The Rinkeries hosted top boxing bouts
IT'S amazing what insights into Plymouth's past can be picked up from odd pieces of printed ephemera.
Take these boxing programmes, for instance (thanks to Sandra Porter): from them we glean that some of the biggest names in the sport passed through the port in the mid-thirties when there was a major boxing revival in the city.
Cliff Parfitt was the promoter and Millbay Rinkeries was the venue.
Then described as the Wembley of the West, top of the bill for the first of the three occasions was the South African heavyweight Ben Foord who was, we read, "willing to meet Walter Neusel, Larry Gains and Jack Peterson, each in a six-rounds contest, without payment ... to prove that he is the best in the country".
DUKE OF CORNWALL 30TH MAY AT 7.30.Come along and preview the 2014 Bridal Collections from Justin Alexander, Maggie Sottero, Sincerity, Ellis to name but a few! 31st, 1st& 2nd try and buy with DISCOUNT
Contact: 01752 421727
Valid until: Sunday, June 02 2013
It was Foord's only bout in Plymouth and he fought 21-year-old Jack London from West Hartlepool, and won, on points – London would later become British and Commonwealth Heavyweight Champion (1944-45) a feat that his son Brian would come to emulate in 1958.
One of the biggest bouts here the following year, on March 27, 1936, saw the 'Hebrew Heavyweight' – Roy Lazer take on Len Harvey's principal sparring partner, Eddie Steele (not to be confused with the American Freddie Steele).
Eddie had taken on Plymouth's Tim Foley just three weeks earlier and beaten him, but he lost to Lazer, which was perhaps not altogether surprising as the formidable Lazer bettered many well known boxers in a ten-year career, including Ben Foord, Izzy Singer and former World Heavyweight Champion Jersey Joe Walcott. Most famously, however, he had fought the great Joe Louis the previous year in Chicago, in front of a 17,000 capacity crowd (it is claimed another 5,000 were turned away) and Louis picked up a purse of $12,000 – a massive amount of money back then.
Undaunted, the defeated Steele came back to the Rinkeries on two further occasions that year, both in June, when, on the 12th, he beat the Scot Alex Bell, only to lose to New Zealander, Maurice Strickland a fortnight later. Remarkably, he had also had a bout in Wolverhampton in between time. Boxing and wrestling were regular attractions at the Millbay Rinkeries throughout the thirties.
One of the last bouts to be staged there saw future British boxing star Freddie Mills take on Charlie Parkin. Mills, who had drawn his only one previous visit to the venue, won in a first round knockout in July 1939.
Less than two months later the country was at war, and tragically the popular Millbay venue, that had stood next to the site of the old, and the new, Ballard House was destroyed in the Blitz.