The old path to the pawn shop
Eric Boon followed the classic boxing path: from eager amateur to popular professional to fighting for much too long, all the way to the pawn shop.
He was a fine boxer, an actor and a flamboyant character. But, like so many others, he did not know when to retire. He ended up pawning his Lonsdale belt.
Boon, who once knocked out South African hero Laurie Stevens in Johannesburg, fought as a professional from 1934 to 1958 and became the youngest fighter to win a British title.
He appeared in a series of vaudeville stage productions and had parts in a number of films. One of his fights was the first one to be televised on BBC.
His boxing career, and his ups and downs outside the ring, are recalled in another fascinating book by Bob Lonkhurst, Chatteris Thunderbolt – The Eric Boon Story.
Boon was born on December 28, 1919 in a small market town, Chatteris in the middle of the Cambridgeshire Fens.
As a schoolboy, he was often involved in playground and street fights. Because of his aggression, he was encouraged to join a local boxing club. His first official fight was on March 17, 1932 when he lost on points over six two-minute rounds.
Schoolboy boxers were often called Boy those days and he soon became known as Boy Boon. He was also known as the Fen Tiger.
His amateur career ended late in 1934 when he took part in a bout in a boxing booth at the Chatteris Fairground and was paid for it.
The amateur authorities notified his club that he had forfeited his amateur status after he had lost only lost two of 25 schoolboy bouts. The British Boxing Board of Control rules prohibited anyone younger than 16 years being paid but Boon soon turned professional and issued challenges at local shows.
He made his professional debut on December 13, 1934 and beat Doug Claxton on points over six rounds. He had many fights in small hall shows in the Eastern Counties but received most of his boxing education at the Devonshire Club at Hackney in London’s east end.
Jack Solomons, who later became a leading promoter, took Boon under his wing and guided him to a fight for the British lightweight title against Dave Crowley. It was regarded as one of the best lightweight fights ever seen in England. Boon won by knockout in the 13th round to become the youngest boxer to win a British title.
He made successful defences against Arthur Danahar and in a rematch against Crowley to win a Lonsdale belt outright. The fight against Danahar, held at the Harringay Arena, was the first to be broadcast on BBC television.
The start of the Second World War ruined the possibility of a world title fight and in May 1940 Boon joined the RAF. He was discharged three years later after suffering serious head injuries in a motorcycle accident.
Ignoring medical advice, he continued boxing even though he was a shadow of the former hard-punching fighter who drew large crowds to his bouts.
In 1946 and 1947 he visited South Africa; still good enough to knock out a fading Laurie Stevens in the third round. It was Steven’s last fight.
While he was in South Africa, Boon also beat Alf James, a Frenchman by the name of Maurice Ouzeman and a Dutch fighter, Giel de Roode.
Sadly, Boon kept fighting when he was well past his best. From 1948 to 1953 he had ten fights, of which he lost eight inside the distance. He finished with a record of 110 wins – 72 inside the distance – 24 losses, 6 draws and one no-contest.
He also experienced a number of ups and downs in business ventures. Once, when he was broke, he pawned his Lonsdale belt. It has been claimed that he sold it and it was never found again.
He spent his final years in Soham in Cambridgeshire, and did charity work around the country before he suffered a heart attack and died on January 18, 1981 when he was 61 years old.
Lonkhurst, who has also written books about Tommy Farr, Jack Petersen, Terry Spinks and Dave Green, has done another a fine job with this one. It is published by BL Associates and has 396 pages.