Monty Brown’s flying fists

Harry Vine (signing), Monty Brown and promoter John Mortimer (right).
Harry Vine (signing), Monty Brown and promoter John Mortimer (right).
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Local author and Portsmouth boxing aficionado Andrew Fairley tells us of another champ from the heyday of Portsmouth boxing.

Countless hours of toil in Gus Tout’s Queen’s Club in Lake Road had endowed Monty Brown with a refined left hand that would have blessed any boxer in the country, spearing open an opponent’s defence before he let go of the right hand that he would throw like a medieval mace.

Monty Brown in his prime.

Monty Brown in his prime.

Whoever Monty hit, stayed hit, and his destructive abilities brought him the middleweight championship of Hampshire and the silver challenge belt of promoter John Mortimer which Monty won outright.

From his earliest ring appearances Monty was tipped as championship material and his career culminated in a classic contest of boxer against puncher when he clashed with Hayling Island’s rough, tough knockout artist Harry Vine at the Connaught Drill Hall in 1936.

Born at Southsea in 1914, Monty was educated at the Beneficial School, Portsea, and became a master builder.

Monty turned professional at lightweight just before his sixteenth birthday and like so many pros of the era had a harsh apprenticeship in the ring.

Drawing over six rounds with Dick Pleace in his first fight in February 1930, a stoppage loss to George Todd at the Connaught Drill Hall followed in December, but not discouraged Monty began to rack up the wins and embarked on a two-year unbeaten streak. Monty wasn’t favoured to get past Stomper Pullen of Brighton who had won his previous 23 contests by knockout, but the Portsmouth man stomped the stomper and knocked him out in five, and from this point Monty became hot property.

At welterweight, Monty fought three bouts with Pompey’s Ted Darville, winning two and drawing one. Rarely did Monty meet an opponent with greater hand speed than himself, but the potency of Darville’s jab obliged Monty to change his usual tactics and in all three matches he triumphed by drawing the left lead and countering with punches far more solid than Darville could muster, showing Monty’s fine boxing brain and ability to think under pressure.

A further move up in weight to middle saw Monty engage in his hardest contest so far, a clash with Portsmouth veteran Steve Goldring who had been Hampshire middleweight champion for years.

Both men were at the peak of fitness that night in October 1934, and to the delight of an excited crowd at the Connaught, Monty used his longer reach and impeccable jab to overcome Goldring’s experience and win the title on points.

Before the fine victory could sink in, a challenge was issued to him from the ring from Harry Vine. Having first knocked out Gosport’s Sam Welfare, Vine was matched with the former British welterweight title challenger Stoker Reynolds in a final eliminator, and after being hopelessly outboxed for nine rounds the Hayling Island man again found the equaliser with three vicious knockdowns that sent Reynolds back to campaigning at welter.

Vine’s star was firmly in the ascendant and what a shock he must have had to read in the paper on May 2 that Monty had been forced into temporary retirement on medical grounds and had vacated the title. Ten months passed before they stepped into the ring on March 3, 1937, to fight for the Hampshire title and the John Mortimer silver challenge belt in a highly anticipated match that would pit Monty’s silky boxing against the never-say-die, big-punching Vine.

Rarely had the Connaught Drill Hall crowd witnessed a contest of such intensity, and whoever said that boxing was made for man but man wasn’t made for boxing could have used this contest as an illustration.

Both men took the sort of punishment that can have life-changing repercussions. As a skilled craftsman Monty spent the war in the Dockyard, and at the end of hostilities Monty continued to work as a builder.

Monty was married to Mary in 1936 at St Peter’s Church, Southsea, and raised three daughters, Eileen, and twins Chrissie and Glenys. At the age of 52 Monty was diagnosed with a brain tumour and in the following six years the family watched him deteriorate. He died in 1972. Daughter Glenys says of that terrible time and the father she adored: ‘We treasured him and it must have been heartbreaking for my mother. He was so physically fit. We absolutely loved him to bits, and we’re very proud of what he achieved.’