Ex-pub­lic school­boy Des­mond Jeans was known as ‘The Monocled Boxer’ decades be­fore Chris Eubank

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TRA­DI­TION­ALLY, the best box­ers rise from hum­ble begin­nings, if not ab­ject poverty. While in mod­ern times it’s not un­heard of for fight­ers from com­fort­able back­grounds to make their mark in the paid ranks, in the pre-war era they were sel­dom seen out­side the amateurs. There are al­ways ex­cep­tions, though, and in the early ’30s a heavyweight from af­flu­ent May­fair in Lon­don’s West End bucked the trend.

Decades be­fore Chris Eubank, Des­mond Jeans (real name Des­mond Mcminn) took to the ring for each fight sport­ing a mon­o­cle, which he’d pass to one of his sec­onds just be­fore the first bell. Un­like Eubank’s, how­ever, Jeans’ mon­o­cle was no mere prop. His left-eye vi­sion was so poor, he would not be given a box­ing li­cence today.

Born in 1903 to a civil ser­vant fa­ther, Jeans spent his early years in In­dia be­fore moving to Eng­land. He at­tended Sher­borne pub­lic school in Dorset, where he took up box­ing. Des­mond’s mother, an ac­tress, en­cour­aged all her chil­dren to learn the craft and his sis­ters, Ur­sula and Is­abel, be­came noted stage and screen ac­tresses. Des­mond him­self acted as well, first on stage and later in sev­eral films.

A man of many in­ter­ests, Jeans trained as a pro­fes­sional ball­room dancer un­der the fa­mous Vic­tor Sil­vester and fin­ished fourth in the 1924 world ball­room danc­ing cham­pi­onships. He also played rugby for Rich­mond and boxed for Bel­size box­ing club, re­port­edly win­ning many con­tests. At 6ft 3ins and over 13st (or 182lbs), he was a fair-sized heavyweight for his time.

His move into pro box­ing came cour­tesy of Jeff Dick­son, the sil­ver­tongued Europe-based Amer­i­can, who pro­moted many of Europe’s big­gest fights of the 1930s. In Jeans, Dick­son saw, above all else, a nov­elty fig­ure who would boost ticket sales. As for Jeans, he prob­a­bly saw pro box­ing as an ad­ven­ture and a way to maybe get richer.

“Take a look at all these pho­tog­ra­phers who are point­ing their lenses at me,” he said be­fore his pro de­but, “and tell me how long it would have taken me to get that amount of at­ten­tion in any other walk of life... I’m not go­ing in for pro box­ing as a joke. It won’t be any joke ei­ther tak­ing punches with any­thing up to 15st [or 210lbs] be­hind them... There’s plenty of money to be made if one is suc­cess­ful, and I in­tend to be suc­cess­ful.”

When he made his de­but, at the Royal Al­bert Hall on September 29, 1930, Jeans was re­port­edly the first ex-pub­lic school­boy to punch for pay. He fin­ished French­man Jose Thomas in­side three.

The next month, Des­mond boxed twice in Paris and was back at the Al­bert Hall in De­cem­ber. He won his first four fights, but in his fifth was over­matched against the un­beaten 6ft 7 1/2in fu­ture Bri­tish ti­tle chal­lenger Jack Pet­tifer. Jeans was stopped in five rounds at Olympia, and was KO’D in his next bout, in New York, by Ire­land’s Jack Phoenix. The May­fair man then re­tired from the ring, but made a five-fight come­back two years later. He fin­ished in 1934 with a 6-3-1 record and one No Con­test.

Af­ter­wards, he en­tered pro wrestling and be­came a po­lice­man. Jeans was still a well-known fig­ure, even be­ing fea­tured in Punch mag­a­zine. He died in 1974.

CHAR­AC­TERS: Jeans can be viewed as Eubank’s [be­low] pre­de­ces­sor

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