Name: Freddie Mills
Alias: Fearless Freddie
Hometown: Bournemouth, England
Age at Death: 46
Height: 5′ 10½″
Division: Light Heavyweight
Managers:Jack Turner, Ted Broadrib, Charlie Mills, Reg Spring
Freddie Mills was born at at No. 7 Terrace Road in Bournemouth, England. In the early part of his boxing career he had Gordon Cook in his corner; later it was Nat Sellers.
Frederick Percival Mills was born in Bournemouth, Dorset, on England’s south coast, on 26th June 1919.The family did not live among the hotels, guest houses and the homes of the genteel retired, but in an old terraced house in one of the less salubrious back streets. His father Tom, who served in the army in the great war, was a “Totter” who drove his horse and cart around the streets buying unwanted junk which he, hopefully, would sell at a profit. His mother Lottie had worked part time in the local hotels to help support the family whole Tom was away in the army.
Freddie’s brother Charlie boxed in unlicensed shows and it was he who showed the youngster the rudiments of self defence. This meant that as a school boy Freddie was brash, confident and able to look after himself. He also got into plenty of trouble and on one occasion stole a pair of roller skates, sold them to another boy in school, and ended up in court where he was fined £1 – half a weeks wages to his parents.
He was given his first pair of gloves on his 11th birthday and aged 13 saw his fist professional fight at Bournemouth’s Winter gardens. He and a friend scaled the side of the building and found a window from where they could see the action. They repeated this on several occasions until one day they were almost caught by the promoter Jack Turner – who would later become Freddie’s promoter.
Freddie left school aged 14 and worked for the milkman Percy Cook. Cook was a boxer as was his brother Gordon ,who had been the lightweight champion of Wales. Freddie took his gloves to work with him and would spar with the other apprentices which was a good learning experience for him, and Cook taught him many tricks of the trade. When he was 16 he entered a novice tournament at Westover Ice Rink, Bournemouth. Despite never having fought as an amateur Freddie knocked out Jimmy Riley – who was far from being a novice – in the first round. Two weeks later George Barfoot went the same way in the semi final. Two weeks later he met Reg Davis in the final and dispatched him in three rounds.
Jack Turner, the competition organizer was so impressed that he offered Freddie a paid fight in April 1936 against Stan Nelson. Freddie earned 18 shilling and 6 pence – 92 ½ pence in present currency – for a four round draw.
Jack Turner’s brother , Bob, suggested that he should become Freddie’s manager and convinced Freddie to give up his job and fight for him in the travelling boxing booth. Freddie picked up£2 10 shillings a week at the booth and gained invaluable experience by training and fighting alongside Gypsy Daniels, a former undefeated British and Empire light heavyweight champion.
When the summer season on the booths finished Freddie resumed his pro career back at the Westover Ice Rink and knocked out Jack Scott in the first round. The count was disputed and they were forced to fight again at the end of the bill, albeit with the same result. Freddie went through the season undefeated, with his last six fights being 12 rounders – 2 minutes each – against decent opposition, all of which he won on points.
His lack of technique was exposed in 1937 when firstly he picked up a troublesome cauliflower ear when sparring with Gypsy Daniels which pt him out of action for a while. Then in his first pro fight of the season he was knocked out in the last round by a body punch from George Davis.Two months later Davis was to outpoint him in a return. Finally in December he was outpointed by Jack Lewis, which he was to avenge three months later.
Freddie spent the summer of 1938 with Sam McKeown’s booth and then back on the pro circuit he embarked on a winning run of 15 fights before being given a boxing lesson by former british welterweight champion Dave McCleave, who easily outpointed him over 12 rounds.
As 1939 began Freddie, fighting as a middleweight, won the second of two battles with Yorkie Bentley of Canada inside the distance, but was outpointed by Butcher Gascoigne . He came back to beat Eddie Maguire before drawing with Nat Franks and then losing on points to Elfryn Morris. It began to look like inconsistency would prove his downfall as one round knockouts of Dave McLeave and Battling Charlie Parkin, either side of a points defeat by Ginger Sadd, seemed to prove.
