IN THE very early years of the last century there were two boxing venues in Liverpool operating in direct competition with one another: The Malakoff Club on Cleveland Square, and the Gymnastic Club on Dale Street, half a mile up the road.
These were the two main venues in the city at the time and, on March 31 1902, the Gymnastic Club staged a tournament that saw Jack Fairclough of St Helens face a local lad, Billy Brierley over twenty rounds. Earlier that evening the referee had officiated a bout in which an American, Billy Barrett, knocked out Billy Willoughby, a Manchester fighter, in two rounds. Barrett had arrived in the UK earlier that year and, as a previous opponent of ‘Terrible’ Terry McGovern, the ex-featherweight champion of the world, he had mixed in exalted company. He campaigned across the UK until 1904, making Liverpool his base.
When the main event took place, nothing much happened for eight rounds and the referee got so fed up that he walked out of the ring leaving the contest in abeyance. He could have just declared ‘No Contest’ but he chose to clear off, disgusted with the fighters. Another referee, Dan Whelligan, took over and the bout ended up as a draw. The name of the original referee was Kinsella, and when I saw this in the report, I immediately thought of the Liverpool heavyweight from the 1970s, Paul Kinsella. Only last year, another Liverpool fighter with this name, Harry Kinsella, made his debut just along from Dale Street, at the Echo Arena.
I get quite excited when I can make these connections across over 120 years of boxing history in just one city. I have no idea whether the exasperated referee in 1902 is any relation of Harry and Paul, but I strongly suspect that he is.
Another case in point are Jim and Billy Pennington of Patricroft in Manchester. Both of these lads were active at the same time as Barrett, and they fought in various venues around the city. In my capacity as a Board official, I have met Joe Pennington, the leading light of the of the Northside boxing club, quite a few times and I can’t help but wonder if his boxing ancestry goes back to Jim and Billy. I will have to ask him when I see him.
Paul Kinsella was a hard man. He only had 12 professional contests during a career which lasted between 1975 and 1978 but he left his mark. He never boxed in his native city, fighting instead out of London, under top trainer, George Francis. As an amateur Paul won the National Schools, the Junior ABA, the Royal Navy and the Northern Counties championships. He came unstuck in the 1975 ABA semi-final, losing out to Garfield McEwan of Birmingham’s Rum Runner ABC. He briefly served as a Royal Marine, hence his Navy title.
In a sensational professional debut, he blasted out Pat Quinn of Manchester in only 50 seconds at the Anglo-American Sporting Club in London’s Hilton Hotel, in front of Prince Charles. He was unbeaten in his first six fights before the wheels fell off. He was rated at number 10 in the BN rankings for March 1976, with his previous amateur conqueror, Garfield McEwan at 11 and Eddie Fenton, who I featured in a September 2020 article, at 12.
Kinsella and Fenton were matched the following month in a six-rounder at the Royal Albert Hall, on the undercard of Alan Minter’s demolition of Billy Knight. Under the headline “Kinsella crashes in thriller”, BN reported that Larry O’Connell stopped the bout in the fourth, officially due to a badly split upper lip, with Kinsella looking beaten. “It was the most bruising preliminary fight of the year so far, and few main events have matched it for effort, drama, or excitement,” we wrote. Paul was never the same after that contest, but I remember him as one of the Kinsellas of Liverpool, a proper boxing city.