STAN KENNEDY (Light-welterweight contender who boxed out of Dagenham in the sixties)

STAN KENNEDY (Light-welterweight contender who boxed out of Dagenham in the sixties)


Light-welterweight who boxed out of Dagenham in the sixties.








If there was ever a boxer as bashful about his ring achievements as Stan Kennedy, he would indeed be a hard man to find.  On a personal level, Stan is such an affable man with a quietly confident demeanour and a ready smile.  So, once we had the voice-recorder going and we embarked upon this interview, his candid viewpoint of his own shortcomings as a fighter took me by surprise – a classic example of just how complicated boxers can be.

“I was born in Olney in Buckinghamshire on 18th April 1942.  They say I boxed out of Dagenham because my family were evacuated out to Olney during the war.  Then, once I was born, we all came home again to Dagenham.  So I was born in the middle of the war.  I was one of eight children and, like it was for a lot of people back then, they were very hard times, but there was a lot of love in our family.  My eldest brother was boxing, and so was my next brother up, so then I went along with them and that’s how it all started.”

“I boxed for Ilford Boxing Club, which doesn’t exist anymore. I suppose I must have had 50 amateur fights.  But, to be honest, I was the most under-confident boy who ever boxed.  Because I came from such a poor background, I never had nothing.  When I used to get to the shows, I always felt a bit inferior because all the other kids had flash shorts, but anyway, I got over that.  As an amateur, I never boxed as a senior.  I boxed as a schoolboy. I reached the semi-finals of the Schoolboys of Great Britain, and I got beat down in Bristol.  I joined the Army Cadets when I was 14 and I got to the Army Cadets Championship final, and I got to the London Junior ABA finals, and I got beat by Johnny Mantle.”

Stan turned professional at the age of 19.  “I was Terry Lawless’ first fighter.  Funnily enough, I was speaking to his wife, Sylvie, two or three weeks ago.  I still keep in touch with her regularly.  Terry used to train me at the Duke of Fife in Katherine Road, East Ham, and I was lucky because I was the only fighter he had, so he really looked after me.  To me, Terry Lawless was a brilliant man.  The gym itself was really busy.  It was run by a fella named Bert Spriggs.  Terry Spinks used to train there, and Billy Walker, the heavyweight, he used to train there.  I got quite friendly with Billy.  He was a nice fella, a very quiet man in the gym, and I remember he was a bouncer down the Ilford Palais at the time.”

“There was an awful lot of boxing going on in the East End in those days, and the local paper was called the Stratford Express.  The boxing reporter was a bloke named Norman Giller, and he used to write about us all in the paper, so a lot of the fighters that came out of East London used to buy it.  All of a sudden, they put a photo of me in the paper, saying “This boy has just been signed up by Terry Lawless.”  So, after that, every time I won, the other boxers used to read about it.  After I had 12 fights, and I only lost two, the Stratford Express was reporting on how well I was doing, and then certain fighters, some of whom beat me as amateurs, they came to Terry Lawless, and it all sort of snowballed from there.  I mean, anybody can get a manager’s licence, but it’s getting the first fighter to go with you.”

“As I say, I was always the under-confident fighter.  I got knocked down so many times.  I remember, one time, I was boxing at Shoreditch Town Hall.  I must have had about seven or eight fights by then.  My missus, Diane, was in the third row from the ringside and, unbeknown to me, there was a bit of a scuffle.  Anyway, I fought this fella and I beat him.  I went and got a shower, come out to pick my missus up, and she wasn’t where she was supposed to be.  I said ‘Has anyone seen my wife?’, and they said “Yeah, they sent her over to the back.’  So I went over to find her, and her face was like thunder.  I said ‘What’s the matter?’  The thing was you used to have betting round the ringside in the old days, and my wife said ‘The two fellas in front of me, when you come in, one asked about the odds, and the other one said you only go down to push the betting price up, and that you’re a slippery bastard.’  So my missus got the hump with it and had a go at these two blokes.  They called security, and they carted her to the back of the hall.  It was funny really.  But, I mean, whenever I went down, it was never planned.  I just used to walk into punches.  I never got knocked out.  I got stopped, but I was never knocked out, touch wood!”

“For me, one of the best things about being a boxer was having my hand lifted at the end of the fight.  Also, I think boxing gave me a little bit of prestige, if you know what I mean.  You got some respect.  It made me feel, not important, but a bit special.  I boxed a geezer named Ray Thompson.  We both came from Dagenham, but he was a seasoned pro and he was a big hero of mine.  Although he was one of those boys getting beat, he fought the best.  When he was fit, he was a very, very good fighter.  He fought good class fighters.  When I boxed him, they called it the featherweight championship of Dagenham.  Anyway, he had me down twice the first round, once the second round, and I came back and I got the decision.  I don’t think I won it, but they held my hand up, so I must have done something right.”

Stan retired from the ring at the age of 24, and he was on a winning streak when he decided to hang up his gloves. “To be honest with you, I couldn’t believe my luck how my record had gone.  I was quite pleased with it and I didn’t want to spoil it, so I decided to retire.  I loved the fight game, but I never believed I was that good.  But, when I think back, I got to the Schoolboys semi-finals of Great Britain.  As a pro, I used to get knocked down a lot, but somehow, I kept getting back up and I kept winning.  I only lost four out of 23, so I didn’t do too bad really.”

Stan Kennedy (right) with his pals and fellow ex-boxers, Brian Hudson and Georgie Day, with the late, great Jake LaMotta.



James Cook MBE with the Borough Commander of Hackney.

James Cook MBE with the Borough Commander of Hackney.

As I stood outside Rectory Road Overground Station at 12.45 on a Thursday afternoon in April 2016 waiting for former British & European super-middleweight champion, James Cook MBE, a grey Fiat parked up at the kerb.  Two young men emerged from the car and remained on the other side of the pavement railing, holding a conversation in a language that I took to be Turkish.  A black teenager came strolling down the street and, as he passed by, the trio instantaneously fused into a hostile triangle of testosterone-fuelled posturing and projectile glares.  I was a mere few feet away, but I felt in no personal danger as the three of them only had eyes for each other.  The menacing exchange lasted for the briefest of moments, but the intensity of the display made me feel grateful for the metal barrier that separated them.



When James arrived a few minutes later, we headed off to Stoke Newington Police Station to meet with the Borough Commander of Hackney, Detective Chief Superintendent Simon Laurence.  Our mission was to discuss the Independent Advisory Group (IAG).  Every London borough has an IAG, consisting of police officers, including the respective Borough Commanders, and representatives from the local community who are termed as advisers.  Meetings are held on a quarterly basis, and an open line of communication is maintained at all times.  The key objective is for the Met Police to gain a deeper insight into the mood on the street generally and obtain guidance on various cultural matters.

As the Borough Commander explained, “We want representation on the Hackney IAG from as many communities as possible.  For example, our Chair of ten years is from the Jewish community.  One of our younger members from the black community is the Chair of the Stop and Search Monitoring Group.  Also, we’ve made some real inroads with the Muslim community recently.  We need people who are going to challenge us, absolutely challenge me personally and the Met as an organisation.  The whole purpose of the IAG is to check that we are getting things right.  I would imagine that all Borough Commanders would treat their IAG exactly the same as me, but it’s personal to me and it means something to me.”

James Cook, who was awarded his MBE in 2007 for services to youth justice, is the driving force behind the Pedro Youth Club in Rushmore Road, Clapton, an area of East London which was once described by the Daily Telegraph as being “more dangerous than Soweto.”  James had been an adviser to the Hackney IAG for five months at that point, and he explained “We invited some local police officers to come to one of our Pedro boxing shows and they spoke to me about it then, so I thought I’d give it a try.  The meetings are really good, because we’re normal people who want to help the community.  We bring things up that aren’t working, and the police are listening to us.  If anything is happening in your particular area, you might get a phone call or a text from the police to let you know about it and they’ll ask if you can try and calm it down.  A lot of people, especially the young people, would rather speak to somebody they know before the police come, so we’re there to sort of keep the peace.”

Knives confiscated off the streets of Hackney.

Knives confiscated off the streets of Hackney.

In the Borough Commander’s modestly sized office there is a prominent display of the variety of knives that his officers encounter on a daily basis.  He told us that, during the seven days prior to our visit, 25 of these weapons had been apprehended.  He pointed to a horrifically offensive looking blade and remarked “That’s called a Rambo knife.  It’s not for filleting fish.  It’s not for butchering meat.  The only purpose of that knife is to cause serious harm and to kill, and there is no place in London or the UK for these knives.”


You only have to take a walkabout with James Cook in his area to appreciate the affable Jamaican’s standing with the locals.  He seems to know everybody, and he regularly waves across the street and swaps greetings with passers-by.  However, in the process of doing his outreach work, Cook acknowledges that he frequently puts himself at risk.  “I can definitely say that even the little ones are carrying knives now.  They’re trying to look up to somebody, and they’re looking up to people with big cars and lots of money.  The youth clubs and places for them to go are getting less and less.  At the end of the day, what do you want young people to do?  Where do you want them to go?  There may be five of them hanging about together on the street, and all of a sudden you’ve got a gang walking round the area.  We have all these different groups of people living in Hackney, and they’re not mixing enough.  At the Pedro Club, we’ve got three football teams now for the under-elevens.  I take them across to Hackney Marshes and I look at the ethnic mix.  It’s really beautiful, and the kids just want to enjoy themselves.”

The IAG concept was originally formed in the early-eighties in the wake of the Brixton riots, around the time when Cook was embarking upon his professional boxing career.  A responsible citizen who has been doing voluntary youth work since he was a teenager himself, Cook freely admits that the mutually cordial relationship that he enjoys with the Borough Commander would have been unthinkable in those days.  “It would never have happened back then, no way, which shows how far things have progressed.  Simon is a good guy.  He’s the Borough Commander of Hackney and, at the same time, you can talk to him properly and he means the things he says.”

James Cook’s multicultural football matches conjure up a harmonious image, but it should never be far from our collective minds that the scene which unfolded outside Rectory Road Station is the other side of the story.  The contribution that individuals such as James make to our communities is synonymous with housework.  One tends not to appreciate it until the job neglects to get done, a notion which the Borough Commander was keen to highlight.  “The work that James does is absolutely marvellous, and you don’t get an MBE for nothing.  I’m really proud to have James on my IAG.  If we think about the whole gang culture, if these young people have got nowhere to go, no positive role model, there is a big chance that they’re going to fall into a life of crime.  The whole idea of something like the Pedro Club is they’ve got somewhere where they can expend their energy, somewhere which is safe and where they’ve got good people who care about them.”

[Anyone wishing to contact James Cook at the Pedro Youth Club can do so at]


Guardian of the streets of Hackney.
(Photo by Paul Osman)

BILLY AIRD (Former British, Commonwealth & European challenger)

BILLY AIRD (Former British, Commonwealth & European challenger)


British, Commonwealth & European heavyweight contender.







Loveable Liverpudlian, Billy Aird, was born in Merseyside on 15th March 1946.  Raised during the post-war years, Billy has only warm memories of his early family life.  “I was a war baby, and it was fine.  I always got fed, no problem.  Everything was lovely.  I’ve got four sisters and I was the only lad, so I had to learn how to fight at an early age!  I boxed for the Golden Gloves in the Dingle, a famous club in Liverpool.  I had around 50 amateur fights and I won over half.”

“I came to London to turn pro in 1969.  There was no one up North who was capable of looking after me.  When I got down here, I boxed for the Fisher for a while, and Nobby Clarke was my trainer there.  Nobby also trained Mickey Carter who was a bantamweight, so Nobby had one of us up here and one of us down there.  I hadn’t been in London long when I was walking down the street in New Cross and this fella came up to me.  He went ‘All right, Billy?’  I said ‘I’m sorry, I don’t know you,’ and he said ‘My name is Harry Mullan and I follow boxing.’  That’s how me and Harry first met.  He was a boxing fan in those days, and he recognised me walking down the street.  I’d only been here two minutes, and I thought someone knows who I am already!  Although Harry never boxed, he loved his boxing and he knew his boxing inside-out.  To my mind, he became the best editor of the Boxing News ever, and he was a really great man.”

Billy Aird with the late Nobby Clarke

Old pals, Billy Aird and Nobby Clarke.

Billy decided early on in his 46 fight professional career that he was going to manage his own affairs and take his chances in the boxing business.  He won the Central Area heavyweight title and challenged for the British, Commonwealth and European belts, and some of those decisions were so painfully close.  “I turned professional with John Daly, who ended up a millionaire.  He was the man who started Don King off moneywise.  John Daly was partners with David Emmons, and they were big time in the film business.  John Daly put me with his father as a manager and trainer.  He was a nice man, John’s dad, but I just couldn’t work with him.  Anyway, Johnny Winter, who was also from Liverpool, used to be in the gym all the time and, after I left Daly’s dad, Johnny looked after me right through my career as a trainer, and we still have a great relationship today.  Johnny Winter honestly did care about his fighters, and we always enjoyed ourselves.”

“I probably did better on my own than I would have done with any managers, because I always spoke up for myself and I just worked with who I wanted to work with.  I was the first one to put bums on seats for Frank Warren’s shows when he’d only just come into the game.  Frank got hold of Joe Bugner and Bugner could get television, whereas I couldn’t.  I always wanted to box Bugner, but it never happened.  Bugner used to lose his temper when he sparred with me.  I think it was because he couldn’t hit me.  If he done that in the gym, what would have happened if we’d got into the ring?  He’d have gone barmy!  He most probably would have got thrown out!”

“I boxed Richard Dunn eight times in total, four as an amateur and four as a pro.  Richard Dunn was all right, but he used to try and put the frighteners on people.  When I was an amateur, we were at a boxing show and he walked in the dressing room where I was just sitting on my own, and he came over and tried to give it the bigun, so I just jumped up and said ‘Come on, outside now!’  In the amateurs, he beat me four times.  But, out of the four, I won at least two of them.  Then, in the pros, we boxed and I beat him four out of four, but he got two.  There’s no way he beat me!  But he was always like a bit of a bogeyman as well.  He was awkward.  If he fancied it, he was really tough.  Sometimes, you’d hit him and he’d go over, and then, other times, you’d hit him and he wouldn’t move.  But he was a nice fella, and I think my favourite fight was probably when I stopped Richard Dunn for the Central Area title in Manchester.”

One of Billy’s finest performances was his challenge for the European title against Alfredo Evangelista in Spain.  “There were three judges, so that was 45 rounds of scoring and they made nearly 30 even.  So those ones that were even, they would have been mine if the fight had happened back home.  I really believe I would have stopped him back here.  His shorts were up his chest, like a bra!  I mean, where are you supposed to hit him when he’s wearing shorts up to there?  But I loved boxing, and it took me long enough to get into a position to earn the sort of money I got for the European title fight.”

“When I fought John Gardner for the British and Commonwealth titles, I put him down in the first round.  But, when I came out for the second, I could hardly hold my hands up.  I’d already boxed 15 rounds against Evangelista.  Also, I’d opened a sports shop and a pub, one the week before the fight and one the week after, so I didn’t know whether I was coming or going.  I was tired, and John Gardner stopped me in five rounds.  I should have forgot about all the other stuff and just concentrated on the fight, but I just took too much on.  When I was going to the weigh-in, I was worrying about the sandwiches for the next day.”

