Sunday, May 22, 2016

TBG Book Review: Chatteris Thunderbolt: The Eric Boon Story


The Boxing Glove Sunday Night Book Review

By Peter Silkov

Chatteris Thunderbolt: The Eric Boon Story      Written by Bob Lonkhurst

Eric Boon is one of the most colourful and exciting fighters ever to come out of Britain.  He was a fighter who had it all, good looks, colourful personality, and a fighting style that seemed to guarantee drama and excitement every time he walked into the ring.  Boon was an aggressive, swashbuckling, fighter, with a knockout punch in each hand.  With his charismatic, all-action, ring style, Boon would become one of the biggest draws, and most popular ring performers of the 30s and 40s. 

When Boon fought in London, special trains had to be added on to take the thousands of fans from traveling up from Chatteris to support their hero.  ‘Boy Boon’ or ‘The Fen Tiger’ as he was called, was a lightweight with a heavyweight punch, and after turning professional at the age of just 15, he rose to fame with meteoric speed, and for a time, shone brighter than any other star in the British ring.   

In his book “Chatteris Thunderbolt: The Eric Boon Story” Bob Lonkhurst turns the clock back to the 1930s, when boxing held a far higher place in the every day consciousness than it does today, and its stars enjoyed the kind of treatment normally only afforded to movie stars.  In his heyday Boon was one of the biggest stars of the sport, certainly in this country, and was in demand all over the world, including the world center of boxing, America.  Lonkhurst traces Boon’s story, from his early days growing up in Chatteris, Cambridgeshire, through to the ups and downs of his roller coaster boxing career, and his often equally colourful and dramatic life outside of the ring.

Born on December 28, 1919, in Chatteris, Cambridgeshire, Eric Boon spent his youth working as a blacksmith, but from a very young age, always hankered to become a boxer.  After a short amateur career, which ended after he received payment for a fight in a traveling booth, Boon turned professional in December 1934 (not January 1935 as stated by Box Rec.) Although he was only 15 years old, he was soon fighting, and beating, battle hardened men. 

Eric’s career was guided by Jack Solomons, who would use Boons meteoric success as a spring board to make himself the number one promoter in the country.  Boon was matched hard from the beginning, and though he bowled over most of his opponents with impressive violence, he also suffered a number of early ‘learning’ defeats. 

Boon's success quickly made him a folk hero in his native Chatteris, and with every fight his following grew.  Once he started fighting regularly in London, he was hailed as being one of the most exciting prospects ever seen in the country.

On December 15, 1938, still two weeks away from his 19th birthday, Boon won the British Lightweight championship with a spectacular, come from behind, victory over Dave Crowley.  It was Boon’s 81st contest, but he had been out-boxed for much of the fight by Crowley, and had his left eye tightly closed before he turned everything around with a late surge, which culminated in him knocking Crowley out in the 13th round. It was a victory that produced delirious scenes as Boon’s traveling fans inundated the ring in celebration of their fighter’s triumph.

Boon became a national star overnight with his victory over Crowley, and there seemed to be no limit to his future success.  With this victory, Eric Boon became the youngest man ever to win a British championship. It is a record, which will now never be broken, as the BBBC has since made a law which states that no boxer under the age of 21 can fight for a British title belt.

In his first defence of his championship two months after winning it, on February 23rd 1939, Boon was involved in perhaps the most sensational fight of his career, when he came back from what seemed to be almost certain defeat, to stop Danahar in the 14th round.  This fight was also the first British championship fight to be televised.

Ten months later, Boon defended his British title successfully for a second time, beating former champion Crowley again, and becoming the youngest man ever to win a Lonsdale belt outright, and in what was then, the shortest time. 

However despite his youth and ability, this period would prove to be the high-point of his fighting life.  A mixture of circumstance, bad luck, and the trappings of fame and success derailed boon’s boxing career.  The outbreak of WW2 would prove to be a huge hindrance and would ruin his ambitions for a world title shot.  He would never fight for a world title.

With his ring activity curtailed by the war, Boon found himself drawn into the high life, and gained a reputation as a notorious womanizer.  Having achieved such fame and success so early in life, it is perhaps hardly surprising that Boon found it hard to keep his feet on the ground, and that his early dedication to the gym and fighting waned, as the temptations of celebrity became available to him.

Boon also suffered a severe head injury in a motorbike crash during a 1941 blackout.  It was an injury so severe that it is unlikely that he would have been allowed to fight again today.  As it was, although he would carry on fighting on and off for over a decade, he would never be quite the same fighter again.

Bob Lonkhurst details the decline of Boon’s boxing career during the war years, as his out of the ring life became more and more complicated. Yet, there was a stirring comeback in the post war years, with Boon being involved in another handful of classic fights, as he sought to regain his lost ring prestige, and recover some of his already depleted earnings.   The comeback culminated in him trying to win the British Welterweight title from Ernie Roderick on December 9, 1947, and putting up a memorable display of guts and courage, before being defeated on points.  After this defeat however, it was all downhill from then on for Boon as a fighter.

Like so many of the ring’s stars, Boon saw his money soon disappear, due to failed business ventures, and a complicated personal life.  His boxing career ended with a string of defeats to fighters who would never have been matched with him in his prime, and in the end, Boon had to suffer the indignity of having his boxing license taken away from him.

Boon comes across in ’Chatteris Thunderbolt’ as a complicated man who at times struggles to deal with the various pressures and temptations that come with success and fame.  But, he is also revealed as person with an ultimately good heart, who as he grew older wanted to give something back.  In his later years, despite dealing with his own money issues, and living a hand to mouth existence at times, Boon would become a tremendous fund raiser for various charities, and was always willing to help out a fellow ex-boxer.  It was at this point in his life that Boon finally settled down and found some of the stability and contentment that had eluded him in his younger years.

At times, Boon’s life story reads like a film.  As his boxing career waned, he had a stint as an actor, and later made several appearances in a number of the famous ‘Carry On’ Films of the late 50s and early 60s.  He would even at one point manage to get himself involved in some political espionage.  Both in, and out of the ring, Eric Boon emerges as one of those people who seem to have been both blessed and cursed with a life that is seldom boring or uneventful.

This is a fast moving and entertaining book, with some vivid recollections of Eric Boon’s most famous fights.  When reading about Boon, both as a man and a fighter, you can understand why he was so beloved by both the public and the media.  The phrase ‘larger than life’ fits him perfectly.  Yet behind all the fame and glitz, which surrounded his career, was a true big-hearted fighter, who had no fear of anyone, and in his prime simply loved to fight.

This is Bob Lonkhurst’s 6th biography of a fighter from British boxing’s glory days, with previous books on Jack Peterson, Tommy Farr, Terry Spinks, Danny Clark, and Dave ‘Boy’ Green (also from Chatteris.)   In “Chatteris Thunderbolt” Lonkhurst has brought Eric Boon back to life in great style, with a vivid and honest account about the trails and triumphs of a fighter who lit up the British boxing scene, and is still fondly remembered today, even by people who never saw him fight, but just heard or read about his ring exploits.

This book is a great read for any follower of boxing, especially those interested in the fighters of yesteryear, when boxing was one of the most socially important, and popular sports of all. 

‘Chatteris Thunderbolt’ was originally published in 2012, and has a nice collection of photographs, and a full rundown of Eric Boon’s boxing record.

Copyright © 2016 The Boxing Glove, Inc. Peter Silkov Art. All Rights Reserved. Peter Silkov contributes to

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