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John Claridge’s Boxers (Round One)

October 15, 2012
by the gentle author

Photographer John Claridge returned to the East End recently to visit the London Ex-Boxers Association and take portraits of the members. Coming from a family of boxers and being an ex-boxer himself, John possesses a natural empathy with these spirited men who were once the fiercest of opponents but are now the closest of friends.

Johnny Barnham (First fight 1950 – last fight 1955)

Ron Whittham (First fight 1950 – last fight 1961)

Joey Khan (First fight 1950 – last fight 1955)

Dynamo Colin Dunne (First fight 1993 – last fight 2003)

Peter Cragg (First fight 1966 – last fight 1970)

Sylvester Mittee (First fight 1977 – last fight 1988)

Ronnie Smith (First fight 1956 – last fight 1966)

Sammy McCarthy (First fight 1946 – last fight 1957)

Billy Graydon (First fight 1949 – last fight 1960)

Ron Cooper (First fight 1944 – last fight 1953)

Dave Cooper (First fight 1966 – last fight 1972)

Paul Fairweather, Committee Member of London Ex-Boxers ( fought in 1965)

Photographs copyright © John Claridge

You may like to read these boxing stories

Sylvester Mittee, Welterweight Champion

Ron Cooper, Lightweight Champion

Sammy McCarthy, Flyweight Champion

and take a look at these other pictures by John Claridge

John Claridge’s East End

Along the Thames with John Claridge

At the Salvation Army with John Claridge

In a Lonely Place

A Few Diversions by John Claridge

This was my Landscape

John Claridge’s Spent Moments

Signs, Posters, Typography & Graphics

Working People & a Dog

Invasion of the Monoliths

Time Out with John Claridge

Views from a Dinghy by John Claridge

People on the Street & a Cat

In Another World with John Claridge

A Few Pints with John Claridge

A Nation Of Shopkeepers

Some East End Portraits by John Claridge

Sunday Morning Stroll with John Claridge

John Claridge’s Cafe Society

Graphics & Graffiti

Just Another Day With John Claridge

At the Salvation Army in Eighties

23 Responses leave one →
  1. Janet Page permalink
    October 15, 2012

    What beautiful character photography. Makes me want to get my paintbrush out. Thank you for another wonderful insight

  2. October 15, 2012

    Fabulous portraits John. Amazing faces. G

  3. Marien de Goffau permalink
    October 15, 2012

    Wow, impressive!

  4. October 15, 2012

    Brilliant portraiture there!! Would definitely NOT like to mess with the second last chap.

  5. October 15, 2012

    Wonderful story, great faces, John has captured the raw, yet compasionate faces of these ex-boxers, with the feel you would come to expect from a great photographer like John Claridge.
    Can’t wait to see it in a book one day, hint hint.

  6. Lee permalink
    October 15, 2012

    Quite stunning. These are exceptional portraits !



  7. Matt Johnson permalink
    October 15, 2012

    It was my pleasure to watch John Claridge take many of these portraits. He has an effortless way of putting his subjects fully at ease. It is a double pleasure then to see how wonderful these photographs turned out.

  8. dennis permalink
    October 15, 2012

    Splendid stuff John, what a night round the French that would be, sharing a half with those guys. You allow us a special glimpse into their lives, really interesting to look into their eyes and start to imagine their stories. Will read up on the links you attached.

  9. October 15, 2012


    Great portrait pictures. You did an absolute KNOCK OUT series.


  10. Freddie Edmondson permalink
    October 15, 2012

    Further proof of photography being JC’s life and breath. Clearly John continues to be the consummate observer.
    Superb images beautifully crafted.

  11. October 15, 2012

    The faces in these images just leap out at you. I cannot stop looking at them and feel as if they are looking right back at me. Without knowing these men were fighters, the images still give a hint that their life styles were not average and that a few of them might have been fighters by the little crook in the noses.

  12. Chris F permalink
    October 15, 2012

    Smashing photos (No pun intended) They look like hard men who have had hard lives. Are they recent photos? I’d love to have a picture taken of me like this….

  13. Chris F permalink
    October 15, 2012

    I am an idiot! I’ve just re-read the top line… Of course they were taken recently… Durr!

  14. sarah ainslie permalink
    October 15, 2012

    Amazing powerful images and filled with passion. thank you Sarah A

  15. October 15, 2012

    Beautiful portraits of old fighters, which is not to suggest that I would fancy my chances against any of them, even today!
    Thanks, John.

  16. October 16, 2012

    John,many thanks for some really great photos of some of members,I know that they had a great time posing for you

  17. Alice permalink
    October 17, 2012

    Wow. I am a big boxing fan and it’s such a treat to see some of the old greats looking just as proud now as they did in their heyday. Absolutely beautiful. I particularly like the portrait of Sylvester Mittee, the depth of the textures are superb. Can we have some more please?

  18. October 18, 2012

    These are just the kind of guys to have at your side on a dark, dank evening
    in London’s East End . . . great drinking mates with countless tales to tell . . .
    fearless companions in the dark alleyways . . . and fabulous “models” for JC’s
    probing lens!

  19. October 19, 2012

    These portraits are stunning John all life shown in a face – amazing!

  20. john edwards permalink
    November 14, 2012

    Crafty JC right inside your guard – didn’t see it coming ….. Spot the division of career lengths mainly split between 5 years to 10 ? – reason is the fly & light burn out faster than the heavies and usually take many more blows which with all the ducking. bobbing and weaving leaves a ‘punch’ drunk. Like putting a watch in a blender for a workout.
    I know the patina of grain in every line, furrow, scar and deformation of printing technique is deliberate and stings you right between – and behind – the eyes as fast as an electric shock.
    The earlier fighters, as distinct from boxers as only the greatest can scrap and/or box as required and live to tell the tale coherently, look like Tollund [ found in bog – preserved ] Man – bent and pressed out of kilter by relentless accumulation of forces – Both Tollund & Fighters have their hide tanned in slightly
    different manner. The eyes of these warriors are very bright as those of a hawk, instinctive and trained to detect the slightest movement or atmospheric change and respond instantly. A lot of the ones around in the 30’s thru 50’s were fighting for ‘nubbins’ or coins/notes into the ring, starting at 14 years old, usually with a good pal so they played the crowd, learned the art and tried to beat each other with skill, not trying to really hurt the other, but still upping the ante as they grew to young adults …… will relate a true example in rounds 2 3 & 4 – Exhilarating & Heartbreaking… Right on the nose Johnny.

  21. alan fleming permalink
    April 6, 2013

    I believe these are important national treasure. Not only as a tough close up and personal portraits of the inner soul but as an nearly unparalleled social document. The hard prints emphasise the hard life. Don McCullin went to war to get great pictures, if he’s not envious of these he’s a bloody saint. Why do I get the feeling no-one else could have taken these. Knockout. I feel honoured to see them.

  22. Richard permalink
    December 17, 2013

    Great. Brings back memories. My manor my time. City Of Ldn Police..

  23. Mick Mahoney permalink
    February 19, 2014

    These are fantastic. I have the pleasure of having known/met three of the characters in your gallery and you’ve more than done these men justice. Great work. Great work.

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