“In my last fight, I got hit and I didn’t know where I was.  That was against Guido Trane at the Lyceum Ballroom, and he stopped me in five.  Me and my wife, Angela, went away the next day on holiday and, two days later, I was walking along the prom in Spain and I just stopped and grabbed the railings.  My head was spinning round.  So I stayed still, and my head cleared and then it all came back to me.  I’d been concussed for two days!  I never, ever boxed again after that.  When you’re younger, they bounce off you.  But, when you get to a certain age, where they used to bounce, this one hurt me and I’d never been hurt in my life, so that was it for me.  I suppose I was lucky, because I didn’t go through a bad time when I retired really, not like some fighters do.  I was sensible, because I knew where I was going and Angela was made up that I was out of it, because it’s a hard game.  I had money and I put my money to work.  So I’ve had a good life and I’ve got no complaints.”

Challenging John L Gardner for the British & Commonwealth heavyweight titles.

GEORGE HOLLISTER (Former middleweight contender from Islington)

GEORGE HOLLISTER (Former middleweight contender from Islington)

George Hollister

Boxing was something that simply ‘happened’ to George








To hear George Hollister tell it, boxing was seemingly something that simply ‘happened’ to him.  Born just prior to the Blitz on 28th June 1940, George confirmed “I had a good upbringing, with my mother and father and my six brothers and two sisters.  My brother, Alby, was a good professional boxer.  My brother, Ernie, was good as well, and my brother, Lenny, boxed in the army.  But Alby was the first man to put Randolph Turpin down.  He put him down for a count of eight, and then Alby got beat on points over eight rounds.  It was a good performance from Alby.  That was on my eighth birthday, in 1948, and that’s how old I was when I started boxing.”

“I started off up Jack Solomons’ gym in Windmill Street.  Then I stopped for a while, and then I had quite a few fights for Covent Garden Boxing Club.  I couldn’t tell you how many amateur fights I had.  My only regret was I didn’t box in the ABAs, but back then I never even thought about doing it.  Me, Dixie Dean and Ernie Draper used to go round the different shows together on the tube to see if we could get a fight.  One day, the three of us got off the tube at one station, walked under an arch and round again, and got on the same train we’d just got off of!  As the years went on, I started working out in the gym doing a bit of training, and my friend, Ernie Fossey, was there.  In fact, I think I was his first fighter he trained.  We went to Bill Cline’s gym, and that’s where I met Terry Downes and Johnny Berry.”

“Market trading was in my family.  We had fruit stalls in Chapel Market and Holloway Road, and I was doing that until I was about 20.  Then I went to Smithfield Market and worked down there for 30-odd years.  The funny thing was, in those days, I wasn’t even going to fight as a pro.  Anyway, Al Phillips turned up at my fruit stall one day and asked me did I want to go pro.  So I said ‘Yes, all right,’ and Al Phillips managed me for a while.”

George was 21 when he turned professional, and a year later he married Linda.  It was not long before he had a young family to support.  “I had to go to work down Smithfield Market, which was pretty heavy work, come home, then try to train, and it just weren’t working out.  I had a few fights and I found it hard, to be honest, but it was just to get hold of a few quid.  Mind you, I think I got more money out of sparring than I did fighting.  I sparred a lot with Terry Downes.  He was good to me, a good pal.  But, in the sparring, Terry never left you alone.  He never took no liberties, but he was on top of you all the time.  You never got a rest with him.”

“One day, I went up the gym at the Butchers Arms.  Rubin Carter had come over to fight Harry Scott, and they couldn’t get nobody to spar with him.  I was just working out up there, and they asked me to spar, so I said ‘Yeah, I’ll have that,’ and I got good money off Rubin.  He was a good man and I got £10 a round, which was a lot of money in the sixties.  When Rubin came over the second time, he brought me over a head-guard from America.  I found him to be a very nice fella.  Another time, Al Phillips asked me if I wanted to spar with Emile Griffith at the Thomas A’Becket.  It was £20 a round, and my dad said ‘If you don’t want it, son, don’t have it.’  That was the first time my dad ever said that to me.  I said ‘For £20 a round, dad, I’ll fight King Kong!’  Emile put me on my backside the first round, and I thought ‘Sod this, I’ve got another two rounds to go yet!”

