WRESTLING HERITAGE

British wrestling history 

D: Deep River -  Devalto

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Deep River
It's all about the memories, as we constantly remind our Wrestling Heritage readers. For those of us that saw him there are fond memories of  Deep River, a wrestler that might otherwise be forgotten.  

Gian Chand was a colourful character who we remember seeing in the summer of 1969 whilst working for Wryton Promotions, though he had been working for the independent promoters in the midlands for a few years before then.  One year earlier, in February 1968, we found him wrestling on an independent show at Walsall Town Hall against Birmingham's Frank Taplin in a match billed as a "Black v White Contest," a hard to believe and unforgiveable description of a match at the time  the Beatles were riding high in the charts and the Americans and Russians were reaching for the Moon.  

Gian Chand wasn't the name on the posters. He was known as Deep River and  worked for the independent and Joint Promotions from the 1960s until the 1980s, the move from the independents to Joint Promotions coming in April, 1969 under the guidance of Martin Conroy, whose appointment to the Wryton Promotions board heralded quite a few talented performers from the independent circuit.

Deep River's opponents included some of the top lightweights, Johnny Saint, Jim Breaks and Zoltan Boscik amongst them, and we remember a cracking bout with Boscik in Southport during the summer of 1971. Deep River was an all action wrestler with a rather nifty drop kick speciality. 

Despite the occasional win over the big names, and frequent victories over others, Deep River was never given the ."big push" by the promoters. Still working for Joint Promotions in 1976 he was  back with the independents by 1978. 

We find him for the last time in November, 1983, losing to World champion Johnny Saint in Birmingham. There may have been a few more matches following that, but retirement came soon afterwards.  

Gian Chand went on to become licensee of a public house, The Black Eagle, in the Hockley area of Birmingham. 

Gian Chad died in 1990, survived by his wife and three children.

Marquis Pablo DeGardiazabal
The heavyweight champion of Spain, according to the promoters, made a few appearances in British rings in 1937, making his debut at Belle Vue, Manchester, with a credible win over Bulldog Bill Garnon. A report of a match in which he defeated Francis St Clair Gregory described him as a magnificent specimen who stood well over six feet with enormous strength.  His British debut was preceded with publicity in the Daily Mirror,  which was surprising as the national press were shunning professional wrestling by this time. The newspaper said that DeGardiazabal was born in Chile before moving to Spain where he became national champion.

Lucien DeGroote 
1959 heavyweight visitor who met the big  named UK heavyweights such as Dennis Mitchell, Tibor Szakacs and Billy Joyce

Gerry DeJager
He looked in trouble, but then delivered the kind of magic that was not an illusion. Without warning, and seemingly from any direction barefooted South African heavyweight Gerry de Jager would execute  a perfectly placed  drop-kick or flying  head scissors.

Although a master of all the holds for Gerry the drop-kick was his jewel in the crown, delivered with a speed that meant it was always a surprise weapon used to devastating effect. 

He was a big, powerful man and his speciality combined that power with a natural agility and speed that belied his stature.   The popular 1960s heavyweight was said to have the fastest knock-out win on record, just twelve seconds. 

Born in the Orange Free State, South Africa Gerry worked on his father's farm as a youngster, building up the strength and physique that was to prove invaluable in his chosen career. Gerry took up amateur wrestling in 1945, turned professional in 1948 and came to Britain in 1951. 

For the best part  of the next twenty years he travelled extensively around the world but always returned to Britain where he was welcomed back by fans.  

Mike Delaney
“The Irish Terror” with little regard to the rules had a career spanning twenty years from the mid 1930s until the mid 1950s.  Following retirement he followed the well trodden path to  referee

Roger Delaporte
Visitors from across the English Channel were common throughout the twentieth century. Roger Delaporte was a first class villainous French wrestler who came our way for a month in the spring of 1958.  

Roger travelled extensively during his visit, even venturing across the sea to Northern Ireland to go down to Dennis Mitchell. 

Opponents were of the highest calibre: Mitchell, Dazzler Joe Cornelius, Mike Marino,  Tibor Szakacs amongst them.

Two years later Roger Delaported  was to become one of the top promoters in France, a position he was to hold for a quarter of a century. He could still be seen in the ring on occasions, officiating as referee.

When not wrestling Roger  appeared in a number of French films, authored numerous books and was a restaurateur. 

