Former heavyweight Hartlepool boxer Brian London dies aged 87
Hartlepool boxing legend Brian London has sadly passed away at the age of 87 following ill health.
Brian London, born Brian Harper, was born in West Hartlepool in 1934 before moving to Blackpool when he was 16 and remained there up until his death.
He died on June 23 just four days on from his birthday following a bout of ill health.
London, also known as the “Blackpool Rock” enjoyed a 15-year boxing career as a heavyweight, fighting 58 times and was the British and Commonwealth heavyweight champion from 1958 to 1959 before famously battling Muhammad Ali in 1966.
London was one of a quartet of British boxers, with Henry Cooper, Joe Erskine, and Dick Richardson, who dominated the British boxing scene throughout the 1950s and 1960s.
When asked what he could have done differently against Ali in an interview, the Hartlepool fighter said “shoot him”.
“He was a phenomenon, a great fighter,” recalled Brian. “His speed was phenomenal.”
His father, Jack London, won the British heavyweight title in 1944 while his brother, Jack Junior who was also Hartlepool born and bred, fought as a light-heavyweight.
The champion boxer claimed the British and Commonwealth titles with an eighth-round knockout of Welsh fighter Joe Erskine in June 1958.
In January 1959, London lost his titles before he challenged for the world title on the first of two occasions in May 1959 when he challenged title holder Floyd Patterson in Indianapolis.
Unfortunately he returned to the UK empty-handed after being knocked out in the 11th round.
In August 1966, not long after England’s World Cup final win, London challenged for the world title for a second time at the age of 32.
The sport’s greatest fighter of all time, Muhammad Ali, was his opponent in a bout staged at Earl’s Court in London.
Ali, aged just 24 at the time, put on a masterful performance, eventually securing a knockout in the third round.
London enjoyed the last win in his career in 1967 with a points victory against the talented American Zora Folley, who had lost a world title fight with Ali earlier that year.
Following his retirement, London became a businessman in Blackpool, owning several nightclubs.