Alan Rudkin

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Alan Rudkin, arguably the greatest bantamweight this country has ever produced and very much a forgotten hero, was found dead in a Liverpool street early yesterday morning. He was 68 and his death is not yet explained, and one hopes that the gifted little man, a modest man, was not killed in his beloved home city. Police are awaiting post-mortem results. Alan did it all in a glittering career that won him British, Commonwealth and European titles and three cracks at the world title in a frightening era for the bantamweight division in the 1960s. Here, he might have won the world title but Alan was forced to travel to challenge Fighting Harada and Lionel Rose, dropping close decisions, and was stopped in two rounds by “Rockabye” Ruben Olivares in Los Angeles in 1969. All three champions were probably unbeatable at the time Rudkin faced them, and Alan was inexperienced when he took Harada the full 15 rounds in Tokyo in 1965. Fresh-faced and with a mop of sandy hair, Alan looked very much the Beatle in his early career and first caught the eye as an amateur as part of the legendary Great Britain side which whitewashed the USA 10-0 at Wembley in 1961. Unlike Billy Walker, Rudkin was never a big puncher but destroyed many opponents mentally as he took over during the course of a fight, particularly the course of 15-rounders. Rudkin enjoyed ‘sussing’ his opponent before reacting. He won the British bantamweight title from Belfast great Johnny Caldwell on a rare stoppage in 10 rounds and enjoyed a fierce rivalry with Scottish great Walter McGowan, with whom he shared two 15-round pure boxing classics, and later saw off domestic challengers Evan Armstrong and Johnny Clark (twice). He also cleaned up in Europe. His last fight with Walworth’s Clark at the Albert Hall in 1972 is arguably the best domestic bantamweight scrap ever seen on these shores, and Rudkin won it to leave the sport on a high and a huge void among the smaller weights in this country. Sadly, Alan never really found meaning to his life after boxing. He ran pubs but too many idiots wanted to fight him, but he developed an inevitable liking for drink and you wonder why he was out in the early hours of Wednesday, although he was close to his city centre home. Boxing historian Derek O’Dell saw him on Saturday night at the Shoreditch Town Hall bash, attended by hundreds of fighters who fought at the legendary cockpit arena, including Alan himself, and Alan “seemed a bit quiet” but perked up when he was reunited with Clark. Make no mistake, Alan Rudkin was right out of the boxing textbook, a complete fighter with every shot in the book, good stamina, defence and a brilliant boxing brain. He is – and always will be – one of our boxing greats. Source: Phil Kirkbride, Liverpool Echo