Terry Downes Dies at 81; Middleweight Champion Was Britain’s Pride

Terry Downes Dies at 81; Middleweight Champion Was Britain’s Pride


Pender, Downes said, “had won by a nose.”

Downes won the title during their bruising rematch that July in London. But he was disappointed that it ended when Pender did not rise from his stool at the start of the 10th round.

“The fight wasn’t going Pender’s way,” Downes said to The Daily Mail. “And he wasn’t daft. He jacked it in because he knew he had a return fight in Boston. He was getting beat and did not want to take a battering.”

Back in Boston the next year for the last fight of their trilogy, Pender reclaimed the middleweight belt in a 15-round slugfest.

Downes faced Robinson, a five-time world middleweight champion and one of the greatest fighters in history, in 1962 five months after losing the title to Pender. But by then Robinson was 41 and past his prime.

“I didn’t beat Sugar Ray,” Downes said after beating him in 10 rounds on points. “I beat his ghost.”

Downe’s Up Top (1962) Video by British Pathé

Downes’s fighting career competed with the increasing attention he received for his part ownership of betting shops with Sam Burns, his manager. The British government legalized betting shops nationwide in 1961, and within two years Downes said he had sold a share of his shops for $728,000, although he and Burns retained control of them.

Later that year, Downes played down suggestions that he would retire to tend to the shops. “I got to fight so I can sleep nights, mate,” he said after ending a six-month layoff by fighting Rudolph Nehring as a light-heavyweight. “I’m too young to go to seed, but I haven’t slept properly since I stopped training. Now that I’m back in harness, I sleep like a baby.”

Photo

Barbara Windsor and Terry Downes in the 1965 Sherlock Holmes movie “A Study in Terror.” He acted on stage and television and in films after his boxing career.

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Photofest

Downes fought three more times after knocking out Nehring, all as a light-heavyweight. In his final fight, in late 1964, he faced Willie Pastrano, the world champion. Downes pressed Pastrano with his swarming style until Pastrano sent Downes to the canvas twice in the 11th round and the referee stopped the bout.

Downes and Burns owned the betting shops until the early 1970s, when they sold them to the William Hill bookmaking chain.

Terence Richard Downes was born in the Paddington neighborhood of London on May 9, 1936. His father, Richard, was a mechanic, and his mother, the former Hilda Horwood, worked at a department store. His father taught him the basics of boxing, a skill he found useful in the streets.

“Every day of my life was a fight day,” he told The Telegraph. “You’d sock some kid on the nose and his big brother was round later to avenge the family name.”

He was having increasing success as an amateur, fighting for a local club, when his family left for Baltimore in 1952 to care for his sister, Sylvia, a trapeze artist who had lost her right arm in a traffic accident.

During his five years in the United States, Downes fought at a local Y.M.C.A. and joined the Marines, where he was among the 10 Eastern representatives scheduled to fight in the boxing trials for the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne, Australia. Ultimately, he did not meet the residency requirement that would have allowed him to represent the United States.

“I was all right to be in the bloody Marine Corps, catching bullets in the front line,” he told The Guardian, “but with boxing gloves they said no, you can’t represent us.”

He returned to Britain in 1957 and began his professional career with two quick victories. But he lost his third fight on a fifth-round technical knockout to Dick Tiger, a future champion whose skills were greatly underestimated by the promoter.

Afterward, Downes said he had wondered why he had been matched with a giant — but “then I realized I was flat on my back looking up at him.”

In addition to his wife, the former Barbara Clarke, he is survived by his sons, Terry Jr., Paul and Richard; his daughters, Melanie Cooke and Wendy McNicholas; eight grandchildren; and his sister, Sylvia Haddaway.

After his boxing career, Downes acted onstage, on television and in movies like “A Study in Terror” (1965), a Sherlock Holmes film, and Roman Polanski’s 1967 horror comedy, “The Fearless Vampire Killers,” in which he portrayed the servant of Count von Krolock, a vampire played by Ferdy Mayne.

Mr. Polanski spotted Downes being interviewed on television and was aware of his lack of acting experience. But something about Downses’s face and physique led him to hire him to play the servant, Koukol.

“Maybe he didn’t like the look of me,” Downes told The Daily Mail. “He cast me as a bloody monster, a hunchback with a deformed face and a club foot.”



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