KEVIN BATCHELOR has recently produced a huge book that tells the history of the Belsize Boxing Club from its inception in 1882 until its demise 99 years later. For anyone interested in the history and development of amateur boxing in general, the progression of the amateur game in London, or more specifically the story of this fine old club, then Kevin’s book is a must. The research that has gone into it is impressive. Kevin tells the story over the course 482 pages and he draws upon primary source material wherever he can. The pages are interspersed with original press cuttings gleaned from a myriad of sporting journals to provide first-hand evidence of the many fine tales, characters and contests that the club is famous for.

For those who do not know the story of the Belsize BC then the title of the book provides a clue, The Belsize Boxing Club – The Toffs’ Institution that Transformed Boxing. The club was famous for its links to the rich and famous, the well-to-do and a litany of interesting people that moved within high society. In his preface, for instance, Kevin relates the tale of the day that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, was the finalist in the club’s annual championships, at middleweight.   Arthur ‘Peggy’ Bettinson of National Sporting Club (NSC) fame virtually ran professional boxing in the UK during the latter years of the 19th century and he was the Belsize club captain during 1883. The most famous referee at the NSC was J H ‘Jack’ Douglas, and he became the president of the Belsize in 1907. His son, JWHT Douglas, not only won an Olympic Games gold medal at middleweight in 1908, but he also captained England in an Ashes-winning cricket series against Australia in 1911-12. Do you see what I mean about the club moving in high circles?

Nine members of the club won ABA titles, and Kevin has researched them all, with their amateur records being included in considerable detail. It is not an easy task to find this material, as I know only too well, and I am not aware of any amateur records from the period before the first world war being researched as thoroughly, so well done Kevin!

Off the top of my head, I can think of four interesting men who all boxed for the club and Kevin tells their stories in much better detail than I could.  A 1930s fighter by the name of Desmond Jeans had a handful of contests at heavyweight and he caused quite a stir, as he regularly wore a monocle. He had a number of bouts in Paris and in the major halls in London and his biggest contest was a stoppage loss to Jack Pettifer at the Royal Albert Hall. Charles McKenzie-Hill, better known as ‘Butch’ won the 1960 NE London Divisionals at light-heavyweight and represented London against Moscow in an amateur international.  He was a top 10 UK amateur at heavyweight, and he went on to become a very wealthy man indeed. Older readers will remember Srikumar Sen, the boxing correspondent of the Times newspaper, and a very fine journalist and writer to this day. Srikumar boxed for the Belsize in the 1947 when he first came to the UK, as a 15-year-old, from India. He then went up to Oxford University, won a boxing blue, and, after joining the Times, he saw and reported on every great heavyweight from Ali to Tyson. Finally, my friend John Handelaar, at one time both Vice-Chairman and President of the BBBoC, where he still sits as an Administrative Steward, is another who boxed for the club. John is now getting on a little, as he won’t mind me saying, but back in the day he had many contests for the Belsize and could look after himself.

Kevin is grateful to BN for the support offered during the book’s production, and he can be contacted directly for anyone wishing to buy a copy: