Name: Billy Barton
Alias: Billy Carroll
Birthplace: Liverpool, England
Age at Death: 77
Billy Barton was yet another local boxer whose career coincided with the Second World War, although this did not prevent him from accumulating around 200 fights. It was the RAF who were to gain from his boxing skills and one cannot wonder at the talent the RAF team had at that time.
His first amateur contest was against British Enka’s Tommy Dunn, who had just been beaten in the ABA Finals - A Baptism of fire - but Billy held his own before losing on points, a performance which undoubtedly persuaded him to give the pro game a shot.
The mining communities of South Wales do not bestow honour lightly, you have to earn respect, especially if you’re an outsider. Yet the little Liverpool Lightweight Billy Barton went to Maesteg in 1942 and in just one appearance virtually earned himself the freedom of the valleys.
Billy was in the RAF at the time and the crowd christened him “Spitfire Billy” for his superb showing against the local idol Len Beynon .This was in 1942 and was the turning point of a career that lasted for 10 yrs from 1939 for one of Liverpool’s most likeable characters, a man who battled outside the ring against recurring asthma attacks but who always gave 100% when in the ring.
Billy came from the Low Hill district which is steeped in fistic history and it was there , as a newsboy selling papers, that he first made contact with the fight game. Some of his customers where Nel Tarleton, Mick and Alf Howard, Jackie Mallon, Paddy King, Jackie Lyden and Ernie Roderick. Eventually he started going to the Stadium and remembered how all the newsboys would gather, when Tarleton boxed, at Low Hill and give him a big rally when he came home.
The urge to emulate his customers took hold and he joined the Aubrey Street amateur club and after a few weeks made his debut against Tommy Dunn. In 1939 his friend Tommy Rose took him to manager Tony Vairo’s Transport house Gym for a spar. Rose was a tremendous puncher and when Tony Vairo saw him soaking up the blows without wilting he suggested that Billy could make some money out of the sport.
When Billy made his first pro debut he adopted the name of a good fighter of the time Paddy Carroll. He started well and his clever style saw him successful in most of his 30 or so contests before he joined the RAF in 1940. In 1942 he started using his own name and, as a substitute for Kid Tanner, met with Les Beynon at Maesteg. Although he lost on points he was ready for the best of them who were to include the likes of Stan Hawthorne, Len Davies, Tommy McGovern, George Daly, Bert Hornby and Johnny Cusick.
At Liverpool Stadium Billy beat Bob Roberts four times, Cyril Mawdsley five times and was 2-1 ahead in his series with Alex Bride. Against these victories, however, he lost four times to Bert Jackson ( but also got a draw ), lost three times to Bert Hornby, then, after four loses against Mick Gibbons in their fifth meeting saw Billy sensationally stop him in four.
He was also 2-1 down against Charlie Fox of St. Helens whom he rated as one of the best left hookers he ever met. One of his greatest nights was in 1948 when he got the fight he had long been asking for. Stadium promoter Johnny Best refused to match him with the Newcastle banger Stan Hawthorne, telling Billy, “ I don’t want you to get hurt”, but Billy received a call from the Newcastle promoter Joe Shepherd, asking him to step in against Hawthorne as a substitute for Josef Preys, the Belgian, who had pulled out.
Unfortunately Billy developed a severe asthma attack before the weigh in and two hours prior to the fight could hardly breath but after taking some tablets the fight went ahead For eight rounds there was nothing in it, but then Stan got on top in the last two rounds. Billy was carried shoulder high after the fight by the fans after a great battle.
Billy asked Stan for a return and he said “Only if you get your head cut off”. Billy saw Stans right hand which was badly swollen and understood what he meant. Billy then tried to put his hat on and discovered that his forehead was so swollen it would not fit. He never did get the return contest.
Not long after in 1949 Billy decided to call it a day following a seventh round stoppage defeat against Johnny Carrington in Blackpool, “I had won the first six rounds but in the seventh he caught me on a nerve at the side of my eye and the referee Dave Richards stopped the bout”. Billy was 36 at the time and had had a good innings and was indebted to fighters like Jimmy Molloy, Billy Watt, Gus Foran, Stan Rowan, Tom Bailey and Gerry Nolan for their interest and sparring help throughout his career.