D: John DaSilva
We only saw John DaSilva towards the end of his UK visit, and only on television, but he was a man who certainly made an impression. Mind you, he did appear five times on television in 1965, an indication that this was a man who wasn't just big in stature. His costume and physique made an impression as he entered the ring, and when the wrestling started we were not disappointed. John DaSilva personified gladiatorial elegance. Maori elegance at that, or so the promoters would have us believe.
Although a genuine New Zealander, born on 11th June, 1934, in Auckland, John’s blood was a cocktail of Portuguese, Spanish and Tahitian, but Maori he was not! His mother had been born in London whilst father, Domingo, was a New Zealander who had been a champion axeman.
John Walter DaSilva took up amateur wrestling in 1953, winning the New Zealand championship in 1955. He represented New Zealand in the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne, going out after the second round with losses to Ivan Vykhristyuk and Hussain Noori.
Two years later he came to Britain, representing New Zealand in the 1958 Commonwealth Games in Cardiff. When the Games were over John sought out a professional career, and was in front of a paying public less than a week after the Games ended. He was an immediate success in both Britain and Germany, quickly climbing the bill to main eventer. In October he made his television debut, beating Ken Davies and losing to Billy Joyce.
Promoters nationwide certainly showed confidence from the start in John DaSilva, with matches against the top heavyweights, but he certainly didn't have results all his own way.
Until May, 1959, when John received his next big boost. He was selected for the International Heavyweight Knock Out Tournament at the Royal Albert Hall. Wins over Canadian Gordon Nelson and local boy Dazzler Joe Cornelius gave him a place in the final to defeat Judo Al Hayes.
Based in Britain John was eager to travel, adding Canada to his work schedule in the autumn of 1960 and the United States in 1961. A short visit home and then on to India. All of this within five years of turning professional! We can also add France, Singapore, India, Lebanon and Australia to the list of countries visited.
John made sure he was in Britain to top the bill against Tibor Szakacs in the presence of Prince Philip, HRH the Duke of Edinburgh, at the Royal Albert Hall on 22nd May, 1963. We guess that by then he would know he’d made it! The bout was over five minute rounds rather than the ten minute duration usually favoured by Dale Martin Promotions. It was round three before either man could edge into the lead, and it was John DaSilva who took the opening fall. Szakacs levelled the score in the fifth, leaving the way open for him to take the winner in round six following no less than three of his ubiquitous chops.
By now John DaSilva was firmly established as one of Britain's most accomplished heavyweights. For British fans he was one of their own, which made it all the more difficult to come to terms when he picked up sticks again in 1966 and headed back to New Zealand, destined to become one of their greatest heavyweight stars.
John DaSilva retired in 1977. He went on to work with disadvantaged youths and in the 1994 New Years Honours List was awarded the Queen's Service Medal for Community Service.
John DaSilva died on 8th April, 2021.
Page added 13/04/2021