OZ boxers of the past - Discussion

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Joined: 23 Jan 2004, 21:41

Re: OZ boxers of the past - Discussion

Post by Grant »

bollocks wrote: 01 May 2019, 07:04 Bit of a writeup from a facebook boxing page....


Television Times. 19.

T.V. Ringside.

This was Ron Casey's baby. It was good television in the nineteen-sixties, but it was poorly planned. Shot in South Melbourne's studio 1, the actual ring was erected by outside professionals who knew their business. The broadcast team, Ron Casey and Merv Williams were both exceptionally qualified. The boxers were competitive and of a high standard. The crew itself were capable, except for the techo who forgot to engage a locking pin on a Marconi, so that when Kevin Crawford elevated his camera and tilted it back to catch the close-up action of the boxers, the camera slid backward off its mounting and into his arms.
One problem was blood splatter: not quite 'Saving Private Ryan' but you get the picture. Boxing, by definition, is a brutal sport. You either win or lose. These eager fellows went at it hammer and tongs. Another problem was lack of dressing room space for the boxers and their handlers, although it was little worse than what they had to contend with at Festival Hall.
And the last, and most important, was the most basic: where did the rampant audience go to pee? They were encouraged to bring in drink, or at least not deterred. (the end of Six O'clock Closing happened in 1966, the year Ringside began) So, many came in to the studio, already fueled, with beer or wine, imbibed, screamed encouragement and imprecations in various languages and literally flooded the single dressing room toilet. Many didn't bother leaving the studio and simply went behind the banked audience seating and relieved themselves against the studio walls. It must have been a nightmare for Curly and his team of cleaners.
I had little to do with the show, other than setting out the seating, and the podium where Ron and Merv broadcast and commented on the kaleidoscope of boxers hammering each other and hitting the canvas. There were plenty of young men, trained up through people like Jack Rennie and his wife Shirley, who were eager to seek their fortune by punching their way to it. Up and comers were Johnny Famechon and Lionel Rose, Tony Mundine, Rocky Mattioli, Hector Thompson and Barry Michael, Lester Ellis and Leo Young. Leo later became the head of security at The Burvale Hotel during the late seventies/ early eighties, when Maria worked there on Reception. I'd turn up at some of the staff gatherings, and Leo, (Real name: Leo Yurewicz, first bout 1964, final 1973) always genial, used to call me 'Old Timer.'
In fact, I think we were about the same age. I say, 'always genial, but I recall one Burvale staff function were he was very angry. Young was a teetotaler, and someone spiked his soft drink with alcohol. Even back then his fists would have been considered 'lethal weapons', and whoever it was, was very fortunate to have not been discovered.
Merv Williams was an ex-boxer and a very colourful character. He came within a whisker of creating television history one night on T.V. Ringside when he described a boxer as a 'Cunning cun... customer.'
Casey, as always, covered by simply continuing his call.
The only time I saw Ron slightly bemused was a night when I took Maria to a restaurant for dinner. Ron and his wife were also there, a couple of tables away. His gaze met mine, and for just a second, it seemed to register in his eyes, that that young man was not 'batting for the other team.'
I was rather pleased, especially because Maria looked... well, wonderful. That was probably late in 1968, and before both of us moved on from dear old Channel 7.
And here, I must pause to recall my memories of Festival Hall.
I went there the first time with Graham (Macca) MacNamara, probably about 1963 to see the Dave Brubeck Quartet. It wouldn't have mattered what the venue was, they were just liquidly superb. Now, thinking back on it, I was so very lucky to see Joe Morrelo, Eugene Wright, Paul Desmond and Dave Brubeck do their fluid thing.
In the 70's I was back there as a cameraman on the 'Lobo' concert, directed by Bob Loxton. And after the show and the striking of our equipment, I took a walk down beneath the upper level, to where the boxers were quartered during their fights. It was a squalid, blood-stained place; a plywood imitation of what the Colosseum, below ground, might have looked like. The faint reek of urine and bile and belly-ache; and the sadness, the aching sadness of those empty cubicles down there, has always haunted me.
Those rough places, no better than cattle stalls, were the confines of young men who chose the path of 'The House of Stoush'. That was where they were oiled, massaged, bandaged, gloved and laced, and convinced of their invincibility. That was where they were launched, to meet their fate, or mete out another's fate.
Even though I was there at Channel 7 in the 60's, through some of 'T.V. Ringside' and thought little of it then; in the 70's, in the bowels of Festival Hall I was confronted with the reality, and the ghosts of boxers, and wrestlers too. I cannot forget the shambling, crippled man that had once been 'Chief Little Wolf', my boyhood wrestling idol on radio, (as brought to us via Ron Casey's clipped, precise calling) sitting on the aisle, in the audience of 'Sunny Side Up' one night.
I think of it now, and am deeply saddened.
And yet.
Lionel Edmund Rose MBE. And later, Australian of the Year.
What a bantamweight boxer. What a role model. He fought Japan's 'Fighting' Harada in Tokyo, Feb 1968.
It makes me shiver even now. I listened to Ron Casey's dynamic radio commentary at the Saint Andrews pub. Lionel was the first indigenous Australian to take the World Title. Later, he appeared at O, singing 'I Thank You'. He was very modest and unassuming.
Sadly, I saw him one last time at a hotel across from the stockyards at Flemmington. It was early morning, and we crew were on our way to the race course. We stopped by the pub to do a little buying for the day ahead, and there at eight thirty in the morning we saw Lionel, through the haze of cigarette smoke, playing pool. He'd finished fighting long before, and by then, was slowly losing another fight. It was a sad sight, his muscle tone had ebbed and he was failing.
Yet he lived on, passing away in Warragul, May 8, 2011. He was sixty three.
Jean-Pierre Famechon, born March 1945, Paris, France, came to Australia in 1950 in the custody of his parents, who by then had had enough of the hubris of the remainder of the Second World War. Of course, he later became known and renowned as the Featherweight boxer, 'Johhny' Famechon.
Ron Casey, in his excitement, I think, at Famechon's second victory over 'Fighting' Harada, called him 'Johnny Champechon!' (or perhaps that should be a fitting entitlement for a man who endured a debilitating road injury that left him a shadow of himself: yet he continues on to this day)
2003 saw him inducted into the Australian National Boxing Hall of Fame. In 2012, Johnny was the third, elevated to Legend status.
I got the chance to work with 'Case' again at 10. (Don't know if he recognised me by the mid to late eighties, but he was always driven by his agenda, and that alone) He did a 'World of Sport' type spin-off for some closed circuit television channel, and had some of his originals with him, including John 'Sammy' Newman, who was as abrasive and confronting as possible. ( He was extremely lucky not to get decked by David Parkin during one interview of the, then, Coach of Fitzroy)
Stu Kinchen, who had been on Staging and a Floor Manager at 7, was the F.M. and the camera crew were myself, Paul Barnett and Evana Ferrara.
The show began in studio D, which was smaller than studio 1 at Seven, and in crowded the characters: Teddy Whitten, Bobby Davis and Co. And in that confined space, I felt the production worked. There was no Wood-chop or Bikes or Hand-ball, but there was a comforting feeling of confusion and disarray that had been the prevailing hallmark of the old WOS. But then the choice was made to move studio, over to A. This was a mistake. Studio A was far too big for what needed to be an intimate, draw-you-in program. Here, I think Ron erred. Studio A simply swallowed the concept into one corner. Case, maybe didn't see it, but time was up for the show.
There was beer awaiting in the Scenery Bay, jealously guarded by Stu Kinchen. after each of the final episodes.
Mervyn Louis (Merv) Williams died in 1980. He was 78.
Ron Casey died on the 19th of June, 2000 in Melbourne.
'Sam' Newman is still awaiting someone to 'deck' him. (A few have given it their best shot, on and off screen.)
Stu Kinchen is still, to my knowledge, having the one or two.
Paul Barnett has three children, grown now, and often with their Dad; united in their support of the AFL Geelong football team.
Evana Ferrara has passed from my knowledge after she left television to go into photography; although she did request a reference from me, which I duly provided.