When the second world war broke out Freddie was stationed at RAF Padgate, Lancashire, but soon after enlisting caught pneumonia and after three weeks in hospital was sent home some 20lb lighter on sick leave. On his return to RAF Padgate he was sent for training as a Physical Training Instructor which was the usual trade for sportsmen. He passed the course and was posted as corporal to Nethervon, Wiltshire where he met lightweight Duggie Bygraves and soon put together a successful station team.
Freddie was allowed short periods of leave and undertook pro matches which Bob Turner fixed for him and in 1940 and 1941 had some excellent wins, including two over Ginger Sadd and a points win over middleweight champion Jock McAvoy in Liverpool. In June 1941 he met Jack Powell, in Reading, in a fight that was to shape his future career. Freddie beat Powell in one round and later congratulated by Ted Broadrib, a well known manager who four years earlier had got Tommy Farr a fight for the world championship with Joe Louis.
After Freddie outpointed heavyweight Tom Reddington in August, Broadrib persuaded Bob Turner to allow him to take over as Freddie’s manager. He wasted no time in putting his man in with top rated fighters and in September 1941 Freddie put the highly rated Tommy Martin down 13 times before stopping him in the 5th round. Broadrib booked a return with Reddington in November 1941 which turned out to be a tough 10 rounds with Reddington getting the verdict. There was now respite and Freddie was already booked to fight Jack London only 11 days later.
London was a heavyweight who outweighed Freddie by almost 40lb. In the 2nd round Freddie suffered two fractured ribs which persuaded him not to mix it and used his superior speed to keep him out of further trouble and take a 10 round decision. Four weeks later Freddie met Reddington and stopped him in the ninth round His next two fights were his most important yet and turned out to among his easiest. The first was Jock McAvoy, in a final eliminator for the British light heavy title, in which a left hook from Freddie in the first round seemed to cause McAvoy to slip.McAvoy, clutching his back in agony was helped back to his stool by the referee and did not fight again for three years.
Four months later in June 1942 Freddie met Len Harvey for the British and Empire light heavyweight titles, plus British recognition as champion of the world. He knocked the holder out of the ring in the second round to end Harvey’s 22 year career. Freddie had only two fights in the rest of 1942 and the whole of 1943, both wins against the giant Al Robinson. Two inside the distance in 1944 kept him in trim, but after an exhibition for the US forces in Britain, he was told by referee Jack Dempsey that while he might win the world light heavy crown he was too small to take on the leading American heavyweights.
Freddie’s lack of stature was exposed at the end of 1944 and the beginning of 1945 when he was matched with two much bigger men. In September, he had a second meeting with Jack London, this time for the British and Empire heavyweight titles. Conceding 45lb Freddie was forced to take some fearful body blows, although he displayed great courage to last until the final bell and lost the decision by just one quarter of a point. Then in February he met Ken Shaw and although he won a right to the jaw lifted Freddie clear of his feet and down for the count of nine.
Respite from punishment came when Freddie was posted to India. He was there when peace was declared and came home early in 1946 having lost weight due to the heat but otherwise fit after some six years in the RAF. By the end of the war Jack Solomons , and East End fishmonger, had become Britain’s leading promoter and had a close working relationship with Ted Broadrib. The pair decided that Nat Seller, another of Solomon’s close contacts, should become Mills’s trainer. So trainer, manager and promoter had common interests.
Boxing was big business in Britain after the war and Solomon persuaded Gus Lesnevich, who was claiming the American version of the light heavyweight title, to meet Freddie at Harringay Arena to settle who was the real world champion. However a year in India was no preparation for a world title fight. Solomons and Broadrib had also arranged Freddie to meet Bruce Woodcock only three weeks later.
Freddie met Lesnivich in May 1946 and it was described by boxing writer Denzil Batchelor as “the most spectacular fight I ever saw in my life”. In the first round Lesvivich het Freddie mills at will and in the second round Freddie was down three times. The referee should have stopped it, yet somehow Freddie came back with such ferocity that by the end of the ninth Lesnevich had a broken nose, a closed eye, and half choked in his own blood and was in despair.
Incredibly it was Lesnevich who then got on top and floored Freddie for a count of nine in the tenth round. When mills was twice more put down the referee stopped it. Mills was reported as saying in later years “I never really got over the pasting which Lesnevich gave me in 1946”. Despite this punishment Freddie kept his date with British heavyweight champion Bruce Woodcock, giving away height, reach and almost a stone in weight. He hurt Woodcock but was outpointed over 12 rounds.
