F: Fogg - Francini
Wrestling Heritage A-Z
Mid heavyweight Billy Fogg, the one time baker from Warrington, initially worked for the independent promoters until he was signed up by Joint Promotions in 1961. Within a short time he was a regular fixture on the northern circuit clashing with the likes of Jack Pye, Francis St Clair Gregory, Mike Marino and Billy Howes. Nationwide exposure came in December, 1961, with a television defeat at the hands of Jack Beaumont at Bolton.
Trained at Billy Riley’s Wigan gymnasium John Foley was one of the hardest and most skilful 1950s and 1960s middleweights. He came into wrestling after working as a coal miner, making his professional debut against Tommy Milo. Well regarded as a one of the country’s top middleweights, journalist Charles Mascall said John was one of the world's best middleweights of all time. His greatest notoriety came in the 1960s as a member of the Black Diamonds tag team, partnering Abe Ginsberg. Distinguished with black leather helmets, which Kent Walton was forever telling us he was inundated with letters saying these should be illegal and removed, the two villains had memoroable clashes against the Stewarts, The White Eagles and the Royal Brothers.
For a short time John Foley also wrestled in northern England and Scotland as the masked wrestler, The Katt, with the real mystery being why a wrestler of his calibre chose to have his identity concealed. Well travelled throughout most of Western Europe later in his career he travelled to Canada and Japan, achieving further success. John’s son in law was Ted Heath, and when the two of them wrestled as a tag team in the USA in 1975/6 they called themselves “The British Bulldogs,” and carried a large stuffed bulldog (called Winston) into the ring, pre-dating another higher profile British Bulldogs team by quite a few years.
A light heavyweight, known as the “Jewish whirlwind,” whose rugged style was never going to make him a fan's favourite. Bethnal Green's Al Fontayne gained his early experience in the rings of Paul Lincoln and the independent promoters.
Trained by veteran Al Lipman, Fontayne turned professional in 1958, following a stint in the RAF and boxing as an amateur. Al worked extensively in southern England, Austria and Germany before being signed up by Joint Promotions in the mid 1960s.
Those early Continental bouts included matches against far more experience wrestlers such as Rene Lasartesse, Leif Rasmussen, Felix Gregor and George Blemenshultz.
He was equally at home in rings against the smaller acrobatic antics of Johnny Kwango or the rugged heavyweight slugger Johnny Yearsley. Frequent encounters were made with Bob Kirkwood in the early days and later for Dale Martin Promotions. His 1966 ko by Ricky Starr in Leeds was the talk of the town for years afterwards.
He was a regular mid carder in Joint Promotion rings before disappearing from our rings around the middle of 1969.
Our only knowledge of this Bradford heavyweight is a television match against Ezzard Hart at Bermndsey Baths on 15th January, 1966.
It always seemed appropriate that welterweight Leon Fortuna, who appeared to have a permanent smile, came from the Pacific Island of Tonga in the Friendly Isles. The smile seemed to have disappeared when Leon was featured on the cover of The Wrestler magazine with Peter Szakacs (right)
Born in Tonga, he moved to South Africa as a a child and later, in 1951 the eight year old first stepped foot in the UK. In 1960, following a short amateur career, he turned professional for Paul Lincoln, but within weeks was signed up by Dale Martin Promotions.
His original ring name of Young Sullivan disguised an even more unusual real name.
His fast, skilful style was hugely popular with fans in the South, where he mainly wrestled, and it wasn’t long before he became a nationwide favourite through the miracle of television.
In 1970 he formed one half of The Sepia Set tag-team which foundered with partner Linde Caulder’s departure two years later.
