I RECENTLY had the considerable pleasure of returning two scrapbooks detailing the boxing career of a 1930’s fighter to his family.  I acquired these books about 20 years ago and they have been languishing in my study ever since. I was contacted by the family of Tommy Marren for information about his ring career and it seemed proper to pass the books back to them.

Tommy Marren was from Burnley, and he was a prolific fighter during boxing’s busiest period, the late 1920s to the mid-1930s. He was born in 1907 and by the time he was a teenager he was a coalminer and a fighter, and that excellent combination of attributes bred some real good scrappers, as is well known. His career lasted for only seven years between 1928 and 1935 but during that time Tommy had 169 contests, losing only 41. He is best remembered today as the Northern Area welterweight champion in 1934 and as the holder of the Jem Mace belt, which he won in the same contest that saw him pick up the area title.

In 1934 the Northern area encompassed the area covered by its equivalent today, as well as the whole of the present-day Central Area and a large part of the current Midlands area. The Southern area included Birmingham but just about everywhere north of that city was ‘Northern’.  Tommy, therefore, was the champion of a huge area and to win this title at that time was quite a feat. The Jem Mace belt, originally won by the master himself in 1861 when he stopped Sam Hurst in a bareknuckle contest is thankfully still in the hands of the family today.

Tommy averaged one bout per fortnight throughout his career and the majority of those were 12-rounders. In the first three months of 1931, for instance, he had 11 bouts including three 15-rounders and six 12-rounders and he won nine of them. In one of these contests, he badly injured his right hand and was advised by his doctor to quit the sport. He ignored this advice and boxed on for another four years, taking part in over 100 more bouts.

The Northern Area title contest took place in May 1934 at the Winter Gardens, Morecambe. This was a prestigious venue in those days with weekly shows taking place throughout most of the decade. Tommy and his opponent, John Melia of Bradford, were the finalists in a welterweight tournament open to any fighter in Britain, for which there were originally 28 entrants. The tournament took place over a six-month period, commencing in December 1933, and to reach the final Tommy had to beat Harry White, Bob Parkin and his great rival Tommy Kenny, a fellow townsman from Burnley. Marren and Kenny had previously met twice with Tommy winning both and he comfortably outpointed Kenny in the semi-final after decking him in the 11th.

The Northen Area council then decided to recognise this tournament final between Marren and Melia as being for their vacant area welterweight title.  The Jem Mace belt, acquired by the promoter and to be awarded to the tournament winner, was the icing on the cake.

Tommy had a rough time in the early stages of the final with Melia building up a good lead before staggering Marren in the fifth with a short right. He failed to follow up his advantage and Tommy came back into it. In the ninth round Melia was stopped with a bad cut and Tommy became the champion.

He lost his title in later in the year when Hanley’s Pat Haley blitzed him in one round. After retirement Tommy bought a gym in Burnley and coached young lads for many years. The Star Gym, as it was known, was eventually pulled down and Tommy left the sport with only his memories. He died in 1989 aged 82, a proud man.