T: Eric Taylor
Dedication and Perfection
There were wrestlers and there were wrestler’s wrestlers. The skilled craftsman of the mat, Eric Taylor, fell into the latter category. He was a master of balance and leverage, and considered by many to be the perfect wrestler. He showed complete dedication to the sport of wrestling and frequently claimed that he was still learning. A gentle, easy going character outside the ring he was hard as nails as an opponent.
Fellow wrestler Eddie Rose was an appreciative fan, "I worked at Belle Vue as a student during vacations and saw my first bout at the King's Hall after work one Saturday. The atmosphere and the wrestling hit me like a thunderclap and I was hooked. First bout was Eric Taylor and Ernie Riley watched by 6000 fans in near silence broken by frequent bursts of applause. Fabulous bout!”
Born on 13th August, 1930, Eric was the son of Joe Taylor. Joe had competed in the 1932 Olympic Games in the freestyle featherweight competition. He beat Einar Karlsson of Sweden in his opening match and went on to lose to the Mexican Fidel Arellano. Joe was British featherweight champion in 1931, 1932 and 1937 (with Norman Morrell champion during the intervening years. He was champion for a fourth time in 1947. To say that Eric had a good tutor would certainly be no exaggeration. Eric himself had aspirations for a place in the 1948 London Olympics, narrowly beaten in the trials by Don Irvine. Additional training also came his way at the Hill Top Wrestling Club in Bradford.
Eric trained as a butcher, he was also a farmer at one time, but it was wrestling that was his first love. We find our first documented professional match in October, 1950, with undocumented matches the previous year.
Following the creation of Joint Promotions Eric wrestled all the great names in the business, from lightweight George Kidd, through the middleweights of Tommy Mann, Light heavyweight Ernie Riley and into the heavyweights of Tibor Szakacs and Josef Zaranoff.
With the inauguration of nationally recognised champions Eric Taylor was anointed the first British Heavy Middleweight Champion. Perceived wisdom has always been (according to the internet that is) that Eric won the British heavy middleweight championship in 1953. In fact the original Lord Mountevans weight divisions did not include the heavy middleweight class. We had to wait until 1960 for that, and Eric was the first champion. We find him wrestling Harry Fields for the championship at Newcastle on 9th March, but whether or not that was the inaugural championship contest we could not establish.
Eric dominated the division throughout the 1960s, though he did drop the belt to Clayton Thomson at Aberdeen Music Hall on 14th June, 1961. Eric took the lead in the fourth round with the Scot coming back to take the title in the sixth and seventh rounds. Eric Taylor was champion again before the year was out.
Amongst highlights of Eric’s career must have been his appearances at the Royal Albert Hall in London. His debut at the Kensington venue was a win over British middleweight champion Tommy Mann. He was back seven months later with a win over Gori Ed Mangotich. In February, 1959, he was less fortunate, but was up against German heavyweight Horst Hoffman. Next came Billy Howes and then a win over Josef Molnar and followed in September 1963 with the defeat of Bert Royal by the odd fall.
In September, 1957, Eric made the first of more than a dozen television appearances. In the opposite corner was India’s Ajit Singh. In the years that followed television opponents included Ernie Riley and heavyweights Dave Armstrong, Josef Molnar and Zando Zabo.
Looking through Ray’s opponents down they years it is apparent that opponents were usually much heavier than his 13 ½ stones, and were often fully fledged heavyweights weighing more than 15 stones.
Eric wearing his Lord Mountevans Belt
In the summer of 1966, and still British champion, Eric left Joint Promotions and started to work for the independent promoters. Not just work for them. He went into partnership with and formed a very reputable promotional business with Johnny Allan, A&T Promotions.
Naturally Eric and Johnny continued to wrestle on their own bills, and as a promoter Eric was as well respected as he was as a wrestler. Some promoters were known to shirk their responsibilities of paying the amount agreed with wrestlers when the crowd was small. One wrestler told us of working for Eric Taylor on a night the promoter had obviously lost a lot of money. Eric handed over the full amount. The wrestler offered to take a cut. Eric was very stern and told the youngster he should never do that again, it was disrespectful to himself as a worker and the wrestling business.
Our last sighting of Eric in the ring was at Coventry in March, 1979, wrestling Jackie Pallo Junior. Of course it wasn’t the end of the name Taylor on our programmes, as Eric left a wonderful legacy in the shape of his two sons, Dave and Steve.
Eric Taylor died 22nd December 2000 following a heart attack.