TWO fine exponents of British boxing in the early 1980s were Sid Smith of Forest Hill, London, and Bristol’s Chris Sanigar. Both were real hard men who could punch, and although neither won the British title, they were leading aspirants at super-lightweight.
Chris is now a successful manager, promoter and trainer, having dedicated his life to the sport and he is, undoubtedly, the top man today in Bristol boxing. As an amateur he boxed for the Bristol Empire ABC, and after beating Steve Early and Sylvester Mittee along the way, he reached the 1977 ABA final, losing out to Camperdown’s Jim Douglas. He then won the Eastern Counties title in 1978, for the second year running, before abandoning the vest to box professionally.
Smith also had an excellent amateur pedigree. He achieved the triple as a youngster in 1975, winning the NABC, London Feds and ABA Junior titles at 60kg. He boxed internationally on many occasions for Young England before representing London in a match against Paris in 1977, where he beat his man convincingly. Boxing for Fitzroy Lodge, he then won the London South-East Divisionals before losing to Sylvester Mittee in the London final. Like Sanigar, he turned professional in 1978.
Smith signed with Dennie Mancini and soon forged his way into the British top ten at super-lightweight. Despite an early loss to Swansea’s useful Frank McCord, Sid won every one of his remaining 11 contests, and he was then matched against Sanigar for the vacant Sothern area crown. Chris turned pro in September 1978, six months later than Sid, and like the Londoner, he made a good start to his career, winning his first seven. He then hit a rocky patch, starting with a two-round loss to Jarrow’s George McGurk at the Midland Sporting Club in Solihull. After this Chris lost four from his next 12 but some of his victories were very creditable, including, in April 1981, a four-round stoppage win over Dan M’Putu in Dunkirk, France, and it was immediately after this contest that Chris got the call to box Smith for the Southern area title.
On paper this was a very evenly matched contest. At the time, Sanigar was rated at number five in the UK with Smith just one place behind. Because of recent fiascos on some of the big shows promoted by Mickey Duff and Mike Barrett, BN had a policy of rating forthcoming contests in their previews. The Sanigar-Smith bout took place at the Royal Albert Hall on a card headed by heavyweight Gordon Ferris, who was matched with the American journeyman, Dwain Bonds.
BN rated the fight an A+, stating that “Sanigar can take the narrowest of points decisions, but Smith has a puncher’s chance” in what it reckoned was the “fight of the night”.
In the event, the bout petered out to an unsatisfactory ending when referee Larry O’Connell halted the bout due to Sanigar suffering a nasty gash over his left eyebrow following a head clash in the third round. It was obvious that a rematch was necessary and Sanigar’s manager/trainer, George Francis, wasted no time in arranging it, and the two men met six months later at the Elephant and Castle Leisure Centre in Southwark.
This time the bout was extremely good, with BN headlining “Such a thriller as Sanigar takes title”. The two men traded blows incessantly throughout the four rounds that it lasted with the report stating that “For raw, concentrated excitement the brief clash must rank amongst the very best seen in domestic rings this year. Fans witnessed boxing mayhem, with old fashioned grit and determination finally seeing Sanigar through.” After being down in round in round two, Chris found the strength to blast out his London rival out body shots. After the bout Chris admitted that “I’ve served my apprenticeship and it’s been a hard one. I wouldn’t wish that kind of education on my worst enemy.”
They really were two hard men.