In sad news, it has been reported by The Blackpool Gazette that former British heavyweight champion Brian London has passed away. Known as “The Blackpool Rock,” London, the son of fighter Jack London (a fine heavyweight who defeated Freddie Mills to become British champ in 1944), had been battling a long illness. He was 87.
London, born in County Durham, moved to Blackpool when he was 16 years of age. By his own admission, “not a great fighter, not a natural fighter,” London was expected to carry on the fighting family tradition, and he reluctantly donned the gloves.
London may not have been great, but he won both the British and Commonwealth heavyweight titles, this during a time when the British belt really meant something.
London also famously challenged both Floyd Patterson and Muhammad Ali for the world title – being stopped in 11 rounds by Patterson and by Ali in just three rounds. “I got in the ring with him, but I never fought him,” London said with great honesty some years after having fought Ali, this in 1966.
It was against his British rivals that London really did fight well. London KO’d Joe Erskine to win the British and Commonwealth titles, this in June of 1958. However, London lost the titles to Henry Cooper the following January (London boxed Cooper three times, being stopped in a round in a 1956 non-title fight and then twice going down on points over 15 hard sessions). London also fought, unsuccessfully, for the European heavyweight title.
Among the big names London went it with are: Ali, Patterson, Cooper, Willie Pastrano (one win, one loss), Nino Valdes, Peter Rademacher, Dick Richardson, Eddie Machen, Ingemar Johansson, Johnny Prescott, Billy Walker, Thad Spencer, Jerry Quarry, Zora Folley, Jack Bodell, and Joe Bugner. London beat Folley and Walker, and he went the distance with Johansson and Quarry (in the first of two fights with Jerry, London being KO’d in the return).
London was never short on guts and courage, and he really did fight them all. London’s final ring record reads 37-20-1(26). He retired in 1970 after being stopped by Bugner, becoming a nightclub owner.
“I had a go,” London once said when looking back on his boxing career. That he did. Our condolences go out to Brian’s family and friends.