A hobby site created by enthusiasts of 
British wrestling celebrating wrestling and 
wrestlers from 1930 onwards through 
fifty glorious years of British wrestling history

I: Ironside - Ivan

Wrestling Heritage A-Z

Len Ironside

Aberdeen’s Len Ironside found success in the 1970s and 1980s, starting out in 1973 and hanging up his boots in 1995 Len was  one of those wrestlers destined for a longer, more successful, career if the sport had retained its popularity.

Career highlights included a televised loss to Jim Breaks, which  brought him to the attention of a national audience, and defeat of Tony Borg to take the vacant Commonwealth Middleweight title. He lost the belt to Mike Bennett, regaining it in 1981  and keeping it until his retirement. 

In his native Scotland Len could often be seen in the opposite corner of the invaders from the south - Jackie Robinson, Johnny Saint, Jeff Kaye, and the other top welter and middleweights of the day.   Despite his popularity and skill success at a national and international level would have almost certainly required frequent travelling away from Scotland, and this was rare due to Len's interests outside of wrestling.  

As early as 1980 Len had a love other than wrestling. Local politics was his great interest, and in 1982 he was elected a local councillor in Aberdeen. Just seven years later he was chosen Leader of the Council.  In 1999 Len was elected leader of the Labour group on Aberdeen City Council, a position he held until 2003, going on to devote more time to his role of Information Support Manager for Scotland with the Parkinson Disease Society. Add to this public service a Governor of the Robert Gordon University. Chairman of Aberdeen International Youth Festival, Patron of the Grampian Special Olympics, Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Culture and Commerce, and the award of a CBE in 2003 for Services to Local Government and we’ll all agree that the lad did well.  

Henry Irslinger

One of the true pioneers of wrestling, Austrian born Henry Irslinger, wrestled in Britain in the early years of the 20th century, and made his first visit to the United States in 1909. He returned to America indefinitely  in 1912 and was part of the wrestling revival in the United States before going on to pioneer the new rules of wrestling in Australia, South Africa and Britain. Irslinger and his friend Benny Sherman's vision of wrestling in 1930s Britain inspired Atholl Oakeley to lead the development of the sport in Britain.   Henry returned to America in 1931 but wrestled in Britain on and off throughout the 1930s, billed as Light Heavyweight Champion of the World. He was certainly a highly skilled wrestler, with a very fast and effective aeroplane spin specialty, but was past his peak as the 1930s went on.

Related article: Top Wrestlers of the 1930s

Buddy Isles

We have records of Buddy Isles between 1948 and 1952, five contests against Stoke's Jim Mellor. Further information is welcomed.

Isha Ismail

Our references are all for Isha Ismael working for Jack Taylor's International Promotions in the early 1960s. Most likely capitalising on the more famous Judah Ischa Israel (see below)

Juda Ischa Israel

Clever and stylish the Jewish welterweight Juda Ischa Israel was introduced to British audiences in January, 1955. Starting out facing the tough nut of Scotland Chic Purvey we were impressed by the relentless quality of his opposition. There were no easy rides for this clever wrestler moving on from George Kidd to Cliff Beaumont, Jack Dempsey, Ken Joyce, Alan Colbeck, Eddie Capelli, Jim Lewis, Mick McManus, Jack Cunningham, Eric Sands, Cyril Knowles, Pat Kloke; opposition could come no harder than this. His style was  most suitable for opposition to scientific wrestlers, and George Kidd was a frequent opponent. He left British rings after four months but was welcomed back in January 1956  for another short visit. Further visits were made in 1958 and 1959. Between 1960 and 1964 he was back in Britain, this time wrestling for the independent promoters, and returning to Joint promotion rings in October, 1964. Last seen in Salisbury in October, 1965.

Karel Istaz

Many readers of Wrestling Heritage are of an age when they have vivid memories of American magazines of the 1960s, where they read of the exploits of Thesz, Sammartino, Gagne, and a man called Karl Gotch. In those days the magazines arrived weeks after their American publication but nonetheless contained details of matches that appeared more exciting, and far more violent,  than anything we saw on our tv screens or in the halls.

Few at the time were aware that  less than a decade earlier Karl Gotch had been a regular feature of Northern rings. In those days he was still known by his Belgian birth name of Karel Istaz.  Istaz came to Britain, bringing impressive amateur credentials as a Belgian representative in the 1948 Olympics. He had competed in both the freestyle and Greco Roman styles in the light heavyweight division.

In 1950 Karel Istaz turned professional, using the name Karl Krauser in Germany. Soon he  headed to Britain. His  mission when he came to Britain was to learn to really wrestle in the old fashioned professional style developed in Lancashire, Catch as Catch Can. He was destined to become one of the last great exponents of the style.  He became a regular at the Billy Riley gymnasium and he was a devoted student.   For much of the time he spent in Wigan Karel lived with Billy Joyce, who was also making his way in the professional ring at that time. Karel was destined to remain a student at Wigan for eight years before emigrating to the USA in 1960, adopted the name Karl Gotch, and  became one of the few Europeans to reach the top of the profession. In the 1970s Gotch wrestled in Japan for a prolonged period, meeting up with his good friend Billy Robinson. 

In no way attempting to discredit Karl Gotch we repeat these wonderful memories of young teenager Bernard Hughes, "I saw Karel Istaz at Newcastle,late 40's early 50's.

Quite honestly I wasn't too impressed with his style but I remember that at the time I was amazed at the strength of his wrestlers bridge. Nothing else stands out except for his new brown leather holdall.He asked me to show him the way to Newcastle Central station and I remember the holdall more than his performance."

In retirement he returned to America, where he died on 28th July, 2007.

Red Ivan

Billed in Britain as a Ukranian with a Polish mother, Red Ivan was brought in as cannon fodder for Big Daddy in one of the more pitiful storylines that the latter days of British wrestling had to offer.  Ivan appeared on television and vastly outweighed his first opponent Andy Blair.  A further demolition job ensued on Burly Barry Douglas, who again gave away over two stones in weight.  Just when Red Ivan seemed to be establishing his reputation as a formidable likely opponent for full blown British heavies such as Davies or Roach or Bartelli he was required to succumb most unbelievably to the out of condition “Mams and Dads Favourite”.  Fans were left wondering about what might have been, and a good showman and fine athlete let his entire reputation go up in smithereens. SaxonWolf has told us "Red Ivan was Richard Krupa, who wrestled under various names, such as Vladimir Krupoff, a Canadian with Russian born parents who had begun his wrestling career for Stu Hart's Stampede Wrestling."