PORTSMOUTH MON­U­MENT

Au­thor An­drew Fair­ley’s tire­less cam­paign­ing has re­sulted in a per­ma­nent me­mo­rial in honour of Pom­pey’s great­est

Boxing News - - Yesterday’s Heroes - Alex Da­ley @thealex­da­ley His­to­rian & au­thor

THE Portsmouth boxing fra­ter­nity owes a debt of grat­i­tude to au­thor An­drew Fair­ley, who has done more than any­one to pre­serve the city’s boxing past. Af­ter com­mem­o­rat­ing Portsmouth’s lo­cal ring leg­ends in his ex­cel­lent 2016 tome, Pom­pey’s Boxing He­roes, Fair­ley em­barked on a one­man mis­sion to get a per­ma­nent me­mo­rial to honour the area’s boxing he­roes. The fruit of his labour, an im­pres­sive gran­ite mon­u­ment ded­i­cated to 10 of Pom­pey’s finest, was un­veiled on Au­gust 20 at Guild­hall Square. Fit­tingly, Portsmouth’s reign­ing English lightheavy­weight champ, Joel Mcin­tyre, and the Lord Mayor of Portsmouth, Ken Ell­come, con­ducted the un­veil­ing. The leader of the lo­cal coun­cil and An­drew him­self gave poignant speeches to a 300-strong crowd that in­cluded de­scen­dents of the men be­ing hon­oured.

A Pom­pey na­tive, Fair­ley crowd­funded the £4,800 needed to pro­duce the three-quar­ter-tonne mon­u­ment. The memo­ri­alised box­ers are Harry An­drews, Arthur “Kid” Con­nor, Matty Ge­orge, Len Le­maux, Billy Streets, Monty Brown, Steve Goldring, Harry Vine, “Stoker” Bob Reynolds and Johnny Smith.

THE TWO THAT GOT AWAY

l IT takes a brave man to form a sta­ble com­prised solely of un­known box­ers from over­seas in a small com­mu­nity cen­tre base­ment with­out a ring, but in the early 1950s ex-pro Peter Banasko did ex­actly that. The Liverpool-based man­ager/trainer could hardly have dreamed that two world champs would emerge from his lit­tle team of Nige­rian fight­ers. And much to his re­gret, when the world ti­tles fi­nally ar­rived the two fight­ers were with other man­agers.

The first of Banasko’s Nige­rian charges was Is­rael Boyle, who en­tered Liverpool as a ship stow­away and had his first paid bout there in 1950. Boyle was soon joined by other Nige­ri­ans: San­tos Martins, Dan Col­lie, Sandy Manuel, Bola Lawal, Jimmy Zale and a cer­tain Ho­gan “Kid” Bassey. The ar­rival of Bassey proved a turn­ing point for the sta­ble. Start­ing at the Liverpool Sta­dium in Jan­uary 1952, the “Kid” had 27 fights in 17 months to set up an Oc­to­ber ’53 clash with 27-01 star Sammy Mccarthy of Step­ney. Bassey’s backer, the book­maker Harry Ormesher, put up a £1,000 sidestake to get the match, which Ho­gan won on a tight de­ci­sion. The win set him on the road to star­dom, and in 1957 he won the world feath­er­weight crown to be­come Nige­ria’s first world boxing cham­pion. By then, though, Bassey had left Banasko and signed with Ge­orge Bid­dles.

But in 1955, fu­ture world mid­dle and light-heavy ruler Dick Tiger left Nige­ria to join the Banasko camp. “Un­like Bassey, he showed no real sign of po­ten­tial, and in the early stages was los­ing more than he was win­ning,” Peter told the Liverpool Echo in 1973. So when Bassey switched man­agers, Banasko de­cided to walk away from boxing. “I told Dick Tiger of my de­ci­sion,” he re­called. “Dick was very up­set, but I passed him on to Liverpool man­ager Tony Vairo and from then on he never looked back. Tony must get all the credit for Tiger’s rise to the top, like me with Bassey, but nei­ther of us were there as we could, and should, have been when the world ti­tles came around.”

FIT­TING TRIB­UTE: Ten of Portsmouth’s best fight­ers are now im­mor­talised on this im­pres­sive gran­ite mon­u­ment; Manuel, Lawal, Zale and Banasko pose for a pho­to­graph [below, from left]

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