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Teesside boxer Brian London who fought Muhammad Ali for the world title dies

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Hartlepool-born boxer Brian London, who challenged Muhammad Ali for the world heavyweight title, has died aged 87.

London fought Ali just days after England won the FIFA World Cup in 1966, and despite the optimism in the air, he was beaten early in the third round.

Years later, at a charity dinner, asking if he would do something different, he replied, “Yes, I should have shot him. I got into a position to fight him, but I was nowhere near good enough to fight him. “

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After moving west from Hartlepool in his teens to Blackpool, London became known as ‘Blackpool Rock’.

He was encouraged to take up boxing while doing his national service in the RAF, after an officer discovered his father was former British heavyweight champion Jack London.

His brother, Jack Junior, also born and raised in Hartlepool, fought as a light heavyweight.

Aside from Earls Court’s famous fight against Ali, Brian also had another world title fight against Floyd Peterson.

He took the American to 11 rounds before losing by KO.

In an interview with the BBC in his later years, he admitted to fighting “for the money” rather than “for the love of it”.

After his retirement, London became a businessman in Blackpool, owner of several nightclubs.

Many boxing fans have taken to social media to reflect on London’s career after receiving the sad news.

A sports account wrote: “He didn’t dodge anybody. He had some excellent wins over some of the main heavyweights of the period and his win over Zora Folley was the best of them.

“Rest in peace, champion.”

Another said: “Rest in peace. One of the last heavyweights of a magical time that we will never see again.”


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