C: Cerino - Charles
Wrestling Heritage A-Z
When we began delving back into the history of professional wrestling it soon became apparent that Val Cerino was a man we should know. Our ignorance was inexcusable because here was a man who had played an important part in British wrestling for the best part of two decades. All we knew was that he was usually billed from Malta, sometimes Italy, but we quickly discovered that this was promoters' fiction and we knew nothing.
We are grateful to Val's niece, Kathryn, for coming to our rescue. From 1935 until 1952 Val Cerino was a prolific wrestler meeting the biggest names in wrestling, including Bill Benny, Frank Manto, Tony Baer and Jack Atherton. Malta and Italy provided only a flicker of truth as Val was born Walter Carwin in South Shields in the North East of England. The dark complexion and black wavy hair hinted at Mediterranean lineage, and this was the case as his father was Maltese and mother of Italian extraction. The family name, Carwin, was originally Caruana. Val's father Anglicized it to Carwin when he made the decision to settle in England.
After seventeen years as a busy worker, mainly in the midlands and north, he disappeared at the end of 1952.The sudden disappearance could be accounted for by Val emigrating to Australia. He lived initially in Queensland with the intention of running a sugar farm, but he found that he was allergic to the sugar cane dust. He next moved to Melbourne, but that climate did not suit him either, and he finally settled in Sydney. Val resumed wrestling and also attended philosophy classes at the University of Sydney for a number of years. Wrestling Heritage member John Shelvey tells us that in 1953 the book "100 years of Australian Wrestling" listed Val Cerino as "an addition to the preliminary ranks". Our last recorded contest for him being against Tony Kontellis in Sydney in September, 1964.
Kathryn tells us that Val ended his days in Tugun, Queensland, in a care home following a fall in his unit in North Bondi. He was unable to reach the phone to call for help and was at death's door when he was eventually found. He saw in the New Millennium and passed away at the grand old age of 96, having outlived his four younger brothers and sisters. "Uncle Walter was my favourite uncle and I regard his emigration to Australia as a great loss. It was nice to see that the world has not entirely forgotten him. He was a lovely man."
The parents of Gil Cesca came from Italy to reside in Paris. Gil Cesca was born in Vitry-sur-Seine, a suburb a few miles south east of the capital. It was a city he was to make his home for most of his life. His interest in wrestling started as a child and shortly after turning fourteen he joined an amateur wrestling club sited above a cinema, learning both Greco Roman and Freestyle.
The popular and stylish French welterweight was a regular visitor to the UK, making his first appearance in British rings during his three week 1958 tour. Opponents ranged from novices Al Nicol and Tony Charles to more challenging experienced opposition that included Mick McManus and Vic Coleman. By then he was an experienced professional, having joined the paid ranks in 1949.
Gil is also one of the few lighter weight wrestlers who found favour in the United States, visiting North America with Rene Ben Chemoul in 1959. Canada was the first stop, and then on to the States, wrestling at the Madison Square Garden.
He returned to Britain not once but twice in 1960, on this occasion appearing twice at the Royal Albert Hall, facing McManus during his March visit and Lightweight champion Mel Riss during his September visit; as well as making his British television debut against Tony Charles. Numerous visits to Britain followed during the 1960s.
He was one of the four man team of continental wrestlers to face a London team at the Royal Albert Hall in July 1968 in the presence of His Royal Highness Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh. Two months later, in September, he narrowly lost out to Vic Faulkner when challenging for the European Middleweight Championship at Nottingham Ice Rink. 1968 was quite a year. He also married in Paris.
After almost thirty years travelling the world and taking part in thousands of matches Gil Cesca retired in 1977, setting himself up as a restaurant owner and renovating paintings.
The popular and powerful French heavyweight made his first visit to Britain in 1951, facing the likes of Milo Popocopolis, Mike Demitre and Tony Mancelli. He returned in 1958, 1962 and 1963. In 1962 he defeated Masambula in the first round of the Royal Albert Hall International Heavyweight Trophy before going out to Bruno Elrington in the semi finals. The 1963 visit was cut short when he faced Georges Gordienko, again at the Royal Albert Hall, only to have his collar bone broken in the opening round.
