Now 12, I began to learn the noble art of boxing.
Mark Hart was a good boxer, as were other stall-holders in Surrey Street market. One of our best boxers, Albert Finch, became British middleweight champion in early 1950. Perhaps his most notable fight was against Randolph Turpin in 1948 when he was the first boxer to beat Turpin. The fight was at the Albert Hall and Finch won on points, over 8 hard round.
I joined Sir Philip Games Boys Club to be taught how to box properly. Sir Philip was the Metropolitan Police Commissioner at the time and previously was a much respected officer in the army and later the RAF.
In addition to training at the Boys Club I sometimes went the "The Gun" pub in Church Street, Croydon, to train in the gymnasium at the rear of the pub. This was where many of the popular Croydon boxers would train, including Alby Finch, Ron Pudney and others. It was in The Gun's gym that I once spent a couple of minutes gently sparring with Albert Finch! Obviously, Alby had to be very careful not to land a real blow on me as he would have probably killed me. He simply tried to give me some professional advice as to how to move, how to stay out of range and keep moving all the time. A lovely chap, greatly admired by all who knew him.
I was fairly tall for my age and used to have to box as a light-heavyweight in the junior ranks. I had three amateur contests, losing them all on points. I gave up entering competitions after that as I knew my heart was not really inclined to bashing another kid up. I carried on with the training sessions at the Boys Club mainly to keep fit and enjoy the social side of it. Great days - 1947 to 1950 - which were to become even greater in 1951, but in a much more romantic way....