THERE weren’t many better fighters around before the first world war than Johnny Summers, Freddie Welsh, Owen Moran, Jim Driscoll and Ted Kid Lewis, and one man fought all of them. Seaman Arthur Hayes was among the very best of a group of fighters at that time, who never won a British title, although he did come close.

Arthur was a navy boxer before he turned professional in 1904, and within two years he had become a leading featherweight. He boxed against Johnny Summers, later the British champion at both lightweight and welterweight, at the National Sporting Club in 1906, losing a hard-fought 20-rounder on points. He also went the distance in his losing encounters with Moran, Welsh (twice) and Lewis. Driscoll was the only one of this group of great fighters to stop Hayes, and he did so in a 1910 contest for the British featherweight title. Driscoll simply outclassed his man, before stopping him in the sixth round of a one-sided bout.

Despite this loss Hayes was still good enough to command large purses and his services were in great demand, where he would frequently be brought in to test the abilities of the local talent breaking through. In this sense, he performed a role similar to that of today’s journeymen, except that Arthur usually won. In September 1912 he travelled to Manchester to take on Allan Porter of Salford in a 15-rounder. Arthur had already been to Manchester twice that year, stopping both Billy Marchant and Harold Walker in winning contests, and he was looking for the hat-trick.

Allan Porter is a fighter in whom I have had a long-standing interest. In 1912 he put together a decent run and the fight with Hayes was considered a 50-50 match. Earlier that year Porter had gone the distance with Ted Kid Lewis and since then he had won five on the trot to set up the match with Hayes.

BN reported that “From the fifth round Hayes drove Porter from pillar to post and hit him where and when he liked. Porter was certainly game, and persevered against hopeless odds, but the punishment dealt out to him was so heavy as to cause the referee to intervene in the unlucky thirteenth round, as he was hanging on the ropes helpless.” This was a defeat from which Porter would not recover. Ten days later Porter met George Mackness of Kettering in a 10-rounder at the Liverpool Stadium and as Mackness had lost his previous five contests it was supposed to be an easy one for the Salford fighter. Within a minute of the start Mackness had Porter in serious trouble and in the seventh the referee stopped the bout as Porter was ‘unable to walk to his dressing quarters, owing to having collapsed on his return to his corner. Three doctors were immediately in attendance upon him, and, responding to treatment, he partially revived, but it was thought advisable to have him removed to the infirmary’.

He later had a relapse, fell unconscious and was found to be suffering from concussion. He finally came around in the evening of the following day. It was the beating he suffered at the hands of Arthur Hayes that led to this fine fighter’s downfall. Within five years Porter was dead, his body lost forever in the mud of the Western Front.

Seaman Hayes went on to contest an eliminator for the British featherweight title in 1915, losing to Llew Edwards of Porth, the eventual champion, by 10th round stoppage with BN stating that “Under the hail of blows the gallant Seaman fell outside the ring obviously beaten but with his unquenchable spirit burning as brightly as ever.” He retired in 1924, the winner of 95 of his 160 professional contests.