Salute Blackpool’s Rock of ages!

Brian London meets Mike Tyson (left)
Brian London meets Mike Tyson (left)
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It’s a happy birthday to Blackpool boxing legend Brian London.

The former British and Empire heavyweight champion is 80 years old on Thursday (June 19).

London, who shared a ring with some of the all-time greats of the fight game, expressed surprise at reaching such a milestone.

The Blackpool resident, who has long outlived so many of his ring adversaries, said: “I am happy to get to 80. I never thought I would.

“My mum and dad both died early but I have never smoked or taken a drink in my life. I train every day – I jog around the park and punch the bags in my garage.”

Brian was not planning anything special for today, though no doubt his loving daughter Melanie had something up her sleeve to mark the occasion in an appropriate and heartfelt manner.

London performed on the world stage and twice boxed for the richest prize in sport – against Floyd Paterson in 1959 and seven years later against Muhammad Ali.

In those days, there was only one world title in each weight division, not the proliferation of championship belts and governing bodies we have today.

The clash with Patterson came in May 1959 in Indianapolis. London recalled: “I tried my best but Patterson was very good, too good for me.

“I only fought Ali for the money. I should have tried harder and I regret that I didn’t, but that is well in the past now and there is no point in thinking back about it.”

The fight with Ali took place in the summer of 1966 at London’s Earls Court, where Ali knocked Brian out in the third. London had great respect for the man he beat to take the British title in May 1959, Joe Erskine.

The man known as The Blackpool Rock won with an eighth-round knockout and said: “Joe Erksine was one of the best boxers I ever faced but he couldn’t punch.”

One boxer London failed to subdue was Henry Cooper, who prevailed on each of the three occasions they met.

London was involved in one of the most controversial fights ever in a British ring in August 1960, when he clashed with Dick Richardson for the European title.

Brian’s brother and father rushed into the ring to protest at the stoppage, saying Richardson had butted London and opened up a cut.

There followed a huge brawl, which prompted disciplinary action by the British Boxing Board Of Control.

London had some excellent names on his record, including Zora Folley, Amos Johnson, Billy Walker (then the ‘golden boy’ of British boxing) and Willie Pastrano.

Brian took only 50 seconds to knock out Roger Rischer, an American who famously beat Cooper.

London had his first professional fight in March 1955, bating Dennis Lockton at Earls Court.

His last contest was in 1970 against a then up-and-coming Joe Bugner at the Empire Pool, Wembley. After being stopped in the fifth, Brian decided to hang up his gloves.

His career record was 37 wins, 20 defeats and one draw.

London still follows boxing on TV and took an interest in Brian Rose’s loss to Demetrius Andrade last Saturday, when the Blackpool fighter boxed for the WBO world light-middleweight title.

“He just wasn’t good enough,” Brian observed.

Brian is comfortably off thanks to his boxing and business interests, and Blackpool should be proud to have had such a fighting man representing the town.