Wednesday, May 2, 2012
Tributes to Terry Spinks have arrived at the Recorder offices from home and abroad, with their memories of the boxer who thrilled the nation in 1956 when he brought home a gold medal from the Melbourne Olympic Games.
The West Ham ring hero passed away on Thursday at the Chadwell Heath home of his cousin Rosemary Ellmore, who for some years had cared for the former boxer.
Although it is half a century since he hung up his gloves, the 74-year-old has remained a hero at his West Ham Boxing club and secretary Lianne Jameson said: “Apart from Terry’s magnificent achievements in the ring he was a true gentleman.
“He put West Ham ABC on the map, without him we probably would not be the club we are today.
“After the Olympic Games he donated his gold medal, winning gloves and kit to the club, they hang proudly in our gym. He supported the club throughout his life and would without fail attend dinner shows and presentations. Even through periods of ill health the smiling baby face would be there offering guidance to current members.
“He was West Ham through and through, an inspiration for current and former members alike and we will miss him greatly. Rest in peace Golden Boy.”
Among the tributes from around the world, a former training partner at the Hammers famous Black Lion gym, Paul Warwick, contacted the Recorder from Canada saying: “Terry Spinks was one of the true gentlemen in the sport of boxing, I still have fond memories of our days at the gym.
“Please pass on my condolences to Terry’s family and our West Ham Boxing Club,” said Warwick – an outstanding lightweight who won a European Championship medal in 1961 before retiring and settling in Canada.
Spinks is well remembered as a superb stylist in both amateur and pro rings, and he still remains the youngest Briton to win an Olympic boxing gold medal – claiming the flyweight title in Melbourne when he upset the star Romanian Mircea Debrescu in the final.
Many thought the teenager was too young to take on the top flyweights in amateur boxing, but he sparkled as he overcame five opponents – including tough internationals from Russia, France and Argentina – before striking gold.
The son of a bookmaker, Spinks served a spell as an apprentice jockey, but after his Games success a career as a pro boxer was the obvious step and he made his debut in 1957, taking the British featherweight title from Bobby Neill in 1960.
He lost that title to Welsh star Howard Winstone the following year and although he never had the power to match his global success as an amateur, Spinks won 41 of his 49 pro fights.
He ended his career as a 24-year-old, beating Johnny Mantle at the Royal Albert Hall, the famous Kensington arena where they tolled boxing’s traditional 10-bells tribute to Spinks at Saturday night’s show.
In retirement he trained amateur and pro fighters, including the Korean boxing team at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games where he witnessed the Black September terrorists approaching the Israeli quarters before the massacre and raised the alarm.
However, the fighter who enjoyed the bright nights of glory in the ring knew the dark days in later years when he suffered personal and financial blows and admitted he “took comfort in a bottle of whisky.”
When he had his problems with ill health he was taken in by his cousin Rosemary and her husband Terry.
They campaigned to get the former boxer the MBE, which he finally received in 2002 – many years after Scot Dick McTaggart, who also won gold in Melbourne, was honoured.
In recent years Terry’s cousin was never far from his side as she accompanied him to boxing functions including the London Ex-Boxers Association meetings.
Many representatives from the sport will attend his funeral service at the East London Cemetery, Plaistow on the afternoon of Wednesday May 9, final details to be confirmed tomorrow (Thursday).