RARE Manchester's Len Johnson vs Ted Moore (1st fight) 15 round middleweight contest for purse of £1500 plus Johnny Cuthbert vs Young Johnny Brown (3rd fight) official on-site 15 page programme, 9th June 1927, Olympia, Kensington, London.
Johnson won points over 15 rounds
**REAL GOOD is handwritten next to Len's name inside the programme by an enthused observer/fight fan**
Cuthbert won points over 12 rounds
Pancho Dencio vs Francois Moracchini
Bert Kirby vs Billy James
Peter Howard vs Taffy Rees
Condition very good (handwritten pencil anecdotes to inside bouts page/soiling & edge wear to front & back covers)
*crisp & clean inside pages/tight & compact*
The Un-crownable Champion
It’s hard to believe, but just over 80 years, a Mancunian boxer's achievements were overlooked because of the simple fact he was black. Below, author Rob Howard tells the story of Len Johnson and his career-long fight with the 'colour bar'.
Len Johnson, born in Manchester on 22 October 1902, learned the noble art on boxing booths, and eventually became the owner of his own booth – travelling around England with fairgrounds.
Len was a highly skilled boxer, with an educated left hand and a slippery defence that made him difficult to hit and left his features largely unmarked throughout his career.
Johnson embarked on a conventional boxing career in 1921 that saw him win more often than he lost, but seemed to be headed nowhere in particular. In 1925, however, he had his first real break when matched in a non-title bout with Roland Todd, the reigning British Middleweight Champion.
Johnson seized his opportunity by defeating Todd on points, repeating the feat in a rematch. These wins should have automatically earned him the right to a title contest, but the boxing authorities forbade such a match, due to Johnson’s colour.
At the time, boxing regulations included the infamous Rule 24, which stated that title contestants "…must have two white parents".
The rule didn’t stop Johnson’s domination of the British and European middleweight division. Despite not being allowed a shot at the title, he defeated many big names of the day, with the likes of Ted 'Kid' Lewis, Len Harvey, Gypsy Daniels, George West, Ted Moore, Jack Etienne, Harry Crossley, Leon Jaccovacci and Michele Bonaglia all failing in their attempts to beat him.
Australian Hero, British Outcast
Fed up with the attitude of boxing officialdom in Britain, Johnson spent six months in Australia, where he won the British Empire middleweight championship by defeating local hero Harry Collins. Johnson was popular and successful Down Under, but he found a different attitude when he returned home to get married.
On arrival in England, Johnson discovered that his Empire title – won fair and square – was not recognised by the boxing authorities, who had installed Scotland’s Tommy Milligan as Empire Champion. It was an open snub to the man now regarded by boxing fans everywhere as Britain’s best middleweight.
Sadly, there was little Len could do to object. The 'colour bar' rule which had permanently blighted his ring career (and would go on doing so) was unwavering, and although he relentlessly campaigned for a change, his was a voice in the wilderness. This was before the age of protests, and most promoters kept silent on this issue as they didn’t want to risk retribution from the boxing authorities.
It wasn't just the boxing authorities either. The 'colour bar' rule had the tacit support from politicians and had its origins in an irrational fear felt by the Victorian ruling classes of an insurrection amongst the black colonial inhabitants across the British Empire. It was believed that black boxers seen to be defeating white boxers could incite rebellion.
The 'colour bar' ended in 1947 when the new, reforming Labour government, recognising that the Empire was changing to the Commonwealth, leaned on the British Boxing Board of Control to effect a change.
Fighting For Rights
The change was just too late for Len. By 1945, his involvement with boxing was over (he had given up the ring in 1933, but continued to tour with his own boxing booth until 1939) and Johnson became a member of the Communist Party, a trade unionist, and a local civil rights activist.
Johnson spent many years championing the causes of the under privileged – six times, he ran unsuccessfully for a position on Manchester City Council - and was recognised as a community leader in Moss Side, where he frequently intervened in cases involving racial discrimination. Indeed, such was his standing that he was one of the local representatives at the influential Pan-African Congress in 1945.
Even his private life had a campaigning bent - amongst his friends was the American actor/ singer/ civil rights activist Paul Robeson.
Johnson died on 28 September 1974, a month shy of his 72nd birthday. He is remembered as a courageous campaigner and an intelligent, considerate man.
For all that though, what he might have liked most is the posthumous recognition of that hard-fought and fairly won Empire title, rightfully giving him his place in the record books and in history as a champion boxer.
Tough guy Ted took on Greb the Great
In May 1922 there were some good middleweights in this country, but none who could be considered as World class. There was Roland Todd, Ted Moore, George West and Tommy Milligan, all of whom went to America with the object of getting a chance at the World crown.
