Bygones: Wally Swift remembered
WALLY Swift's wife Sheila represented the family at the funeral of ex-boxer Mick Leahy in Coventry recently. Around 400 people, some from Ireland, were at Our Lady of Assumption in Tile Hill. Leahy died on January 5, aged 74, at University Hospital, in Coventry, after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease.
"It was a very moving service," said Mrs Swift, who married Wally at St Martin's Church, in Bilborough, in 1962.
"It was a bit upsetting but Mick was given a good send-off."
Mrs Swift says Nottingham hero Wally is in good health these days. He loves his gardening. But his memory isn't what it used to be.
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Leahy, who fought Swift four times, appeared at the old Ice Stadium on three occasions. He boxed Swift twice and knocked out George Aldridge in the first round for the British title.
Watch a clip of Mick Leahy (at the time, British Middleweight Champion), losing the title to Wally Swift:
Swift and Leahy first clashed at the Free Trade Hall, in Manchester, in September, 1962, Swift winning on points over eight rounds.
Three months later they met in an eliminator for the British middleweight title and boxed a draw in Nottingham.
Tommy Little refereed the re-match at the Granby Halls, in February the following year, Swift losing on points over 12 rounds.
But Swift had his revenge over Leahy on December 14, 1964, on a Reg King promotion at the Ice Stadium.
Swift, having the 64th pro fight of his career, performed superbly that night as he became only the second boxer to win both the welterweight and middleweight belts.
Swift opened with two lefts high up on Leahy's head, but the defending champion hit back with a right cross to the jaw.
Swift was not afraid to mix it with the aggressive Leahy and started to stamp his authority on the fight.
Leahy tried to crowd Swift in the third, but the Nottingham favourite twice rocked his man with solid body punches in the fifth.
Leahy, being urged on by his corner, found Swift an elusive target and was warned for careless use of the head by referee Jack Hart from London.
Swift, using both hands to good effect, had Leahy swinging wildly, while still connecting with good shots of his own.
Leahy, with swelling around his right eye, started to tire in the 13th.
The 15th, and last, round was fought in a deafening atmosphere and a posse of police moved ringside to prevent any trouble as the referee immediately raised Swift's arm at the end.
Leahy's supporters, understandably, booed the decision, but Swift was a worthy winner of the Lonsdale Belt, presented to him by Lord Scarsdale.
Many ringside felt this was his finest hour.
Swift had hoped to clinch a fight with European champion Laszlo Papp on the back of the victory. But it never happened.
Ironically, Leahy had boxed the legendary Hungarian in Vienna, three months before he met Swift.
Leahy bravely climbed off the canvas three times before losing on points.
Afterwards, the Hungarian government refused to let Papp fight for the world title because "financial gain was incompatible with socialist principles" and he retired from the sport unbeaten with a 27-0-2 record.
Leahy, born in Cork, campaigned all over the world and is perhaps best known for beating the legendary Sugar Ray Robinson on points in Scotland in 1964.
He boxed at Madison Square Garden and took Nino Benvenuti to 10 rounds.
Leahy (72 fights, 46 wins (16 KOs), 19 losses and seven draws) was forced to retire at the age of 30 following a car crash in Coventry.
He lost an eye after he went through the windscreen following a collision with a parked lorry.
Swift, for his part, had 24 more pro fights – retiring in July 1969 after being stopped in 11 rounds by Les McAteer for the British and Commonwealth middleweight titles.
To see clips from the historic British title fight log on to Asphyx1at3D or You Tube.