EX-PROFESSIONAL boxer Peter Aldridge is hoping his new book can punch above its weight as it hits the bookshops.
The 75-year-old former Light Heavyweight, who lives in Newby, was once tipped for the top – until his career was brought to an abrupt end when he was diagnosed with a tumour between the eyes.
Despite his shortened career, his time spent sparring with some of the best boxers of his era and his enduring love of the sport laid the foundations for a fascinating life mixing not just with the fighters and hard men of his day but the rich and famous.
Using his connections, he went on to work in the more glamorous end of the London pub and club scene, meeting the likes of Joan Collins, Tommy Cooper, Bette Davis, Marlene Dietrich, David Niven and Princess Margaret – who once hurled a fork at a dining companion which landed at Aldridge’s feet.
He moved to Scarborough in 1969, managing five bars in the newly revamped Futurist complex with his wife Shirley, before moving on to the Silver Grid in Huntriss Row and finally The Rosette in Newby.
His final job saw him bring the former miners’ convalsecence home, Low Hall in Scalby, up to five star status – and, according to his published profile, brought him into “inevitable conflict” with the NUM’s firebrand leader Arthur Scargill. He left after 21 years.
Eight years ago, he wrote a book jointly with his sister Kate, called Punches, Pints, Politics and Pensioners, which focused on the second part of his working life. But although the book was well received, his publisher went out of business, leaving him with hundreds of spare copies and cursing his luck.
Soon after that the ex-fighter developed Parkinson’s Disease and decided what better way to combat his illness than to take up his pen again. This time the focus was on boxing, and the resulting book, Famous Fights and Famous Fighters, which took him three years to put together, is already flying off the shelves.
“They’re tales from the past when boxers were boxers. But a lady could read it, because there are stories within stories - you don’t have to like boxing,” he said.
In fact the Doncaster-born pugilist cannot answer a question without telling a story, and his tales are littered with names like that of his former sparring partner and heavyweight legend Sir Henry Cooper, the infamous Kray Twins, and the man he considers to be the greatest fighter ever, Rocky Marciano.
Of the latter, he said: “I was lucky enough to meet him. He was a lovely quiet man, but a killer in the ring. He was the only fighter never to have been beaten.”
Although the book is little more than 100 pages, it contains 16 pithy stories which sum up the essence of various boxers and their most famous fights from Aldridge’s own era and before. One of his favourite stories is ‘How to Lose a Fortune’ (about ‘the Manassa Mauler’, Jack Dempsey), and he can recount every tale straight from memory. There are also pictures aplenty, some of them Aldridge’s own. “I’ve read, slept and eaten boxing all my life,” he said. “I used to go to bed early with boxing magazines, and it’s been in my head for years.” According to the book’s foreword by John Holt MBE, it is “a must for all boxing fans”, and Aldridge admits to being “very pleased with it” - even if his wife wasn’t so keen on the three years of toil! “It’s going to sell very well - early orders have been good,” he added.
The book, published by Farthings Publishing of Scarborough, is available at The Book Emporium in Queen Street, the Brunswick Centre discount bookstore or order online at www.farthings-publishing.com.