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29 October 2014

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Sporting Heroes

Boxing legend, Dennis Powell (right)
Boxing legend, Dennis Powell (right)

Dennis Powell - a true champion

By James Bond, BBC Radio Shropshire
A chance mention on BBC Radio Shropshire's Extra Time programme led to the tale of a British boxing legend, Dennis Powell.

It's amazing what a walk out and about can unearth.

I was getting some fresh air in the village of Four Crosses (between Oswestry and Welshpool) and spotted a small plaque on a lock-up garage: 'Dennis Powell, British Boxing Champion 1953, trained here.'

"He was a shy man, who you might not have thought was the sort of boxing type. But he had a lovely left lead."
Bryan Foulkes

Dennis Powell? I was completely in the dark about this man, so I mentioned it on a Tuesday night sports show on BBC Radio Shropshire - and the phone lines went berserk.

Many listeners recalled him in his heyday in the late 40s and early 50s, fighting for Welsh and British titles, performing in open-air shows at the old Oswestry Town football ground and at the West-Mid Showground in Shrewsbury, working up the old radio masts at Criggion, and indeed winning the British light-heavyweight championship in 1953.

I was also prompted to pay a visit to the Golden Lion in Four Crosses, where landlord Cedric Deathridge (great name!) showed me a photographic tribute to the career of D.P. on a wall of the pub.

Then I spoke to Bryan Foulkes, who watched Dennis train in that very garage. "As a boy, a friend and I used to help Dennis by timing his training stages with a stopwatch," Bryan recalled.

"He was a shy man, who you might not have thought was the sort of boxing type. But he had a lovely left lead, and I remember he used to go off on the train after work to various parts of the country to fight."

Boxing legend, Dennis Powell
Boxing legend, Dennis Powell

Indeed, his record - which is on display in the pub - shows Dennis fought around 70 times in a five or six year period. At his physical peak, he was fighting around every fortnight - something the boxing authorities would never allow today.

And in 1953, with a number of Welsh titles behind him, Dennis Powell became British champion, beating London's George Walker in Liverpool.

But that fight heralded a decline in Dennis's fortunes. "It was such a vicious blood-and-guts brawl that he was never quite the same man again," Bryan told me.

Fifty years on, in 2003, Bryan Foulkes - no longer a starry-eyed young boy - was on the village council, and he helped commemorate the anniversary of Dennis's greatest ever night by arranging a little reunion and fixing the plaque to the garage wall.

Sadly, our hero had passed away some years before that. But now, over half a century on from his greatest sporting achievement, I'm delighted to have resurrected the memory of Dennis Powell - a true champion. 


last updated: 14/02/06
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