A tribute to 'Blackpool Rock' Brian London from the boxing great's other home town
The death last week of the great British and Commonwealth boxing champion Brian London has been keenly felt not only around Blackpool, his home for over 70 overs, but also in his native Hartlepool.
The death last week of the great British and Commonwealth boxing champion Brian London has been keenly felt not only around Blackpool his home for over 70 overs, but also in his native Hartlepool.
John Riddle, an independent Hartlepool councillor, kindly sent us this personal tribute shedding light on Brian’s north-eastern roots.
Coun Riddle writes: “Brian London was born Brian Harper in West Hartlepool on June 19, 1934
“His father Jack London beat Freddie Mills in 1944 to win the British heavyweight title and Brian boxed at the Boys Welfare Club in the town.
“When he was aged 16, Brian moved to Blackpool and turned professional in 1955, winning every one of his first 10 fights.
“Three of them were back in Hartlepool at the Engineers Club, against Robert Eugene, Paddy Slavin and Hugh McDonald.
“Brian started 1956 with wins in London over Jose Peyre and Jim Cooper. He was then offered a fight on May 1 1956 at the Empress Hall, Earls Court, with Henry Cooper.
“The fight with ‘Our Enry’, as the famous boxing commentator Harry Carpenter called him, lasted just one round.
“Following this setback, Brian embarked on another winning run, beating George Naufahu, again at the Engineers Club.
“The Boxing News reported that the Tongan stood up gamely to some rough punishment from London. The referee halted the contest in round four as the Naufahu looked tired and was receiving too many blows.
“The Engineers Club was a good venue for London and in 1957 he knocked out Peter Bates in round two.
“The following month at the Greyhound Stadium in Hartlepool, now the site of a supermarket, Brian won a Commonwealth heavyweight title eliminator against Kitione Lave, nicknamed the Tongan Torpedo, on points.
“Brian London’s nicknames were British Bulldog and Blackpool Rock but as far as we were concerned he was Hartlepool through and through.
“Brian was a true fighter, beating Joe Erskine in June 1958 for the British and Commonwealth titles, which he lost them to Cooper the following January, again at Earls Court, after 15 gruelling rounds.
“In the May of that year, Brian went to America to fight Floyd Patterson for the world heavyweight title and was knocked out in the 11th round.
“Brian challenged for Cooper’s British and Commonweath titles in February 1964, at Belle Vue in Manchester, and this time made a better fist of it but again lost on points.
“Brian earned $112,000 for his most famous fight, against Muhammaad Ali at Earls Court in August 1966. Ali backed Brian into a corner and put him down for the count in the third round.
“Brian would bounce back and fight Jerry Quarry (twice) before the final bell rang on a 58-fight career with defeat to Joe Bugner at Wembley in May 1970.
“Brian will always be remembered in these parts as the West Hartlepool-born lad who fought four former world champions, Willie Pastrano and Ingemar Johansson as well as Patterson and Ali.
“As there is some talk about knocking down the old Engineers Club, it is worth noting it really took the best in the world to knock down our Brian London. May he rest in peace.”
The funeral service for Brian London will take place at Carleton Crematorium on Tuesday at 2pm, preceded by an honorary lap of Stanley Park by the cortege.
Only family and very close friends may attend the service. However, anyone wishing to pay their respects is invited by the family to gather outside the chapel, where a screen will be erected showing tributes to Brian. Floral tributes are also welcome.
Thanks for reading. If you value what we do and are able to support us, a digital subscription is just £1 for your first month. Try us today by clicking here