D: Delmee - Deneef
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.
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 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
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.
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.
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.
Page revised 28/02/2021 Martin Deneef added
21/12/2019: Leo Demetral entry updated