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.
The photo on the right shows him in action during a 1986 bout against Johnny Saint at Aberdeen. 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.
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.
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We have records of Buddy Isles between 1948 and 1952, five contests against Stoke's Jim Mellor.
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Our handful of references are for Isha Ismael, billed as Heavyweight Champion of both India and Pakistan, are working for Jack Taylor's International Promotions in the early 1960s. Most likely capitalising on the more famous Judah Ischa Israel (see below).
Whether or not he was a genuine visitor or, as seems most likely, another product of the creative mind of promoter Jack Taylor.
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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.
Many readers of Wrestling Heritage are of an age that 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.
Few at the time were aware that a less than a decade earlier Gotch had been a regular feature of Northern rings. In those days he had been known as Belgian heavyweight Karel Istaz.
Istaz came to Britain in 1950, bringing impressive amateur credentials as a Belgian representative in the 1948 Olympics.
His mission when he came to Britain was to learn to really wrestle in the old fashioned professional style developed in Lancashire.
He became a regular at the Billy Riley gymnasium, known as the Snakepit, and he was a devoted student. He was destined to remain a student at Wigan for eight years before emigrating to the USA where he became one of the few Europeans to reach the top of the profession.
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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.