ONE of the things that most pleases me about the modern game is the fact that the sport has returned to its grass roots, to the public halls, small and large, up and down the country where anyone can pay to see their local stars in action. When I started following boxing, in the early ‘70s, most shows were held within private sporting clubs, and the boxers on the bill were far from being local – most of them had travelled in excess of 100 miles to appear. It was quite difficult for many young boxers, in those days, to find work locally in places where their friends and admirers could see them perform.

That said, there was no such thing as the ‘home’ and ‘away’ fighter, bouts were much more competitively matched and the ‘journeymen’, a term that has lost much of its original meaning, were just as likely to win as to lose. When I scan the 2019 ratings published by BN in January, I can count over 1,000 active professionals. This is a huge increase on the situation 30 or 40 years ago and this, too, is pleasing. However, only 19 of these fighters have both won, and lost, 10 or more contests. Of those, only five have winning records. So, hats off to Dorian Darch, Nathan Graham, Faheem Khan, Sean Davis and Michael Ramabeletsa, for you are professionals of the old school.

Back in 1975 there were no less than 53 fighters, out of a total of 354 active professionals, who had won and lost at least 10 contests, and the majority of those had winning records. It is these professionals that appear to be lost to the game nowadays, and their passing is to be mourned, for it is my belief that these are the best sort of fighters that the up-and-comer can learn from. Alan Minter, so sadly lost to us recently, is a case in point. Within his first twelve bouts he met Maurice Thomas (15-16-4), Ronnie Hough (20-12-4), Pat Dwyer (34-10-2), Harry Scott (39-32-6), Frank Young (19-13-3) and Don McMillan (29-17-5). Six seasoned British professionals, all on the way down in terms of their career trajectory, but all of whom knew enough to really test a young entrant to the sport, and how Minter benefited!

This week’s photograph shows Eddie Fenton, who, along with his brother Steve, typified the sort of professional I mean. Eddie won 22 of his 53 contests between 1974 and 1984. On his way up the ladder he had to get past the likes of Dave Parris, Guinea Roger, Steve Foley, Syd Paddock and Sid Falconer, all of whom not only represented a stiff test but were also trying their damnedest to win. By the time Eddie reached Area level, another term treated rather derogatively today, he had had 24 contests. He lost against Garfield McEwan for the Midlands Area heavyweight title in 1976. Following further losses to the likes of Danny McAlinden, Ishaq Hussein and Terry O’Connor, Eddie made the switch down to light-heavyweight. He had never been a particularly big heavyweight, and this was his problem.

At the lighter weight he started badly, losing his first three, but then he began to find his feet. A draw against Roy John and three close fights with Tim Wood, one of which he won, put him on the map. He then beat Tony Allen to win the Midlands Area light-heavyweight title in 1979. He lost this belt to Harry White later that year, regained it four months later when he showed considerable aggression in outscoring the Northampton man, and then he lost it again to Roy Skeldon in an all-out war. When he announced his retirement from the ring that night, he was applauded out of the hall. I do hope that before my time is up, I will once again see the likes of Eddie Fenton within the game.