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Don Cockell


BoztheMadman
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One of the best British light heavyweights and heavyweights of his time who managed to win the light heayweight European title and the heavyweight Commonwealth title. Cockell was a short heavyweight at 5'11, with equally long reach. He however had a strong physique, could punch and was tough, going 9 rounds against Rocky Marciano in his only world title fight. He also holds victories over guys like Lloyd Marshall, Roland LaStarza, Tommy Farr, Harry Matthews, Albert Finch, Freddie Beshore and Bert Gilroy. Here is his story.

 

Donald John Cockell was born 22 September 1928 in Balham, London and grew up in Battersea, also a part of London. He never knew his father. As an adult, he became a blacksmith by trade and so developed a strong physique. He began boxing in fairground booths and soon climbed the amateur ranks before becoming a pro in 1946. His first fight was fought at 168 and he won it by a KO5. He then had a few fights at middleweight and won them all. He won his first 7 fights by ko before losing in a light heavy fight against Jock Taylor on points, after being down three times. After winning his next 6 fights, he again faced Taylor and this time lost by a KO6, getting stopped for the first time. He then won his 9 next fights before again getting stopped, this time by a corner retirement in 7 against Dave Goodwin, in August 1947. He avenged that loss in July next year by stopping Goodwin easily by a TKO2. Goodwin was down six times before the stoppage. At the end of that same month however, he ran into bad luck as he was stopped on a cut eye against Johnny Williams, in 2 rounds. His first significant victory came in June 1949 when he beat the Scotsman Bert Gilroy (83-25-9 at the time) on points in 8 rounds. His defense however continued to be a problem and he was again stopped in January 1950 against Aaron Wilson, who ko'd him with a left hook to the body in the 6th. In November, he scored his first great victory when he faced the aging but still one of the best American light heavies-Lloyd Marshall. Just before that, Cockell had won the British title by a KO14 against Mark Hart, in October. Fighting Marshall the first time, he won when Marshall was disqualified for a low blow in round 7. They had a rematch next year in February and this time Cockell produced an amazing victory by catching Marshall with a perfect right hook and knocking him out after only 35 seconds! Marshall proved to be damaged goods after that and lost his next two fights before retiring. On 27 March same year, Cockell experienced another triumph when he won the European title by stopping Albert Yvel (30-1 at the time) by a TKO6, after cutting him up so badly the fight had to be stopped. He then decisioned American contender Freddie Beshore and knocked out Nick Barone, another American, in 6 rounds, before making his first defense as the European champion against Albert Finch in October and knocking Finch out with a right to the body in round 7.

 

His gravy train temporarily ended when Jimmy Slade stopped him in 4 rounds by a TKO4. Cockell was down twice in the first round, came back to make the second one even, before again being down in the third and twice more in the fourth, after which the referee stopped it. Next year, on 10 June, he faced Randolph Turpin, the former middleweight world champion; Turpin weighed only 162 1/2 to Cockell's 174 1/4, yet proved to be the superior fighter and sent Cockell down three times before stopping him by a TKO11. Turpin was known as a hard puncher and a splendid offensive fighter. After this debacle, he entered the heavyweight division and ended the career of Tommy Farr by stopping him by a TKO7, 9 March 1953 and beat Harry Matthews of Seattle in Seattle by SD10, after knocking him down three times in the 9th. It was the first time Cockell fought in the States. He then beat Johnny Williams, a Welsh-born fighter, by PTS15 to win the Commonwealth title which had eluded him at 175. He defended the Commonwealth title once, beating Johnny Arthur on points, in Arthur's homeland of South Africa. He then went back to Seattle eventually to fight Matthews again and again won, this time by a RTD7. Matthews injured his back and was unable to continue. He then received a shot at the world title against Rocky Marciano. It was Marciano's fifth defense and it happened 16 May 1955 at Kezar stadium in San Francisco. Cockell came in weighing at 205 to Rocky's 189, but like against Turpin, it wouldn't help him. Although the first 3 rounds were relatively even, Marciano started pounding Cockell after that, while Cockell was unable to hurt him with his own punches. Cockell was knocked thru the ropes in the 8th and was then stopped 54 seconds into the 9th round, after being down twice more. Afterwards, in his dressing room, Cockell complained that the referee let Marciano get away with low blows, headbutts and punching after the bell. The champion himself praised Cockell's toughness and said:"He's got a lot of guts. I don't think I ever hit anyone else any more often or harder." That fight spelled the end of Cockell's prime, despite being only 27, due to all the punishment he took from one of the hardest hitters back then and probably ever.

 

In his next fight, he was easily dismantled by Nino Valdes of Cuba, a much bigger guy, and quit after 3 rounds after getting his left eyebrow slashed badly by Valdes' punches. He was also down in the third round. He had one more fight, on 24 April '56, when he was taken out by the Tongan puncher and fringe contender Kitione Lave in 2 rounds. It was clear to everyone present at Earls Court that night that Don Cockell was a wasted or spent force. He retired duly after that, still aged 27 and with a record of 66 wins, 38 by ko, 14 losses and 1 draw. He sued Daily Mail after the newspaper described him in his last fight as "overweight and flabby" and claimed he didn't try enough. He received 7500 pounds. In retirement he tried various jobs, including running a farm, a pub, and a haulage firm based in Ninfield, East Sussex. He eventually returned to his original trade of blacksmith and worked in an underground station in Fulham at the permanent way machine shops. He died 18 July 1983 from cancer, aged 54. He left behind a wife and a son, Patrick. Cockell was simply a very strong, hard hitting and tough fighter who may have lacked the finesse and probably the defensive skills to really make it big in boxing. Still, he achieved quite a lot with his limited skills. Thank you.

 

DonCockell.JPG

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