to Retain Middleweight Title in Fight With Downes Tonight - RIVALS HELD FIT FOR BOSTON BOUT Pender 8-5 Choice to Beat Challenger in 15-Rounder but Briton Is Confident". Select.nytimes.com. Retrieved 13 August 2012.
  3. ^ "The Lineal Middleweight Champions". The Cyber Boxing Zone Encyclopedia. Retrieved 6 October 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Maume, Chris (2017) "Terry Downes: The ‘whirlwind’ boxer who was king for a day and retired aged 28", The Independent, 13 October 2017. Retrieved 18 December 2017
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Rawling, John (2017) "Terry Downed Obituary", The Guardian, 8 October 2017. Retrieved 18 December 2017
  6. ^ "Downes: The English U.S. Marine". Boxing.com. Retrieved 6 October 2017.
  7. ^ a b "Tiger fight night memories prompt tears in Truro". Sportsjournalists.co.uk. 3 October 2009. Retrieved 13 August 2012.
  8. ^ "Try, Try Again Pays Off for Terry Downes". Aberdeen Evening Express. 12 July 1961. Retrieved 18 December 2017 – via British Newspaper Archive. (Subscription required (help)).
  9. ^ "Paul Pender: The Middleweight Champion Time Forgot". Eastsideboxing.com. Archived from the original on 11 August 2012. Retrieved 13 August 2012.
  10. ^ "Terry Downes Recognised". Aberdeen Evening Express. 2 August 1961. Retrieved 18 December 2017 – via British Newspaper Archive. (Subscription required (help)).
  11. ^ "Terry Downes and Angela Mortimer Voted Top Stars". Coventry Evening Telegraph. 7 November 1961. Retrieved 18 December 2017 – via British Newspaper Archive. (Subscription required (help)).
  12. ^ "Terry Downes' Future is in the Balance". Aberdeen Press and Journal. 8 October 1963. Retrieved 18 December 2017 – via British Newspaper Archive. (Subscription required (help)).
  13. ^ "Referee Made Mistake Says Terry Downes". Coventry Evening Telegraph. 1 December 1964. Retrieved 18 December 2017 – via British Newspaper Archive. (Subscription required (help)).
  14. ^ a b "Terry Downes". IMDb. Retrieved 6 October 2017.
  15. ^ "Ex-Jockey Out to Win". Coventry Evening Telegraph. 5 February 1969. Retrieved 18 December 2017 – via British Newspaper Archive. (Subscription required (help)).
  16. ^ "Sugar Ray to Defend Title", The Age, 23 December 1958.
  17. ^ Sandomir, Richard (2017) "Terry Downes Dies at 81; Middleweight Champion Was Britain’s Pride", The New York Times, 13 October 2017. Retrieved 18 December 2017

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Paul Pender
World Middleweight Champion
July 11, 1961 –April 7, 1962
Succeeded by
Paul Pender
Sporting positions
Peter Kane
Oldest Living British World Champion
July 23, 1991 – October 6, 2017
Ken Buchanan
Jake LaMotta
Oldest Living Middleweight Champion
September 19, 2017 – October 6, 2017
Nino Benvenuti