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huir. Boxing** Ainis To > Break Hold By ILS. j

STAFF CORRESPONDENT IN LONDON

England's greatest boxing impresario, Jack Solomons, ivho ranks the late Dave {eaJUis as the ivorld's best middleweight since the war, tcill arrive in Melbourne this \tceh on a visit from London. Later he will come to Sydney.

IpHIS genial Cockney, who

|1 has probably come closer h the late Tex Rickard-fab Hdiis million-dollar-gate or "Lscr-in skill at promoting, BL anyone else, has a plan Wf break the American mon lloly on vvoild titles.

BHc hopes to find at least one ¡Lralian bo.ver to help him do

hil I

"¿fence the war, England's "Mr. I _Sin8" has become a powerful Ken« in world boxing and

hi aims at bigger things yet.

, )For loo long, Solomons claims íbas America kept too light a hold on world tilles.

I It was not until he made taronr representations that British m Empire boxers were recog- nised in American world rank-

ine says: "We have started to

break the American monopoly arid I am confident, that when we clean up the position of the Empire lilies we will have formed _ bloc (hat will smash for good .America's stianglehold on world

"tilles.

'r>"By elimination bouts between British, Commonwealth, and European champions, we will produce challengers whom the Americans won't be able to ignore."

s-ill sounds big, but Solomons ¡his thought big most of his life. Phc started off trundling a fish barrow around the slums of Lon fdon's East End and to-day he is .the biggest boxing promoter out- side America and at the same ;tiine a leviathan bookmaker, a «successful fishmonger and hope ' jful racehoise owner. _ . . ,

. -fle was the first-ever British 'promoter to challenge America's domination of world boxing and in six years he has built up a nice points lead.

This battle of wits proved that he is a man of action, craftiness, and has the ability to make snap decisions or take a chance.

He is also naturally lucky, as be freely admits.

Solomons's motto is, "If you sell fish, give them big fish; if you sell lights, give them big fi«1115" C O ,

Headquarters of Solomons s promotions is in a small, poky gymnasium high up in a building in Greal Windmill Street, just off Piccadilly.

This is Soho, London's multi nationahiy and colourful area.

Solomons's gymnasium is alter- natively known as Muscle Mart, Majhem Manor, and Cauliflower

Corner. "

It is like the pages of a book by the late Damon Runyon come to life, evcept (hat instead of a Bronv accent there is a dialect of Cockney, of Scotland, Wales, Ireland, and the provinces.

You will also hear French or Hebrew and languages of Nigeria and ihe Gold Coast.

This is tlie centre of British boxing.

'Around the gymnasium's soli- tary ring and almost standing on the lees of spairntg and skipping boxers, manageis and match- makers haggle and shout, trainers

BRUCE WOODCOCK ,

and seconds dodge about, boxing writers chsp issiomtely appraise, and on the benches the eternal gallery of Runyoncsque types just

sit and look

The smell of liniment and stale sweat biles at the nostrils and heavy cigar smoke eddies around the lights even though smoking

is forbidden

In one corner i man, well pnst his prime, laboriously clouts the heavy bag

Near him Randolph Turpin skips with the calm assurance of a boxer who knows he is good

In the ring a leathery faced old trainer shows a wide eyed boy how to lead with his left and block a possible counter

In one corner is Solomons's tiny office with a sign over the door advising the futility of ask- ing for free tickets

Here is the nerve centre of British boxing, where Solomons reigns almost benignly

In his silk monogrammed shirt and smoking a cigar, he sits be- hind his desk, with almost a bland look

But as anyone who has done business with him will vouch, be- hind this calm exterior is an

active and very able brain. I

Solomons is also a bom wor- ner, and a cabinet beside his bed is full of bottles of pills and

medicines

He spends the hours in a steam bath fighting an obstinate waist- line and good health is a fetish with him.

He is a picture of a very suc- cessful man, but it was not always that way.

The road to Muscle Mart, his bookmaking office in Mayfair, and his chain of fish shops was tough.

One night in December, 1900, Solomons was born in a base- ment bedroom under a fish shop at the corner of Frying Pan Alley and Petticoat Lane.

He had six fingers on each hand-the extra ones were amputated-and a full set of

teeth.

He left school at an early age and got a job in a fish shop cut- ting up eels and hawking fish around dreary East End streets.

By the time he was 16 he was doing a little starting-price book

making on the side.

It was then that he tried fight- ing to earn more money.

He received 16 shillings and sixpence for his first bout, but soon abandoned the idea after a couple of thrashings, as he was not cut out to be a world cham- pion.

However, he had saved his pen- nies and joined a syndicate of four which converted an old

Randolph Turpin misses with a right in his

title bout in London against Robinson.

church into an arena and named it Devonshire Sporting Club.

