ADVERTISER 150: East London’s boxing writer Len Whaley’s round with the paper lasts 50 years

Advertiser's Len Whaley

Advertiser's Len Whaley - Credit: Archant

We continue with our 150th anniversary week looking at the East London Advertiser’s news since 1866 with a glimpse from the boxing ring at some of the best known names of the Fight Game down the years, witnessed by veteran sports correspondent Len Whaley, in his words:

Boxers Jimmy Tibbs and Mohammed Ali with sports reporter Len Whaley

Boxers Jimmy Tibbs and Mohammed Ali with sports reporter Len Whaley - Credit: Archant

I would point out it is not me celebrating my 150th birthday—it’s the East London Advertiser! I can look back on a mere half-century covering the fight scene for the newspaper.

I saw Stracey win a European title on a tennis court in Paris in 1974. A year later he was battling on a bullring in Mexico City shocking the boxing world by stopping the legendary Jose Napoles to win the WBC world welterweight title.

He was followed by fellow members of the highly successful Terry Lawless stable in Magri and Hope who also celebrated global glory, in 1979 and 1983 respectively.

I watched Marsh’s world title triumph in a circus tent in Basildon then the world title trail took me to Las Vegas in 1989 where Bruno was halted in five rounds by Mike Tyson at the peak of his powers.

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Seven years later I witnessed the same result in the same city after Bruno was stopped by Tyson in three rounds, losing the title he won the previous summer beating Oliver McCall on a magic evening at Wembley.

In 1995 I had seen the brutal battle which saw two-weight world champion Benn defeat American Gerald McClellan at Millwall’s London Arena.

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Like Benn, Barker had to climb off the canvas to beat tough Aussie Daniel Geale in Atlantic City to win the IBF middleweight title in 2013.

But the East End’s connection with boxing goes back at least a century before the Advertiser first appeared in 1866—famous bare knuckle fighter Daniel Mendoza was unbeaten in 27 fights up to 1788.

He was a national hero who for a time lived in Paradise Row, Bethnal Green, where a blue plaque was hung in his name in the days when the Advertiser offices were in the same building.

Regarded as the “father of scientific boxing”, he started a trail that was followed by east London ring idols of the early 20th century like Aldgate’s Ted ‘Ki’ Lewis, Pride of Poplar Johnny Baldock and Whitechapel Whirlwind Jack “Kid” Berg.

Later came the fighters I watched develop from novices into world champions—John H Stracey, Maurice Hope, Charlie Magri, Terry Marsh, Frank Bruno, Nigel Benn and Darren Barker.

Alongside the world title tussles, I have also enjoyed small hall shows for the Advertiser by the hundred, with many more special nights and great fights. The winners and the losers are all special.

—Len Whaley

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