A Knockout Year

A great year for Welsh boxing as Swansea born fighter Brian Curvis brings home the belts.

After the seventh or eighth ring Brian Curvis answers the phone. Having only spoken once before, he instantly recognises my voice and apologises for having to re-schedule from the previous night.

The retired European Welterweight champion then goes on to explain how he has a form of Leukaemia and at times it is necessary for him to be under constant supervision, for hours, and even days on end.

“You just get use to it all I guess, it’s like most things in life, you find a routine and make the best of it.”

His strong Southern Welsh accent hasn’t faded over the years and considering his condition and age he comes across sharp and full of life.

Intense determination throughout his seven year professional boxing career earned him the title of British and European Commonwealth welterweight champion, and Welsh Sports Personality of the year in 1960. To achieve this feat the south paw fighter fought a total of 41 times, only to lose four of the battles, each of which was lost on points. He has never been knocked out.

In a decade where 15 rounds was still the norm Brian Curvis had stamina that was second to none. Notorious for wearing his opponents out and then delivering a heavy punch late in the fight, Curvis was feared in his division.

Curvis believed his dominance was down to hard work.

“I put it all down to training, everyone trains, I know that, but perhaps not like I did. I found that if I trained as hard as I fought in the ring then I knew I was in with a chance”.

“I didn’t want to let people down”

The most successful year of Curvis’s career was 1961. Fighting a total of six times and winning all but one by knockout.

Curvis reflected on his career. “61 was definitely my best year. The confidence I got from being voted Welsh Sports Personality gave me adrenaline for each fight. I didn’t want to let people down and wanted to show my gratitude.”

Perhaps his most notorious victory came in 1961 when he stood in the opposite corner to American fighter Wally Swift. After losing to Curvis by a points decision the previous year Swift sought a punchy revenge.

“The build up to this fight I still remember as if it was yesterday.

“It was the championship fight and I was eager to get in the ring. I got lucky the previous year against him; it really could have gone either way.”

The rematch was to be held in Nottingham on 8 May 1961 in front of around 4000 keen boxing and Curvis enthusiasts.

“This is one of the few fights I really remember distinctly. It was probably because it was for the British Welterweight belt.”

When remembering the Swift encounter Curvis added “He was definitely my hardest opponent. We fought in a similar way on opposing stances and this seemed to make the fights exciting.”

Like the previous matchup between the two the fight went the full 15 rounds.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been that tired, physically and mentally.”

The determination and training had once again paid off, and in what Curvis calls his “Proudest moment in boxing” he beat Wally Swift for a second time and became the British Commonwealth welterweight champion.

The Swansea born boxer retired champion in 1966 and is the only welterweight to have won 2 Lonsdale belts outright, an honour which Curvis is still proud of to this day. “To still hold that record today is a great honour.

“I didn’t really think about it all those years ago but looking back I’m glad I’ve done something that no other person has done.” He said this with a light chuckle to himself.

For those of you who aren’t great boxing fans a Lonsdale belt is the prize awarded to British champions. It has been used since 1909 and still is to this day. The fact that so many great British fighters have been and gone since the years of Curvis, and no one has yet even equalled his record, pays testament to just how great a sporting achievement it was.

“Swansea is where I learnt to fight”

 

Aged 40 Curvis decided to leave his home town in Wales and moved to Middlesbrough, where he still lives today. He recently returned to Swansea for the first time in over 20 years, to attend a reunion for the champions of Wales.

“It was good to see some familiar people, people I hadn’t seen for years. It was the first time in years since I’d been back, Swansea is where I learnt to fight”.

Happily retired and settled in Middlesbrough it seems that Curvis’s priorities are now with his family and with his health.

It was 50 years ago that a Swansea born boxer achieved top spot in his field. 50 years ago since the fight with Wally Swift made sure Curvis set a precedent. And it could well be another 50 years before that record is broken.

Luke Gallin

Leave a Comment