Manchester was a hotbed of young wrestling talent in the late 1960s. Whilst Al Marquette, Johnny Saint, Pete Lindbergh, Bob Francini and Eddie Rose had already begun to make their mark a younger generation was snapping at their heels. Amongst these was a schoolboy, or at least very recent schoolboy, going by the name Roy Fortuna. The older guard listed above each had a hand in helping the youngster develop from the time we first took an interest in his career which was in 1969. We watched him grow in confidence and skill for the following seven or eight years but then Roy Fortuna disappeared from our horizon as quickly as he had arrived. Eddie Rose enlightens us that Roy went on to become a major figure in the trade union movement.
A popular wrestler for the independent promoters in the 1960s and 1970s Middlesbrough's Eddie Fox was well known in the North East during the 1960s, working regularly for Don Robinson, Cyril Knowles, and Allen & Taylor. Eddie learnes to wrestle at the St Lukes Wrestling Club in Middlesborough which also introduced Ian Gilmour, Tony Elsdon, Ray Leslie and Les Prest to the world of professional wrestling.He passed away on December 26th, 2008.
Jim Foy (Emile Foy, Elmo the Mighty)
One of those tough men in the ring and a gentle giant outside the ropes, that was Elmo the Mighty, otherwise known by his real name of Jim Foy. Born in 1904, Jim was one of the great characters of professional wrestling for close on twenty years, from the mid 1940s until his retirement in 1963. Born in Bolton he was brought up in the hard tradition of Lancashire style wrestling and was Lancashire Heavyweight Champion before he turned professional. During his career Jim travelled throughout the country and wrestled all the greats like Black Butcher Johnson, Jack Pye, and Bill Benny. Jim Foy died in 2000. He was undoubtedly one of the hardest men in wrestling and we have it on good authority that a young Billy Robinson considered Jim the hardest man he knew and complained that he was unable to throw the Bolton man. Now, if Billy would just like to get in touch to confirm this!
Bob Francini (Jack La Rue, Red Mask, Red Marvel, Red Devil)(Jack La Rue, Red Mask, Red Marvel, Red Devil)
A tough nut who looked the part. Bob Francini trained at Hollywood Amateur Wrestling Club in Stockport but made his professional debut in Australia. He returned to Britain in the mid 1960s and after gaining a bit more experience was soon snapped up by Joint Promotions, with a decade of regular bookings from Jack Atherton and Wryton Promotions. His all action style didn’t always endear him to fans but Francini’s bouts were never short of drama or emotion. He was a regular opponents of all the big names in the middleweight and light heavyweight divisions, but rarely a winner, and lacked television exposure. Occasionally he wrestled as the Red Mask and the Red Marvel, beaten and unmasked by the Black Mask at Malvern in 1972.
Ezzra "Sugar Ray" Francis (Sugar Ray Dodo, The Zulu, The Witchdoctor)(Sugar Ray Dodo, The Zulu, The Witchdoctor)
Should a book of wrestling's greatest characters be written Ezra Francis is sure to be in there, whatever the criteria. Stories of the man abound whenever the wrestling fraternity gathers together. Eddie Rose told Wrestling Heritage:
"Ezzie was a favourite to work with and to socialise with, too. Top man and what a sense of humour, mind you, we needed it because we were both Manchester City fans! I had some of my most memorable bouts with him. He was fun to be with and had a wide variety of moves to suit every occasion. He took on all shapes and sizes from Jackie Pallo to Klondykes and always gave full value to the audiences."
The fans loved Ezra, whether he was billed that night as The Zulu, Sugar Ray Francis, Sugar Ray Dodo or The Witchdoctor.
The grass skirt, spear and facial paint meant that Ezra was on the bill. This welterweight was a hugely popular and regular performer on the independent circuit throughout the 1960s. Whilst not reaching the popularity of Masambula (who did have the advantage of tv exposure) Ezra was no insubstantial copy of the African. When the lights were down and he entered the hall the excitement amongst the crowd was very real. A slow walk into the ring, followed by a bit of voodoo nonsense directed at an opponent and then he would get down to the serious business of wrestling, at which he was very good.
Not to be confused with another Zulu, Harry Bison of the Isle of Man, who was heavier and taller than the original.
Page revised 28/05/2019