Boxing historian Larry Braysher recently chatted to former professional boxer George Leathers, whose budding career was sadly cut short by World War Two.
A few weeks ago, local boxing historian Larry Braysher provided us with an old photograph (taken in 1938) of some of Lancaster’s professional boxers and their manager Gus Angus.
The response from our readers was such that virtually all those in the photo have now been identified.
Relatives of former Lancaster favourites Billy Dodd and Jim Lord helpfully got in touch, although the resulting success is especially due in no small part to Mr George Leathers who was actually one of those pictured in the photo.
This surprising development would make George, who is almost 92 years of age, probably Lancaster’s oldest surviving former professional boxer.
George, who used to live in Alfred Street but now resides in a Morecambe care home, is blessed with excellent recall and remembers his days with Gus Angus’s stable of boxers fondly.
Moving with his family from Whitehaven to Lancaster as a 15-year-old George wasted no time in finding the Gus Angus boxing gym which was originally sited in Fenton Street.
Shortly afterwards they moved to another premises in Caton Road near the old laundry which was an upstairs room in a scrap metal yard; it was not ideal but it was theirs and a question of making do with what was available.
He remembers many of the local boxers who used the gym but one of them stood out head and shoulders above the others and in George’s view was a star in the making.
That was Tucker Smith, who had an impressive record, including a win over Manchester’s ex-world champion Jackie Brown, and who George is convinced would have gone on to be a champion was it not for his brutal treatment by the Japanese whilst a prisoner of war.
George sparred regularly with Tucker before the war, something he remembers with some pride.
George turned professional ten days after his seventeenth birthday and was paid seven shillings and sixpence for his professional debut over four rounds, but his own progress in the professional ranks was still in its infancy when the outbreak of war saw the closure of the gym with many of its boxers joining up.
George himself went on to serve in the Royal Navy during the conflict and although he boxed while in the service it marked the end of his professional career.
As he described it, he came out of the Navy weighing three stone more than when he went in, but without gaining any extra inches in height, and for a flyweight that was the end of that.
However, he never lost his love of the sport and always followed it avidly.
So when his niece, Mrs Susan Woodhouse, spotted the photo published in the Guardian and took it to show him it brought back many happy memories, and as an extra memento Larry Braysher had a framed copy done of the original photo which he presented to George, who now has it in pride of place in his room.
Larry Braysher said: “George has a first rate memory and it was a rare privilege to be able to interview someone who is undoubtedly one of the last surviving men who boxed professionally in the era before the Second World War.”