I was devouring Connor's latest piece on the late, great Archie Moore and "The Lock", and I was reminded of David Pearce, the last boxer I recall putting that double-armed defence to good use on a regular basis.
David Pearce was born in Newport, Wales in May 1959, making him a year and a week older than yours truly. One of seven sons, six of whom went on to box professionally, and the son of a fairground booth fighter Pearce always came to fight and would stand up against anyone, but he was more than a little unfortunate in his timing.
Pearce was a brave if limited fighter with a solid defence, the stamina to go all the way and a nasty, nasty left hook that he would throw jumping in like a pasty and rather puffy Joe Frazier (so not much like Smokin' Joe at all, tbh!). He was in fact one of the fighters in the last British championship bout to be held over 15 rounds.
So why unlucky? First up Pearce's greatest asset was his heart and his stamina. Perhaps it was the bare-knuckle background, but 15 rounds always seemed like a sprint for Price, who seemed quite happy to stalk an opponent and be beaten to the punch all day long, just waiting for the right chance. When the length of Championship bouts was restricted to 12 rounds Pearce lost one of his greatest weapons.
Pearce was also in that in-between territory. he would normally weigh in at a somewhat puffy 200-205 pounds and stood a bare 6' tall, so a career as a hard-hitting, go all day cruiserweight would beckon today... as it was Pearce was fighting as a small heavyweight in an era of behemoths, and Evander Holyfield he wasn't!.
Pearce won the British Heavyweight title by defeating Neville Meade (Swansea) in their 1983 rematch, Meade having defeated Pearce 3 years earlier at the marvelously named Double Diamond Club, Caerphilly. Those three years were probably the highlight of David's career, with good wins over Larry McDonald and Dennis Andries and a bout with Lucien Rodriguez for the European title was duly scheduled. In an episode that sheds some light on the relationship between fighters and their promoter back then, Pearce was given £200 by his promoter to pay for a hotel room but Pearce famously spent the night before the fight sleeping on a bench at London Heathrow! Even as champion Pearce was living on the breadline, and £200 was a lot of money back then! Pearce went on to lose a disputed and close decision.
It should be noted that Boxing's popularity was at something of an all-time low in the UK. Johnny Owen (The Matchstick Man from Merthyr Tydfil) had lost to Lupe Pintor and failed to recover in 1980, televised coverage was on it's way out and PPV had yet to rear its ugly head.
Bad timing again, David.
And that was about it for David Pearce... he lost his license on medical grounds, was out of the ring for 6 years and in his "comeback" fight he gave away the thick end of 5 stones and was battered for 8 rounds by Percell Davis. He never fought again, and resisted the temptation (and firm offers) to fight bare-knuckle and unlicensed.
Plagued by epilepsy, David Price lived alone... "it's not very nice", he observed of his financial plight. "I'm not a brickie, a carpenter or an electrician. I am a professional boxer - and a bloody good one."
Some people give a lot to this sport and others take a lot out of it. David Pearce gave it all he had, and I can't find so much as a single youtube clip to share with you.
David Nigel Pearce, boxer, born May 8 1959; died May 20 2000
And while we're talking of scrappy little pugilists, there is a beer in my fridge that I shall be delighted to pour and serve to Mr John Cokeley anytime he sees fit to call. Go on, fella! (and I trust that the Wolfpack will join me in my salute!)