Its Not What You Know… Brighton Boxing Bets

first_img[dropcap]W[/dropcap]e, my father and my two older brothers Maurice and Sydney would go to boxing shows, nearly every two weeks, I think it was a winter season.I was 10, Maurice was 13 and Sydney was 12, we all loved it, the places we went to were Wembley Pool, Haringey Arena, Royal Albert Hall, Empress Hall, Earls Court and sometimes York Hall.Does anyone remember those days?It did not make any difference to which venue we went, we always sat in the 2nd row. My father was sent the tickets by the promoters, the ones I remember were Jack Solomons, Mike Barrett and Harry Levine. Every month my father would take us up west too! Noshers Salt Beef Bar in Windmill Street, then go to the offices of the promoters – they all had offices close by and settle his account.On one boxing occasion we were walking on the forecourt leading into Haringey Arena when a car pulled up in front of us. Three men got out, one of them wearing a large hat and smoking an even larger cigar.The man in the big hat looked at my father and called out “Ginger!” my father walked over to the man who enquired how he was doing and who were these three young men. My father replied that we were his sons.Fantastic the man said, boys come over here as we approached the man he put his hand in his pocket and pulled out some white paper. He gave us a piece of paper each and it took a moment to realise what it was.It was a white fiver (a £5 note) the average weekly wage then was about £2.In today’s money that’s something around £1,000.Oh the man’s name was Jack Spot! He was a gangster and at that time was the underworld king.Not what you know!My father was not a big bookmaker, he always bet to a limit but when it came to boxing he was a different man. On most fights he would play small, just to have an interest, but on a big fight the sky was the limit for him and to win or lose £5,000 was the norm.In the 1950’s betting at the fights was not allowed, all around the arena were signs saying betting is illegal. No one took any notice.I remember Big Bertie Pearson was the number one bookmaker with his partner, not sure of his name, I think it was Frank ?. After every round they would call out the odds. The number of bets was amazing, it was all done on trust and after the fight everybody settled up.Some years later the law was enforced and betting at the fights stopped. It was the same time we stopped going.In 1955 my father, my brother Sydney and myself went to Brighton. I was 14 at the time, the reason for going was my father wanted to have a bet on a fight.The fight was between Rocky Marciano (who I met later but that’s another story) and Don Cockell for the heavyweight championship of the world.The fight took place in San Francisco in the month of May.On arrival we checked in at the Metropole Hotel, we then made our way to West Street to find Dummy’s snooker hall. On entering the snooker hall we find Dummy, my father and he went to school together. Dummy could speak but he was very hard to understand. It’s funny my father seemed to understand everything he said.My father explained to him that he wanted to back Rocky Marciano and he had £10,000 with him, is there anything you can do?Dummy somehow explained that money was not a problem, if he wanted more on the sky’s the limit (just like today).Ok, I leave it with you, my father replied, what time should we come back?Come back around 7pm, then I will let you know what I have been able to do, Dummy said in his own style.We left the snooker club and started to walk along the front towards Hove, after a few minutes we heard someone blowing his car horn and shouting out Ginger, we all turned to see what it was all about.Parked by the kerb was a Rolls Royce, sitting in it was the handsome Harry (Errol Flynn) Saffron, so called because of the bevy of beautiful girls he nearly always had by his side, funny he was on his own, on this occasion maybe he had not scored yet.He was a well know bookmaker who had pitches at Wembley, Wimbledon and White City. If he appeared at any of the tracks without one or two beauties, people would make a joke about it – asking him if he was ‘in season’.We walked over to the car where he asked us what were we doing in Brighton, after telling him he said OK, you have plenty of time, come to my flat for tea.We got into the car. I think it was the first time I ever went in a Rolls, I also think it was the first automatic car I went in. I think he could change gear without using a clutch.We only drove for a minute as Harry lived in a penthouse flat, right on the front. It has now gone replaced by a block of flats but they are four times as high.After spending the afternoon with Harry it was time to go back to Dummy to see what he was able to do. Dummy somehow explained to my father that he had managed to get £18,000 on Rocky Marciano, not sure what the odds were it was either 2/9 or 1/9, my father gave Dummy the £10,000 and said if Rocky gets beat he will bring the other £8,000 down to Brighton the day after tomorrow. Dummy conveyed to him, don’t worry whenever you want.We left the snooker hall and went to a restaurant for dinner before going back to the Metropole, as we were going to bed we asked our father should we wake him to listen to the fight, it was on the radio about 4am in the morning. Don’t you dare he said, his sleep was more important than the money. At home to wake my father up before 10 was asking for trouble.We got up and listened to the fight, Rocky won every round and the referee stopped the fight in the 9th round.Harry Saffron met a mature lady who owned an estate in Haywards Heath, just outside of Brighton. We believe he got married and settled down to become a country gentlemen.We waited till the afternoon to go back to Dummy. When we got there, he took us into a office where he settled up with my father, my father giving him a commission for the work he had done.Right, who’s asking the question, why would you go to Brighton to have a bet?Well at that time Brighton was the open city of England. They had more illegal things going on there than the rest of the country put together. The police force turned a blind eye to what was going on, gangsters were doing crooked business without much ‘bovver’ from the police.But like all things, nothing stays the same forever. In 1957 five people stood trial at the Old Bailey three police officers and two people from the public. I know two of the police officers were found guilty, not sure what happened to the others.Because of what happened in Brighton, a new law was passed, about who’s in charge and where.last_img read more