THE British heavyweight scene during the 1920s and 1930s was greatly enlivened by the presence of many notable boxers from what was then known as our empire. One of the main inspirations for this was, of course, the First World War. In order to achieve victory during four years of armed struggle, it was necessary to muster as many troops as possible, and great swathes came across from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, India and Africa. With them came some very worthy boxers and when on leave they could earn some extra pay by taking on the cream of British talent at the very many small halls that existed, particularly in London. Some of them stayed on after the war and others, upon returning home, encouraged their fistic compatriots to make the trip to Britain in order to progress up the boxing ladder.

The heavyweight scene was dominated during the 1920s by Phil Scott, the fighting fireman, and he eventually fought unsuccessfully against Jack Sharkey in a final eliminator for the world title at Miami Beach in February 1930. Ten years earlier, as he started to make a name for himself, Phil had to contend with many colonial invaders. The first of these, Albert Lloyd of Australia, flattened him in three rounds at The Ring, Blackfriars in late 1922. Lloyd took part in 29 contests during a three-year period in the early ‘20s and he won about half of them, becoming a great favourite with the fans. Earlier that year he had boxed the Canadian, Soldier Horace Jones, in a 20-rounder, also at the Blackfriars hall, and he beat his fellow colonial after 10 rounds of hard fighting. The bout was terminated when Jones, well ahead on points, hit Lloyd when he was down and was promptly disqualified. Lloyd went on to box Bombardier Billy Wells, Ted Moore, Jack Bloomfield, Frank Moody and Jack Stanley, all of whom were either champions or challengers for the British title.

After losing to Lloyd, Jones boxed another Australian, George Cook, at Holland Park in a top-of-the-bill 20-rounder and Cook outpointed him quite easily. Cook was one of the best of the heavyweight imports at this time and he campaigned extensively in the UK until the mid-1930s. He lost twice to Phil Scott, the second defeat, in 1926, being for the Empire belt. He also fought two challengers for the world title in big contests in London, losing in four rounds to Georges Carpentier and beating Tom Heeney of New Zealand at Premierland, then the leading East End venue, in 1925. Heeney boxed nine times in the UK and Ireland, and he was another who Scott had to master as he trod his path to stardom. Scott beat Tom twice over the full distance, once at The Ring and once at The Dell, the home of Southampton FC. Another Canadian, Larry Gains, boxed in the UK for most of his career and was a household name across the country when he finally hung up his gloves in 1942. He had his first contest at The Ring in 1923 and then moved to France, and then Germany, where he established himself as one of the best heavies in Europe. He is famous for stopping a young Max Schmeling in two rounds in 1925. After a period boxing in the States and in Canada, Gains returned to Britain in 1929 and after winning 17 straight bouts, 10 of them in Britain, he was matched with Phil Scott, who was then very much on the slide. The two met at the Leicester Tigers rugby ground and Scott was smacked around the ring with ease before being knocked out in two rounds. Gains went on to win the Empire title and became one of the most successful of our colonial imports.