From the moment that he first set his flat feet on American soil Brian London, a British prizefighter who must never be referred to as a boxer, was a changed man. It was as though a werewolf had acquired winsomeness, as if a tiger had turned pussycat. This drastic personality transformation took place in less than two weeks and cannot, therefore, be attributed to psychoanalysis.
Before he met Floyd Patterson at the Fair Grounds Coliseum in Indianapolis, where they were formally introduced in a contest for the heavyweight championship of the world, London had been regarded in his native England as a bit of a churl. A former British and Empire champion, he had never been thoroughly accepted, though his record was generally regarded as the best among the British heavyweights, though he had never been knocked off his feet except by a foul and though he had recently stopped (on a cut) a top-rated American boxer, Willie Pastrano. There was something about Brian—his lack of the social graces, for one thing—that chilled his countrymen's regard. As a fighter he was a brawler, a durable taker of punishment, and that won him sufficient acclaim, but there was something about his sneer of victory that held down applause.
But when Brian London entered Indiana he charmed the countryside. His geniality, his wide-eyed smile, his affectation of an accent closer to Oxford than to his native Blackpool, his willingness to tweak babies—all these won the hearts of the Hoosiers. Indiana ladies fawned on him and Brian fawned right back.
Tommy Farr, the ex-pugilist, who as a journalist has himself taken on the urbane manner and genteel diction of a Windmill Theatre straight man, studied this sea change for days and was increasingly astonished.
"Do not be deceived," he finally besought American reporters, who had known him since he upset their natural prejudices by staying 15 rounds with Joe Louis. "Brian has never been like this before. In the ring he is a bull. He is without mercy, I assure you. I have seen him ruin an opponent needlessly."
Farr, writing for the Sunday Pictorial, was one of 11 British reporters on the scene, and most of the 10 others agreed that they never had known such a sweet-souled London.
They were further surprised when London, who has heretofore disdained defense, went into a clumsily effective version of Patterson's glove-to-cheek peekaboo style and made only sporadic attempts to punch, even though, on the few occasions when he tried his fast right hand, he landed it more often than not.
Instead of the vicious style which had won him so much respect, London hid for round after round behind his eight-ounce gloves, the standard weight for title fights in Indiana. He tucked them firmly against his chin and they alone saved him from early destruction. "I kept left-hooking him to the glove," Patterson said.
Thus London remained afoot until the 10th round, when Patterson's alternative, a body attack, finally forced down the high guard. In the 10th Patterson crashed a left to London's body, then caught him on the temple with a right hand that felled London for the first time in his entire bully boy career. London sank to one knee. There was a count of 5, and then the bell rang. It saved London, but only temporarily.
GAME AND DIZZY