Freddie Mills former light heavyweight World champion 1948 to 1950 HANDWRITTEN LETTER SIGNED (Freddie only) and DATED 25/05/1961 on promotional letterhead. Measuring 8" x 10"
The letter reads:-
Was great seeing you and Ben again thanks for coming to the station and going round with me with the lad. Hope to get a new car on the strength. I enjoyed it all very much, especially – donations for the poor children of ***. I meant to tell you, Chris and I do not speak with the old man anymore. He was terrible to Mrs Broadhurst during her last days. I’ll tell you about this one day, but you had some idea what a horrid person he is yourself. Nice talking over old times again, surprised you remember so much. Hope I have to come if again one day so I can see you again. You never know, I may get on Anglia TV one day. Give my regards to Ben, to Harry if you see him, and all your relations.
Good luck Doug, must go now. There’s a train a comin.
Your old pal
Freddie 6d I.O.U”
(The asterix depicts illegibility)
Condition very good (paper shows slight discolouration with envelope creases and small tears on 2 of the fold marks)
Freddie Mills, (26 June 1919 – 25 July 1965), who was the World light heavyweight boxing champion from 1948 to 1950.
He was born in Poole, England.
He was born Frederick Percival Mills in Parkstone, a suburb of Poole. He was the youngest of four children of Thomas James Mills, a totter and marine store dealer, and his wife Lottie Hilda Gray. He received a pair of boxing gloves when he was eleven, and he used to spar with his brother Charlie. He attended St Michaels School in Bournemouth until the age of fourteen, and then became an apprentice milkman. He had his first boxing match on 26 February 1936 at the local ice rink (aged 16), and won by a knockout in the first round.
He began fighting in fairground booths and at venues on the south coast. Mills was 5 ft 10½ in and did not have a sophisticated boxing style. However he relied on two-fisted aggression, relentless pressure, and the ability to take punishment to carry him through, and in more cases than not these attributes were sufficient. Mills excelled as a light-heavyweight boxer, but occasionally fought as a heavyweight.
Although he sometimes won at the heavier weight, he always struggled against the big men and took a lot of punishment.
His first 64 fights, in 3½ years, against minor light-heavyweights resulted in 48 wins, 9 losses and 7 draws. He then stepped up in class to fight Jock McAvoy, the British and Commonwealth middleweight champion, who had, the previous year, unsuccessfully fought Len Harvey for the British and Commonwealth light-heavyweight titles. The fight against McAvoy took place in Liverpool in August 1940 and Mills won a clear decision over ten rounds.
During the rest of 1940 and 1941, Mills continued to fight. In December 1941, he fought Jack London, a heavyweight who was later (in 1944) to win the British and Commonwealth heavyweight titles. Mills won on points over ten rounds.
British Light-Heavyweight Title
In February 1942, Mills fought Jock McAvoy again, in a final eliminator for the British light-heavyweight title. The fight, in the Royal Albert Hall, ended after one round when McAvoy was forced to retire with an injured back. The way was open for Mills to challenge Len Harvey for the British and Commonwealth light-heavyweight titles.
The title fight took place on 20 June 1942, at White Hart Lane, Tottenham, in front of a crowd of 40,000. In the second round Mills caught Harvey with a powerful left hook and put him down for a count of nine. When Harvey got up Mills hit him with a left uppercut to win by a knockout. Mills now had the light-heavyweight titles.
In September 1944, Mills fought Jack London for the vacant British and Commonwealth heavyweight titles. The fight took place at Belle Vue, Manchester, with Mills conceding about three stones (19 kilos) in weight. Neither man was a stylish boxer but they slugged it out over fifteen rounds with London gaining the points decision.
World Title Fight
After the London fight Mills was posted to India as a light entertainer, a skill he was to make use of later. In May 1946, he was given a shot at the World light-heavyweight title when he was matched with the current champion, American, Gus Lesnevich. The fight took place at Harringay Arena, and Mills took a terrible beating, probably the worst of his career. He was knocked down twice in the second round, but managed to fight his way back in the subsequent rounds. However he was caught again in the tenth round and put down twice before the referee stopped the fight. It has been claimed that he was not in proper shape for the fight.
