Local author Andrew Fairley is writing a book on Portsmouth boxers since 1900 and there seems to have been a fair few of them.
Andrew is profiling a dozen boxers from the local area plus many more who have fleetingly passed through over the years. It should be a marvellous read. One of the local men who fought in recent years was Wayne Evans.
Here is Andrew’s chapter on the Welsh boxer who stills lives locally...
Portsmouth has a proud history of producing game fighters over the decades, men like Billy Streets, Johnny Smith and Micky Driscoll, and with professional boxing currently flourishing it’s hard to believe that between 1959 and 1974 no professional shows took place in our island city at all.
The famine ended when Waterlooville bantamweight Wayne Evans took his professional bow at Kimbells ballroom in Southsea, defeating Liverpool’s Ray Scott in five rounds in a fight The News reported as heralding the birth of a star.
Injury prevented Wayne from winning the championships he craved, but his star did indeed burn brightly in the fistic firmament.
A fit and well 60-year-old, Wayne is a builder who also drives a taxi over the Christmas period for Andicars.
Born in Wales in 1955, Wayne’s family moved to Waterlooville aged eight when his father Gwyn found work as a lorry driver following the decline of mining in his home country: ‘My dad was a miners boxing champion and my uncle Gordon had the Tonypandy boxing club,’ Wayne explains.
‘I started boxing when I was 13 at Hillside in Paulsgrove, before going to Waterlooville boxing club.
‘I loved it, travelling away to London and other places as a team.
‘The social side was brilliant.’
Wayne enjoyed a stellar amateur career, winning two NABC championships, two junior ABA titles and narrowly losing a senior ABA final to Scotland’s Stuart Ogilvie in 1974: ‘I was 19 and he was 26! As it turned out, Ogilvie was the only boxer to beat me as an amateur who I never beat in a return.
‘That was my final amateur bout and I turned pro the same year.’
Wayne’s career was a family affair.
Managed by his father, Wayne was also trained by his brother Ralph who became the first Welshman to win Olympic glory in boxing with a bronze medal at light-flyweight at the 1972 games.
As a pro, Wayne streaked to 11 wins, seven by knockout, along the way delighting a sell-out crowd at Portsmouth Guildhall with a final eliminator win for the British title over Belfast’s Paddy Graham.
Sadly for Wayne he was already suffering the hand injury that would plague his career: ‘I started getting trouble with my right hand after connecting with the top of someone’s head.
‘As I look at my left hand now the knuckles are where they should be, but when I put my right hand next to it two or three of the knuckles are double the size.
‘I was told by a specialist in London that I was just going to have to rest up and that only time would heal it.’
Wins against Lee Graham and Wally Angliss, Waynes opportunity for the British title duly arrived, but advancing out of the opposite corner in Wales that night was ‘the Matchstick Man’, the late, great Johnny Owen.
The fight was the first time two Welshman had contested a British title, and in front of a rabid Welsh crowd Wayne succumbed in ten rounds, but not before bursting Owen’s eardrum and giving him one heck of a fight.
Owen was to tragically lose his life in 1980 in a world title challenge to Lupe Pintor in Los Angeles.
Talking about the Owen fight, Wayne says: ‘He was very deceptive because he looked so fragile, but I never got to test him because the knuckle went again in the sixth round.
‘My tactics were to come in under his jab and then a right-hand to the body and a left hook.
‘I know I can’t say I’d definitely have beaten him without the injury, but I think I could have done.
‘He was a lovely lad and it’s a terrible shame what happened to him.’
The sun was setting on Wayne’s career, but he was determined to go out with a win which he did with a decision victory against Gary Lucas, bringing his ledger to 13 wins and two losses.
‘I was only 27 but I wanted to get out of boxing before it took a toll on me. I was never going to be one of those boxers who fight until they’re 40.
I could live without boxing.
I had some great times fighting in London, Manchester, Glasgow and Wales. I’d really enjoyed it but it was time to get out.’
A lovely man with a wicked sense of humour, the adopted son of Portsmouth says: ‘Looking back at my career its with a mixture of pride at what I achieved, but also a sense of disappointment that I never quite got to the heights I wanted to.’