Exhibition salutes illustrious boxing past

A NEW exhibition at the Harborough Museum has been set up to salute the town's boxing heroes of yesteryear.

For a town of its size, Harborough has a remarkable history of boxing success.

The area has produced a total of three British champions. It has also been the home of other professional boxers, and hosted a thriving boxing club.

Reggie Meen was born in Great Bowden and became British Champion in 1931. Following his success, two other boxers were attracted to the area who used the same training facilities in Desborough.

Black Canadian Larry Gains joined in 1930 (he was British Empire Heavyweight Champion 1931-34), and South African Ben Foord trained there from 1935 (British and British Empire Champion in 1936/7).

It was in 1945 that Market Harborough formed its own amateur boxing club. This was situated in rooms at The Peacock Hotel.

After the Second World War, a new name emerged from the Market Harborough boxing scene. Jack Gardner had been a boxer during his time in the Grenadier Guards from 1943 to 1948. He had won the Army and Imperial Service titles, and in 1948 he became British Amateur Heavyweight Champion and represented Britain in the Olympics.

Soon after this he turned professional and in a fight that was christened 'The Bloodbath of the Midlands', in 1950, he beat Johnny Williams of Rugby and became British and British Empire Heavyweight Champion. In 1951 he landed the European Heavyweight title.

Another famous boxer from Market Harborough is George Aldridge, British Middleweight Champion in 1962/63, who visited the museum last week to view the exhibition.

George won the Midlands Area title in 1959 and in 1962 before defeating John 'Cowboy' McCormack to win the British title in November of 1962.

He also made an unsuccessful challenge to Laszlo Papp in 1962 for the European title.

The London-born Aldridge family moved to Market Harborough during the Second World War, and from the late 1940s George was a member of the Market Harborough Amateur Boxing Club, fighting professionally from 1956 to 1963. From 1973 to 1988 George was landlord of the Talbot pub in Harborough.

Included in the display are a number of photographs from the museum's collection, tracing the careers of the remarkable men.

The exhibition is to run until August 31.

Entry to Harborough Museum and all its exhibitions is free. The museum is open Monday to Saturday from 10am to 4.30pm, and Sundays from 2pm to 5pm. For more information call 01858 821085.

Harborough Museum is on the first floor of the district council offices in Adam and Eve Street, Harborough. The entrance is from the car park at the back of the offices.

Harborough Museum is operated in partnership by Leicestershire County Council, Harborough District Council and the Market Harborough Historical Society.