Roger Delaporte died in 2009, aged 81.  

Tiger DeLisle
French wrestler Tiger Tim DeLisle was born in Marseilles  on 7th May, 1905, but moved to Montreal in Canada  when he was just six years old. He took up amateur wrestling aged seventeen and seven years later turned professional, having been taught the professional style by Eugene Tremblay, one of the world's top lightweights at the time.   Our earliest record of the Tiger in Britain is in March, 1933, and from then on he seems to be a permanent fixture until shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War.  One of the lighter men Tiger had some cracking bouts in Britain against Harold Angus and Mike Howley. Enjoyed and respected by the fans his rough style, sometimes outside the rules, did little to endear him to the British public. From the autumn of 1939 and throughout the Second World War DeLisle wrestled in Canada. He returned to Britain following the second world war in 1948 and 1949, with our last recorded match in Canada in 1955.

Wally Delmar
Wally was a one-eyed exiled Channel Islander who lived near Strangeways Prison in Manchester. Five and half feet tall (he said) and a typical bantam cock of a lightweight bristling with ideas and ambition. He trained at the Balck Panther gym and wrestled just about everyone under fourteen stone: Ian St John, Johnny Clancy, Tiger Delmonte, Ali Gil, Shem Singh, Mark Wayne, Mad Dog Wilson, Eddie Rose, Cyril Knowles, Jack Dempsey, Gustav LeBrun and Johnny Saint in a tag bout.
 
Wally worked on Matt Moran's fairground wrestling booth for years and could handle himself in a tight spot against any one. His unfulfilled ambition was to get in the ring with Mick McManus. He did once jump the ring on Jackie Pallo and they had a ten second dust-up before being separated by the referee and seconds.
 
Wally had lost the sight of his left eye and being driven by him to wrestling shows always filled the lads with trepidation as he was forever turning round to engage the back seat passengers in conversation. No real worries he was a lorry driver by profession. After training he loved nothing better than a couple of pints of Tetley bitter and a good old yarn about past bouts.
Jules Delmee
Stylish European mid heavyweight champion in the 1950s made a short visit to Britain in January and February, 1954. Top class opponents included Vic Hessle, Ernest Baldwin, Jack Beaumont and a defeat by Mike Marino at the Royal Albert Hall.

Tiger Delmonte
Mancunian based Jamaican Del Willis was a professional boxer of some 23 matches between 1953 and 1956 before he turned to wrestling. Born in Jamaica on 27th October, 1932 he came to Britain shortly after the Second World War and joined Ardwick Lads Boxing Club.

Boxing under the name Del Willis he took the name Tiger Delmonte when he turned to professional wrestling. A colourful character he made his way to the ring carrying  a tiger's head as his lucky charm. Tiger learned the wrestling trade on Matt Moran’s fairground booth, at Grant Foderingham's gym and at the Failsworth Amateur Wrestling Club under the guidance of Billy Robinson and alongside Johnny Saint.  Eddie Rose told us, "He was a great character, always cheerful and positive and a good travelling companion. He returned to boxing, his first love, and coached youngsters for many years in Manchester right up to his passing."

He moved to the independents around 1971 and disappeared from our radar until turning up back on Joint shows in the mid 1970s. 

Tiger Delmonte died in September, 2016.

Mike De Main
Mike DeMain was one of those fans who managed to get work as a second at a local hall and used it as a springboard to meeting up with wrestlers such as Mal Kirk who helped prepare him for his transition from second to professional wrestler. National service intervened and delayed entry to the professional ranks until the mid 1960s. When the opportunity came Mike established himself as  a popular middleweight  on the independent circuit, particularly working for ACE Sports Promotions and other members of the British Wrestling Alliance. He tagged with Yugoslavian Milan Prica as the FBI team, and more notably with Sue Brittain, the two of them holding the BWA mixed tag title. He sneaked in and was featured in the last ever issue of The Wrestler (October 1972); a nice bit of timing.  Mike continued wrestling until the 1990s.

Tony DeMarto
Tony DeMarto was the Italian Thunderbolt and a name that went all the way back to the 1930s. Here was a man who had shared a ring with the likes of Mario Magisti and Tommy Rigby. Walthamstow based Tony retired and went into the catering business and promoting wrestling in London and around Southern England during the 1960s. He was well respected as a fair promoter by all those who worked for him

Johnny Demchuck
Reputedly of Russian birth Johnny Demchuck lived and worked mainly in the United States. In 1937, when he was 25, Johnny  came over to the United Kingdom  as professional wrestling was booming and stayed until shortly before the outbreak of war. He was a frequent opponent of young Canadian Whipper Watson as well as domestic talent that included Jack Pye, Harry Brooks, Bert Mansfield and Tony Baer.

