Power and precision; that was Geoff Portz.
A powerful, muscular heavyweight of immense strength with the technical skill and carefully conceived moves carried out to perfection and that just about sums up Geoff Portz. For good measure throw in a generous helping of agility and speed for a man of his size.
We wouldn't want other wrestlers to change, it's the variety that made our wrestling so great, but if every wrestler had been more like Geoff Portz there would have been far fewer of those “knowledgeable” people that questioned the legitimacy of the sport.
Admired by fans, respected by other wrestlers, that great light heavyweight of the 1950s and 1960s.
Bob Sweeney remembers his friend and colleague with the utmost of admiration, “He taught me so much, not just ways to improve my wrestling, but every aspect of being a professional sportsman. For Geoff professionalism didn't begin and end when entering and leaving the ring. Professionalism encompassed every aspect of his life, and that is what he tried to instil in me. I cannot emphasise too much the influence of that great man."
Heritage readers too have an abundance of wonderful memories of the times they watched Geoff Portz wrestle. Dave Sutherland and Bernard Hughes saw Geoff in action at their local hall in Newcastle.
Dave said, "However for total skill between two men at the top of their game Geoff Portz 2-1 victory over Francis Sullivan was something special.”
Bernard, “I remember a mid heavyweight (then) Geoff Portz getting a 10 round draw against The Ghoul when everyone thought that he was too light to go all the way with the big man. Portz attacked at the start of each round zigzagging across the ring at speed and catching the big man still in his corner. The chops were few and far between and never seemed to land just right. Geoff Portz got a well deserved draw.”
In London Ballymoss remembers Geoff Portz, “George Gordienko against Geoff Portz at the sole Norman Morrell London promotion, Lime Grove Baths, in the early 1960's. Both wrestlers were at the height of their powers and in a real 'blood and thunder contest' Gordienko, probably the best heavy weight wrestler in the country at the time, came out best with a 2-1 decision.”
John Shelvey, “Portz slowly but surely turning defence into airplane spin and the defeat of The Great Togo.”
These memories are not of a flashy, gimmicky wrestler, far from it. Geoff had charisma alright, but it was in monochrome. His entrance to the ring would be understated but self assured. He would wait patiently and confidently whilst others went about their more outlandish antics. There was no doubt about it, when Geoff climbed through the ropes we knew that wrestling was a serious business.
Yet the name sounded almost too exotic. Surely the figment of a promoter's imagination to add a touch of flavour? Nothing of the sort. The surname Portz was for real, Geoff's family name going back decades in Britain and before that Geoff's great grandparents born in Germany before coming to Britain in the late 1850s and setting up a tailoring business in London. By the time of his father's birth the family were living in Hull, with Geoff born in Shipley in 1931. By 1951 twenty year old Geoff was working as a professional wrestler throughout the country, most frequently for Norman Morrell but for other promoters also. Opponents in those first couple of years included Cyril Morris, Norman Walsh, Ernie Riley and Don Mendoza. Those were all well established stars of the ring, and it was a theme that was to continue through the decades that followed. Geoff Portz always shared the ring with the very best; on television for instance he opposed Billy Robinson, Tibor Szakacs, Gwyn Davies, Georges Gordienko, Billy Joyce, Mike Marino, Bill Howes, Albert Wall and Steve Veidor. Not to mention the rest, more than 30 television appearances over a decade.
Geoff Portz wrestled them all, including World Heavyweight Champion Lou Thesz when the American visited Britain in 1957. He had two cracks at Thesz, holding the champion to a draw at Leicester and then losing in the return match in Middlesbrough.
Geoff did have championship success himself, succeeding Norman Walsh as British mid heavyweight champion before losing the belt to Mike Marino; holding the British heavyweight title for six months in 1964.
For twenty years Geoff Portz was at the top of the tree in British rings and wherever in the world his career took him. Fans were shocked in 1971 when he became one of British stars to head towards North America, destined to never return permanently.
Geoff Portz died in March, 2016.
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