Wembley Pool, a London auditorium, is suitably named as far as a traveling American amateur boxing team is concerned; they took a terrible bath there in a match against Great Britain last week. The U.S. lost all 10 bouts. Six boxers failed to go the limit, three went, briefly, to hospital and two were badly enough injured to be lost to the team for the remainder of the tour. "We got the hell kicked out of us," explains Manager Red Taylor.
America's failure, fortunately, was more a fiasco than the disaster it could well have been (fighters can be seriously hurt in the ring) and was due, in part, to shortcomings familiar to this sort of junket: no money, no time, no conditioning. Although there were five AAU champions on the team, few of them had trained since the championships last April. Eight boxers had averaged a disgraceful 10 rounds of training. Coach Buddy Carr, a policeman who had worked seven days a week since August to accumulate enough time off to make the trip, managed to squeeze in only one workout prior to the Wembley show.
The trip was organized on a shoestring. The team's trunks and robes, for instance, were donated by friends of Manager Taylor. "If it weren't for them," he says with some bitterness, "the boys would have stepped into the ring looking like bums. A fine advertisement for America!"
On the other hand, the British squad was well-coached, experienced and in excellent condition. Amateur boxing flourishes in England and is a regular, popular attraction on the telly (TV, that is). Heavyweight Billy Walker, who knocked out Cornelius Perry of Philadelphia, is as well known as his professional counterpart, Henry Cooper, and in a sense expiated professional deflations of past and present like Phaintin' Phil Scott and Brian London. Lightweight Dick McTaggart, the 1956 Olympic gold medalist, is a brewery representative, and the dubious rewards of professional boxing have never seemed worth exchanging for a career in beer and fine sport. By contrast, Perry made the team only because the AAU champion and runner-up turned pro.
"It's a terrible thing to say," says Taylor about the debacle, "but it's the greatest thing that ever happened if it shakes up things at home."