billy was a boxer

As a true-blue Aussie kid I grew up listening to stories of family overseas told by my mum and grandma, both born and bred Yorkshire lasses.

One particular great uncle was larger than life and his story always fascinated me. The narration always began with . . . {in your best Yorkshire accent}

“Our Billy was a boxer.”

My mum’s uncle and grandma’s eldest brother, Billy MATTICK was born in Featherstone, West Yorkshire in 1903. His father Robert was a deputy at Featherstone Colliery. You can read more about the MATTICK family in my post the four yorkshiremen.

As a child Billy liked to ‘scrap’ with other boys, and as he grew up he became a confident and charismatic young man. He began working in the coal mines with his father in Pontefract but it was a hard life for little reward. Billy decided to put his pugilist’s prowess to good use in order to pull in some serious money.

Billy Mattick (Castleford) Welterweight.

Billy Mattick (Castleford), Welterweight 1921-1929.

Billy MATTICK of Castleford started his professional boxing career in 1921 when he was 18 years and 11 months old. He had 96 recorded contests and quite a successful and lucrative career. He won 56 of his fights, lost 30, and drew 10.

Billy was crowned the North’s professional welterweight champion at the peak of his career and he became a top-of-the-bill draw for fight fans, who flocked to see his silky-smooth skills and gutsy performances.

More than once Billy had three fights within a fortnight and he got paid the same – win, lose or draw. In one notable week he KO’d a Scottish champion in the eleventh round, put away a fairground champion in the sixth and travelled to Lincoln to knock out a Midlands bill-topper.

Billy fought many notable opponents over eight years, taking on boxers from the UK, Belguim, France, Holland and USA.

The Scottish champion he knocked out in the eleventh round was Tommy MILLIGAN in a bout on 29 October 1923 at St James Hall in Newcastle. Milligan went on to become the British and British Empire Welterweight Champion 1924-25; European Middleweight Champion 1925; and British and British Empire Middleweight Champion 1926-28.

Billy continued to have success in the ring and in the first half of 1924 he won six and drew one in a total of nine fights at Pudley Street Stadium, Liverpool; St James Hall, Newcastle; and The Ring, Blackfriers. Some of the notable fighters he beat were: Frances DESPREY (France); Sonny BIRD (Chelsea); Gaston PAUMELLE (France); Joe ROLFE (Bermondsey); Pat McALLISTER (Belfast); and George CARNEY (Bermondsey).

Billy MATTICK and Tommy MILLIGAN had a second fight on 12 July 1924 in Celtic Park, Belfast, Ireland. In this return bout Billy was KO’d by Tommy in the fifth round.

Mattick_Billy_News_1983

Tommy Milligan (Hamilton) and Billy Mattick (Castleford) square up for a media photo at the weigh-in before their 12 July 1924 fight in Celtic Park, Belfast.

On 19 March 1925, Tommy MILLIGAN and Ted ‘Kid’ LEWIS were the top-of-the-bill fight at Royal Albert Hall, Kensington, London. Castleford’s Billy MATTICK and Simon ROSMAN of Holland were also on the bill that night.

The fighters were fairly evenly matched with MATTICK weighing in at 10st 8lbs and ROSMAN at 10st 7lbs. The ten round match was a draw and appears to have overshadowed the main event of the night, as you can see in this cartoon by Tom WEBSTER published in The Daily Mail two days later.

Mattick_Billy_Cartoon_1925-03-19

I found this well-worn newspaper clipping in my grandma’s keepsakes. It is Billy’s account of his bouts with Tommy MILLIGAN. I have included a transcript below.

Billy's report of his fights with Tommy Milligan [circa June 1927]

Billy gives his account of his fights with Tommy MILLIGAN in an unknown British newspaper article, circa June 1927.

BILLY MATTICK

__ . __

Popular Boxer in His Fight With Tommy Milligan.

In dealing with the chances of Tommy Milligan against Mickey Walker our boxing writer “Sirius” mentioned that Tommy had only once suffered a technical knock-out and that was against Billy Mattick, although he was not “out” and could have continued.

Billy, who is a constant reader of “Reynolds’s,” writing from Tredegar House, Glasshoughton, Castleford, says:–

Since I have been boxing five and a half years, I have always been told that if a boxer is knocked down and fails to rise to continue to box at the end of ten seconds, he is out.

I don’t doubt Tommy Milligan could have continued after he had risen to his feet, but he had been counted out, and when he did arise after “out” had been called, he fell down again.

A GREAT FIGHTER

Tommy Milligan is a great fighter and I have nothing to say about him, apart from him being a great fighter. He is a clean fighter, too, one of the cleanest I ever had the good fortune to meet.

Had I had the luck to beat him the second time I fought him, things would have been totally different. I had him down in the second round, and I fell for the crowd, and didn’t keep my head long enough to hit hard again. Anyhow, he won in the seventh round I think, a punch to the mark.

Some boxers are lucky and some are unlucky. I think I am one of the latter. It is no use taking it to heart, or I would have given it up long ago.

NOT TOO OLD

Some people say I am an old hand, and think I should give it up. But I was eighteen years and eleven months old when I had my first fight, and that was in York, November 17, 1921 and the following April I fought and knocked out Frank Fowler at York.

You will see that I am not so old as some people imagine, and I think I have still a few more years of boxing to do, if I am lucky to get contracts, which I sincerely hope I may, if not in England, in the States.

At the age of 25 Billy was definitely not old, but he had sustained a few serious injuries including damage to his left eye from a left hook by Dixie BROWN of Bristol in their fight at The Ring, Blackfriers on 21 January 1926. This match was an example of Billy’s never-say-die spirit when he was tested to his limit.

In their fifteen round match Billy was knocked down four times but refused to give in. It was a hard-fought battle by both fighters, and at the final bell Billy was awarded the decision by the narrowest of margins due to his good work early in the bout.

Billy was not a slugger, he was a very skilful and classy boxer and a favourite with fight fans and boxers alike. I met him once, in the late 1970s when my mum took my sister and I on a trip to visit our grandma in England. By that time great uncle Billy was an old man in his 70s, but he still looked after himself and walked tall as those who are disciplined athletes often do.

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

Sources: Photos are from the BUCK and MATTICK family collection. Copies of newspaper clippings are from Billy MATTICK’s personal collection and were kindly shared with me by his children Pat and Terry and his grandson Jon HARRIS. Thank you to Chris Walsh for sending me newspaper clippings of fights relating to his grandfather Gentleman Joe ROLFE. Alex DALEY and Miles TEMPLETON at boxinghistory.org.uk have been very helpful in providing a comprehensive record of Billy MATTICK’s fighting career. You can find more on the fight records of the boxers mentioned in this article at the BoxRec website.

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4 thoughts on “billy was a boxer

  1. Hi
    How strange! I was doing a bit of research into my family history (my Gran’s side) and she tells the same stories of great uncle Billy. She still lives up the street from the Glasshoughton home. My gran’s maiden name is Barbara Mary Mattick, known as Mary Mattick. I’ll have to find out more of the family tree and how we’re connected!

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