The Taylor's of Bradford
Eric Taylor, Dave Taylor, Steve Taylor, Jack Taylor

The Taylors of Bradford

Dedication and Perfection

Eric Taylor

There were wrestlers and there were wrestlers' 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 the 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 Eric'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.

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.

Dave Taylor

Dave Taylor was one of the last great British heavyweights. Not surprising, really, as the grappling game was in his veins, being the son of the great Eric Taylor and grandson of the Yorkshire Jack Taylor. Born on 1st May, 1957 and was trained by his illustrious father and grandfather. 

Dave "Rocky"Taylor joined the professional ranks in the mid 1970s,  making his television debut in 1975 against Paul Mitchell. Shortly afterwards he moved across to the independents which meant lack of further television exposure until 1986 when he returned to the screen as a much more muscular and powerful wrestler than previously. 

It’s a sad indictment of the state of British wrestling that Dave found it necessary to spend so much time working abroad. He worked  regularly in Germany, though this didn't prevent him twice holding the British heavyweight title (All Star Promotions version). In the mid 1990s Dave went to the USA, forming a long running partnership with fellow Brit Steve Regal.  British wrestlers have always travelled but from the 1980s onwards  men of real calibre found it necessary to work abroad to gain the recognition they deserved. 

Dave Taylor retired from wrestling in 2012.

Steve Taylor

Yes, another one. These Taylor's are like buses and once one arrives they just keep coming! Back across the Pennines to the Yorkshire Taylor clan.  Steve was the son of Eric Taylor and older brother of Dave Taylor, so wrestling was certainly in his blood. With such credentials we could expect an accomplished wrestler, and he certainly was.  Steve displayed the expected characteristics of the Taylor family

Coming onto the scene in the mid 1970s Steve was a breath of fresh air in a landscape of growing wrestling nonsense. We saw  him wrestle for the first time, at Preston, in 1975, when he had been wrestling for about a year. His opponent was Bobby Barnes and Steve lost to the far more experienced man.

In the years that followed he became a popular figure around the halls and a flurry of activity on tv in 1975 with opponents that included Bert Royal, Jeff Kaye, Alan Wood and Kung Fu.  Then he disappeared. For armchair fans that was. He remained very active around the halls, working for independent promoters.

Steve returned to the television screens in 1987, but by then the writing was on the wall  for British wrestling.  

Had British style wrestling continued to flourish the stylish Steve Taylor would have been destined to become one of the great heavyweights of the early twenty-first century.

Jack Taylor

The lesser known of our Jack Taylor collection in professional circles   but one of Britain's finest amateurs and an influential man in professional circles.

Jack came from the famous Bradford dynasty, being the cousin of Heavy middleweight professional champion Eric Taylor, son of the 1938 British featherweight champion Tom Taylor and nephew of Los Angeles 1932 Olympic Games competitor Joe Taylor. Jack too had an equally illustrious amateur career and lower profile professional career.

Jack  won the British amateur  lightweight title in 1956  and represented Britain in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. Jack won one of his three matches, returning home with honour but without honours. Jack had only a short lived professional career, but was the opponent for Jeff Kaye when he made his paid debut. 

During his two years National Service Jack served as a physical training instructor in the army. A bricklayer by trade (in later life he kept fit by climbing scaffold using only his hands)  Jack trained many amateurs and aspiring professionals at the Leeds Athletic Institute,  being responsible for the development of many young wrestlers of the 1960s and 1970s. Al Marshall told us that when Cyril Knowles offered him his chance in the pro ring he was certain that Cyril was greatly influenced by the knowledge he had been trained by Jack Taylor. 

Jack Taylor died, aged 83, on 7th October, 2015.

Reviewed 28/02/2022