By John Rawling
Dave Charnley has died of lung cancer aged 76; he was an outstanding British lightweight champion. He also held the European and British Empire titles, and was widely regarded as possibly the best British boxer never to have won a world title. In April 1961, he narrowly lost on points over 15 rounds against the American world lightweight champion Joe “Old Bones” Brown, in front of a then British record indoor crowd of 18,000 at Earls Court, in London. Charnley was too much of a gentleman to publicly rail against this misfortune, but he always believed that he had done enough to have been awarded victory.
It was the second time that Charnley, nicknamed “the Dartford Destroyer”, had challenged Brown for the title; he was stopped because of a cut over his right eye after five rounds in the US two years earlier. He fought Brown for a third time, in a non-title contest at Belle Vue, Manchester, in 1963, knocking out his old rival in six rounds, but Charnley would never fight again for a world title. He retired in 1964, after stepping up a division to face the formidable world welterweight champion Emile Griffith in another non-title fight at the Empire Pool, Wembley, only to suffer three knockdowns and a bad beating on his way to a ninth-round stoppage loss.
Charnley was born in Dartford, Kent, where his Scottish parents had relocated from Motherwell. He showed an early aptitude for boxing, joined the Dartford amateur boxing club and moved to the renowned Fitzroy Lodge club in London, where he developed his southpaw skills sufficiently to win the 1954 ABA featherweight title. He took the bronze medal at the British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Vancouver in 1954.
Before becoming a full-time professional, Charnley had worked as a boilermaker for the Vickers engineering firm, in Crayford, Kent. After joining boxing’s paid ranks at the end of 1954, aged only 19, it was soon clear that his sharp punching style would make him popular with the leading promoters. He beat Joe Lucy on points to win the British lightweight title at the Harringay Arena in London in 1957, and continued to hold that title until his retirement seven years later; he won a Lonsdale Belt outright with his second defence, against Maurice Cullen in Manchester in 1963.
After beating Lucy, Charnley quickly proved he could operate at the world level. He lost a challenge on points for the Empire title, held by Willie Toweel, but in a return match with him at Wembley in 1959, he won by a 10th-round knockout.
A year later, Charnley stopped Mario Vecchiatto, again at Wembley, to win the European title. By this time, he was earning handsomely; he was sensible enough to save and later invest the money from his ring career, enabling him to become a wealthy businessman. Before he quit boxing, he had already launched a successful hair salon.
He estimated his ring earnings to have been in excess of £400,000, a considerable sum at the time, and he soon moved into the property business. He bought land and built estates in the Dartford area then established the offices of his company in Regent Street, where the business expanded through restorations of hotels and other projects.
Charnley’s biographer, James Kirkwood, said: “It may be a cliche, but it really was true of Dave that you never heard anybody say a bad word about him.”
His first marriage, to Ruth, was dissolved. He is survived by his second wife, Maureen, and by their two daughters, Lisa and Joanna.
- Dave Charnley, boxer, born 10 October 1935; died 3 March 2012
Courtesy: The Guardian