I HAD a great time at the British Boxing Board of Control awards luncheon on March 17 and it was great to see so many great British boxers having their photographs taken alongside each other by so many people. It was especially pleasing to see Clinton McKenzie, for my money one of the best of the many fine British champions of the late 1970s.

While I normally confine myself to British boxers in this column, I remembered the accompanying picture, which has been in my collection for some time and shows five great world welterweight champions posing together in Los Angeles. Three of them did box in the UK, one of them many times.

The occasion was the forthcoming bout between Jimmy McLarnin and Young Corbett III in May 1933. In the picture, McLarnin is second right, and he looks every inch the budding challenger. I suspect his camp threw a curve ball in the hope that putting the challenger alongside four former champions would make a statement. It certainly worked, for Corbett was dispatched within a round and McLarnin earned his rightful place alongside the other greats in this photograph.

On the left is Young Jack Thompson, who won the title in 1930. Recently retired, Thompson won the title by beating Jackie Fields. In his previous contest he had dropped a 10-round decision to McLarnin at Madison Square Garden. Thompson died in 1946, aged only 41.

Next to him is Tommy Ryan, who had won the title as far back as 1894 when he beat Mysterious Billy Smith over 20 rounds. Ryan came to the UK in 1902 to defend his title at the National Sporting Club. He beat another American, Johnny Gorman by third round knockout. At the time the NSC was running a week-long tournament to celebrate the coronation of King Edward VII, a boxing fan of some renown and a frequent visitor to the club.

Among other leading Americans who boxed that week were Gus Ruhlin, Tom Sharkey, Denver Ed Martin and Joe Walcott. Quite what they made of the club and its members, with its strict policy of no talking during the boxing, is anyone’s guess.

In the centre is the great Mickey Walker, world welterweight champion in 1922. He was also one of the greatest of all middleweight champions and he defended his title at Olympia, Kensington in 1927 when he put paid to the hopes of the British champion, Tommy Milligan of Hamilton, in 10 rounds in a one-sided contest. Milligan had his moments, but Walker was a different class altogether. In 1933, Walker was campaigning in the light-heavyweight division, having also tried his luck, largely unsuccessfully, as a heavyweight. He had drawn with Jack Sharkey in 1931 but then he got stopped in eight by Max Schmeling in 1932 and thought better of it.

Next to McLarnin is the great Dixie Kid. This fighter picked up the welterweight title in 1904 by beating Joe Walcott. His victory was marred by the fact that the referee, who called a halt to proceedings in the last round, had actually bet on the Dixie Kid to win it. His title claim, therefore, is tenuous in the extreme. That said, the Kid was a great fighter and a big draw in the UK and Europe, where he campaigned exclusively between 1911 and 1920. He was a very popular fighter over here and he took part in 58 contests on these shores in virtually every significant venue. He even boxed at the end of the pier in Great Yarmouth in 1914.

The Ring, Blackfriars was his spiritual home in London, and he topped the bill there many times. The Dixie Kid died just one year after this picture was taken, after falling out of a window in a Los Angeles tower block. He died, as did so many others like him, in penury.

Here he stands though, proudly amongst the greats of his division.