And me? Well... you know me.
I just write.
Read this from start to finish, thanks heaps and I hope you are well.
We were very lucky back then. I remember going to ringside to watch Paul Ferreri and others. I had the pleasure of meeting Paul towards the end of his life and he was super nice, we chatted for a long time.
A bit of trivia is that I trained at Harry Martin and Norm Taylors gym back in the day and one of our stars was Ricky Day, yes the guy who beat Rocky Mattioli, I remember when Terry Reilly raised his hand there was almost a riot.
Also sparred with Johnny O'Brien who was also a great guy. I remember also when Lionel was campaigning as a featherweight I think and I think Bill Long bought out a south African called Richard Borios who trained at our gym. I was wrapping my hands talking some crap and saying that Rose would KO him in 60 seconds when I looked around and Richard was standing right behind me, I didn't spar that day.
Also some of the great fights and fighters I remember. Hillary Connelly V Hector Thompson V Manny Santos more than any series of fights. Hector went over and fought Duran in his home city. I have that somewhere on CD.
I also remember those attendants in their blue coats, I'm sure they were blue.
Anyway we have new champions now who live up to standards these guys set.
I still go to the local fights when they are on at Flemington,
Take care
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Re: OZ boxers of the past - Discussion

Post by Cap »

Ok. Between 1900 and 1955 who were the 10 best Australasian (OZ and NZ) heavyweights and how would you rate them in order from best to last. No fighter who campaigned under 175/12st 7lb. We're talking George Cook, Tom Heeney, Colin Bell, Allen Williams, Alf Gallagher, Wokko Bill Britt, Ken Brady, etc. Bill Squires, Bill Lang and Heeney were, I think, the only ones to fight for the world title but maybe others were just as good.
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Joined: 18 Oct 2016, 04:54

Re: OZ boxers of the past - Discussion

Post by bollocks »

The name Lance Hobson popped into my mind so I thought I'd mention him here. He collapsed between rounds of a fight he was winning in 1996 in Melbourne, and never regained consciousness. RIP
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