‘ORCHID MAN’ OPENS UP
Carpentier’s ghts with British foes, plus a rare Boxing News interview with the legendary Frenchman
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.