Contributed by sportswriter Paul Zanon
Featherweight boxer, Jordan Gill, is currently the talk of Chatteris, the small market town in Cambridgeshire. But the first to put the town on the fistic map almost 80 years before Gill made his debut, was a certain Fen Tiger by the name of Eric Boon.
He had a fight record as long as your leg, and of his 141 bouts, he won an incredible 114, losing 21, drawing five with one no-contest. The dapperly dressed lightweight, often seen wearing tweed, coupled with a faultless haircut, would go on to star in a few of the famous ‘Carry On’ movies, including ‘Carry on Regardless,’ which ironically, was a true reflection of his fighting spirit and lifestyle – often referred to as a womaniser and playboy. At the ripe old age of 13, on 7 December 1933, Boon had his first fight as a professional boxer, against Paddy Chilvers. Scheduled for six rounds, Boon stopped the King’s Lynn boxer in the third, in front of 2,000 of his Chatteris supporters.
West Anglia’s sporting hero soon built up a loyal following in the local area that even the train companies started to put on extra services to accommodate travelling fans whenever he would fight outside of Cambridgeshire. And every time he’d come home victorious, the streets came to a standstill with banners displayed outside buildings and on buses.
The 5ft 4in Chatteris favourite was very active between 1936-1938, clocking up an incredible 69 fights, with only two losses. However, it was on 15 December 1938 that Boon had his breakthrough against ring veteran Dave Crowley, stopping him in the 13th round to become British Lightweight champion.
Two months later, on 23 February 1939, he defended the title against ‘The Irish Guardsman’, Arthur Danahar, in front of 14,000 spectators at the Harringay Arena. Interestingly, it was the first time the BBC had been allowed to televise a live boxing show, with a number of theatres in London selling tickets to paying patrons, such as the Tatlar News Theatre and the Marble Arch Pavillion. Rumour has it that when the news of the BBC’s coverage was confirmed, television sales rocketed in and around Cambridgeshire. However, with an average order taking several weeks to come to fruition, fulfilment became near on impossible. Those with a television set consequently became very popular – for one night at least. Despite Danahar’s unblemished record, the teenage Boon stopped his Bethnal Green adversary in the 14th round of a cracking domestic tear-up.
He would hold onto the coveted Lonsdale strap for six years, before being stopped by Welshman, Ronnie James, in Cardiff on 12 August 1944. Boon was unable to regain the title and in fact was unsuccessful at any other title attempts during the remainder of his career. He retired after the James loss, however, it was no secret that the affable Boon was a bit of a party animal. Living a life beyond his means, he was forced back to the ring 11 months later.
The closest he got to regaining a title was on 14 May 1946 when he took on his old rival, Arthur Danahar at welterweight, in an eliminator for the British title. After hitting the canvas in the fourth round, Boon was on the back foot and was eventually stopped in the 10th session.
After the Danahar loss, Boon fought outside of the UK for his next seven fights, boxing in South Africa and Zambia. He won the first six fights, then lost the seventh against Giel De Roode on 8 September 1947 in Johannesburg. The De Roode defeat signified the start of a slippery slope for Boon, as he became a road warrior, fighting in the US, Canada and Australia, only winning one of his next 11 fights.
Suffering a string of knockout losses, the British Boxing Board of Control decided to strip him of his licence. His last fight was on 31 October 1952 against Pat Ford in Brisbane, Australia.
Boon died in Soham, Cambridgeshire on 19 January 1981, from a heart attack. He was 61-years-old.
Paul Zanon, has written eight books, 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 is a regular contributor to Boxing Monthly magazine amongst other publications.