U: Fred Unwin

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The Pocket Hercules

Fred Unwin

The Romford lightweight, known as the Pocket Hercules was a regular worker on the British wrestling circuit from for a quarter of a century until forced into retirement with a recurrent back injury. 

He started his professional wrestling career in the early 1930s, a worker in the All-In rings swapping holds with the likes of Harold Angus,Doulas the Turk and Tiger Tasker. 

This working class hero from Stepney is mostly associated with Romney, a town in Essex, where he lived in later life. Fred was an outspoken advocate for the working class and campaigner for social justice, making his views known on such issues as misleading advertisements, overpriced medicines  unaffordable by the working class prior to the National Health Service, and corruption in professional sport, arguing wrestling was less of a racket than many others. He was a strong supporter of wrestling on Sunday when it came under attack during the 1930s. His support was nothing to do with anti-religious sentiments but the more pragmatic reasoning that there were wrestlers who had full time jobs and the banning of Sunday wrestling would deny them the opportunity of a day's pay from the only day they could wrestle. 

A long time physical culturist Fred opened his own body building club in Peckham, which was frequented by a young Mick McManus in the mid 1930s. Fred encouraged the young McManus to take up wrestling and advised him about the John Ruskin Amateur Wrestling Club in Walworth.

Naturally Fred had an impressive physique, earning him the nickname “Pocket Hercules.” Fred made his wrestling debut in the early 1930s, our earliest recorded appearance being in 1934. We find him matched against Brtitish welterweight champion Harold Angus in October, 1934. Angus was just about the greatest technical wrestler at his weight at the time, yet reports state that Fred was able to hold his own with the champion and “arched and twisted with agility.” Fred took the first fall before succumbing to the more experienced champion.

For the remainder of the 1930s he was very active, working around the country. Frequently on the bill at Lanes Club in London Fred also travelled extensively, and could often be seen anywhere from the West Country into northern England and Scotland. 1930S opponents included all the usual suspects you would expect for a man of around 12 stones – Jack Dale, Harold Angus, Black Butcher Johnson as well as lesser known names. 

As would be expected Fred's wrestling career took a back seat during the Second World War, although we have found a few matches in and around London during 1943 and 1944.

Fred resumed his career following the War, and appeared on television in December, 1946, wrestling Al Lipman, just six months after the BBC had resumed broadcasting and admittedly at a time when only a few thousand people around London owned a television. In the late 1940s and into the 1950s he was as busy as ever, continuing to meet all the top names in the lower weight divisions.

Despite being southern based and working mainly in southern England Fred travelled far and wide, with matches in the north of England not being infrequent in those days long before the construction of the motorway system. 

Fred Unwin's wrestling career drew to a close in 1957, almost a quarter of a century after he had entered the business.