IT IS unusual for two brothers to both win a British title, much more so for them to win the same British title.
Dick and Harry Corbett were the first two brothers to win a British title, Dick at bantam and Harry at feather, back in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Dick and Randolph Turpin were the first brothers to win the same title, at middleweight in 1948 and 1950 respectively. The first two cousins to win the same British title were Pat and Les McAteer, also at middleweight. The Curvis brothers from Swansea, Cliff and Brian, also both won the British welterweight title yet their paths, in doing so, were markedly different.
Their actual surname was Nancurvis and they came from a fighting family. Cliff claimed that their mother’s great-uncle, Shamos Warner, was a bare-knuckle, Welsh hill fighting champion at the turn of the twentieth century and that their father, Dai, was a very good boxer while serving with the South Wales Borderers during the first world war.
Cliff, who was born in 1927, was the older by nearly 10 years and he turned pro at 16 during the final years of the Second World War. He did not have the benefit of an extensive amateur career at a high level, but he did box at a time when the scene was very active within Wales and a lad could gain experience by fighting on the many shows that took place in the pit villages of the South Wales valleys. After only six contests, and still aged only 17, Cliff put down a marker by defeating Cliff Anderson in an eight-rounder at the Queensberry Club in Soho. He was then annihilated by Al Phillips in a British featherweight title eliminator at the end of 1946, so he switched to lightweight during 1947 and 1948, before settling as a welter in 1949. He lost his first British title bout, an all-Welsh affair with Eddie Thomas in 1950, and he then lost in a final eliminator to Wally Thom the following year. Finally, in 1952, Cliff knocked out Thom in nine rounds in a rematch at Liverpool Stadium to pick up the British crown. Within eight months he’d left the game for good, aged 25, drained from years of weight-making and tough fights. By coming up the hard way, he showed perseverance, resilience and determination.
Brian, also a southpaw, had a glittering amateur career. He won the ABA welterweight title in 1958 and was also the Welsh, and the Army champion. He took part in the 1958 Empire Games in Cardiff, where, strangely, he represented England after being snubbed by the Welsh selectors. Professional papers were signed in 1959, with Cliff as his trainer, and when he made his debut at the Empire Pool, Wembley, he did so wearing an old pair of Cliff’s boxing shorts. There was no stopping him.
Curvis picked up the British Empire title in his 14th contest and then, three fights later, the British. BN made no bones about how good he was, and who was responsible for his success, “Cliff it is, who has led Brian through a brilliant preliminary career to two titles, all in the space of 17 fights. He has done his level best not to let Brian be rushed, but the young Swansea southpaw attracts titles as a jar of jam attracts a fly.”
When Brian beat Wally Swift to pick up the British title, the referee was none other than Wally Thom, the man who Cliff had beaten for the same title just eight years before.
Brian held the British title until 1966, he won the Lonsdale Belt outright and fought a losing battle against the great Emile Griffith for the world welterweight title in 1964. The two brothers were heroes in their native country, and both are now sadly gone, Cliff passing in 2009 and Brian in 2012.