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· Forum Co-owner
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I posted this years back on another site and since somewhere else i am no writer but i thought what the hell i would post it here please feel free to add to this thread with your own thoughts on other almost forgotten fighters

Joe Bowker

BORN June 12 1881 Salford

DIED october 22 1955 London

HEIGHT 5FT 3 1/2

WEIGHT 114-126lbs

MANAGER Peggy Battinson

RECORD 40-8-1 (14 KO'S & 2 EX)

Joe Bowker, who was to become World Bantamweight Champion and retire rich for his times, was desperate when the postman arrived at his tiny house in a saltford slum with a letter from the man who was then the most powerful figure in boxing, Mt A F. ‘Peggy’ Bettinson, founder and autocratic ruler of the National Sporting Club in London. It requested a seventeen year old who had already won a string of local fights - and many more in the boxing booths - to come at once to take part in novices competition. This was the boxing equivalent of a Royal Command and the reason for Bowker’s desperation was simple poverty. Trains were too expensive. He could not afford to buy a bicycle. Hitchhiking had not even been heard of at the turn of the century- there were no cars and not all that many roads made up - so he took the advice of Sherlock Holmes: ‘When there is only one alternative left, that is the solution’. He walked almost two hundred miles to London, living and sleeping rough
Ten days later he arrived at Bettinson’s office to be rebuked sharply, ‘I thought I told you to come at once’ Bowker explained meekly, ‘ I walked as quick as I could sir’, and that tickled the man Bowker always referred to later as ‘The Guv’nor’. Bettinson was even more pleased when Bowker showed his enormous potenital by winning five fights in a single night to take first prize in that novices competition in what was for him, in those days, a totally alien environment.
There has never been any boxing venue quite like the National Sporting Club in Covent Garden. The ring was situated in the centre of a basement theatre under a massive chandelier. The more distinguished of the members-only patrons, usually dinner-jacketed, sat on stage, while other spectators took their places in the stalls - after they had all extravagantly eaten and drunkj in the dining room upstairs. A Master of Ceremonies strictly enforced silence during te rounds. Boxers were firmly instructed to ‘try to overcome your adversary in the fair, manly and sporting spirit and bear in mind that there is more honour in losing like a gentlemen than winning like a blackguard’. They took to little Joe Bowker immediately, which is why he remained a favourite for a full nineteen years. They loved the brilliance of his boxing, the way he could keep his handsome head out of an opponent’s reach, sometimes for twenty rounds, all the time collecting points for a connoisseur to savour.
Bowker was still a mouth away from his nineteenth birthday when he did that take the British Bantamweight title from a very capable champion, Harry Ware, in June 1902 - but had a back-to-earth shock when he went round to ‘The Guv’nor’ office next morning. Bettinson himself a former British Amateur Lightweight Champion, told him, ‘You won and did well, deserved it, but you made about fifty mistakes’. He then removed his jacket, told Bowker to do the same, cleared furniture out of the way and showed the new champion gaps he had left in his guard, openings he had failed to take.
It is hard to imagine many modern-day promoters who could do that - though Mickey Duff was a slippery customer in his own boxing day. It is even more difficult to picture the reaction of some of today’s more disdainful champions. Bowker saw it as sound advice and, not for a spell. He found putting on the gloves with any man who fancied his changes an improvement on sparring because he took on challengers of all sizes, shapes and styles - and besides he was getting paid and not getting hurt. He developed into a marvel of quickness and cunning in a series against the best men around until he was pronounced ready for an American who must rate as one of history’s most confident - or overconfident - world champions.
Frankie Neil, almost exactly the same age as Bowker, was a complete contrast. He had tremendous punching power, which Bowker lacked. In both hands and had knocked out the vast majority of his opponent . A built-in swagger that was past of his nature prompted him to suggest a £1,000 side-stakes. Bettinson agreed with a histrionic reluctance that concealed private glee, so Neil pushed the deal one stage further by suggesting the winner should take all the prize money . ‘That’s all right, Guv’nor’. said the unperturbed Bowker.
He was always a conscientious trainer, but the little man had never been in better shaper than he was that night of 17 October 1904 at the NSC. Neil had not come to box; his plan was to smash, batter, overwhelm Bowker and for several rounds it seemed as though this might happen. The Englishman was hurtling around the ring like a leaf in a gale, but it gradually dawned on the enthralled members that not many of the storm of American hailstones were actually landing. Bowker was at his very best, which was magical, as his dazzling skill rendered all that power impotent and by half -way through the fight he was already well in front and drawing away. The artist went on steadily scoring against the strong man until by the twentieth Bowker had won by a mountain of points. Neil’s camp had to cancel the victory dinner they had already booked at the Café Royal and Bettinson is said to have generously chipped in to help pay the fares back San Francisco.
At 21 Joe was growing into the featherweight division with considerable success. In an outstanding fight he virtually ended the career of one of the greats, ‘Pedlar’ Palmer, several inches taller and pounds heavier. Palmer was reckoned one of the most clever, tricky and slippery boxers of the age, but Bowker outclassed him, knocked him down three times before the fight was stopped in the twelfth.
One of the truly all-time great featherweights, Peerless Jim Driscoll, the legendary Welshman, was in his prime at the times, but in May 1906 Bowker, six pounds lighter and not in serious training, agreed to come in as substitute against him. Driscoll Points win over fifteen rounds convinced Bowker that over the championship distance and fully fit he would do better . He was wrong. This time Driscoll’s advantages in height and reach were even more decisive and Bowker was stopped in the seventeenth.

He came to grief again against the enormous hitting power of the man who was to finish Driscoll’s career, Charles Ledoux of France - through a moment of flashy carelessness that was absolutely untypical. In the eight round Bowker, by then convinced he was far too clever for a dangerous opponent, turned his head away to wink confidently at his corner. A tremendous right to the jaw caught him. He was knocked down six times in the ninth and five more times in the tenth before the referee stopped it.
Bowker was to carry on fighting and winning and invariably delighting audiences with his artistry until after World War I and continued to give something back to boxing as trainer of Great Britain’s Olmpic team. In between he had lost his bantamweight crown to Digger Stanley.

sorry for any spelling mistakes like I said I an no writer

· peel me a grape
21,099 Posts
With all the title belts around now some 'world' champions won't even get the chance to be forgotten, because they'll never have really ever been known.

Great thread idea though. If some come to mind I'll post them.
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