learning disability; he would wonder around the town asking people for money and cigarettes.’
He liked to play on the fruit machines in the arcade; he would often be seen collecting the glasses in all the bars. All the landlords would often give him a free pint because they knew that was the only way to get rid of him. Robert Mather from Hoults would often give Johnny a bag full of pies and pork sandwiches because he didn’t get much to eat at home.
Sol the father to eight kids had little or no time for his children. They went around the streets with very little in the way of clothing whilst he drove around in a beat up old Cadillac like some American pimp.
He was renown in North Shields for being a bit of a womaniser. Two of his children Jeff and Isaac took up boxing at a very early age under the tutelage of a black ex pro called Joe Myers. Joe had an assistant called Eric Clarke who had been a former member of the North Shields Boys Club boxing team in the late fifties.
They saw boxing like a lot of depraved children as a way out from the ghetto that they were born into. Kenny the youngest followed his brothers around everywhere they went he never boxed but he went training with them every night.’
Joe soon took them under his wing and they became prominent members of the club.
Each night Joe would take them back to his house where he would share African dishes with them. He and Eric bought them training gear to wear and treated them like their own children.
There was a large boxing team at the club with fifteen boxers fighting at different weights. North Shields Boys Club in Hawkey’s Lane was built from the money donated by Smiths Dock as a social outlet for the youth of North Shields. There were many sports played in the club ran by Councillor Harry Martin. They had a great football team, Judo club, gymnastics squad, table tennis team, and some good snooker and billiards players came out of there as well. Harry organised a boxing tournament every year at the Park Hotel in Tynemouth. It was part of the Tynemouth Rotary Clubs contribution. The Park Hotel was one of the most spectacular venues to hold boxing.’
“Right back from the early fifties they had been holding boxing tournaments there against the forces of the army, navy, and air force boxing teams. With the emergence of a brash young boxer in the early 60’s called Cassius Marcellus Clay (Muhammad Ali) who had come back from the Olympic Games in Rome with the Light heavyweight gold medal around his neck. This young man was different to any other boxer around the world where by he held his hands low, he danced around the ring like no one had ever seen doing what he later called the Ali shuffle.’ His hand speed and reflexes beggared belief and he went around telling people that he was going to be the next heavyweight champion of the world. The heavyweight champion at that time was none other than Charles Sonny Liston a rough, tough, black fighter with thirteen inch fists who had knocked out the great Floyd Patterson twice.
Cassius tuned professional and he was knocking them all out. He predicted rounds, wrote poems to taunt his opponents with. Sonny Liston was no exception Young Cassius follow Liston around saying that he was the greatest. He called Liston an ugly bear and even drove a bus to his house and called him out on the street.’
The fight took place on the 25th February 1964 and Clay was given little chance against Liston; he was the underdog but on that night we witness the strangest fight in boxing history as Clay out punched out danced and outwitted Liston who had tried dirty tactics during the fight. Clay couldn’t see during the sixth round as something was rubbed into Clays eyes during the round from Liston’s gloves.