Berlin's Achim Chall made his way to the United Kingdom in 1960 to take on Dazzler Joe Cornelius, Gordon Nelson and Billy Howes amongst others. He arrived in early January and was in the country for about six weeks. He brought with him experience in jiu-jitsu and judo as well as an accomplished amateur background record. He returned again in 1966, once again meeting top class opposition including a single fall loss against Syed Saif Shah at the Royal Albert Hall. Following his retirement in 1988 he took up refereeing, later to emigrate to Australia where he died in 2007, aged 73.
Mighty Chang (Also known as Jungle Boy)
Emerging from an unspecified distant land in the spring of 1952 was a colourful heavyweight with the fearsome name of Jungle Boy. Maybe if fans had known that the exotic land was Glasgow (albeit born in India) and he had been known by his real name then Milton Reid might not have filled the largest halls of northern England and Scotland (Belle Vue Manchester, St James Hall, Newcastle) against Les Kellett, Dennis Mitchell, Joe Zaranoff, Billy Joyce and other heavyweight favourites. Milton Reid combined his prolific wrestling 1950's commitments with small parts in films. When the invincible Jungle Boy faced the unconquerable Bert Assirati it was a dramatic and abrupt end for the Jungle Boy and his leopard skin trunks. It was a June evening in Ilkeston and knocked out in the first round that was the end for Jungle Boy, never to be seen again. Not that here at Wrestling Heritage we have suspicious minds, you understand, but Jungle Boy's ignominy was conveniently timed for Milton Reid to shave his head for a role in the film, Ferry To Hong Kong. When Milton Reid returned to the ring he was the shaven headed tyrant, The Mighty Chang, topping the bill on Paul Lincoln and independent shows against experienced men such as Alan Garfield, Mike Marino and Judo Al Hayes as well as Lincoln's new breed Dave Larsen, Bob Kirkwood and Steve Haggetty.
During the 1960s film and television roles began to take up an increasing amount of his time. Most fifty plus readers of Wrestling Heritage will remember him as the body guard in a long running tobacco commercial. In 1962 played the part of a henchman in the first James Bond film, Dr No. Maybe that premature death was the reason why, in 1964 he lost out to Harold Sakata when they were both in the running for the part of Odd-Job in the Bond film, Goldfinger. Legend has it that Reid challenged Sakata (pro wrestler Great Togo) to a wrestling match to determine who should get the part! Milton Reid did return to Bond films in the 1977 Spy Who Loved Me.
Wrestling appearances lessened during the latter half of the 1960s, the combined consequence of increasing film commitments and the removal of Paul Lincoln patronage following the 1966 partnership of Lincoln and Dale Martin Promotions.
In 1980 he attempted to revive his film career in India, where he is thought to have passed away around 1987.
Not a career masked man but the appearances he made in the mid 1960s were quite memorable. Mitzuko Chango was light for a masked man of the sixties, who were usually heavyweights, but this middleweight of the independent rings was quite a fearsome figure. The white masked warrior would enter the ring and go through a ceremonial tile smashing ceremony before disregarding the rules as he set about his opponent.
Welterweight Dave Chapman hailed from Kettering in Northamptonshire and like many others began his career in the usually smaller halls of the independent promoters. This was in the mid 1960s following a relatively short amateur career. Early opponents included Mick Collins, Jack Taylor and Adolf Dabrowski. With a couple of years experience he was signed up by Joint Promotions. Highlights of his short career included wins over Iron Jawed Joe Murphy and knocking out Brian Goldbelt Maxine. A frequent opponent, and sometime tag partner, was the Corby wrestler Tony Rowley. Dave's career seemed to end abruptly in the early 1970s and we would like to know what became of him.
Michael Charles (Also known as Mick LaRoache)
The son of Ric Charles worked for the independent promoters in the 1970s.
We know precious little about welterweight Ray Charles, other than he seemed to be on lots of independent shows in the 1960s and he was on the first live wrestling show we attended.
Ric Charles was a popular light heavyweight from Great Yarmouth who worked for the independent promoters, often Cyril Knowles and Jack Taylor in the 1960s and 1970, mostly in the midlands and the north of England. Our memories of him are of the white trunked slayer of villains such as The Wildman of Borneo, Klondyke Bill. His wrestling career was shared with that of managing and off licence.
Page reviewed 27/07/2019