Nipper Pat Daley
If ever there was a fighter truly gifted with a natural ability to box, his name was Nipper Pat Daly. The Nipper’s story is utterly unique in the annals of boxing history. He is one of the sport’s long-forgotten marvels and also, perhaps, one of its great tragedies.
Imagine a boy of 10 beating full-grown men in professional boxing contests, over distances of 10, 12 and 15 rounds.
Now imagine that these fights took place on a near weekly basis and that the boy’s opponents were among the best fighters in Europe. Sounds absurd, doesn’t it?
Well, this is not a work of fiction. That boy was my grandfather, a world-renowned child boxing star of the 1920s who lived in and boxed out of Marylebone. He was once hailed as the greatest teenage boxer the world has ever seen. They called him Nipper Pat Daly.
He grew up in Hatton Street, a tiny byway nestled behind the Edgware Road
, in a gas-lit terraced house with no bathroom and no hot water. Like most working-class lads of that area, Pat’s favourite sport was boxing, and professional fighting men were the heroes he looked up to. Though a niche sport in Britain today, in the 1920s pro boxing was a sport of the masses.
Fights were held all over London and across Britain several nights a week. Fans flocked in their thousands to cheer on local fighters and every national newspaper had its own dedicated boxing expert.
Some time around 1922, Pat’s father took him to 241 Marylebone Road
– a famous gym run by one of the country’s top trainers, the self-styled “Professor” Andrew Newton, an ABA champion as far back as 1888 and 1890.
After a few boxing lessons Newton spotted Pat’s extraordinary natural talent, and was soon dedicating most of his time to training and developing the youngster.
Astoundingly, the Professor entered Pat into his first professional fight at the tender age of nine. Although it beggars belief, back in the 1920s boys in their early teens – and some even younger – were entered into professional boxing contests, often conceding age, weight and experience to their opponents. Pat’s pro career began without having had a single amateur fight.
He soon made a name for himself in the small halls of London, beating older, stronger lads and dazzling crowds with his uncanny skill. By the age of 14 he was topping bills at prestigious venues, such as Whitechapel’s Premierland, in contests of 15 rounds, several times a month.
In 1928, at the age of 15, “The Marylebone Wonderboy” – as he was now regularly billed – defeated some of the finest flyweights in Europe, themselves full-grown men. Among those he defeated were a future British champion and the reigning champions of Italy and Germany.
In 1929, having moved up a weight, he beat a former British bantamweight champion, a future British champ, a future European champ, plus the reigning champions of Germany and Belgium. These displays earned him global recognition and, although just 16, he was ranked in the world’s top 10 by America’s The Ring magazine
But Pat was being rushed along and entered into fights at an astonishing rate. He’d had 25 contests in 1928 and another 33 in 1929. He won the majority but the strain of making weight and fighting grown men week-in and week-out took its toll on his undeveloped constitution.
In April 1930 – by then a lightweight – Pat suffered a brutal stoppage defeat at the hands of future British champion and world title challenger Seaman Tommy Watson.
Left with severe concussion, he was unable to walk for weeks, but Professor Newton, no doubt missing his regular income, entered him into another fight before he’d fully recovered.
The result was another stoppage loss at the hands of an opponent far beneath his class.
|Nipper coaching his pupils (Shoreditch, 1950)
Shortly afterwards Pat split from his money-hungry manager and took a four-month rest from the ring to recover. He briefly tried a comeback but proved a shadow of his former self. He could no longer produce the ring magic that had once been his trademark.
Nipper Pat Daly, Marylebone’s boxing wonderboy, was burnt out at age 17.
Realising that he would now never win a world title, he retired from the fight game three weeks before his 18th birthday. He hoped one day to make a comeback but, sadly, he never did.
Despite his harrowing boyhood experience, Pat devoted much of his life to training boxers and ran his own gym. Although his career ended tragically early, he was revered in boxing circles for the rest of his life, and remembered fondly for the singular skill and excitement he brought to the sport.
Nipper In the press of the Day.
‘The best young prospect we ever had, Nipper Pat Daly.’ – Frank Butler, Daily Express
‘One must admit that the boy is almost a genius with his boxing knowledge.’ – James Butler, The Sporting Chronicle
‘In a class all by himself.’ – Norman Hurst, – The Sporting Chronicle
‘There is no boxer before the public at present who puts more vim and variety into his work than Daly. Although so young, he is a consummate artist with the gloves, and has an old head on his young shoulders. Daly believes in the Napoleonic policy of attack, and always attack. Even if he retreats he makes it an aggressive retreat.’ – Fred Dartnell, The Evening Standard
‘We venture the assertion that there is not a better, a more scientific boxer, to be seen any where else in the world today.’ – John Murray, Editor of Boxing
‘His skill is as near perfection as possible.’ – Reynolds’s Illustrated News
‘Pat promises to eclipse even Jimmy Wilde in the affections of the British public… Daly has won most of his fights in such a fashion as to convince the most sceptical that he is something approaching the wonder of the age.’ – Charlie Rose, The Daily Express
‘Daly is of the stuff of which champions are made… it is only necessary to see him in the ring to be certain that he is a fighter by instinct… He stands correctly, so that he may punch with purpose from any angle. He thinks quickly, he has a rare sense of distance, his heart is gloriously big.’ – Ben Bennison, The Daily Telegraph
‘Most of us who have watched Daly so often are willing to believe him capable of almost anything. His versatility is astounding… Daly is possessed of pretty well every trick and feint that is known to boxing.’ – The Daily Chronicle
‘He is an incredible youngster; his like I have not encountered since I first happened upon Carpentier… Daly, I am delighted to say, is unspoiled. I almost doubt whether he is fully conscious of his accomplishments; may he remain unsophisticated. It is his naturalness that has caused him to be one of the most talked-of fighters in this country… Bearing no accidents there is no reason why the boy should not come to be a great… ‘ – All Sports Weekly
‘He is well worth all the care that can be taken of him, for we have not looked on his like before as a young boxer.’ – Clyde Foster, The Evening Standard
‘Properly handled, he may be the boxing wonder of the world.’ – The Star
By Alex Daley
Alex is author of the biography, ‘Nipper: The Amazing Story of Boxing’s Wonderboy.’ visit. www.nipperpatdaly.co.uk or phone 07982 713 112 for more information.
‘A highly recommended read! – www.britishboxers.co.uk
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