Before the year was out Freddie took on another heavyweight, Joe Baski, who was two stone heavier, three inches taller was to give Freddie a terrible beating and forced him to retire at the end of the sixth round. This defeat prompted Freddie to propose to Broadrib that no more should he be forced to face top lass heavyweights.Broadrib agreed.
1947 began in style with Freddie knocking out the Dutch champion Willy Quentemeyer and the Italian champion Enrico Bertola and later the South African champion Nick Wolmarans. This was followed by probably his worst performance against the American Lloyd Marshall. On his road to reinstatement Freddie won the vacant European light heavyweight title when he stopped Belgium’s Pol Goffaux and ended the year by outpointing a French – Polish heavyweight Stefan Olek.
winning, had taken the edge from his natural dare-devil aggression and effectively removed him from any chance of winning a world title. More worryingly, he was still getting debilitating headaches and an X-ray shower some displacement of the vertebrae at the base of his skull Yet this was kept secret when Solomons and Broadrib persuaded the Lesnevich camp to give Mills another shot al the world title. Arrangements were made for an open-alt clash at White City, London, in July 1948,
When Mills's headaches returned soon after winning the world title. he began to have manipulative treatment, which worked, but at the same time it made his condition public knowledge and put off any immediate thoughts of a rubber match with Lesnevich. A happier event was that he finally married Ted Broadribb's daughter, Chrissie, who had finalized her divorce from South African heavyweight Don McCorkindale – another of Broadrib's fighters.
Mills and his wife. somewhat oddly accompanied by her first husband McCorkindale, had their honeymoon in Johannesburg. However. Mills went on ahead and fought South African heavyweight champion Johnny Ralph. stopping him in the fifth round. Mills spent several profitable weeks abroad, presenting a simple stage act in Cape Town and Durban, in which he skipped. shadow boxed and answered questions, before returning to England in the spring of 1949.
Mills had only one contest fixed for that year, the title fight for the British, British Empire and European heavyweight titles, in June, against Bruce Woodcock. The champion was 201b heavier, and again proved too big for Mills who, nevertheless, provided the sort of wholehearted performance that the fans loved hut which unfortunately was probably not in his own best interests. He was down in the first, staggered Woodcock in the second, but was down again in the third. He continued to throw punches for another 11 rounds, but the weight of Woodcock's shots began to tell and. after three more knockdowns from the tenth onwards. Freddie finally failed to get up in the 14th.
Mills was still world light-heavyweight champion and, in January 1950. he defended the title against America's Joey Maxim, in London. Mills shook Maxim with almost the first blow of the fight, and dominated the early rounds, but, in the sixth, Maxim landed a punch which broke two of the champion's teeth and caused bad bleeding in the mouth, Maxim gradually took control and in the 10th he launched a sudden attack to the head which sank Mills. He couldn't quite be-at the count and it signalled the end for the brave ex-champ. He announced his retirement.
Mills tried to remain in boxing and took out a manager's licence, practising for a couple of years at the Empress HaII, London (which is now demolished), but found his niche as an entertainer. He toured with entertainer Dickie Henderson and was a regular personality' on television.
He and his wife led happy lives, setting up home in Denmark south London, and two daughters arrived in 1951 and 1958. However. Me Freddie Mills Chinese Restaurant, which he had launched with two business partners in 1946, began to fail and the establishment was refurbished and re-opened in 1962 as The Freddie Nitespot, sadly things did not improve much and unknown to Mills the club was being used for prostitution. He was however that the notorious gangsters Ronnie and Reggie Kray were regular customers.
Mills had developed the habit of napping in his car when the club was quiet and it was there that the doorman found him dead on the night of the 24 July 1965. An inquest later decided he had died from self inflicted firearm wounds. The police officially ruled the death a suicide. However, several theories arose, due in no small part to his relationship with the Krays. Some of the theories included:
He had been arrested in a public toilet, and charged with homosexual indecency, and had killed himself.
His suicide was staged by Chinese gangsters, who were after his club.
He was the still unknown serial killer "Jack The Stripper," who had murdered eight prostitutes near the Thames River in London between 1958 and 1965, and that he had killed himself when he felt he was close to being caught.