|Where Are They Now? Brian London
INTERVIEW by Shawn M. Murphy (May 21, 2008) Doghouse Boxing
Recently I spoke to England’s Brian London. London had a stellar amateur career and also fought twice for the World’s Heavyweight Title, against Floyd Patterson in 1959 and Muhammad Ali in 1966. London fought the best competition in his day, fighters like Cooper, Pastrano, Erskine, Quarry, Folley and Machen. London retired in 1970 after a controversial loss to Joe Bugner, with a record of 37-20-1 (26).
Shawn Murphy: Mr. London it’s a pleasure to talk to you.
Brian London: Pleasure to speak to you as well.
SM: Tell me Mr. London, how did you first get started in boxing?
BL: I got into boxing for two reasons. One was that my father was a boxer. Secondly when I was young, all healthy men in this country had to do two years “National Service” in one of the armed forces. I chose the Royal Air Force over the Army and Navy. My father’s reputation went before me and therefore the RAF encouraged me to box. There is much rivalry in sporting competitions between the Army, Navy and RAF. Competing has great privileges too, such as better food, more time at home and less square bashing. I didn’t need too much encouragement with all these perks being offered, so I started training with a vengeance.
SM: How many amateur fights did you have?
BL: I had 87 total, lost only 2.
SM: How did you get the nicknames the “British Bulldog” and the “Blackpool Rock”?
BL: I was christened the “British Bulldog” by friends and colleagues who said I not only looked like a bulldog but fought like one. You see I was more of a fighter than a boxer. The “Blackpool Rock” originated from the fact that previous to becoming a fighter I was employed in the Blackpool Rock Factory, rock being a form of what Americans call candy.
SM: You were born Brian Sydney Harper, why the name change?
BL: My father boxed mainly in London, so his friends suggested he change his name to Jack London and I suppose it sounded better as a stage name. I just followed suit.
SM: You turned pro in 1955 with a TKO of Dennis Lockton in one round. Any memories of that fight?
BL: I have no real memories of it. I do remember that my older brother fought Lockton and won, thus I felt bound to do the same.
SM: In 1958 you won the British and Commonwealth heavyweight titles from Joe Erskine. Was that your crowning moment?
BL: Yes it was, because Erskine was the best at the time.
SM: Henry Cooper took those titles from you the following year. Henry in fact beat you three times in your career. What do you remember most about those fights?
BL: Mostly the fact that I think I won one of those fights. Henry Cooper in fact believed it as well and even confirmed his belief by magnanimously stating it in his biography.
SM: In 1959 you fought Floyd Patterson for the heavyweight title, but were KO’d in the 11th after a pretty good showing. How close was that fight before the 11th round?
BL: I think Patterson was well out in front due to the fact that he was so light and fast. He was more of a light heavyweight.
SM: In 1966 you took on Muhammad Ali in London. How do you prepare for a fighter like Ali?
BL: My training was very intense. I regret that I did not train in London, where the best facilities, trainers, and sparring partners were.
SM: I have read that you said fighting Ali was the greatest honor of your life. Still true?
BL: Yes it was. Ali was always one of my two heros along with Rocky Marciano.
SM: You fought for the heavyweight title twice and had a respectable career. Any regrets looking back now?
BL: The only other regret other than what I previously mentioned is that I should have taken Ali further. Because I didn’t I feel I sold myself short.
SM: It’s been almost 38 years since you retired from boxing. What has Brian London been doing since?
BL: In retirement I opened a financially successful nightclub in Blackpool where I still live. I don’t run it anymore but I still own the premises. I have lived in Blackpool most of my life although I was born in Hartleypool on the Northeast Coast. I never drank or smoked and I still train almost everyday except Sunday’s. I also have been involved with a lot of charity functions over the years.
SM: Do you keep in touch with any of your old boxing buddies these days?
BL: On quite regular occasions I attend boxing functions where I deliver after-dinner chats, take questions and at the same time, get to meet old boxing friends and colleagues. I am also lucky enough to meet the new rising stars from here and the States.
SM: Do you follow boxing much now and any thoughts on the heavyweight division today?
BL: Naturally I do follow boxing but don’t believe we have any good heavyweights coming through at the moment.
SM: Mr. London, it was a pleasure to speak with you.
BL: Thank you.
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