Home Sports Boxing The “Boy With the Lethal Fists”

The “Boy With the Lethal Fists”

31 October 1959

South Yorkshire Times, October 31, 1959

Billy Thompson, Now 34, Recalls

 When he Was the “Boy With the Lethal Fists”

Crowds of excited fellow townspeople lined the streets of Thurnscoe to give “the boy with the lethal fists” a hero’s welcome. The time was 1947 and 22-years-old Billy Thompson had reached the pinnacle of his career. Under the arclights of Anfield football stadium he had knocked out Stan Hawthorne to achieve the dream of a lifetime the winning of the British lightweight crown.

A still bouyant Billy — he celebrated his 34th birthday last Wednesday — recalled to a “South Yorkshire Times” sports reporter this week his hour of triumph, and in reminiscent mood, traced the development of a glittering amateur and professional career, He came to South Yorkshire as a boy of four when his family moved from their native Durham in, the depression year of 1929. “I was always a bit of a scrapper,” Billy recalled, and said he was the Yorkshire Schoolboys champion for two years in succession in 1938/9.

After leaving Thurnscoe Hill School he began work at Hickleton Main Colliery, It was not long before Billy became an enthusiastic member of the newly formed boxing club at the colliery. The die was cast. In his 16th year he stormed his way to win the Northern Counties A.B.A. flyweight title and two years later in 1943 he was the Northern Counties featherweight champion. The success story continued with the winning of the lightweight title in the following year when he also became the national finalist before the boxing hierarchy at the Albert Hall.

Bid For Fame

Billy was on the threshold of great things, and in 1945 he turned after receiving an offer from London manager Mr. Jarvis Astaire, His first professional fight was against Billy Cunningham, of Kew, which he won on points. “I realised that this was the time to make a bid for fame. And I had an additional incentive, We were a big family at home and none too well off.” Billy recalled,

Billy immediately set the boxing world alight with his brand of savage punching and quicksilver boxing skill. He convincingly quietened the critics and remained unbeaten in his first 21 fights — 17 of them gained by the knock-out route. His big chance came early — perhaps too early — when he was matched with Stan Hawthorne in an eliminator bout for the British lightweight title. He lost on points to his experienced rival.

Soon afterwards holder Ronnie James was compelled to relinquish his title owing to weight difficulties and Billy and Stan again crossed swords — this time for the title. There was no mistake on this occasion and Hawthorne went down under a shattering flurry of blows in the third round.

European Champion

Billey next aimed his sights at the European title and defeated the Billy holder, Italian, Roberto Priottie on points at Harringay in 1948. He professional successfully defended this title three times before losing it on a disqualification toKid Dussart (Belgium) in the following year.

He Still remembers, somewhat ruefully, how the British Boxing Board of Control fined him £750

following the Dussart fight. “I  appealed against the decision and  the tine was reduced to £500.” he said.

In defence of his title he knocked out the Scottish champion Harry Hughes in three rounds at the Glasgow Celtic ground. Now under the guidance of a new manager, Benny Huntman, Billy decided to have another crack at the European title, but was knocked out by Frenchman, Pier Montane. A further defence of his title followed against Tommy McGovern, of Bermondsey. He won on points over 15 rounds, and in doing so, made the Lonsdale Belt his own property, Billy again had to give second best to Roberto Priottie when he lost on points in a European title contest in 1949,

Increasing Weight

Billy now began to experience the anxieties of increasing weight and the trouble reached its climax when he succumbed to challenger, Tommy McGovern in a first round knock-out. “I am not makilg excuses, but I was very weak,” he said. Although he stepped up into the welterweight class, and did, in fact, win his first six contests in the new division. Billy soon realised that the time had come to call it a day.’

“I was being matched against fighters much taller than and in order to out punch them I had to get Inside. Naturally I took at bit of punishment in doing so.” he added, Billy revealed that while still a lightweight he defeated the welterweight holder , Cliff Curvis.

Training Youngsters

Nowadays Billy works as an underground worker At Houghton Main Colliery, and an abiding interest of his life is the training of aspiring youngsters.

“Boxing does you good,. It gives you confidence and makes a man of you.” Billy maintains, adding that to become a success in the game it was necessary to devote your whole life to it. “It is a hard, strict life,” he said.

Billy carries out duties as a gym Instructor and holds P.T classes and weight training and boxing sessions at the Cross Keys Hotel, Darfield. He cordially invites any one interested to contact him at the colliery. He said that plans were afoot to build a gymnasium at the colliery in the near future,

Now living at 32, Clayton Lane, Thurnscoe. Billy is married with three children, Billy (8), Stephen (4) and Peter, aged ten months. The family moved from Green Lane, Doncaster, in 1948. He is full of praise for the tolerance of attractive wife, Marjory; “She he has been a brick to me,’ he said, adding that although she would never come to see him box, she looked after him when he was in training.

Billy also paid tribute to the services of manager, Benny Huntsman – “he got me the breaks” – and trainer twins, Dick and Jack Gutteridge