BOXING has a habit of throwing up some very interesting characters and Streatham’s Peter Cheevers is one of them. Peter is one of a number of boxers, mainly London-based, who went on to enjoy a decent career as an actor once his ring career was over. Peter also occasionally performed as a stunt man, including once for Paul McCartney.
Born in 1942, Cheevers was only 18 when he won the ABA championship at featherweight in 1961. He was the protégé of Dave Charnley, at the time the reigning British, Empire and European lightweight champion.
Only 10 days before young Peter won his amateur title, Dave had gone the full 15 for the world lightweight title against “Old Bones” Joe Brown. Peter turned pro later that year, at lightweight, and his first contest took place at the Empire Pool, Wembley, on the undercard of Henry Cooper’s two-round defeat at the hands of Zora Folley. Cheevers kayoed Pat Loughran in one round with a peach of a right hook.
He enjoyed a very good start to his career, winning his first six. In September 1962 he returned to the Empire Pool for an eight-round contest with Coventry’s Peter Heath. Top-of-the-bill that night was Terry Downes against a ‘past it’ Sugar Ray Robinson. Just how accommodating this all-time great was, can be seen by the show of enthusiasm he is giving in the publicity photograph taken with young Peter prior to the show. Robinson was always most gracious with the youngsters appearing down the card on the three bills that he fought on within the UK in the early ‘sixties. This experience will have meant a lot to the young lad, but it did not help him in his contest, for Heath, a seasoned pro, knew too much for Peter and outboxed him, despite being down for two counts in the second round. The programme notes for this contest stated that Cheevers was a certain future British champion.
Having recently switched managers, from Jim Wicks to Bert McCarthy, this defeat was a setback and when he returned to the ring six weeks later, he eased to a fourth-round stoppage over another Sugar Ray, this time a Nigerian with the surname Johnson.
In 1963 he was upset again, this time by Brian Jones of Nottingham, who stopped him in seven at Shoreditch Town Hall. Again, the winner was an older and more experienced pro, and again Peter had his man in trouble early. BN reported that “Jones, always difficult to hit with a good punch, was doubly hard to catch with a left hook, which is Cheevers’ chief attacking weapon. Peter, much the taller, was always going forward throwing punches but very few landed on target. Yet a straight left and right cross to the jaw had Brian down late in the third, and the bell coming to his rescue with the count at six. Cheevers failed to follow up at the start of the fourth but late in the round had Jones down again, this time for eight.”
In the seventh it was Cheevers’ turn to be decked twice before Pat Floyd stopped the bout.
Peter fought on for another 18 months, and after an undefeated run of 10 contests he lost his final bout to Joe Tetteh of Ghana, a really good fighter. Peter only lost three from 22 contests but never realised his true potential. One year after retiring from the ring, he stood in for Paul McCartney in the film Help, acting as his stuntman. Peter was a good-looking kid, and it is easy to see how he could be a convincing stand in for the famous Beatle. He also starred in Minder, The Bill and a handful of films as well as some challenging stage work, including Shakespeare. Now in his 80th year, Peter has a lot to be proud about. He has led an eventful life.