C: Alan Colbeck
Any discussion about the credibility and legitimacy of professional wrestling will often lead to the name Alan Colbeck, a wrestler's wrestler if ever there was one. Kidd, Riss, Dempsey, Stead, a roll call of the lighter weight greats and Alan Colbeck at his peak was equal to all of them.
Steely faced Alan was respected rather than loved by the fans. A dour, skilful welterweight whose style lacked vitality and excitement he was, nonetheless a talented wrestler who held British titles at lightweight, welterweight and middleweight, as well as the European welterweight title. From Wakefield in Yorkshire Arthur Colbeck was the son of a miner, born in 1925.
Bernard Hughes watched Colbeck at his best in the 1940s and 1950s. He told us: "I remember seeing Alan Colbeck in the late 1940's. He was a lightweight then. A dour hard Yorkshireman who showed much more ringcraft than some have given him credit for. Even then he was able to give George Kidd and Johnny Stead good opposition. At times he held the Lightweight title. In the early 1950's he moved up to Welterweight and held titles at that level also. He gave nothing away and even heavier men knew that they had a fight on their hands against him."
Alan Colbeck almost accidentally took up wrestling when he discovered Ernie Baldwin's gymnasium at Tingley whilst looking for somewhere to learn amateur boxing. He took to wrestling and was a good pupil. Already an accomplished amateur Alan Colbeck turned professional shortly after the end of the second world war, and we find the name Arthur Colbeck on posters in the late 1940s. Our earliest spottings, mostly in Scotland, saw him billed from Glasgow, and on 16th December, 1947, he took part in a knock out tournament for the Scottish lightweight championship. He was encouraged to turn professional by his friend, Harry Fields, and we believe his first bout was against Dundee's Tony Lawrence.
By 1950 we find Alan Colbeck wearing a belt and billed as the Lord Mountevans lightweight champion. According to wrestling-titles.com Alan Colbeck won the British title by defeating George Kidd at Nottingham on 3rd November, 1949. In February, 1951 we have found him holding the British welterweight crown, a title he won on 20th November, 1950 by defeating Les Stent, according to wrestling-titles.com. On 19th December, 1951, he knocked out Chris Londos in the seventh round to take the European welterweight title for the first time. The bout was said to be a scientific contest with a disappointing ending when Londos was injured. A return match on 30th January, 1952, saw Londos take the title with a two falls to one win.
Championship honours were never far away from Alan Colbeck. Over the years he held the British championship at three different weights, light, welter and middle, as well as being a long established European welterweight champion. The European title swayed back and forth between Alan and Jack Dempsey from 1951 to 1964, with Colbeck keeping it all to himself until 1976. In 1965, he battled Mick McManus to a draw live on television in a contest so intense that the football score updates were not shown on the screen until it was finished.
A national worker Alan worked in the north of England and Scotland, mostly for promoters Relwyskow Green and Morrell Beresford, but he was equally well known in southern England working for Dale Martin Promotions. He tagged for a while with Jackie Pallo in an unusual cocktail, and later settled down for a while in The Masters alongside Peter Preston, a formidable team in cracking bouts against the Royal brothers, White Eagles and Black Diamonds.
Wrestling Heritage readers have fond memories of the steely faced Yorkshireman. Powerlock, for instance: "I always liked him. A very good wrestler who looked at ease in the ring, not flash, not charismatic, but an excellent wrestler, underated by some, but must have had a very full date book as he always seemed to be working, and for a long time working across four decades."
Another admirer was Ballymoss, who watched Alan Colbeck at the Lime Grove Baths in London, "The dour Yorkshireman was ideally suited to the spartan atmosphere of the popular Lime Grove, where even for the 1960's, the programmes and bill posters, had a marked dated look. Colbeck was a formidable adversary, and I am unable to recall him ever losing,even when pitted against opponents of the calibre as Mick McManus and Jackie Pallo. Lacking in charisma, perhaps, but Alan Colbeck was a first rate highly skilled, technically adapt wrestler, who, at his weight, had few if any superiors."
By the early 1970s Alan was nearing his fiftieth birthday and had been competing for almost thirty years. A criticism levelled at many we felt that he went on a little too long and in the latter years was going through the motions in well practised matches against Mick McManus.
We conclude with more comments from Powelock "A man of Alan Colbeck's skill and ringcraft didn't need a gimmick, he was a very good exponent of the wrestling arts, in fact there wasn't many better or his equal when he wrestled. I think at times he carried more opponents than we realised. His tag team with Jackie Pallo worked well even though they were as different as chalk and cheese. I think that his persona of neither heel or face also had fans not knowing whether to cheer or boo."
Whilst wrestling benefited from colour and charisma we have little doubt that Alan Colbeck was one of the great post war lighter weight men who bore testimony that the greats of the ring had no need for star spangled trunks or elaborate gimmicks.
Page added 24/05/2019