European light heavyweight champion claimant Jacques Ducrez made a number of fleeting visits to Britain in the late 1940s and 1950s. Although his visits seem to have been of short duration he was willing to travel and made his way as far north as Aberdeen to face the equally mighty George Clark. We find him for the first time in November, 1948, wrestling in Bognor Regis for Dale Martin Promotions. It was a French v England contest, with Jacques Ducrez leading a team of Andre Drapp, Henri Cogan and Henri Renault. Ducrez was a very powerful wrestler, a former body builder whose training routine consisted largely of weightlifting. He was a hugely successful wrestler throughout Europe.
Yet there was more. Jacques Ducrez had other guises. In 1962 a masked French terror appeared in Britain using the name Jacquerez, working mostly for Wryton Promotions. Amongst his ko victims were the at-that-time high-flying Billy Howes at Smethwick, Warwickshire. Jacquerez faced many other top heavyweights that included Tibor Szakacs, Josef Zaranoff and Roy Bull Davis. Jacques Ducrez had merely eliminated the four middle letters of his two names and then elided the two together. Not the greatest of mysteries.
We noted two years later that Bull Davis was a favoured opponent of a remarkably similar visiting French masked man, Le Bourreau de Bethune. Le Bourreau de Béthune was a rugged formidable opponent and Wrestling Heritage writers have no hesitation in classing him amongst the few serious career masked men . Behind the distinctive purple mask was heavyweight Jacques Ducrez.
For fans of masked wrestlers 1964 was a wonderful year. Doctor Death had achieved nationwide fame and household status without the aid of television or the mighty Joint Promotions organisation, Count Bartelli ruled the roost for Joint Promotions, albeit in a limited geographical area, an emergent Kendo Nagasaki was beginning to make his presence felt, a "second-coming" Ghoul defeated all before him in independent rings, and the American Zebra Kid was physically the biggest of them all. Into this crowded market place, and not to be out done in any way at all, stepped Le Bourreau de Bethune, The Executioner of Bethune.
With his purple garb and jangling cuffs, this French executioner, cut a ferarsome bloodthirsty sight and smashed his way through Big Bruno, Roy Bull Davis, Alan Garfield, Johnny Yearsley and more.
The creation of Le Bourreau de Bethune came about as a matter of necessity by French promoter Maurice Durand. He was in need of a last minute replacement when Robert Gastel broke his shoulder the day before Durand's tournament. He turned to the 40 year old veteran, Jacques Ducrez, instructing him to pull on a mask and adopt a new persona. Whether or not Ducrez was keen or not we wouldn’t know, but it was a move that would inject new life into his ageing career. The Executioner was an immediate success and went on to establish one of the greatest rivalries in French rings with another masked man, the all-good heavenly sent White Angel.
His visits to Britain were always short but Le Bourreau de Bethune made a lasting impression on British fans, still talked about fifty years later.
Jacques Ducrez: Born 30th June, 1932, died 8th October 2009.