Johnny Demchuck continued working in North America after the war in both Canada and the United States. Whist working for Stu Hart's Calgary promotion in 1959 he was an opponent of a fledgling Ian Campbell.

Whilst still working at the age of 49 tragedy struck on 19th June, 1962 in the Memorial Hall, Victoria, British Columbia. Twenty minutes into a bout  whilst gripped in a hammer-lock by British wrestler Oliver Winrush (known to UK fans as Ramon Napolitano), Demchuck suffered a fatal heart attack. He was pronounded dead on arrival at the hospital.

Leo Demetral
Greek born and Australian domiciled Leo Demetral arrived in Britain in the autumn of 1949 and established himself as  a permanent figure in British wrestling for many years to come. Promoter George Gardiner had installed Demetral as Australian heavyweight champion in 1938, He held the title for about two years before losing it to George Pencheff  in a match which unified two versions of the title

During the winter of 1949 he seemed to be a weekly resident at Belle Vue, facing Francis St Clair Gregory, Chick Knight, Ray St Bernard and others. Demetral, his birth name was Stathis Nicolaou, was already an international star when he arrived in Britain, having worked extensively in Australia, New Zealand, Singaport, the United States and Canada. He had moved to Australia whilst a youth  and during World War 2 he served in the Royal Australian Air Force, teaching unarmed combat and paratrropers how to land.    When Joint Promotions were formed in 1952 he appeared regularly on their bills, mainly in the north, until 1955. We then lose contact with his career until 1959 when he reappeared in the south on shows of fellow Australian promoter Paul Lincoln. He retired from wrestling in 1962 and became a masseur on a cruise liner. Leo Demetral died 1966 aged 53.

Martin Deneef
Our first recorded bout is in September, 1949, an advertisement for Belgium’s Martin Deneef wrestling for  Bert Assirati’s European Heavyweight title.  Deneef was said to be 27 years old and weigh 18 stones. Further opponents included Bulldog Bill Garnon, Kiwi Kingston, The Ghoul and Giant Anaconda between 1949 and 1954.  We are still seeking information about this very competent wrestler who, according to wrestlingdata.com worked under the name Bob Martin in the USA and Canada between  1946 and 1948, and in Germany and Austria from 1951 until 1959. 

Vicomte Joel DeNoirbreuil (Also known as Joel De Fremery)
The dashing young French viscount toured Britain twice in the mid-sixties and is seen left with an armlock on Gentleman Jim Lewis. Born in Paris and mentored by Georges Cohen, he was trained for the ring by Albert Ben Chemoul, father of the European Middleweight Champion, René, and became a favourite on French televised wrestling. 5'5" Noirbreuil wrestled all over France and tagged surprisingly with N'boa the Snakeman, see above.

On his UK tour he challenged Alan Colbeck for the European Welterweight Championship and faced many of the UK's top middle and welterweights. His sole UK tv bout was against Jon Cortez. But his record shows four 1965 losses against Jackie Pallo, all at coastal locations.  Joel was back in Britain in the 1980s, dutifully losing to Rollerball Rocco on 26th August, 1981 in a World Heavy Middleweight championship contest.

Joe Devalto

Jumping Joe Devalto certainly had his place in British wrestling, a familiar figure from 1935 until 1940. Surprising, therefore, that so little is known about him, we would welcome more information. Said to weigh between 13 stones and 15 stones he met most of the top men around the 14 stone mark, including Vic Hessle, Tony Mancelli and Rex Gable. In those pre war days he must have looked rather stylish as he entered the ring in a black dressing gown with his name in white adorning the back, Consistently billed as Italian until 1940, when he suddenly becomes Canadian! Reports are of a rough and unruly character described as “The menace of the ring.” One brief moment of fame came in 1938 when he was called as a witness when referee Phil Meader sued wrestler Karl Reginsky for assault, a case that made the national press.



28/02/2021 Martin Deneef added
21/12/2019: Leo Demetral entry updated

23/06/2019: Addition of Marquis Pablo DeGardiazabal