Boxing and Belle Vue have always gone together hand in glove stretching back to the 1920s.
Some of Britain’s most famous boxers fought at the King’s Hall over the years, including Manchester’s own champions Len Johnson, Tony Barlow and Frank Johnson.
Henry Cooper, Brian London and Joe Bugner also battled it out at Belle Vue along with Terry Downs, Manuel Ortiz and Alan Rudkin.
One of the earliest recorded bouts was between Ardwick middleweight Len Johnson and George West from Fulham in 1929. Johnson triumphed after 20 rounds, each three minutes long.
Johnson won the Australian version of the British Empire middleweight title in 1926, but was denied the chance to fight for championships in Great Britain because of the colour bar at the time.
During World War II he was a member of Manchester’s Civil Defence heavy rescue squad and later became a well-known community leader in Moss Side.
There was an extraordinary spectacle at the fight between England’s Dave MacGill and Ireland’s Tom Berry for the British Empire cruiserweight championship in February 1927.
The bout ended in a points win for Berry, but the referee – J.W.H.T. Douglas – chose to run the fight from a seat outside the ring while he smoked a cigar!
Moving forward to June 1952, the King’s Hall at Belle Vue was the venue for the 10-round middleweight contest between Alex Buxton of Watford and Bernardo Pacini of Italy.
Buxton, on the right of our photo, fought 137 bouts during his 22-year professional career, winning 88 and losing 44.
Spaniard Bobby Ros and South African Willie Toweel went toe to toe in their featherweight bout at Belle Vue in September 1957.
Olympic bronze medalist Toweel came to Manchester with a tragic past. He knocked out 21-year-old Hubert Essakow in Johannesburg in March 1956 – but was grief-stricken when Essakow never recovered consciousness and died a few days later.
As a result, Toweel held back in future fights once he could see his opponent had been hurt. But this didn’t prevent him winning the South African and British Empire lightweight titles before coming to the UK for a series of fights.
World heavyweight boxing champion Ingemar Johansson landed at Manchester Airport in August 1958. Dubbed ‘the Hammer of Thor’, the Swede won 26 of his 28 bouts, including 17 knock-outs.
British lightweight champion Dave Charnley successfully defended his title against Maurice Cullen at the King’s Hall in May 1963.
Charnley won on points and then moved up a division to welterweight to fight world champion Emile Griffith. It proved to be a painful decision. Charnley took such a beating that the referee stopped the bout in the eighth round.
He retired in 1964 as undefeated British lightweight champion.
Brian London fought boxing legend Henry Cooper at Belle Vue in February 1964 for the vacant EBU European heavyweight title. He lost the bout on points.
London had 58 professional bouts, winning 36 (25 by knock-outs), losing 21 and drawing one. He fought Cooper three times in his career, losing on each occasion.
The much-admired Tony Barlow, nicknamed ‘the Manchester Midget’, began his amateur career at Belle Vue in 1963 with a successful bout against Graham Price.
He had a shot at the British flyweight title in January 1967 when he fought John McCluskey at Manchester’s Free Trade Hall. The fight ended in a draw and Barlow lost the rematch two years later.
Chorlton-born Barlow was a brilliant amateur boxer who had 39 professional fights. He won 21, lost 14 and drew four.
He retired from boxing in 1969 and later ran the Failsworth Boys Amateur Boxing Club.
McCluskey was back in the ring at Belle Vue in February 1967, a month after fighting Barlow. This time the Scot’s opponent was the Spaniard Manolin Alvarez. McCluskey won on points.
The King’s Hall was packed to the rafters when Alan Rudkin fought Walter McGowan for the British Empire and British Boxing Board of Control bantamweight titles on May 13th 1968.
A delighted Rudkin won on points after losing to McGowan in June 1966.
Rudkin was a regular visitor to Manchester. His first bout at the city was against Brian Bissmire at the King’s Hall in May 1963 and he beat Danny Lee on points at the Free Trade Hall in March 1964.
He was back at Belle Vue to beat Baby John in November 1964 and won two fights there in 1966 – both on points. His opponents were Edmundo Esparza in January and Jose Bisbal in October.
His last bout at Belle Vue was a win over Scotland’s Evan Armstrong in June 1969. Rudkin regained his BBB of C bantamweight title in front of a fiercely partisan crowd.