Retro: The fight that helped launch boxing legend

Bruce Woodcock v Gus Lesnevich non title fight
Bruce Woodcock v Gus Lesnevich non title fight
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Seventy-five years ago this week, on January 26, 1942, to be precise, a young boxer from Doncaster was preparing to make his debut in the Royal Albert Hall.

Weighing just 12 st 8lbs, Bruce Woodcock was up against a formidable opponent in 14st 6lbs Fred Clark.

Bruce Woodcock returns home to a heroes welcome after beating Jack London.

Bruce Woodcock returns home to a heroes welcome after beating Jack London.

But with speed, skill and calm determination, the 21-year old boxer from Mona Road, Balby, triumphed after three rounds and returned home from his first professional bout with a £25 prize.

Boxing News reported that Woodcock ‘dispatched ex-stoker Clarke in impressive style on his professional debut’.

Bruce Woodcock went on to become a sporting hero – a British and Empire heavyweight champion from 1945-50 and European heavyweight champion from 1946-49.

The talented sportsman initially honed his skills boxing against pals in local woodland, then joined an amateur club.

But throughout the early months of his career he continued to train in a tiny makeshift gym behind the Plough pub in Doncaster.

As an 18-year-old working on the railways, Woodcock boxed for England in the 1939 European Championships in Dublin, and won the ABA light- heavyweight title, paving the way for his future achievements.

Against Joe Baksi in 1947 he was floored with the first punch, but fought on to suffer a broken jaw, and a detached retina in his left eye. He took further titles but was dependent on one good eye.

Despite his success and huge popularity, the boxer shunned any form of celebrity lifestyle.

He married Nora and had two children, a boy and a girl.

His autobiography, Two Fists and a Fortune, was published after his retirement in 1951.

Woodcock ran the Tumbler pub in Broomhouse Lane, Edlington, for many years, then later moved to Warmsworth.

He died in December 1997.