The Manchester association has been around since the early 1950s

PIONEER: Lancashire legend McAvoy is one of the ex-fighters who was present at the first-ever Manchester EBA meeting

WHICH is the oldest Ex-boxers’ Association in this country? Well, London and Leeds have been around a long time, as have others, but they’re newcomers compared with Manchester, which was established back in June 1951.

Their comprehensive website – – records that the idea was to set up a regular meeting place, where ex-boxers – sometimes former opponents – could gather and talk about their favourite sport. Among those present at that inaugural meeting were ex-british and Empire middleweight champion Jock Mcavoy, who famously KO’D world champ Babe Risko in the first round of a non-title bout, and Len Johnson, a victim of the colour bar then in operation in Britain. Although born over here, Len was denied the opportunity to box for the British title, and his claim to the Empire championship was also denied. (See Rob Howard’s excellent book, Boxing’s Uncrowned Champion – Len Johnson and the Colour Bar.)

In those days it was known as the Oldham, Ashton and Manchester Ex-boxers’ Association – it’s had a few changes of name, venue and aims since, but it continues to thrive.

In 1973 it was decided that the Association “could also help ex-boxers who might be struggling with life after boxing, due to ill-health or unfortunate circumstances”, and the Association might assist the boxer to get his life back on track. The Association would not only enable boxers past and present to keep in touch, it would also aim to meet up with other Ex-boxers’ Associations.

This last point is so important. EBAS do need to support one another, by attending functions and the like. Many people are members of more than one EBA, and that’s obviously a great help.

Today, Manchester meet on the first Sunday of the month – 12 noon for 12.30 – at the Derby Brewery Arms, 95 Cheetham Hill Road, Manchester. Secretary is Eddie Copeland, a fine pro lightweight between 1979 and 1982.

“We’ve currently got around 70 members, and about 40 come to our meetings,” Eddie told me. “And about 200 came to our Christmas do – loads from Merseyside, Leeds and Wirral.”

Like all EBAS, Manchester are always looking to recruit new members. “I go to all the local pro shows,” Eddie said, “and if I meet up with an ex-boxer, I invite them along. Two I’ve recently recruited are Gavin Stirrup and Mickey Flynn” – the latter being the first man to beat future

world super-welter titlist Maurice Hope as a pro, albeit on a disputed verdict. That sounds a good way to get in new people, and maybe other EBAS might consider it.

“And we get a lot of non-boxers along,” Eddie said, and the website makes it clear that you don’t have to have boxed to join. Anybody who has a “healthy interest in boxing and the boxing scene” is welcome – and that’s true of every EBA.

Eddie is also secretary of the Northern Boxers Federation, which encompasses the Associations mentioned previously, plus Scotland and Sunderland. The Federation’s Gala Weekend is always a success, and next year’s is planned for June – with a different venue. “We’ve always held it in Blackpool in the past, but next year we’re going to Llandudno,” Eddie said.

Going back to Manchester’s website, there’s lots, not only to read, but to watch and listen to as well. For instance, there’s an interesting talk on the Manchester scene in the ‘60s, given by BN contributor Miles Templeton, who used to contact me in the ‘70s when I was editing the Old Timers column. And there’s a comprehensive interview with Pat Barrett, who boxed between 1987 and 1994, and won British and European super-lightweight belts. His stunning fourth-round KO of Italy’s Efrem Calamati, to annex the European crown on the champion’s home turf, is also there to see. Pat is now a very successful promoter.

May I end by wishing ex-boxers everywhere a very happy Christmas. My thanks to everyone who’s contacted me since I started this feature – it’s YOUR column, so please keep me informed of what your Association’s doing, or if there’s an ex-boxer you want to trace, or if you’ve news of an EBA function you’ve attended. The EBA movement generally does so much good, and it’s great that it keeps going.


Courtesy of the Boxing News 21 Dec 2017 EBA correspondent Simon Euan-Smith