Winston Allen: “I took a huge chunk out of his neck!”

By Winston Allen

I ALWAYS had that ‘dig’. It’s a gift. Genetic power in my shoulders. Growing up, I was a nature boy, always climbing trees. And I always had that ‘street’ instinct, wanted to damage you badly, quick as I could. I threw full power into every punch, even shadow boxing with weights.

In my time, cruiserweight wasn’t established and I’d have struggled to make 13st 8lbs (the division cut-off until raised to 14st 4lbs in 2003). Today, I’d have cleaned up. I’m only 14.3 now. I’d push ‘em around. I always conceded a lot of weight – often two and a half, three stone – but could really bang and used my (lack of) size to my advantage, David and Goliath. More credit when I knocked those giants out. If I hit a cruiser, they’d be scarred.

Problem was, I couldn’t get no six weeks’ notice. Always short notice, when I was just ticking over. It was my living. I never went to lose so couldn’t get work with the London boys. Consequently, I struggled to get consecutive wins.

Instead, they sent me out sparring. Thomas A’Beckett, Old Kent Road, I gave so many ‘canvas rash’. Dennis Andries stuck his thumb in my eye when I gave him a torrid spar and I dropped him straight after. They banned me from the Beckett after I dropped John L. Gardner. I dropped Hughroy Currie, too. I don’t spin yarn. Managers started pleading with me to take it easy on these ‘stars’. I must have had something.

I was booked for 10 days sparring with Anders Eklund in Sweden, before he fought (Frank) Bruno. Six foot six, 19 stone, big long jaw. After four days they sent me home. Why? I knocked Eklund clean out, in his gym. Perfect shot. I give you my word. I won that fight for Bruno!


I was born to Jamaican parents in Ely. I struggled at school but was a gifted athlete, natural fast twitch muscle fibres. Nobody could touch me in the 100m. I played number eight and had a trial for Welsh schoolboys (rugby) but got banned after I battered some kid in the showers who called me a black bastard.

Ely was a shithole. Nowhere to go, nothing to do. I had a kid at 16. In the 70s, there was loads of racial abuse but nobody messed with me. I got a reputation. In street fights, I knocked kids spark out, face forward. Altercations were always brief.

Aged 17, I got 10 months Borstal in Weymouth. I smashed this guy, fighting over a girl, then battered two pissed plain-clothes policemen who tried to stop it. Heavy hands. I spent time in the block (solitary confinement). Fighting! My father warned me: ‘Get out of Cardiff or you’ll end up killing someone with your bare hands.’ I shit myself. Your father knows you. Swansea proved more gentle for me.

I began boxing at Eddie Avoth’s gym in Caerau. I just wanted to make money, wanted to be Muhammad Ali; on my toes, elegant and graceful. No opponent was quicker than me; fast fibres, panther reactions. I could also absorb a dig. It didn’t take me long to be composed again.

I do wish I’d started earlier. I wanted to learn how to do it but there weren’t a lot of professionals from Cardiff and the managers were clueless. We couldn’t get any sparring. The only promoter from Wales was Eddie Thomas, up the valleys. I wish I’d hooked up with Eddie Bea much earlier. Great old school trainer, more my character. He’d been in trouble a bit himself.

First fight, Terry Chard, Newport boy, beats me on points. Return, straight after, I smashed him up, knocked him out and went on a winning run. Unfortunately, my flow was interrupted by a few short stretches, non-payment of fines, fighting…

Back then, we never had DVDS, didn’t know if opponents were southpaw, orthodox, couldn’t check records on the net. I didn’t ask questions, just turned up: ‘Let’s have it.’ It’s a puncher’s thing.

One time I was up a ladder painting when mum called up that they needed me to box in London the next day. I ended up painting the cat, painting the curtains! I was always late notice pull-outs, away from home, everybody booing. I wasn’t so nervous fighting away but I’d have gone much further but for the decisions, I didn’t get.

