Persona December, 27th 2009 by

Bruno mentor Terry Lawless dies

Retired boxing manager Terry Lawless, who steered Frank Bruno to a world title challenge against Mike Tyson and guided four other British fighters to world titles, died in the early hours of Christmas Eve.

Lawless, aged 76, had been suffering ill health for several years after moving with his wife, Sylvia, to Marbella. He died in hospital in Spain following a gall bladder operation.

He had been married to Sylvia for 53 years and they have a daughter, Lorraine, and son, Steven.

Lawless managed more than 50 boxers and guided John H. Stracey, Maurice Hope, Jim Watt and Charlie Magri to versions of world titles.

Born in West Ham on March 29 1933, Lawless first took out a boxing manager’s licence after completing his National Service in the mid-1950s.

He managed Joe Calzaghe early in his career and was best known for steering Bruno to a world title challenge against Tyson (Bruno later won the championship under the guidance of Frank Warren).

Throughout his managing career, Lawless was based at the Royal Oak gym in the Canning Town district of London close to where he was born.

He worked closely with promoters Mickey Duff, Jarvis Astaire, Harry Levene and Mike Barrett when they were the powers in British boxing throughout the sixties and into the 1980s.

Lawless was a walking record book on boxing, and  a fitness fanatic who was best man at the wedding of his boyhood friend Sammy McCarthy, a British featherweight champion in the 1950s. It was this friendship that led him into first training and then managing fighters.

He was famous for looking after his fighters like a father rather than a manager and did not want to expose his boxers to unnecessary dangers.

After retiring to live in Spain in the 1990s, Lawless often said that he was happy to be remembered as the manager who did not want his boxers hurt.

Lawless’ early stable of local boxers included former London amateur stars Stan Kennedy, Johnny Caiger, Jimmy Tibbs, Silvester Mittee and Jimmy Anderson.

He hired George Wiggs and Frank Black as his training assistants, both of whom stayed with him for more than 10 years.

Tibbs later rejoined Lawless as a trainer, as did George Francis, who later formed a winning team with Frank Bruno.

Jim Watt, one of six Lawless-trained-and-managed boxers who went on to win world titles (including Bruno, and Calzaghe under different management), wrote in his autobiography, Watt’s My Name: ‘Terry is that rare breed of manager who treats his boxers like sons rather than fighters.

‘He gives 100 per cent and demands the same in return. If it were not for him, I would not have got near winning a world title. He revitalised my career.’

Sports Journalists’ Association member Norman Giller, a close friend of Lawless, said: ‘Sylvia has telephoned me this morning to tell me the sad news. I feel as if I have lost a brother, because Terry and I were the closest of friends for more than 50 years. He will be remembered as one of the all-time great boxing managers.’ 

Simon Schönbeck

A serial entrepreneur and Founder of this very site.

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