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Boxing's own Believe It Or Not


Had Robert Ripley followed the sport, he could have written a boxing version of Believe It Or Not.

Fortunately, someone else has done so; an Englishman by the name of Ray Lambert.

As a long-standing member and press officer of the Kent Ex-Boxers Association, Lambert often travelled around Britain at the invitation of similar organisations.

He listened to stories told by champions and undercard fighters and realised they should be shared with boxing enthusiasts.

Lambert began writing these stories down in a notebook, which resulted in the publication of Nobbins.

The book, published by RAYL in Chatham, England, is not intended as a chronicle full of boxing records. It is a light read, offering many quirky and offbeat stories.

“Nobbins” is British slang for money that spectators used to throw into a boxing ring in appreciation of a good contest. It seldom happens these days.

Stories of events that took place in the 1800s and during the first half of the 20th century were c ontributed by the late Gilbert Odd, a former editor of Boxing News and author of several boxing books.

Nobbins , not divided into chapters, flows from page to page, brimming with fascinating stories chosen at random.

Readers are treated to amazing facts and delightful quips and anecdotes, including:

Joe Grim, who had more than 300 fights up to 1913 and was knocked out only three times, won only five of his fights.

When Laurie Buxton beat Mike DeCosmo on points on May 18, 1948, he had to raise his own hand because the referee had been knocked out by the last punch of the bout and was still unconscious.

A bout between Harry Wills and Jack Thompson in 1921 was so devoid of action, with both boxers not trying to fight, that referee Eddie Hanlon walked out of the ring. He refused to return and would not announce a decision.

Bare-knuckle fighter Tom Sayers was laid to rest in London’s private burial ground, Highgate Cemetery. At his funeral, the “chief mourner” was his bullmastiff, which led the cortege.

A bare-knuckle fighter of the early 1800s, Tom Hickman, named his favourite punch “The Whisker Punch,” thereby starting a trend.

Other punches were named The Cork Screw (Kid McCoy), the Scissors (Battling Nelson) the Solar Plexus (Bob Fitzsimmons), Mary Ann (Frank Moran), Suzy Q (Rocky Marciano) and Thor’s Hammer (Ingemar Johansson).

When Dado Marino took the world flyweight title from England’s Terry Allen in Honolulu on August 1, 1950, the tiny Filipino was 33 years old and a grandfather. He was, at the time, the only grandfather to have won a world title.

Billy Bolton boxed professionally in the early 1930s despite having an artificial leg.

Teddy Baldock, the world bantamweight champion in the mid 1920s, started boxing for money a couple of months before his 14th birthday.

Former world heavyweight champion George Foreman once asked: “What’s the point of weighing in heavyweights?”

Bert “Kid” Freeman recalled an old dodge of having someone in the audience throw a couple of halfpennies into the ring after his bouts. It got the ball rolling and he sometimes earned as much from those “nobbins” as much as his purse was, adding to his take-home pay.

There are many equally fascinating stories in Nobbins, as charming a boxing book as one can find.


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