Terry Downes, World middleweight champ 1961, what a man, what a fighter, what a character.
I was saddened to hear last week that ‘The Paddington Express’ had come to the end of his journey after passing away peacefully in his sleep, aged 81. He was Britain’s oldest living world champion.
Terry Downes was some fighter alright, he never let boxing reverses interfere with him reaching his goal and that came true when he defeated Boston’s Paul Pender in 1961.
Much has been written about Terry Downes’ excursions in the American Marines and how he was close to being in the run up to an olympic games place only for the people concerned realised he was a Limey.
Well Terry Downes returned home to Britain and what an impact he made. At the time he returned, competition in the middleweight division in Britain, Europe and the World was top class.
I remember those years well as I was an amateur for De Havilland’s ABC and serving my time as an apprentice bricklayer, plus the professional shows at Liverpool Stadium were not to be missed.
Only last week another brickie Archie Wilbraham (we were apprentices together) remarked about coming to Liverpool Stadium wit me when I used to go with Mr. Woods and his twin sons John and Arthur.
If I remember rightly Terry’s last amateur opponent was Albert Adanolfi, who later was a sparring partner for Terry along with Dennis Read and Dennis Booty. I believe as a pro Adanolfi turned pro as Al Beratti.
Much is made of Terry’s war with Dick Tiger. I remember it well, quite a few Liverpool boxing people fancied Dick Tiger to win. It had taken Dick Tiger a while to acclimatise, however one boxer who fought Dick Tiger and beat him (Alan Dean) said how Dick Tiger was improving all the time, I think they fought five times. Terry also beat Alan in his last bout, Alan told me ‘I was getting beat and I realised my career was over’.
Cardiff’s Phil Edwards was a beautiful boxer puncher who in other eras who would have been British Champion, however Terry had his number. John ‘Cowboy’ McCormack, Melbourne Olympic bronze medalist was another to succomb to Terry’s all action style. However another Welsh man Freddy Cross gained a win over Terry.
His bout with the World rated Ellsworth ‘Spider’ Webb was a classic, only cuts forced Terry to retire. The same happened against France’s Michel Diouf.
However, Terry was not deterred and soldiered on and what a notable win it was when he completely outboxed future World champ and conquerer of Dick Tiger, Joey Giardello.
Though he lost his first bout against Paul Pender through cuts he forced Pender to retire in the return. I believe the following day in a restaurant Paul Pender was with his manager Johnny Buckley when a certain person (who’d lost money on that bout) sought to take it out on Johnny Buckley. The person concerned had been acquitted on a wounding charge in the 50’s over a confrontation with a well known London gangster. Terry lost the rubber match with Pender but let’s make no mistake Terry Downes, the Paddington Panther had more than earned his place in history.
He boxed a very good opponent at Liverpool Stadium an American from California named Orlando De Pietro who was in films. Orlando put a great show up for 3 rounds, however he succombed in the fourth. Some say he could have carried on, I disagree as Terry Downes in full flight was a sight to behold.
It was after losing his last bout against Terry on points that Birkenhead’s boxing master, ex British and Empire champion Pat McAteer anounced his retirement.
Terry’s last show was against the great boxing master Willie Pastrano losing in round 11 when a mile ahead on points.
Terry invested his ring earnings well and deserved every accolade he received.
Terry’s honesty should be admired by all. When he beat Sugar Ray Robinson he remarked ‘I never beat Sugar Ray Robinson, I beat the ghost of Sugar Ray Robinson’. What a wonderful man.
Rest in peace champ, you gave so much enjoyment and entertainment to so many.
Until next time, Goodluck, God bless,