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Heavyweight victory over future Prime Minister

Roy Ingram, one of the most colourful characters in South African boxing, is possibly best remembered for his eighth round stoppage win over Roy Welensky at the Princess Theatre in Salisbury on August 14, 1927 for the Rhodesian heavyweight title.

In 1957 Welensky would become Prime Minister of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland and subsequently earn a knighthood.

Ingram was born and named Reginald William Thomas in Belfast, Ireland on November 19, 1900, and was four years old when his parents emigrated to South Africa where his father became a policeman in Johannesburg.

As a youngster Ingram first learnt to box at a club in Fountain Road, Fordsburg where future South African heavyweight champion Nick van den Berg and Richard “Dickie” Beland, who represented South Africa at the 1920 and 1924 Olympics, also trained.

He won several school championships and in 1922 won the welterweight division at the South Amateur championships and in 1924 the middleweight class.

It has been reported that he took part as a welterweight at the 1920 Olympic Games in Antwerp. However, there is no evidence of him participating.

He gained selection to the Springbok team for the 1924 Paris Olympics and fought in the welterweight class at the tournament which was held at the Velodrome d’Hiver.

In his first fight he knocked out J. Remy of Belgium and in the second series he outpointed J. van Dam from Holland. However, in the quarter-final round Ingram was eliminated by Jean Delarge of Belgium who would go on to take the gold medal.

On his return from the Games he made his professional debut on December 6, 1924 against Reggie Hull in a challenge for the South African welterweight title at the Johannesburg Town Hall.

He fought to a 20 round draw with the more experienced Hull, who was unbeaten at the time and also held the South African middleweight title.

In only his second professional fight he faced Wally Baker in a clash for the vacant South African middleweight title and was knocked out on the eighth round. Ingram always insisted he was the victim of a fast count by referee Sandy Cairns.

The two had fought three times as amateurs with Baker winning 2-1 and as professionals they met on two occasions with their five-fight series becoming one of the most memorable rivalries in South African boxing.

After his loss to Baker, Ingram stopped Lou Montille in three rounds in Durban before meeting Baker in a return match on January 2, 1926 at the Johannesburg Town Hall for the vacant SA middleweight title.

Ingram kept Baker on the outside with his jab for the first 12 rounds before a frustrated Baker kept hitting him with the back of his hand and was disqualified by referee Billy Fairclough in the thirteenth round.

Ingram never defended the title and announced his retirement six months later.

However, he returned to fight Welensky and then took on Alec Storbeck, who knocked him out in the ninth round and broke his jaw.

He then met Bill Cunningham in a bare-knuckle fight in the hills outside Johannesburg on April 30, 1929. The fight ended in a draw after two rounds when the police intervened.

In his last fight, a rematch against Storbeck on May 9, 1931 at the Raylton Club in Ndola, Rhodesia, he was again knocked out, this time in the third round. He finished with a record of 3-3-2; 2.

After retiring from the ring Ingram remained in boxing and became one of the best referees and judges in Johannesburg just after World War 11.

In his twilight years he shared the reception desk in the foyer of the South African Associated Newspapers building in Johannesburg with his life-long friend Johnny Watson, who trained Willie Smith and Laurie Stevens.

He passed away on May 14, 1972.

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