View Full Version : R.I.P Johnny Williams

jim glen
02-03-2007, 06:44 AM
British HW Johnny Williams (late 40s - 50s), passed away last week.
I meet him 3 years ago a great old fighter with fond memories of McAvoy & my grandad. He was managed by the schrewd Ted Broadribb of Mills & Tommy Farr fame.

Johnny was a British champion and a Top Contender for a number of years, a good fighter...he had a serries of fights with Don Cockell and did battle with big Jack Gardner I beleive.

Britain had a good school of HWs then with Farr, Manuel Abrew, Mills, Woodcock, Ken Shaw, Cockell, Williams & Gardner, shame the HW division has lost it's "Royal Line" as the Crowning Division of the sport!

R.I.P Champ.

02-03-2007, 08:46 AM
British heavyweight champion Williams on his way to a knock-out victory over Werner Wiegand of Luxembourg at Harringay in December 1952.

ONE of Rugby's greatest sporting legends has died at the age of 80.
Heavyweight boxer Johnny Williams won the British and Empire titles in 1952 and at his best was ranked eighth in the world.

A famous celebrity in his day, Johnny was a very popular character who won 60 of his 75 fights and sparred with Henry Cooper.

He will best be remembered for his double title victory against Jack Gardner at Earls Court which saw the Johnny Williams' Express special train take hundreds of Rugby people down to London support him.

And he later trained local boxer Randolf Turpin to win the world title.

Boxing legend Johnny Williams, who won the British and Empire heavyweight titles in 1952.

Born in Barmouth, Wales, on Christmas Day 1926, Johnny came to Rugby when he was three and attended Elborow and Murray Schools.

Away from the ring he was a farmer, who married Jocey in 1949 and they had one daughter Jane.

He died on Monday in Willowbanks Nursing Home in Bitteswell, where he had been for the last couple of years, suffering from Alzheimer's. Before that he lived and farmed at Newton Manor.

His widow Jocey said: "He was a gentle giant, who never said a bad word about anyone and had lots of friends in and out of boxing. He was a real gentleman, never aggressive and one of the things that made him such a good boxer was that he was very light on his feet and very good at defence.

"I always used to go and watch him, but I didn't like fighting at all. I never approved of boxing but I don't think it really worried me. He was always going to win. When you're 19 or 20 you have a sort of arrogance, and even if he lost one fight, he'd win the next time!

"We met lots of interesting people, stage stars and film stars like Stewart Granger. He was very taken with John and wanted to manage him."

Training in Rugby with manager Ted Broadribb.

Johnny and Jocey still exchanged Christmas cards with Johnny Arthur, the South African man he fought for the Empire title and he had been to stay with them.

"John was very generous and would do anything to help anybody," Jocey added.

Johnny Williams had two grandchildren, James and Sarah. And much of the following detail about Johnny's career comes from a school project James, 16, wrote a few years ago.

Johnny began boxing at a very early age - in his school playground, when his brother Robin used to bet other boys that they couldn't make him cry by hitting him. Johnny said he never cried - because he was too proud - or too stupid!

As a very small child he helped his father on their farm in Welton and doing the work of a man was strong and tough. In the 1930s depression, his father had to give up the farm and his parents then ran a boarding house in Newbold Road.

He was introduced to boxing by a neighbour and began fighting in fairground booths at the age of ten - against much older children. Boxers were paid 4 or 5 for each match - and also shared the money when a hat was passed around the audience.

Only his sister Bradwin - who banked his earnings for him - ever knew about his booth fighting. His family didn't, as he would always sneak out of his bedroom window.

He trained or fought every night and weighing only seven or eight stone, was used to facing much heavier opponents.

Johnny never had an amateur fight - and made his professional debut at Leicester's Cossington Street Swimming Baths in 1947. He fell asleep in his dressing room - something which then became his trait before every fight.

His opponent, Billy Rhodes was so beaten up he never fought again.

With nine knockouts in 13 fights that year, and another eight the next, Johnny, now managed by Ted Broadribb, was making a name for himself in the boxing world.

After returning from his tour of South Africa, in 1950 Johnny lost to Jack Gardner in an eliminator to fight for the British title. It was described as one of the best heavyweight fights ever and while the press wanted a re-match, it took two years for it to be arranged.

Gardner was now British and Empire champion and had a 20lb weight advantage. What was to be Johnny's most famous points victory took place at Earls Court on March 11, 1952 and the 25-year-old returned to a hero's welcome with thousands of fans lining the streets of Rugby.

* His funeral is at St. Mary's Church, Clifton on Monday (February 5) at 12noon, followed by cremation at Oakley Wood at 1.30pm. Family flowers only, but donations may be made to Willowbanks Nursing Home via the Co-op Funeral Services, Bilton Road, Rugby.

02-03-2007, 10:59 AM
Here's Johnny & I looking through Gilroy's Scrapbook and below with me & my 'inlaw' Brian who used to watch Johnny fight when he was a kid.

Jim Glenn