BETWEEN the wars there was no finer British trainer than Jack Goodwin. An ex-fighter himself, like so many good trainers, and brother to the prolific Joe Goodwin of Spitalfields, who campaigned at the top level throughout Britain during the Edwardian era, Jack knew the game inside out.
Writing in BN in 1951, Bill Evans stated that Tommy Milligan should have had Goodwin in his corner the night he lost to Mickey Walker for the world middleweight title in 1927. As it was, Milligan’s corner was chaotic and did not provide him with good, clear advice. Milligan went down in 10 rounds. Of Goodwin, Evans stated that prior to the contest “Goodwin had been watching Walker every day, and there was no better judge in the world of how to beat a man he has learned about.”
In those days top level trainers like Goodwin would often hire a large public house, usually on the outskirts of London, in which to establish a training camp for a forthcoming championship contest. Goodwin liked to use the Black Bull, at Whetstone, near Barnet and he trained many a good fighter there. His training methods might seem odd to the modern eye but the fighters he educated would be just as good today as they were then.
Take Charlie Hardcastle from Barnsley, for instance. Charlie was one of two British featherweight champions that Goodwin trained between 1917 and 1921, the other being Joe Fox of Leeds, who Goodwin often cited as the best man he ever trained. Hardcastle, according to Goodwin, had the hardest punch of any nine-stone man that he had ever seen. He was never quite the same after opponent Louis Hood died after a contest with him in 1916 but he was still good enough to knock out Alf Wye in one round the following year to pick up the British title. After his victory, which took place at the National Sporting Club on a Monday night, Hardcastle travelled back to Barnsley on the train and he was back down the pit on the Wednesday, plying his trade as a coal miner.
The following year another of Jack’s fighters, Bandsman Blake, defended his British middleweight title, again at the National Sporting Club, against Pat O’Keefe of Canning Town. When Blake was in the dressing room, warming up immediately before the contest, an air raid started. A German Zeppelin started to drop bombs in the area around the club and this completely unnerved the Bandsman. Goodwin could do nothing to settle him, and the lad went out to meet O’Keefe while the raid was still in progress and got knocked cold in two rounds. Goodwin was an endless source of yarns like these, and his book Myself and My Boxers provides an excellent insight into the fight game 100 years ago.
In 1932 Goodwin was called in by Larry Gains to assist him in his preparation for his forthcoming contest with the South African, Maurice Strickland, at the Royal Albert Hall. The contest topped the bill on an all-heavyweight card at this famous old venue, and Gains, who in his next fight would beat Primo Carnera, was on the way up and rated just outside the world top 10. His selection of Goodwin was a shrewd choice by a fighter who wanted the best man available in his corner.
In the BN report for the event the headline read “Thrills, Spills and a Tragedy”. The thrills and spills referred to the exciting contest that the two men put up, with Gains winning by decision after the full 15. The tragedy described was the death of Jack Goodwin, who collapsed in the corner during the 13th round, the victim of a heart attack. In an obituary one week later, BN stated that “Many where the eyes that were made wet with tears as he was carried away from the ring.”
He died doing what he loved most, at no age at all.