“Ron Peck had a lovely, natural laugh and could get in with anybody. He was so empathetic and he could sit down with anyone from any walk of life, and I can’t think of anyone who didn’t welcome his company. As a film maker and a person, Ron’s best moments were when we had our best moments and I understand that so much more now I’m older.”
Film director, Ronald Lyndsey Peck had over four decades behind the lens, directing and creating grass roots productions, which will remain in the archives as nostalgic masterclasses for many years to come. Ron, who was part of the BVB brotherhood sadly passed away passed on 2 November 2022 and as a fitting tribute, we decided to catch up with three boxers who had the pleasure of acting in a few of his productions.
Esteemed boxing trainer and former decorated boxer, Mark Tibbs recalled his first memories of meeting Peck. “Me and Dean Hollington were asked if we wanted to be in a film. We were only about 18 and were boxing for Repton. This guy said there’s a movie being made about boxers, which eventually turned out to be Fighters. We went over to some gym in south London somewhere and that’s where I first met Ron. Me and Dean had never acted before and in all honesty, we were mainly in the background of Fighters. Ron loved improvisation on screen as he felt it added that real life element to the films and shortly after meeting me, he met my dad. Honestly? I couldn’t watch it myself up to about 10 years ago, just because I’d lived boxing all my life and also because I was a bit self-conscious!”
Fighters is arguably the best behind the scenes boxing documentary out there. If you haven’t had the pleasure of taking in the sights, sounds, smells and grit of 1990 Canning Town, then you’re in for a treat when you get round to watching it for the first time. Mark Tibbs explained what made the production so unique. “It was reality. You could feel the emotion. Ron had so many hours of footage from that film that he could have made a number of films or sequels. He followed us out of the Royal Oak Gym and up and around the country, filming proper behind the scenes footage in dressing rooms. Mickey Duff and Terry Lawless allowed him in the dressing rooms and my dad said, ‘Back then, that was unheard of.’ Ron loved it and so did we.” Jimmy Flint added. “Fighters was a film that was telling the truth. When I first met Ron, he didn’t know the fighters. It was me that introduced him to them and that’s when the film started coming together. The rest was all down to him. He made it happen. He created the magic on screen.”
Flint, AKA former featherweight Southern Area champion, ‘The Wapping Assassin,’ has an impressive on-screen résumé, having starred in everything from Guy Ritchie’s Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels to Kavanagh QC. The East London native recalled how he first crossed Peck’s path. “I first met Ron at the Half Moon Theatre and I was playing a young boxer in a play by John Quarrell called ‘The Third and Final Round.’ Ron came up to me and told me he liked my performance and then said, ‘I’m going to do a film. I’d like you to be in it.’ We met in a pub, which no longer exists, called The Black Boy and he had an actor to play the lead role in the film, Boardwalk Empire. Improvisation was Ron’s forte and it wasn’t a case of him giving you lessons or anything like that, he’d watch you and tell you how he wanted the storyline to go. That allowed for so much more creativity than a rigid script. On the first day of filming I went in and started improvising with this guy, but he couldn’t improvise, so Ron got rid of him and kept me!”
Improvisation is indeed an art on screen and without a director to steer the output and content, it can quickly move away from the theme, the storyline and on occasions, get a little out of hand! Mark Tibbs recalled. “Ron had a studio in Mile End. There’s many funny stories from making those films, but one in particular comes to mind. Jimmy Flint was a bit lively, 30 years ago, as we all were! Me and Jimmy Flint knew each other very well and it felt a bit awkward at first when we had to do these scenes when we were having a go at each other. This one particular moment, Ron put Jimmy in a situation on set in the film and as we played our roles, I could see in Jimmy’s eyes and he could see in mine that we were both getting heated. As we started arguing with each other, it felt like it was nearly real, which for the viewers great to watch. Those moments when you immerse yourself into the character that deep are called ‘rushes.’
Jimmy Flint added his own memorable anecdote. “You’ve heard of Jimmy Tibbs haven’t you? They get Jimmy in to start rehearsing with me, in what was a very confrontational scene. Jimmy Tells me, ‘I’m a Christian now. I’m much calmer these days.’ I said, ‘OK, Jim.’ He said, ‘I don’t do this anymore, or that.’ It was a scene where he was supposed to be getting angry with me and he said, ‘How far do you want me to take it?’ I said, ‘Take it as far as you want to take it.’ Ron also gave him the nod and Jimmy absolutely went for it. He was standing in front of me shouting and threatening as his son Mark and Ron Peck were there just staring, not knowing if Jimmy was being serious.’ Then he turned and calmly said, ‘How was that, Ron?’ They start laughing and I said, ‘It’s alright for you guys. You didn’t have to fucking stand in front of him!’”
Legendary boxing trainer Jimmy Tibbs discussed a recent visit to Peck, shortly before the directing genius passed away. “Ron was a very nice man and I met him in the Peacock Gym many years ago, with my Mark and Dean Hollington. They were talking about doing a film which turned out to be Real Money. I didn’t think I was going to be in it but ended up playing a major part. He made the whole process so easy and very enjoyable.
“Then a few weeks before he died, me and Mark went to see him at the hospital and when I walked in he didn’t quite recognise me until Mark said, ‘It’s my dad. Jimmy.’ His eyes lit up and you could see he was pleased to see me. I had a chat with him and then said, ‘Do you remember Ron years ago when we did the film? [Real Money]’ and he rolled his eyes. We laughed and I said, ‘I took over, didn’t I?’ and we laughed some more. I said, ‘Remember me saying when you were making the film, ‘This is the way you’ve got to do it, Ron.’? We all started laughing some more. There was a scene where we had to film outside a police station, but we didn’t have permission and Ron wasn’t sure if we should be filming. I said, ‘Leave it to me. I’ll go the police station and tell them we need to be a bit of filming outside.’ The police knew me and said, ‘Yeah Jim. Of course.’ Ron said, ‘Lovely! Thanks Jim!’ He was a lovely man, a good director and I learned a lot from him in that little bit of acting I did about how the film business works.”
Peck first directed in 1974, bringing over 10 films to the big screen for our pleasure. He also wrote scripts, edited, produced and acted. When asked how Peck should be remembered, Flint answered, ‘He’s an artist.’
Rest in peace Ron.
Paul Zanon, has had nine books published, with almost all of them reaching the No1 Bestselling spot in their respective categories on Amazon. He has co-hosted boxing shows on Talk Sport, been a pundit on London Live, Boxnation and has contributed to a number of boxing publications, including, Boxing Monthly, The Ring, Daily Sport, Boxing News, Boxing Social, amongst other publications.