London’s famous weary observation of professional boxing, “I’m just a shrimp (sic) in the game”, is widely cited as a prime example of the old inarticulate, washed pug. In fact, London showed a keen business sense after his career ended. He wisely invested his ring earnings and then built an entertainment empire in Blackpool.
He was born Brian Harper on June 19, 1934 in Hartlepool, County Durham, although the family moved to Blackpool as a teenager. London followed his father’s lead and changed his name to London when he turned pro.
Jack London, who had changed his name due to his admiration for the American novelist, was a former British and Empire heavyweight champion, although it was always believed that his eldest son Jack would follow him into the ring.
Instead, it was Brian who set out to keep the family tradition alive by learning to box in the RAF. “Because I was Jack London’s son, I had to fight,” he recalls. “They thought I would be a good fighter, but I couldn’t fight at all, I was just a big and strong.” Despite this, London enjoyed a successful amateur career which culminated when he won a gold medal at the 1954 Empire Games in Vancouver.