Friday, October 6, 2017

On This Day: Terry Downes Remembered

By Peter Silkov

Terry Downes, who passed away yesterday at the age of 81 years old, was one of Britain’s most exciting and popular fighters. A middleweight who fought with a slam-bang American style, which earned him the nick name of “The Bashing Dashing Smashing” Terry Downes. There was never a dull moment when Terry Downes was in the boxing ring.

Outside of the ring, Downes was a personable and witty character, who became known for his dry sense of humor, and down to earth honesty.

Downes was born on May 9, 1936, in Paddington, London, and started boxing as an amateur in London. When he was 15 years old, Downes moved with his parents to America, and joined the Marines. It was while boxing in the Marines that Downes adopted the aggressive, all-action style of American boxing. Downes would go on to win the U.S. All Services amateur title before returning to London and turning professional in 1957.

With his swashbuckling style in the ring and colourful personality outside of it, Downes was an instant hit with the fans. He did however suffer an early setback when in his 3rd professional fight, when he was unwisely matched with future middleweight and light-heavyweight world champion Dick Tiger, who was having his 29th contest. Tiger, who was viewed more of an ‘opponent’ at this stage of his career, stopped Downes in 6 rounds.

However this was to be just a minor setback for Downes, and he was back in the ring just three weeks later. This was an era where a defeat did not mean the end of a prospects career, as fighters took their setbacks with an acceptance not seen today, and bounced back as soon as they could.

Downes went on to win 14 of his next 16 contests, and then on September 30, 1958, he won the vacant British middleweight title by stopping Phil Edwards in the 13th round.

However, after winning the British title, over the next 12 months Downes career stalled, as he lost to both Spider Webb and Michel Diouf on cuts stoppages. If Downes had a major flaw as a fighter it was his propensity to cut during fights, especially on the nose.

Then on September 15, 1959, Downes lost the British middleweight title to John McCormack, when he was disqualified in the 8th round. This fight had also been for the Commonwealth middleweight title, which McCormack already had in his possession.

Downes remained determined though, and these setback simply seemed to strengthen his resolve to reach the top. He ended the year by getting his career back on track when he regained the British Middleweight title and also winning the Commonwealth middleweight title.

After notching up a further run of five victories, including a defence of his British middleweight title, and an impressive 10 rounds points victory over future world champion, Joey Giardello.

Downes traveled to America, on January 14, 1961, and challenged Paul Pender for the World middleweight title. This was to be the first of a three fight series between Downes and Pender, with each fight bloody and action packed. In their first encounter Downes fought hard, but was stopped on cuts in the 7th round.

Six months later, the pair fought again for Pender’s World middleweight title, this time in London, and this time Downes proved to be too strong and forced Pender to retire on his stool after 10 rounds. Downes was world middleweight champion, Britains first middleweight champion since Randy Turpin's legendary victory over Sugar Ray Robinson in 1951.

Downes reign as World champion lasted nine months, then on April 7, 1962, he traveled to America to make his first defence against Pender, and lost his world title after the awkward and clever Pender beat him on points.

Terry would put together another run of victories, including a 10 rounds points win over a still useful at 41 years old, Sugar Ray Robinson. Yet despite these wins Downes did not secure another shot at the world middleweight title.

Eventually Downes moved up to light heavyweight and challenged Willie Pastrano for the World light heavyweight title on November 30, 1964. Downes gave his usual all-out action performance against Pastrano, and after 10 rounds was well ahead on points, but then in the 11th Pastrano, not usually known for his punch power, dropped Downes twice, and although Downes beat both counts the referee stopped the fight. Terry Downes never fought again, saying that he wanted to quit while he was still on top.

In his retirement, Downes found work as an actor, both on stage and in films, and he also made money by investing in property and a chain of betting shops. He also became a fervent supporter of a number of charities.

Downes’s final boxing record was 35(28koes)-9.

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