“I had two nobbins fights with a fella called Louis Samuels.  He stopped me in the last round of our first fight in Wolverhampton, and then I stopped him when I boxed him in Brighton.  The fight I lost with Louis Samuels was a hard fight, but it was a really good fight, if I say so myself.  But nobbins fights were the fights you didn’t really want, because they were so hard.  After that fight, I never went straight home.  I got down to Smithfield and went in the pub down there, and then I went for some coffee and a bit of breakfast.  I looked like I’d been run over, because my eye had come up and it was closed.  To be honest, I was too frightened to go home to the wife.  I was thinking ‘What’s she gonna say?  She’ll make me turn it in when she sees the state of me.’  Anyway, I went to work and my guvnor said to me ‘Georgie, you can’t come to work like that.’  So I said ‘I can’t come to work.  I can’t go home.  Where am I supposed to go?'”

“Linda always supported my boxing.  She’d wash all the blood off my dressing gowns, and things like that.  She only ever came once to see me fight, when I stopped a fella called Tommy Lawrence in three rounds at the Majestic.  I boxed Tommy Lawrence in my fight before that as well, at Shoreditch.  I wasn’t supposed to be fighting that night and I was over the pub with my dad having a drink when they came over.  They were a fighter short, so they dragged me out of the pub to fight.  I had to borrow Vic Andretti’s gear, his protector, his shorts, and everything, but I don’t know how I got into them.  They were very tight.  Anyway, I won that one on points.”

The crowning moment of George’s career happened in his fourteenth fight in February 1964.  He took on John ‘Young’ McCormack at Seymour Hall, and he stopped the Irishman in the second round to become the first man to beat the future British Light-Heavyweight Champion.  George was a natural middleweight, so the size difference was a matter of concern.  “Really and truly, I should never have had the fight, because I was weighing 11 stone 2, and he was weighing 11 stone 13.  At the weigh-in, my brother said ‘No, you’re not having this.  It’s too much weight to give away to fighter of his class.’  So they said ‘Come along to the show and we’ll get you another opponent.’  But, when I got there, it was still John McCormack.  Anyway, I stopped him, so that was a bit of luck.  But then Jack Solomons made the match again, and I knew nothing about it until I seen the bills hanging on the gate at Smithfield Market, but I never had that one.  If McCormack wanted to come in at a lighter weight, okay, but I wasn’t giving 11 pound away, not again.”

George hung up his gloves in 1966, his final ring appearance being a four round stoppage of Mickey Pearce at Shoreditch Town Hall. “Really and truly, I wished I hadn’t stopped boxed so soon, because I turned it in too early, but I found it hard doing a job and boxing at the same time.  I had to make up my mind, and Terry Downes half talked me into turning it in anyway.  Terry had retired by then, and he came to Joe Bloom’s gym one day when I was training up there, and he said ‘Come on, we’ll go and have a good time for a change.’  So that was it.  After that, I had seven years knocking about with Terry, and how the wife ever stood me I don’t know.  At one point, we’d been talking about going to Spain.  Then one day, Terry phoned me up and he said ‘You ready?’  I said ‘What for?’  He said ‘Come on, we’re going to Spain.’  So I said ‘I can’t, Linda’s out shopping.’  So I left her a note which said ‘Won’t be long, gone to Spain,’ and my family has never forgot it.”

“In the end, I had to leave it alone because I was working and I had my family, and I just couldn’t keep up with Terry, to be honest.  Linda was all right.  She used to get on well with Terry’s wife, Barbara, and she still does.  But I don’t know how the two of them put up with us. Being with Linda was the best thing that ever happened to me, and we’ve got two children and five grandchildren and we’ve very happy with life.  As far as boxing goes, for me, the best thing about boxing is all the great people I’ve met.  To me, the boxing fraternity are the best of the lot.”

George and Linda Hollister

George and Linda, still together after all these years.