By Miles Templeton

BIG-PUNCHING Eddie Neilson of Swindon was a fan favourite back in the 1970s. I remember him well as a very exciting heavyweight who was usually involved in explosive contests that ended early, one way or the other.

He had 37 professional contests between 1972 and 1983 and only five of them went the distance. A decent amateur career ended in 1972 when he was beaten in the ABA quarter-final by Leicester’s Tim Wood.  The BN report tells you all you need to know about Eddie and his approach to the game: “Belgrave heavyweight Tim Wood covered himself in glory with a tremendous fightback to edge a well-deserved majority decision over rugged Eddie Neilson (Swindon).  The bruising, all-action punch-up was the highlight of a splendid evening’s boxing.  Few people expected Wood to survive the opening session. The big Swindon southpaw shook off an opening barrage to hand back some stick.  With a minute of the round left Wood was looking distressed and was trapped on the ropes and under heavy fire.”  The Midland team that night included, as well as Wood, Pat Cowdell, Kirkland Laing and Larry Paul. All four of them are Midland legends.

Following this amateur defeat Eddie went pro with Cardiff manager Mac Williams and quickly chalked up some impressive wins, winning five of his first six inside the distance. He then beat Dennis Avoth, about whom I wrote recently, in a tough eight-rounder in November 1972 to end a very successful year. By this time he was knocking at the door of the UK top 10 and was causing a lot of excitement. In his ninth contest he was stopped by Newcastle’s Brian Jewitt when a very nasty gashed right eyelid caused his retirement in the second round, and this was the first sign of an injury that plagued Eddie throughout his career.

After a few more wins Eddie was matched with his first import, Joe Batten, a smart-punching American from Milwaukee, at the World Sporting Club. This match proved disastrous for Eddie as he was knocked out in the second round of a free-swinging war. A similar loss to Brazilian Vasco Faustinho at the end of 1973 seemed to suggest that, while Eddie could certainly hit, he was susceptible himself to hard-hitting opponents. Mac Williams remained optimistic in stating that: “At least we know what’s wrong with Eddie. It’s just a case of putting things right.”

A terrific year followed in 1974 with nine straight wins including a revenge stoppage over Faustinho and a seventh-round knockout over Tim Wood. By this time Eddie was fourth in line for Danny McAlinden’s British title, behind Joe Bugner, Bunny Johnson and Billy Aird, but once again a tricky foreigner came over to spoil everything. Nigerian Ngozika Ekwelum, on his UK debut, floored Eddie four times on the way to a two-round victory. Neilson took some time out after this, partly with back trouble, but returned five months later on the undercard of the first Chris Finnegan-Johnny Frankham contest at the Royal Albert Hall. He hammered US veteran Mike Boswell in three and then followed things up by going over to the States to beat John L Johnson in Miami.

During 1977 through 1979 Eddie – whose son, Mark Nielson, is today one of the top small hall promoters in the country – only fought three times under new manager Ricky Porter, and he then retired. The inevitable comeback took place in 1982 and in his second bout that year BN reported that “The Swindon Steamroller put his British title hopes back in gear with a stunning third-round knockout of Tottenham’s Larry McDonald. Neilson hit McDonald so hard with a left hook that he lifted him clean off his feet.”

In his final three contests Eddie boxed Joe Bugner, Frank Bruno and the late Rudi Pika. All three bouts ended with Neilson’s troublesome right eye giving him big problems.  He never did win that elusive title but, boy, did he entertain us all in trying.