Brothers in Arms

I take my hat off to the four exciting British Champion pro-boxing  Smith brothers; Paul, Liam, Stephen, and Callum who all come from Liverpool. Of course there has always been and still are plenty of professional boxing brothers around, but on the whole they tend to come in twos. Like the fantastic Hatton, Khan, and Cooper brothers, to name but a few. However when the number of brothers increases, the likelihood of them all becoming professional boxing champions decreases immensely. This is what makes the achievement of the 4 Smith brothers, so special.

Their story inspired me put my thinking cap on and try to discover which family holds the record for the most boxing brothers. I found plenty of boxing families where the numbers went into double figures, but these included; fathers, uncles, cousins and sisters etc, but I was searching for pro-boxing brothers only. And believe you me when you get up to 3 brothers or more they become mighty thin on the ground. Be that as it may, when I stretched my search further afield  I came across an amazing family of 6 boxing brothers; I’m not saying this is an official record, but in my search of the subject it was the most I could find. And as sod’s law dictates, I also found more than I was looking for and by pure chance I uncovered a story of intense hardship, prejudice, and tragedy!

Born of aboriginal descent in 1920’s – 1930’s Australia, the 6 Richie brothers were all impressive boxers but were spitefully denied the true legendary status they deserved. Between them they had over 500 pro contests, winning more than 200 of them by way of knock out. Their names were, David, Clement, Percy, George, Alfred, and, Russell, and they all fought under the name of Sands. This was a respectful tribute to the kindly train guard, Snowy Sands, who always allowed the brothers to travel free on his trains when they travelled to and from fights. They were all decent boxers of varying weights; but without doubt, Dave Sands, was the daddy of them all. He won the, Australian, middle, light-heavy, and heavyweight titles. Plus in 1949 he travelled to, England and won the British Empire (Commonwealth) middleweight title, with a first round demolition job of the much respected, Dick Turpin (who was also one half of a pair of boxing brothers) and had Sands, not been an Australian he would also have taken the British title from him too, but to Turpin’s, relief he was allowed to keep that.

Sands, made such a sterling impression on the boxing world that serious talks were held on him fighting the great, Sugar Ray Robinson, for the world title. And it must be said that the Robinson, camp took Sands, pretty serious too because they were a bit backward at coming forward on that one! And it was this same camp that christened him, The Boxer with the Educated Left Hand.

As we all know now the fight never took place, and Sands, was naturally bitterly disappointed at this decision, but if this wasn’t bad enough for the young boxer the Australian government of the day; who preferred their indigenous peoples to keep a low profile, started making things difficult for him to travel abroad. And if it hadn’t been for public pressure they would have banned him from boxing altogether, they may not have been able to ban him but they certainly didn’t make things easy for him. He was told in no uncertain terms, ‘we don’t want any aboriginal heroes in Australia.’ Sands, was used to prejudice he had faced it all his life, and in quiet contempt off them he ignored their threats and carried on with his boxing career. He may not have got the chance to travel to the States and face Robinson, but he took great pleasure in defeating every imported American boxer they threw at him.

On the morning of August 11th 1952; which ironically was, Dave, and his wife’s 7th wedding anniversary, he kissed his pregnant wife and 3 little children goodbye, and set off to drive to another town to do some labouring work, he promised his wife that when he returned the following day he would use the money he’d made to take her out for tea – he never made it. As impossible as this may sound, it seems that on a quiet empty stretch of road in the middle of nowhere he somehow managed to overturn his vehicle and was killed – he was just 28.

There are no plaques or monuments in Australia to honour this man, yet in 1998 even the American’s conceded his greatness and inducted him into the, World Boxing Hall of Fame as one of the greatest boxers never to win the world title. I say it’s about time Australia did the same and gave this elite young boxer the recognition he deserves, and maybe, just maybe, they might even consider investigating the exact circumstances of his untimely death.