Of this five, only one succeeded and that was Moore, a graduate from the Old Cosmo at Plymouth and about as tough as any man who pulled on a pair of gloves. He developed into a dour fighting machine, who marched forever forward, his arms working like pistons.
Born in 1900, he had taken up pro fighting as a matter of course with Plymouth lads, starting at the youthful age of sixteen. His first 21 bouts were in his home town, with one points defeat, two draws, the rest victories.
It was a promising start and soon his fame spread and he was getting engagements at all the arenas in the country. He stopped West, defeated Moody and dropped a close decision to Todd. At the age of 23, after 82 contests, of which he lost only eleven, he decided to try his luck in the United States, arriving there in October.
Moore soon found that he would have to prove his worth before he could be considered as a World title challenger and this he set out to do, engaging in 15 contests (six over 12 rounds and six over ten) and winning all but two, losing points verdicts to Tommy Loughran and Dave Shade, but beating such notables as Young Fisher, Frank Carbone, Larry Esteridge, Lou Bogash, Jack Reddick and Jamaica Kid.
In New York in those days they staged an annual mammoth charity show at the Yankee Stadium in aid of a Milk Fund and Harry Greb expressed his willingness to top the bill in defence of his World middleweight title, providing a suitable opponent could be found. On the strength of his victories in America, the promoters selected Ted Moore and, with the champion agreeing, the Plymouth man secured his big chance.
So, on June 26, 1924, he climbed into the vast open-air ring to do battle with the tough and ruthless warrior from Pittsburgh, outright winner of 80 bouts, with 2 drawn and 161 of no decision. Greb was just past his 30th birthday, had been around for eleven years, and was defending the title which he had won the previous year and successfully defended on three occasions already.
Ten days earlier, in a non title contest, Harry had knocked out Frank Moody in six rounds and to say he was fighting fit is to state a fact.
More than 50,000 fans crowded into the famous baseball park, paying around two hundred thousand dollars, of which the Milk Fund was expected to gain $75,000. Also on the programme was Gene Tunney against Ermino Spalla, while Young Stribling met Tommy Loughran in the main supporting contest. The referee was Eddie Purdy.
The big crowd happily saw Tunney outpoint his giant Italian opponent and enjoyed watching Stribling and Loughran, although they booed when the verdict went to the Georgia Peach, making such a noise that the favoured announcer, Joe Humphries, had difficulty in making himself heard during the introductions for the main event.
Moore's weight was given as on the limit of 160 pounds, while the champion was a pound lighter. the challenger recieved a warm welcome, but this was swamped by the tremendous cheering that greeted the World champion.
From the start greb produced a seemingly inexhaustible supply of energy and power that did not permit his opponent to open an offensive of his own. Moore had to defend himself against a ceaseless two fisted attack to the face before he could get close enough to employ his own specialist brand of infighting. Had he attempted to halt Grebs attack at long range, he could have done better, for at close quarters he out punched the champion and had to be credited with the third, fifth and eighth rounds which he won conclusively.
There were no knockdowns, but this did not detract from the excitement of the contest as the champion plunged and charged while Moore fought back doggedly and showed immense courage to keep the fans in a state of intense excitement from start to finish.
Grebs great speed, whirling fists and continuous assault inflicted considerable punishment, but Moore absorbed it all without showing any signs of exhaustion or likelihood of being put down.
Whenever he beat the champion to the punch or drove him back, the fans were quick to yell encouragement. Yet Harry proved what a great champion he was by swiftly changing his tactics to meet any danger his challenger might threaten.
When he realised that Moore was essentially a body puncher, who would not be kept out no matter what he had to take at distance work, Greb closed in and clutched his rival, stifling his savage hooks in clinches from which Ted had to wrestle himself and then be assailed with swings, hooks, uppercuts and jabs that came at him from all angles and in a ceaseless stream.
When they came up for the final round, the champion was ahead on points, but there was still the chance that his challenger might pull one out of the bag and win sensationally. He looked strong and determined enough to bring off a dramatic victory as he waded in and hooked both hands to the body.
Greb joined in and they clinched, Moore tore himself free and worked a left to the wind. Harry sprang apart and concentrated on attacking two-fistedly. Ted responded and they fought fiercely at short range, thrilling the onlookers by giving and taking punches to the head, each striving to score a knockout.
The champion landed a right to the chin, but the Britisher responded with a thumping right to the body. They clinched, then turned away from each other as the final bell sounded.
