Taylor recalls life in Rose era

ADRIAN Taylor had a few moments reflection when he heard boxing great Lionel Rose had passed away.

“I was upset. I couldn’t go to the funeral but would’ve loved to,” Taylorsaid.

A boxer from Rose’s era, Taylorcame close to getting in the ring for a shot at glory with Rose and while he never fought him, Taylorhad the pleasure of meeting the legend at an exhibition bout, which he put on free of charge.

“I said to him, ‘If I ever get good enough, I’ll fight you’,” he said.

“The loss I had to Bobby Daldy (in 1966) cost me a shot at him.”

Looking back, Taylor’s not sure how he would have fared against the man who defeated Fighting Harada, or another of the country’s best, Johnny Famechon.

“I challenged both of them and I think I would have gone the distance with Johnny,” he said.

 “I thought Famo would win a world title but wasn’t sure about Lionel. I knew he’d go a long way, though.”

Taylorbelieves the biggest blunder he’s seen in boxing history was Rose and Famechon not being matched for the title.

“They were both world champions, they both lost them in the first defence. It would have had to have been held at the MCG,” he said. “I always thought Famo would have won, he was a smart fighter. But Rose had beautiful footwork. He was a big man but always managed to weigh in at 8 (stone) 6 (pounds).”

Born in the United Kingdom, Taylorimmigrated to Australiain the 1950s and joined the army. Living in South Australia, he embarked on a boxing career, even though he was a handy soccer player who went on to play for clubs such as Juventus.

But boxing was his first choice and possibly in his blood due to a close relative who was more than handy in the ring.

“My uncle was the British Empirechampion,” he said.

Growing up in an orphanage for close to a decade when he was young, Taylorlooked after his younger siblings after his mother was ill and forced into care. He was only five years old at the time and remembers the diet they lived on for a month before being taken into the orphanage.

“We lived on dripping and bread for a couple of weeks. Bloody good dripping though,” Taylorrecalled.

He became the amateur SA champion in 1960 and the following year, while still in the armed forces, Taylorhad his first encounter with the infamous Sir Arthur Tunstall in Sydneyand this left a lasting impression to say the least.

On a long card this particular night, Taylor’s bout was the last of the night, but there was a minor problem: his leave pass from the base where he was stationed expired at midnight.

Then it was discovered his opponent was heavier than expected, leaving the reigning SA amateur champion peeved and wanting to stand down from the bout.

Tunstall threatened to disqualify him and after a bit of persuasion from his trainer, Taylorgot in the ring, the fight not starting until after midnight.

It soon became a non-event as his more-fancied opponent decided to dance instead of attack. 

“He didn’t hit me in the first two rounds and I went after him in the third round,” he said.

“He (eventually) hit me with an open hand and that’s when I started chasing him.”

With Taylorhaving done the bulk of the attacking and landing more punches, the outcome seemed a certainty and the championship his.

“The decision came and went his way. I couldn’t believe it.”

While Taylor’s trainer was trying to calm him down, the crowd showed its dissent in the time-honoured fashion: chairs pelted into the ring and they rained down as he scampered for the safety of the degloving room.

In the middle of having his gloves removed, an angry Taylorsaw Tunstall approach and he told the defeated fighter he had to get back in the ring to receive the second place honour. 

“I refused to accept the silver medal and told him to stick it,” he said.

Then it was a mad scramble to get back to base via train and a missed stop meant the night became an expensive venture, insulted add to the injury of not winning the amateur title. He transferred to a different mode of transport and when he made it back to base, the MPs hurried him through the gate without reprimand.

“I spent a week’s pay catching that cab back,” he said.

In a twist, two weeks later a request came through for him to meet with a superior immediately, the invitation leaving the deflated boxer scratching his head.

“Private, you’re required at the town hall in Sydney,” Taylorsaid.

“I asked him what is for and he said he had no idea. But he did.”

On arrival to the town hall, the light welterweight fighter was presented with the title belt for the win. There had been a surprising change of heart which is unheard of in amateur boxing. To this day, Taylorhas the award for his achievement.

“Back than you only got to keep it for a year, but I got to keep this one for life,” he said.

“They reversed the decision which is something they never do.”

