Boxing - Book Review: Fighting Men of London

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The book centres on the lives of seven professionals who fought in the capital between the 30s and the 60s. Boxing was clearly not the fringe sport that it is largely today in the UK, but a part of the social fabric of London with several shows per week in an era before mass televised entertainment. Daley revives the days of cards in baths, small halls and open air arenas so the reader can vividly capture the gritty reality of trading leather in London over 50 years ago. Sid Nathan, best known to most as a referee and now in his nineties, recounts his life and fighting career from childhood in the Jewish East End debut to retirement. He talks about Hackney’s Devonshire Club, a former Church which was used for boxing shows in the 30s and 40s. A fishmonger by the name of Jack Solomans was part of the original syndicate that set up. Bethnal Green’s Ted Berry talks about his time as a hot prospect in 48-49 before a detached retina and a shooting put paid to his ring ambitions. His tale is one of a fighting enigma whose life then became entangled with East end villainy, revenge and resolution. Sidcup’s Jock Taylor, the first man to beat then future world title challenger Don Cockell, tells of his time boxing in the army as the top-line light heavyweight and was matched tough while holding down a full time day job. Two successes in the ring are each dedicated a chapter – ‘Smilin’ Sammy McCarthy and Albert Carroll. Both achieved titles and notoriety in an era where they couldn’t be bought for the price of a sanctioning fee and a press release. Their respective rises into the top-flight of their weight classes are likewise paralleled by lengthy stays at Her Majesties’ pleasure after the final bell had rung. The journeys are exhilarating and candid. Interwoven into the chapters are stories of love and loss, air raid sirens and evacuations and boxing in the booths that throw light on a distant yet golden era of British boxing. Daley’s effort allows boxing fans to disappear into an age of fighting substance away from boxing’s current social media-fuelled hype and bluster. It rediscovers a little of what places like the York Hall still silently reverberate with – the heart and bravery of past champions whose exploits and spirit should never be forgotten. “Daley, because he has such a feel for the sport, has produced seven fascinating interviews that make for a most enjoyable read” - Colin Hart, from the foreword You can purchase Fighting Men of London by Alex Daley, here. Book Reviews

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