Ted patted his opponent on the top of his head and Harry slapped his game rival on the backside. It was one of those fights. The fans increased the volume of their applause as Greb's right arm was raised, indicating that he had kept his crown. But what a fight he had given.
What was the outcome of the great battle? Greb continued his mauling of opponents until Tiger Flowers relieved him of his title in 1926. The same year Harry died following surgery on his eye.
Moore continued to campaign in United States for two more years with mixed fortune and without getting another title chance. He then returned home to challenge Tommy Milligan unsuccessfully for the British middleweight crown and lose to Frank Moody in a fight for the light heavyweight title. He then took off for Canada to continue his career, where he died from cancer in 1945.
Johnny Cuthbert (9 July 1904 – 29 August 1987) was British featherweight champion between 1927 and 1928, and again from 1929 to 1931, winning the Lonsdale Belt outright, and British lightweight champion between 1932 and 1934.
Early Career and Featherweight Title
Born in Sheffield in 1904, Johnny Cuthbert was taught boxing by Ben Stanton as a reward for attending the Reverend Harold Ewbank's Sunday School classes.
He made his professional boxing debut in February 1920. After facing inexperienced opposition during his first two years as a pro, he beat then Scottish Area bantamweight champion (and future British, Empire, and European flyweight champion) Elky Clark on points in January 1924. During a 15 fight unbeaten run between 1923 and 1924 he beat Harry Corbett and Billy Hindley, before travelling to the United States for a series of fights. After losing his first five US fights, including a defeat at the hands of Chick Suggs, he won his final fight before returning to England.
In March 1925, he lost to former British, Empire, and European bantamweight champion Bugler Harry Lake, but avenged this two months later, only three weeks after beating Johnny Curley over 15 rounds. In another successful run during 1925 he also beat Jack Kid Berg, but in August he lost to Corbett, starting a run of four straight defeats, including losses to European bantamweight champion Johnny Brown, Joe Fox, and Berg.
He was unbeaten again in 20 fights between March and December 1926, including wins over Lake, Curley, and Corbett (twice), finally earning him a shot at Curley's British featherweight title in January 1927; Cuthbert took a points decision to become British champion. He lost the title to Corbett in March 1928 in the last British title fight over 20 rounds. In November 1928 he drew with World bantamweight champion Al Brown in Paris.
He challenged for the title again a year later against Corbett, but the fight ended in a draw. He regained it at the second attempt in May 1928, beating Corbett on points at Olympia. He successfully defended the title in May 1929 against Dom Volante, and retained it in November 1930 after a drawn bout against Nel Tarleton. He beat Al Brown in June 1931, Brown disqualified for hitting low. His third defence, against Al Foreman (with the British Empire title also at stake), also ended in a draw. He lost the title in October 1931 when Tarleton took a points decision at Anfield. Cuthbert ran the Old Brown Cow pub in Sheffield and trained in a gym at the back of it.
After repeatedly struggling to make featherweight, Cuthbert moved up to lightweight and after beating Volante in an eliminator faced Jim Hunter in August 1932 for the vacant British title, winning via knockout in the tenth round. Between those two fights he lost on points to Cleto Locatelli in Paris. In October 1932 he beat Tommy Bland on points but suffered a broken jaw during the fight. Two weeks later he announced his retirement from boxing.
In February 1933 he came out of retirement and a month later beat Jim Learoyd at Leeds Town Hall, but lost just a week later to French champion Victor Deckmyn in Paris.
He defended his British title in January 1934, losing to Harry Mizler on points at the Royal Albert Hall. He had three further fights, a defeat to British featherweight champion Seaman Tommy Watson, a win over Canadian lightweight champion Tommy Bland, and a loss to NBA World featherweight champion Freddie Miller, before retiring from the sport for good.
Cuthbert had first applied for a referee's licence in April 1934, and refereed several bouts in 1935; By 1933 he had moved to Boston, Lincolnshire, where he ran The Old Mill pub. He again planned to move into refereeing in the late 1930's. He went on to become a boxing trainer, working at the Consett Gym with the likes of Glenn McCrory, and at the Boston ABC. He boxed an exhibition bout in a charity tournament in aid of Grantham Hospital in August 1944.
Johnny Cuthbert died in 1987, aged 83
Young Johnny Brown
The younger brother of British bantamweight champion Johnny Brown. He was of Hebrew heritage.
Nationality: United Kingdom
Death date: 00-12-1983 / age 78
Residence: St George's, London, United Kingdom
Birth place: Spitalfields, London, United Kingdom
Won 65 - 36 KOs / Lost 25 - 11 KOs / Drawn 5