When The Gloves Came Off, by Billy Walker

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The Independent Culture

His timing in the ring wasn't always impeccable but when Billy Walker knocked out Cornelius Perry, the giant American amateur champion, on live TV in 1961, it couldn't have been better. The 22-year-old Billingsgate porter turned pro a few months later and for seven years his crowd-pleasing style set box-office records in Britain without winning major titles. Big, blond and handsome, he indulged his hobbies of boozing and womanising while elder brother George built a business empire on his ring earnings. Then it went wrong. He fell out with George, his second wife gambled away his money, and the drink engulfed him.

But Walker battled back, and tells his story with a liveliness that puts most sporting autobiographies in the shade. While he revels in the good days, his tale is shot through with sadness at his estrangement from the brother he worshipped, and his account of nursing his third wife, Pat, as she died of cancer is almost too painful to read. Now living contentedly with his fourth wife, he ends with the words: "Happy days!" Good luck to him; he deserves it.

Published in paperback by Portico, £7.99