Steve Ponce writes it’s nothing new for UK underdogs to travel to exotic locations in August
We are leaving for Saudi Arabia in a month when the old boxing match in Britain is over.
There was a time when boxing was closed in the summer and in 1970 there was not a single professional show in Britain in August. The following year, there was only one show and only three fights in that show. It was the dark season, don’t get me wrong.
The only way to earn a living was to travel abroad in search of pay, hoping to get a good dose and try to come back in one piece. There wasn’t much of a chance of winning a decision in Europe at any level. It is doubtful that many British fighters boarded a plane dreaming of winning back. An exotic trip to South Africa or Australia was a lost cause and starting a fight should be an epic adventure.
In the summer of 1970, Eddie Avoth traveled to California to fight Mike Quarrey, Jerry’s brother, losing on points in ten rounds. Quarry was undefeated in 21 battles at the time and was only nineteen, a dangerous kid. The battle was dangerous for Avoth due to his world ranking. There has even been talk of a world title fight against Bob Foster at Liverpool Stadium. It faded with the loss. Avvoth was the British lightweight champion at the time and the world was a small boxing business. A fight like this would break any law, anywhere and on any channel in Britain.
“I had to go, the fight was shown and I always needed the money,” Avoth said. I saw him when Joe Cordina won Cardiff last week – he’s always classy.
Avoth and Quarry had a fierce, close battle; Quarry won 13 more times and took the world title from Foster; He finished in the fourth round. Poor Mike 45 fought again after Foster and finally quit in 1982. He was in bad shape when he died in 2006, aged 55. The game has damaged him beyond repair in body or mind.
Avoth hit the road a few weeks later and won the Commonwealth title in Melbourne. He put his passport away and finished the streak behind closed doors at Grosvenor House on Park Lane when he lost his titles to Chris Finnegan. Another gem that has disappeared behind cigar smoke and the buzz of the elite. It was unknown and may also have taken place on a reef in Tahiti.
A few weeks after Avoth’s adventures in California, it’s Finnegan’s turn to travel to Copenhagen in August to take on Danish heartthrob and heartthrob, Tom Bogs. Bogs was a warrior deity in Denmark. And Finnegan, like Avoth, needed the money.
Bogs was the European middleweight champion. He only lost once in 55 battles and was fighting in his neighborhood of the big Danish city. Finnegan won the 1968 gold in Mexico City and lost once to injury in his 14 fights. Finnegan had gone ten easy rounds once; Bogs had done ten laps more than 20 times and covered the full championship distance of 15 laps twice. I was told that trying to make the Danish idol father reign with joy had stopped! I struggle to find the toughest set of facts and figures for any British fighter on the road. Bunny Johnson may have been behind bars when he fought James Scott inside Rahwai State Penitentiary in 1979. “It was a bad place, I was in no rush to go back and that wasn’t a very nice guy,” Johnson once told me.
Like I said, Chris needed the money.
Anyway, you knew there would be a twist to this little summer story. Finnegan was brilliant at night and fought with a weight that drained him a lot. Taking the fight was a huge and unique risk for Finnegan. A wrong move would hamper his progress. The Bogs were also under pressure as he edged closer to an inevitable world title battle and admitted he treated Finnegan very lightly.
In the end, Finnegan completed fifteen full laps; Pugh broke his nose, cut it above both his eyes and chased the Danish bastard all over the ring. He had no chance of getting the referee’s decision when the last bell rang. In the end, the referee, Herbert Thomser, delivered one of the greatest scorecards in boxing history: Thomser had four rounds at the Bogs, nothing at Finnigan and even eleven! Take that, my son.
Later, swamp Carlos Monzon fought for the world title and Finnegan would have an epic 14-run with Foster one night at Wembley. Foster vs Finnegan is one of the really big fights in our history.
In August 1970, only eleven British professionals secured fights in various locations around the world; Finnegan, in his quest for Copenhagen, was far from a major underdog.
West Ham’s Johnny Kramer fought for 68The tenth and the last time he traveled to Sydney and lost to Tony Munden due to cuts; Munden was classy. In Johannesburg, the future British welterweight champion Bobby Arthur was selected in six matches by Spider Kelly. It was difficult to offer so few rewards during the freezing summer at shows. I guess there were pluses.
Special mention should be made of East Ham’s Chris Jobson in two fights in two different countries in August 1970. He beat Cindy’s Vita Fighting Vita, his name is better than his record, then two weeks later on the chart from the bottom of Finnegan, earned a draw with Christian Larsen who was never beaten. Equality in Denmark in 1970 – I think we all know what happened there.
The British boxers will return to South Africa and Australia the following year, in search of a few bounties as the sun sets a little deeper and the cash flows even in dry August. August was in many ways the same with a big underdog walking down the road.