Former heavyweight boxer Brian London - known as the Blackpool Rock - dies aged 87

Former boxer Brian London, known throughout his career as ‘the Blackpool Rock’, has sadly passed away, The Gazette understands.

Wednesday, 23rd June 2021, 3:20 pm
Updated Wednesday, 23rd June 2021, 3:42 pm
Brian London has passed away at the age of 87

The last of Blackpool’s sporting royalty from the 1950s and 1960s, a generation that included Jimmy Armfield and Sir Stanley Matthews, London dies aged 87 following a bout of ill health.

His untimely passing comes just four days on from his birthday.

London - born Brian Harper - enjoyed a 15-year boxing career as a heavyweight, fighting 58 times.

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He was the British and Commonwealth heavyweight champion from 1958 to 1959 and famously battled Muhammad Ali in 1966.

Also known as the British Bulldog, London was one of a quartet of British boxers, with Henry Cooper, Joe Erskine, and Dick Richardson, who dominated the British boxing scene throughout the 1950s and 1960s.

Born in Hartlepool, County Durham in 1934, London moved to Blackpool when he was 16 years old and remained there up until his death.

His father Jack London won the British heavyweight title in 1944 while his brother, Jack Junior, also fought as a light-heavyweight.

London fought as an amateur before turning professional in 1955, going on to win the opening 12 bouts of his career.

He finally lost when he came up against Henry Cooper in May 1956, Cooper stopping him with a technical knockout in the first round.

The Blackpool Rock claimed the British and Commonwealth titles with an eighth-round knockout of Welsh fighter Joe Erskine in June 1958.

In January 1959, London lost his titles in a second fight against Cooper, losing by a points decision after 15 rounds.

He challenged for the world title on the first of two occasions in May 1959, when he challenged title holder Floyd Patterson in Indianapolis.

Unfortunately he returned to the UK empty-handed after being knocked out in the 11th round.

He fought Cooper for the third time in February 1964 when he challenged for his British and Commonwealth titles, as well as the vacant European title.

The fight took place in Manchester and Cooper won on points once again after 15 rounds of boxing.

In August 1966, not long after England’s famous World Cup win, London challenged for the world title for a second time at the age of 32.

The sport’s greatest fighter of all time Muhammad Ali was his opponent in a bout staged at Earl’s Court in London.

Ali, aged just 24 at the time, put on a masterful performance, eventually securing a knockout in the third round.

In a post-career media interview, London said: “He’s big, fast and he could punch, whereas I was smaller, fatter and couldn't punch.

“He stopped me in three rounds and that was it, I don't think I hit him.

“It was good money and I got well paid for it - that's all I fought for. Every fight I ever had I always had a go, but with Muhammad Ali I thought don't get hurt Brian, and I therefore didn't try, which was wrong, totally wrong.”

London enjoyed the last win in his career in 1967 with a points victory against the talented American Zora Folley, who had lost a world title fight with Ali earlier that year.

He competed in a further six fights, his career eventually coming to an end in 1970 following a defeat against up-and-coming young fighter Joe Bugner at Wembley.

He ended with a record of 37 wins (26 by knockout), 20 losses and one draw.

In 2004, the British Boxing website listed London at number eight in a list of the top 10 post Second World War British Heavyweight boxers

Following his retirement, London became a businessman in Blackpool, owning several nightclubs.

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