Attempts to promote fights flopped miserably and the syndi-

cate disbanded.

Solomons, however, .stuck at it and it was not long before he heard of a youngster named Eric Boon, who was winning fights in the provinces.

He offered Boon 30 shillings to .fight for him. Boon accepted and won and that was the start of a partnership between Solo- mons and Boon.

Solomons managed Boon, who won the British lightweight title and the Lonsdale Belt outright before he had reached the age of 20.

Boon, who is now fighting with little success in Australia, was then the "golden boy" of box- ing.

Money poured in and then the war broke out and Boon went into the R.A.F.

At the war's end Solomons became convinced that boxing was due for a boom period.

He looked beyond the drab halls of the East End and in 1945 staged the British heavyweight bout between the holder Jack London and Bruce Woodcock, a young Doncaster railwayman.

It was an outdoor bout and it cost Solomons £stg20,000 to stage it.

He made £stg400 but the im- portant thing was that Solomons had moved up into the big money and Woodcock, who had beaten London, had become a star-overnight. Solomons needed

a star.

But after being groomed for a shot at the world title Wood- cock suffered a smashed jaw at the hands of giant American Joe Baski, gashed eyes from the fists of Lee Savold and a bad deieat by young ex-Grenadier Guards- man Jack Gardner, after which

he retired.

Gardner shone brielly but turned out no better than Wood- cock in the long run.

On the credit side were stir- ring fights between Freddie Mills and Gus Lesnevich with the British boy winning the world cruiser title only to lose it one year later to American Joey Maxim.

In the middleweight division Solomons had staked a lot on the late Dave Sands who won the British Empire title from Dick Turpin in less than one round.

Despite Sands's varied perfor- mances in Britain-although most were superb-Solomons will argue with anyone that in Sands Australia had a man who was capable of beating any middle- weight in the world since the

war.

Solomon's promotions got bigger and bigger-perhaps not in size but certainly in prestige, and American fighters clamoured to appear on his programmes.

Then he put on an epic fight between "Sugar" Ray Robinson and Randolph Turpin.

The British boy took the world middleweight titlelhat night amid scenes of such enthusiasm that it almost verged on hysteria.

Solomons had brought some- thing new to the British sporting scene-extravaganza promotion which even the Americans could not equal.

British boxing boomed in a manner that had not been seen before.

From offering 30/ purses to fighters like Boon, Solomons had moved up a long way,

A fight billed as being for the world heavyweight title at White City, London, between Savold and Woodcock was Solomons's biggest attempt at an outdoor

show.

Police regulations limit a prize- fight crowd to just above 50,000

and the Savold v Woodcock con- test was a sell-out.

Gate takings totalled £stg80,000.

However, there was not much cream left for the promoter, according to Solomons.

He says that after paying £stg31,000 to Savold and Wood- cock in purses, £stgl0,000 to supporting fighters, and to jazz bands which played before the contests, £.stglO,000 rent, nearly £stgl5,000 in entertainment tax and for stewards, publicity, office staffs, and other items, he figured "I copped about three grand for me and the missus-and con- sidered I was doing well."

However, Solomons admits that he has made quite a tidy pile-or as much as the present British taxation will allow-out of his promotions.

Much more important from the man in the street's viewpoint, however, is that Solomons has put the fight business right back on its feet.

Solomons, too, brought a new fashion to professional boxing.

The Duke of Edinburgh was his guest at the ringside last year and this marked the first Royal visit to a prizefight since the Duke of Windsor, then Pi ince of Wales, attended contests before he became King.

Solomons cleaned unwanted characters out of the ringside and made his promotions social occasions by inviting nobility, film and stage stars, and parties from London's exclusive clubs.

Solomons dressed himself, the stewards, and ringside officials in tuxedos and encouraged ring siders to dress in formal attire.

He had some of the best jazz bands in Britain play from the ring before contests.

He introduced famous jockeys, vaudeville stars, visiting boxers and film stars like Danny Kaye, John Wayne, and George Raft from the ring.

Then, to add colour and pageantry to his promotions, he established his famous fanfare procedure.

As the boxer starts down the aisle preceded by a standard bearer cairying the flag of his country and flanked by uni- formed attendants, two powerful spotlights focus on him.

As he comes into view loud- speakers blare out a trumpet fan- fare which continues until the boxer is in his corner.

The effect is dramatic.

Americans freely admit that Solomons has ihem beaten on efficiency of programme presen- tation and on the creation of atmosphere.

Apart from boxing. Solomons likes racing best, although as an owner he has not had much luck.

He will take his racing silks -cornflower blue with a boxing glpve1 on the back-to Australia and if a chance offers he will race a horse'on lease.

__

Digitisation generously supported by
Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation
Digitisation generously supported by

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