‘ORCHID MAN’ OPENS UP

Car­pen­tier’s ghts with Bri­tish foes, plus a rare Box­ing News in­ter­view with the leg­endary French­man

Boxing News - - YESTERDAY’S HEROES - Alex Da­ley @thealex­da­ley His­to­rian & au­thor

BRI­TISH box­ers had a woe­ful record when fac­ing Ge­orges Car­pen­tier in his prime. Young Joseph, Jim Sul­li­van, Bands­man Dick Rice, Bom­bardier Billy Wells, Dick Smith, Joe Beck­ett, Ted Kid Lewis and Arthur Town­ley did not hear the fi­nal bell. In fact, most of them were blitzed out in rounds one or two.

But ear­lier, when Car­pen­tier was 16, he came a crop­per twice against Bri­tish foes. In March 1910, the vastly ex­pe­ri­enced Buck Shine, of Somers Town, outscored Ge­orges in 10 in Brus­sels. Then, a month later, Car­pen­tier’s UK de­but was wrecked by 21-year-old Young Snow­ball of Wal­worth, who stopped him in four. Snow­ball was ac­tu­ally Ted Broad­ribb, the later-fa­mous man­ager who han­dled the likes of Fred­die Mills and Tommy Farr. Decades af­ter­wards, the French idol hadn’t for­got­ten that painful early mishap.

In 1970, when Box­ing News tracked him down for an in­ter­view, Car­pen­tier was run­ning his own Paris bar after many years as a li­censee. “To­day, at 76,” we wrote, “Ge­orges is still tall, up­right, hand­some and debonair.” Our in­ter­view­ers, Dave Cald­well and Ken Finch, quizzed him on a range of sub­jects, in­clud­ing his fights with Bri­tish op­po­nents. Here we pub­lish an ex­tract. How did you earn a liv­ing be­fore tak­ing up pro­fes­sional box­ing?

My fa­ther was a miner in our vil­lage of Lens. He got me a job on the sur­face as of­fice boy to the chief clerk. I earned one franc per week. That was in 1906 when I was 12 years old.

At what age did you have your first pro fight?

At the age of 13. I walked from my home in Lens to Paris be­cause I hadn’t got the fare. The dis­tance was about 100 miles. I spent the prize money in Paris on a white sweater for my trainer and man­ager Fran­cois Descamps, who felt out of place in my cor­ner with a torn shirt, so we had to walk back no bet­ter off than when we left.

What hap­pened to that sweater?

It’s here in that show­case at the cor­ner of the bar. You can see it’s dis­coloured and well darned. I used to wear it when I was train­ing and Fran­cois wore it in the cor­ner.

You’ve been in with Jack Dempsey, Gene Tun­ney, Bat­tling Siki and many other greats. Who gave you the hard­est fight of your ca­reer?

With­out doubt Charles Le­doux, whom I beat for the French ti­tle when I was 15. Le­doux was only two years older than me.

Which was the worst de­feat you suf­fered?

In 1911, I took a job against a tough cam­paigner called the Dixie Kid and I was out­boxed and out­punched, so much so that Descamps threw in the towel to save me from a ter­ri­ble hid­ing.

You fought a num­ber of Bri­tons. Who gave you the hard­est fight?

A chap called Bom­bardier Billy Wells, in Ghent, in 1913. He had me down in both the first and sec­ond rounds. I got his mea­sure in the third and knocked him out in the fourth.

Did you meet him again?

Yes, the re­turn was in Lon­don. It lasted just over a minute. I caught him with a right on the chin as he was com­ing in and poor Billy fell like a dead pi­geon.

What other Bri­tons do you re­mem­ber fight­ing?

Kid Lewis, Buck Shine and Young Snow­ball. You’d prob­a­bly know Snow­ball bet­ter as Ted Broad­ribb.

What would you say was your most ef­fec­tive punch?

The straight right, most of my knock­out vic­to­ries came from it.

Did you ever gam­ble on the out­come of a fight?

Only on my first fight. If I won, my fa­ther promised to dou­ble my wages – one franc – but if I lost I had to paint the front of our lit­tle house.

What gives you most plea­sure to­day?

In France, to talk about sport with my cus­tomers and to spend Sun­day at the race­course. When I come to Eng­land I like to buy clothes.

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