Terry Downes, Britain's oldest world champion, has passed peacefully away at 81.
Much-admired for his brave, aggressive style, Downes shares with Randolph Turpin the distinction of having achieved a British victory over Sugar Ray Robinson.
Equally loved for his quick wit, Downes had this to say of his defeat of the legend considered by many the greatest boxer of all time, when Robinson was 41 years old: 'I didn't beat Sugar Ray, I beat his ghost. '
Downes won his world middleweight title by beating the brilliant Paul Pender and also recorded a win over a third great champion, Joey Giardello.
He leaves his wife Barbara, five children and eight grand-children, as well as the boxing world in mourning.
A statement from his family read: 'Terry Downes BEM, the former world middleweight champion, has died aged 81.
'Terry passed away peacefully on the morning of 6th October. At the time of his death he was Britain's oldest living world champion
'Terry was a beloved husband, father and grandfather to his wife Barbara, his five children and eight grandchildren, and will be enormously missed.
'The family ask for their privacy to be respected at this time.'
Pender put the title on the line against British Champion (and former US Marine) Terry Downes on 14 January 1961. Downes would have to travel to Boston for his opportunity, granted mainly through the persuasive methods of Harry Levene, the veteran British promoter.
In his last fight, however, Downes had beaten Joey Giardello in his last bout just three months earlier and was an uncompromising fighter: a real tough nut.
Although the champion scored a first round knockdown, the fight was a tough one for him. He was forced to fight the challenger's fight throughout and absorbed some tremendous body shots. Paul dug deep and didn't falter under the constant pressure.
By the end of the sixth, Downes' face was covered in blood: cuts from the eyes and a horrible one on the bridge of the nose. When the challenger came out for round seven, the blood was still flowing freely. After a few more punches landed on Terry's nose, the referee called a halt. Pender had defended his title for the second time.
Promoter Harry Levene made Pender a lucrative offer to defend the crown against Downes in a rematch, this time in Britain. Pender was spoilt for choice: a fight against the upcoming winner of the Fullmer-Robinson fight, a return with the Englishman or a defense against former king Carmen Basilio.
As it turned out, Basilio got the nod, and on 22 April 1961, the 'Onion farmer' got his opportunity in Boston. It turned out to be Basilio's 78th and final fight. He gave it a real go, despite being floored for the first time in his career. It was not to be as Carmen lost a clear decision, even though Pender had struggled to make the 160lbs limit and suffered eye damage himself.
On 11 July 1961, Pender came to London to take on Terry Downes in a rematch. It would be attended by 12,000 fans in Wembley (not the stadium, but the Empire Pool or Arena as it is now). Paul travelled by boat across the Atlantic, as he had a fear of flying!
Being at home inspired Downes, while being away not just from Boston, but from the United States seemed to leave Pender homesick. Downes came to the ring with a scar over the bridge of his nose that he had suffered in sparring. It would not take long for the cut reopen.
Both men were cut inside the first three rounds. The champion could not seem to get his game together and at the end of the ninth round, with cuts over both eyes, the Pender corner announced their man's retirement to a chorus of boos from fans who clearly felt they had been short-changed. Pender claimed to be suffering from a virus that had impaired his performance.
There was a return clause, but for contractual reasons and the fact Downes broke his thumb falling down a flight of stairs, the rematch would not take place until 7 April 1962 in Boston. Sam Silverman made Terry a substantial offer to relinquish home advantage.
The rubber match was a boring, drab affair with far too much holding, especially early on from the American. Again, both men suffered cuts, as the mauling and grappling continued throughout the match.
At the end of the fifteen rounds, during which the three judges must have had more than their share of black coffee, Pender had regained his championship by unanimous decision. (Two judges had Paul ahead by a single point.)
Pender put the title on the line against British Champion (and former US Marine) Terry Downes on 14 January 1961. Downes would have to travel to Boston for his opportunity, granted mainly through the persuasive methods of Harry Levene, the veteran Br