I entered a couple of heavyweight tournaments where you’d fight twice, same day. I knocked one kid out in 33 seconds – one of the fastest at the time – but got beat in the final by Newport’s David Pearce (pts 6).

‘Yukka’ (Pearce) was the toughest I fought. Could BANG. First round, I was a bit nervous, rigid, because of his credibility and history. His training was extreme and I knew mine wasn’t. But I fear no man. I hit him so hard, but he could take some licks. We sparred a lot later. Great guy. Lovely heart.

People started doubting me after Manny Gabriel knocked me out (KO 1) – good punch, no excuses – but, straight after, I eliminated two of Mickey Duff’s biggest draws, Andy Palmer (rsf 2) and Stan McDermott (KO 1).

Palmer was Duff’s up-and-comer. Handsome boy, Hercules body. ABA champion. Wembley Conference Centre. His opponent pulls out late but I didn’t give a fuck. I was training really well up the valleys under George Evans and that gives you confidence. I could turn fear into excitement. Palmer’s punches had no pressure. I was unsure whether he was playing around. I drove him across the ring and mowed him down. Ironed.

After that, no work. I had to look overseas but my biggest fear is flying. First up, Peter Holm (7-2). Denmark. He literally pissed himself in the ring when I hit him, you could see it dribble down his leg, mid-fight (rsf 3)!

Jean Pierre Coopmans took Ali the distance and was still a good boy when we fought. Open air stadium, Belgium. The country’s big star. But I felt strong that night. My right is the lethal hand but George trained me specifically for a left hook that fight and Coopman rattled when I caught him with it. I saw fear on his face. I landed another left hook and he’s out, didn’t stir (ko 1). The packed arena went completely silent, only me celebrating. Truth, it was nice to see them laid out. I was never frightened. I didn’t want to kill anybody but that’s the game.

Alfredo Evangelista. Barcelona. Big bulldog face and massive shoulders. But I could roll with his punches. I hurt him badly, out pressured him. The whole crowd was booing him down at the end (l pts 8). Alfredo wasn’t a nice guy and (promoter) Mogens Palle tried to knock me for a few quid afterwards so I was cursing them all out. Ely talk. My best ‘win’.

After that, word got round and I couldn’t get fights, period. Cardiff managers couldn’t negotiate and prospective opponents became sceptical. So I earned corn sparring.

I was chief sparring partner to Lucien Rodriguez before he challenged Larry Holmes. Six days, a oner a round, daytimes free. Fuckin’ lovely! I sparred Evangelista after we fought and both (Joe) Bugner and Bruno before they boxed each other.

Eventually, I got to fight Neville Meade for the Welsh title in Swansea on TV. We’d sparred before, when I was much younger and he’d bullied me. A beast, massive hands. His sparring gloves had no padding. Painful.

Two o’clock, day of the fight, I’m arrested for an outstanding fine and banged up in a cell. The police knew I was fighting that night so the promoter had to bring the money from my fight purse. I’m tired, worn out, stressed. They dashed me to the changing room, put the gloves on. Neville’s already in the ring, waiting, glaring.

I foolishly thought: ‘Take him out, fast as you can.’ But if you got Nev past four rounds, you’d take him. No stamina. Our fight lasted less than two rounds, yet he’s blowing like hell. But he smashed my nose. Technical stoppage, not a knockout. Hardest hitter I fought. When Neville hit you in the chest, your whole body vibrated.

Billy Aird was hard, had cunning. Perhaps the best all round I fought. He dropped me in about the fourth round but, after that, I wanted to kill him (l pts 10).

I fought Joe Bugner and Frank Bruno, back-to-back. Bugner was making a UK homecoming after six years in the States. He told me I should be honoured to fight him but, though I was conceding about three stone, I wasn’t remotely afraid and he knew I was coming to hurt him.

