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Boxers of Yesteryear: Joe Erskine

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JOE ERSKINE: British and British Commonwealth Heavyweight Champion, 1950s


Renowned for his ring-craft and defensive shrewdness, Cardiff’s Joe Erskine was described in Boxing Monthly as “probably one of the finest technicians in British heavyweight history.” Between 1958 and 1960, Ring Magazine continuously ranked Erskine as one of the world’s ten best heavyweights. Standing 5’11” and weighing 195 lbs at his peak, Erskine accumulated an overall record of 45-8-1 (13 kayos) during his ten-year professional career. Angelo Dundee who saw his prospect Pastrano defeated by Erskine said he was surprised by his skill - further remarking that if Erskine had been just a bit bigger he could have been a world beater.

Joseph "Joe" Erskine, was born on the 26th January, 1934 (Died 2 February, 1990)in the Butetown district of Cardiff, Wales. During his boxing career he was Amateur Boxing Association Champion, Inter-Services Champion and British Army Champion in 1953, he turned professional in 1954. As a pro boxer he held the British heavyweight title from August 1956 to June 1958. In all, he won 45 of his 54 professional bouts, losing 8, with one drawn, the best wins were over George Chuvalo, Henry Cooper, Dick Richardson, Uli Ritter, Jack Bodell, Johnny Williams, Joe Bygraves, and Willie Pastrano.

As a professional Erskine went undefeated in his first 30 professional bouts. During these years, he defeated Henry Cooper (11-1; eight kayos), Dick Richardson (17-2-1; 14 kayos), and Johnny Williams (60-9-4; 38 kayos). The victory over Williams, a fifteen round decision in 1956, earned Erskine the British heavyweight title.

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Career Highlights of JOSEPH JOE” ERSKINE

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On 15 December, 1955, Erskine had his first fight against Henry Cooper, at Harringay Arena, in an eliminator for the British heavyweight title, and won the ten-round fight on points.

On 27 August, 1956, Erskine won the British heavyweight title, which had been vacated by the retirement of Don Cockell. He beat fellow Welshman, Johnny Williams on points in a fifteen-round fight at the Maindy Stadium, Cardiff.

On 19 February, 1957, Erskine lost for the first time, a first round kayo at the hands of dangerous Cuban veteran Nino Valdez (37-15-3; 30 kayos). Undeterred by this setback, Erskine rebounded by beating Cooper again, taking the British Commonwealth title on points in a battle of left jabs. Two months later, Erskine retained his title by outpointing Jamaican Joe Bygraves over 15 rounds.

On 17 September, 1957, he added the British Empire (Commonwealth) heavyweight title, when he beat Henry Cooper for the second time. The fight was at Harringay Arena over fifteen rounds, and was won on points.

He successfully defended his British Empire (Commonwealth) against Jamaican-born heavyweight Joe Bygraves on 25 November, 1957, again winning over fifteen rounds on points.

On 21 February, 1958, he unsuccessfully fought for the European heavyweight title against Ingmar Johansson, in Gothenburg, Sweden, losing on a technical knockout. Erskine’s corner threw in the towel in the thirteenth round as he was under heavy attack by the Swedish power puncher. 

On 3 June, 1958, he defended both his titles against Brian London, of Blackpool in a bout at the White City Stadium, London. Erskine was knocked out in the eighth round.

On 24 February, 1959, Erskine fought and defeated the talented American boxer Willie Pastrano, who was later (in 1964) to become World light-heavyweight champion. The fight was at the Wembley Stadium over ten rounds and Erskine won on points.

On 24 June, 1959, he fought another Welsh boxer, Dick Richardson in a ten-round bout at Coney Beach Arena, Porthcawl, Wales, and won on points.

altIn the meantime Henry Cooper had defeated Brian London to take the British and Commonwealth titles from him. On 17 November, 1959, Erskine fought Cooper for both titles, having beaten him on their two previous meetings. The bout was held at the Earls Court Arena, London. Cooper won the fight on a technical knockout. Cooper, who was renowned for the power of his left hook, floored Erskine twice with terrific left hooks and Erskine was hanging almost unconscious over the lower rope when the referee stopped the bout.

On 21 March, 1961, Erskine fought Cooper again for the two titles, this time at the Empire Pool, Wembley, and again lost on a technical knockout, this time in the fifth round.

George Chuvalo Vs. Joe Erskine - October 2nd, 1961 - The Greatest Win Of Erskine's Career - Erskine went to Toronto, Canada to fight George Chuvalo, who was hoping to show that he had the talent to fight for the world title against Floyd Patterson. Unfortunately for Chuvalo the fight, was stopped in the fifth round and Chuvalo was disqualified for persistent head butting. Erskine claimed that he was butted eight times during the five rounds.

On 2 April, 1962, he fought Cooper for the fifth and last time, this time at the Ice Rink, Nottingham. Cooper retained his titles by winning on a technical knockout in the ninth round.

On 13 October, 1963, he fought the famous German, southpaw, Karl Mildenberger, in Dortmund, Germany, and lost the ten-round bout on points.

On 3 March, 1964, Erskine fought Jack Bodell, a British champion of the future, and defeated him on points over ten rounds.

His last fight was against Billy Walker on 27 October, 1964 at the Empire Pool, Wembley. He lost the ten-round bout on points.

In his 54 professional bouts Erskine,  won 45 (13 on knock-outs), and lost 8 (6 on knock-outs). One of his bouts was drawn. ). Although just 31 years old and still a formidable fighter, Erskine retired from boxing after the Walker bout.