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BETTY'S LEFT HOOK
By Harry Otty
Isn't it funny how, with ideas for writing especially, one things leads invariably to another? While considering a contribution for this issue, I found myself torn between historical or topical, work in progress or something new. Then, like it was somehow meant to happen and someone, somewhere wanted me to know something, I had a thought -- (someone alert the media!)
In the newspapers here in England considerable front-page exposure has been given to the recent punch up involving Deputy Prime Minister Mr John 'Two Jags' Prescott and a Mr Craig Evans. Significant due to the fact that it is nearing election time over here in Blighty and in the midst of shaking hands and kissing babies Mr Prescott was hit by an egg, hurled by the heckling Mr Evans. Somewhat miffed by the experience, Mr Prescott sought retribution and approached the yolk yielding yob - who was only protesting Labours Countryside policies- and delivered a cracking straight left to the jaw of the shell-shocked Welshman. The resulting scramble of political hangers on, public, press and police was captured in all it's glory for the cameras. As was Mr Prescotts punch which, from the newspaper photographs, was spot on target with the shoulder firmly behind it, (though he does carry the right a little low).
What the unsuspecting protestor did not know was that 'Two Jags' had more than a little boxing experience and had won a number of tournaments in his navy days. The natural strength of his youthful physique was put to good use by one of his shipmates and fitness instructor aboard the Cunard lines passenger ships, one Dom Volante. The name may ring a bell for some of the older readers, (I know the puns are getting a little tiresome now, but they a there to deliberately lighten this piece for reasons that will soon become apparent), as Volante was a firm favourite in the New York smokers of yesteryear. A brave fighter, with great skills, great fitness and always great value for money.
Now, Mr Volante, who left us many years back, was also a favourite in his native Liverpool and, being Liverpool born and bred myself, I thought it would be interesting to do a small piece on him. Now, finding good information on Dom Volante is not that easy, he never won a title of any description that I can recall, but I am young - relatively speaking - so, I thought I would consult a local expert. While there might be many of them here in Liverpool, there is only one I trust and who is accommodating enough to fill any request I have ever had, Betty and Jimmy Faux. I know what your thinking, poor command of the English language or an inability to count - in my case both! But, I have always considered Betty and Jimmy to be one.
Jimmy, until recently, was a boxing trainer in Liverpool and, in addition to coaching his own sons I the amateurs, he also had the privilege to work with some of the biggest names in the sport since the 1940's. He recalls with great fondness fighters as diverse in fame and talent as Kid Tanner, Bernard Pugh, Harry Scott, Kid Bassey, Dick Tiger, Rudkin, Cooke and even American middleweight Artie Towne. One of his all-time favourites was the mean and moody Sonny Liston - don't try to tell Jimmy that Clay beat him on the level twice! Now, Betty, far from being a 'boxing widow', got involved in the sport on as many levels as her husband. She loved the game too and also had her favourites - (I don't care what you say Betty, Sugar Ray Robinson ducked other fighters!). Anyway, you didn't have to be Sugar Ray or Liston or any other kind of world-beater to be worthwhile in Betty's eyes. To her, all fighters were champions and regardless of who you were or what you did or didn't accomplish in the hardest of all sports, to Betty Faux you were special.
Betty loved the boxing and the lads that put so much into it to such a degree that she wanted to help out more. To this end she and a number of others, formed the 'Left Hook Club'. Any down and out, down on their luck fighter now had somewhere to turn. If were poorly, financially or medically, and an ex- fighter the Left Hook Club was there to help. Despite her own health problems, she was confined to a wheelchair most of the time, Betty worked tirelessly to improve the lot of those whom fate had frowned upon. I remember a benefit she and the club held for Jimmy Molloy, ex welterweight of the 40's. I was working in a local hotel at the time and managed to scrounge a couple of tickets - dinner for two in the restaurant - to be raffled off with some other prizes. I was invited to the event for Mr Molloy, where Betty insisted I sign the guest book Jimmy was going to keep as a memento of the evening. In local boxing terms it was a gala event with anyone who was anyone - boxing-wise - in attendance. The evening was a great success, as were so many others that Betty organised, and it gives me a little buzz to think that somewhere there is a book with my scribblings of good wishes alongside those of so many great and brave pugilists. Betty had a way of making you feel special and was so down to earth and at ease with everyone she met you would have been a strange one not to like her from the minute you entered her company.
I often consulted Betty and Jimmy for boxing information, both a veritable mine of it. If it wasn't in the head it could probably be found in their library of record books. Betty had a thing for Jem Mace and had conducted extensive research into his life and career. Her ambition - amongst many others I suspect - was to write his story. Sadly, Betty never got the chance to complete it as she passed away recently after a short illness. I was shocked. When I rang the house to chase up some information on the aforementioned Dom Volante, Jimmy told me the bad news. I had only spoke to Betty last month, when a suspected chest infection seemed to have taken her voice. It turned out to be something much worse and even extensive chemotherapy was too late. When I last spoke to her I had promised to visit once she was feeling better. I am truly sad that I never got the chance. I cannot imagine how Jimmy will get along without her - after fifty years together it will be tough, but if he has one half of the light that Betty had within her - and I am sure he does - then he will be alright.
Boxing is many things, some good, some not so. Above all it has always been pointed to as a developer of character and at times like this I find that difficult to argue with. The sport could use more people like Betty Faux, definitely one of the best to come out of the Liverpool fight came and so many ex-fighters benefited from her warmth and generosity. I think that right now she is talking to Sugar Ray, Sonny Liston and Jem Mace and getting the real stories. And, as there can be very little to want for in boxing Valhalla, she might try her hand at matchmaking.