Less than a month after his punishing fight against Lesnevich, Mills fought British heavyweight Bruce Woodcock, losing a twelve-round fight on points after being knocked down in the fourth.
In November 1946, Mills fought another heavyweight, American Joe Baksi. Mills suffered two badly cut eyes and a severe battering before giving up at the end of the sixth round.
In September 1947, Mills fought for the vacant European light-heavyweight title against the Belgian, Pol Goffaux, winning by a knockout in the fourth round. He defended the title in February 1948, against the Spaniard, Paco Bueno, winning by a knockout in the second round.
On 26 July 1948, Mills was matched against Gus Lesnevich for his second attempt at the World light-heavyweight title. Mills was in much better shape for this fight, held at the White City Stadium, London. The fight lasted fifteen rounds and Mills boxed well, putting Lesnevich down twice, securing a points decision and the World title. Later, the sounds from Lesnevich's camp and the American press seemed to be indicating that Lesnevich's defeat was down to his continual problems to reach the Light Heavyweight limit of 175 pounds.
However, while his difficulties in making weight were undeniable (Lesnevich regularly fought around the 180 pound mark taking on good fighters such as Tami Mauriello, Jimmy Bivins and later Ezzard Charles) his defeat was largely brought about by the cuts over both of his eyes, which had streamed with blood from the opening round onwards.
In June 1949, Mills again stepped up to heavyweight, when he challenged Bruce Woodcock for his British, Commonwealth and European heavyweight titles. They fought at the White City Stadium, and Mills showed his usual courage but was knocked out in the fourteenth round.
On 24 January 1950, Mills defended his World title against American, Joey Maxim at Earls Court, London. Mills dominated the fight for the first three rounds but Maxim began to overhaul him in the following rounds, until in the tenth he caught Mills with a flurry of head punches and won by a knockout. Mills’s reign as World champion was over, and a few weeks later he announced his retirement.
On 30 September 1948, Mills married Marie McCorkindale, the daughter of his manager, Ted Broadribb. She had previously married another boxer Donald McCorkindale and had a son by him. Mills and his wife went on to have two daughters. He was living on Denmark Hill in South London until his death.
On retiring, he used his popularity to keep himself in the public eye, making walk-on appearances in various films and became a presenter on the BBC pop-music programme, Six-Five Special. He also became owner of a restaurant in Soho, which later became a nightclub. He became friends with the Kray brothers, notorious criminals who frequented his club.
During the latter stages of his boxing career, Mills suffered from frequent headaches, which continued after his retirement. After its initial success his nightclub began to fail and he tried to sell it, without success. He sold off what property he had but was in serious financial difficulty.
On 24 July 1965 he was found shot in the head in his car, parked in a cul-de-sac behind his nightclub. He died later in the Middlesex Hospital. He had told the nightclub staff that he was going for a nap in his car, something that he often did. A week or two previously he had borrowed a rifle from a friend who ran a shooting gallery. Although the rifle was not in working order when borrowed, it had apparently been repaired and was found in the car alongside him. The coroner’s inquest heard that the angle of the bullet was consistent with a self-inflicted wound, and the inquest ruled that he had committed suicide.
Mills was buried in New Camberwell Cemetery. Among the pallbearers were Jack Solomons, the boxing promoter and Henry Cooper, British heavyweight champion. His grave has a marble boxing glove on it, beneath which is an urn containing a real boxing glove.
Following his death, several lurid theories sprang up: such as that Mills, married with children, had been arrested in a public toilet and charged with homosexual indecency, or that his suicide was staged by Chinese gangsters who were after his club. There was even a story that he was about to be revealed as a serial killer, nicknamed, Jack the Stripper.
Evaluation As A Boxer
Although Mills was not a stylish boxer, he had the necessary talent to gain the World light-heavyweight championship. In handing out punishment he was often prepared to take much punishment himself, something that boxers cannot continue to do over a long career. To make matters worse, he was often matched against heavyweights, conceding large weight advantages to his opponents. This was the case when he fought Joe Baksi and Bruce Woodcock (twice). Mills seems to have been willing to accept the challenge, but he should have been better protected by his manager and the boxing promoters. If Mills had remained within his own weight division, he would have taken less punishment during his career and he might have remained World champion for longer than he did.