Hubbard's Cupboard: Middleweight champ John was the first all-round hero
The man with incredible tales from past Games
Wednesday 01 August 2012
Anthony Joshua begins his bid to become the golden boy of the Games tonight. The London super-heavyweight boxer will be worth a Don King's ransom if he wins the Olympic title on Sunday week as he has the personality as well as the punch in a sport that has always bred larger-than-life Olympic characters.
One was a fellow Londoner, John Douglas, winner of the middleweight gold medal – the only division in the tournament – at the 1908 London Games. He became known as "Johnny Won't Hit Today" – nothing to do with his boxing technique but his reputation as an ultra-defensive batsman in his alter ego as an England cricket captain.
The tag was given by sledging Aussies after his initials – JWHTD – during the 1911 Test series in which he led England to a 4-1 victory. Douglas, who, played for Essex, captained England 18 times. An all-rounder, he was the Ian Botham of his day, taking 100 wickets in a season seven times. In 1921, against Derbyshire, he produced one of cricket's most remarkable all-round performances. After taking 9 for 47, Douglas hit an unbeaten 210 that tired him so much he did not bowl until the end of Derbyshire's second innings. He then took 2 for 0, giving him match figures of 11 for 47. He also played football for England as an amateur.
When he won his boxing gold, his three bouts were on the same day, and the final required an extra round to find a winner. The man he outpointed, Australian Reginald "Snowy" Baker, was also a great all-rounder who played 29 different sports and had taken part in the diving competition and 4x200m swimming relay in those Games.
The result sparked the first of many Olympic boxing controversies, the Australians claiming that Douglas's father, a prominent ABA official, had influenced the judging. Baker KO'd Douglas in a rematch and later starred in silent films.
Douglas, a timber trader, drowned when the merchant ship on which he and his father were travelling collided with another in fog off the coast of Denmark in 1930. He was 48.
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