Joe wasn’t that hard a hitter but he was a legend, in the industry a long time. Big body weight, very clever. He called me a black bastard, so I butted him several times, causing cuts, and took a huge chunk out of his neck. (Allen was subsequently fined £100 and suspended for 21 days by the BBBofC for ‘bad conduct’).

Joe put me down at the end of round three and, bizarrely, the men working my corner were yelling ’Stay down, stay down?!’ They were in with the Bugner camp. (Up at six and with the bell having sounded, Allen was bizarrely counted out by referee Harry Gibbs). It was sad. I had three more hard rounds in me to give him some licks. They knew I was a real problem. Afterwards Joe admitted, I could hit.

Bruno was in his early, learning days and I was very confident but, before the fight, I was in bed two days with some serious chest infection, no energy. My manager forced me to fight.

I started well and, in his book, Frank admits when I landed, it was like an electric shock, the hardest punch he’d received up until then. But Frank’s jab was constantly in your face. He was very strong, dangerous right-hand dig (l rsf 2).

I tried to reestablish myself against another ABA finalist Rudi Pika, also from Cardiff, a big, wide, scary-looking dude. Rudi was younger but we’d already shared brutal sparring sessions. Eddie Bea trained the two of us but said I was better.

Before we boxed at the Top Rank, we’d had an altercation outside a soul club. Two heavyweights, same city. An ego thing. I don’t drink but alcohol made Rudi rowdy. He’d start pushing but I weren’t scared. When I’m wound up, fear factor kicks in, adrenalin rush. I’ve got more power than my size suggests. I dropped him but his brother and others jumped in before it seriously kicked off.

Rudi was square, strong, southpaw, but I was warming up towards the end and I give him some licks (l pts 8). I used to get upset, always having to go home and say ‘Lost on points,’ like I was a journeyman. I never had a journeyman mentality, weren’t just hanging on.

Ancalet Wamba, France. They didn’t tell me he was an Olympian (l pts 8). (BN’s report writes of eight controversial rounds in which Allen was cautioned continually but landed all the clean blows). Wamba went on to be a long reigning world (cruiserweight) champion. What about me then? It shows I was first division. Maybe not a first division winner but I must’ve had some skills.

Stefan Tangsted was European champion, 21 fights unbeaten. Another one I battered yet they gave him the decision (pts 8). He fought Mike Spinks for the heavyweight title shortly after. It was touch and go with me and Horace Notice, another ABA champ, at Wembley. Afterwards Horace told me personally I could hit. I think it was me who detached his retina.

I finally retired after losing on points to Johnny Odhiambho (18-1), another Olympian, in Copenhagen; rough, tough boy. I was only 27 but disheartened. Bad decisions and shit managers. It’s a dangerous game and I didn’t want to get hurt. Thankfully, today I can still have a conversation, take care of my responsibilities.

So, I decided to get back on the streets. I fought unlicensed in the back streets. Really tough guys. There was hearsay of me against Roy Shaw. He was well past his prime.

Today, I live in Ealing, London. I’m 65. I still work hard, teaching personal training for 30 years. I have passion, know my stuff. I train every day bar Sunday, 20 rounds a day plus lots of strength work. Beast the legs to build up stamina. I’d still love to get back to the ring, fight for an unlicenced title. I’ve still got hand speed, still got conditioning and cardio, still light on my feet for my size. My power comes right through.

Ex boxer, you have to be so careful. Three years ago, I almost did jail after a fight in a bank. Some guys jumped the queue. I politely asked them to take their place, soft accent. One pushed me, I hit him. Once. Laid out. Ambulance came. I was charged with Section 18, malicious wounding, which is jail. We got the CCTV. Case dismissed. They attacked me first. But stressful! I’d have lost everything.

I also run a debt collecting company. I’m respectful, take all the paperwork but they know the money is outstanding and I’ll guarantee you’ll get paid!

(Interviewed by Glynn Evans)

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