Tunstall of course had an ulterior motive. He wanted Taylorto represent the state in Perthat the Australian titles, but the NSW amateur champ had different ideas and he informed the controversial boxing administrator of his intentions.

“The next time you see me, you old bastard, you’ll have to pay because I’m turning pro,” he said.

And he did in 1962, and was victorious in his first professional fight, defeating Reg Gierke at Festival Hall.

His biggest achievement came four years later when he beat the classy Arthur Clarke. It was a bruising encounter at Festival Hall and Taylor’s third against him, the record standing at one-all before he nailed him for a second time.

“I stopped him in the 13th round,” he said.

This was part of a rich vein of form for the British-born lightweight, who had stepped out of the game for a couple of years. His record in the end stood at nine wins and eight losses by 1967, when he had his last fight against Leo Young in Melbourne.

Clarke was no mug with the gloves and got in the ring with the best fighters of the day.

“He fought Rose, Famechon and Toro George and lost on points,” Taylorsaid.

Taylorfought Toro George in New Zealandand came off second best. At least in the judges’ eyes.

“I think it was a hometown decision, but he knocked down a few times,” Taylorsmiled

Back in the day, TV Ringside made for popular viewing and Taylorgrabbed the spotlight in one show with the feature eight-round fight, making for his most famous moment in boxing.  

As part of the lead-in, Rose gave an exhibition bout and Taylorsaw first hand how good he was in the ring and in 1966, Taylorwas the main support for Rose, fighting Brian Levier in Melbourneand beating him on points.

The same year, he fought in front of 12,500 people at RushcuttersBayin Sydney, the tough Brit taking on Italian lightweight champion Aldo Colangelo and beat him in eight rounds. Luckily for Taylor, the Italian couldn’t find his range on the night.

“If he had’ve hit me, they would’ve picked me up in the bleaches. That’s where I lost all my hair, he went right over the top of my head (with a punch),” he said.

“It was the best stadium of all of them. The crowd was unbelievable.”

Moving to Gladstonein 1970 Tayloreventually set up shop underneath the town hall and started giving boxing lessons, unable to stay way from the sport which had consumed much of his life. He was never going to make a fortune training kids and it wasn’t long before he felt more a nanny than boxing coach.

“I was the cheapest babysitter in town; 20 cents I used to charge them,” he said.

In the end, he to do something to get rid of the kids just dropped there to muck around. The numbers dropped dramatically after Taylorlaid down the law. “It went from 50 to 15 kids in two weeks,” he said.

A comeback in 1973 in Gladstoneafter being retired six years pitted him against Billy Facer.

Dubbed in one newspaper at the time as ‘The man they said shouldn’t come back’, Taylorwent on to win, his motivation for fighting to raise money for the club.

“We packed the town hall. Fifty per cent didn’t think I could fight, the other 50 wanted to see me lose,” he laughed.

“I broke my thumb in the second round on his thick head.

Following the night, he had correspondence from his old nemesis and he hadn’t forgotten  

 “(Sir Arthur) Tunstall wanted the names and addresses of all the amateurs because amateurs couldn’t get on the same card as pros,” Taylorsaid.

“I sent him a telegram and told him to stick it.”

In his wisdom, Taylorhadn’t promoted the fight night as a pro bout. He carried out all the presentations for the amateur card and at the night’s conclusion invited the crowd to stay and see the pro fight between he and Facer. Taylorsplit the proceeds from the takings and the event was an overwhelming success.

“It was a great night,” he said.

During Taylor’s training days, Gladstonehad the honour of holding the Queensland School Boys titles for the first time outside of Brisbane, and the region has managed to punch above its weight in terms of producing pugilist talent.

Taylorteamed up with Mick Daly eventually, after first starting out assisting Joe Vardy in a house at BarneyPoint.

 “We’ve had some good kids come through here. I’ve helped train 10 Australian champions and at one stage we had 14 here.”

Of all of them, Ben McEachran stood out as an outstanding prospect and could have gone on to great things in time and given Taylor has seen and fought his fair share of fighters, gave a huge assessment of McEachran, who unfortunately had his career severed through injury.

“He’s the best I’ve seen in Australiaas an amateur.”

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