WRESTLING HERITAGE

British wrestling history 

T: Randolph Turpin

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Randolph Turpin


By James Morton

One of the saddest stories in sport generally and wrestling in particular is that of Randolph Turpin one time middleweight boxing champion of the world. He turned professional wrestler in January 1961 defeating Frankie Hughes in a boxer v wrestler contest at the Paisley Ice Rink.A left hook as Hughes released a hold on the referee's orders put paid to the wrestler's chances. His fame made him an immediate attraction in both boxer versus wrestler contests and traditional wrestling matches and his place at the top of the bill was assured. Randolph came to London to knock out Leon Arras at the Poplar Baths in a joint top of the bill with Quasimodo and Dr Death whom he later boxed wearing pillow gloves. Other   opponents included Gori Ed Mangotich, Hans Streiger,  Bill Tunney, Cyril Knowles and Gordon Corbett whom he also boxed on unlicensed shows.  


He was lured away from Matsport and acquired a manager who at a time when referees received 30 shillings a night demanded £10 a night to referee if Turpin was working. Randolph was in demand and travelled around the country working for many of the independent promoters. 


Having beaten all opposition wearing his gloves Randy then took them off and began wrestling conventionally. His name continued to draw the crowds for a year or two but he had been taught the bare minimum as a wrestler  and as he could not or did not wish to learn more   the novelty of him faded.  Paul Lincoln took him as a boxer to Malta and Orig Williams toured Ireland with him but he had taken too many head shots in the boxing ring and, as he became increasingly forgetful and unreliable, work dried up. He had been made bankrupt as a boxer and he managed his finances no better as a wrestler being made bankrupt a second time.   He last worked in 1965. On 17 May 1966 he was found dead in his home in Leamington Spa

Tragedy

One of wrestling’s tragic tales is that of Randolph Turpin. Not because wrestling caused the personal problems that led him to take his own life. Neither are we taking sides on the question of whether or not wrestling promoters took advantage of a man down on his luck or gave him a helping hand in his time of need. Randolph was reported to have said he was paid well by wrestling promoters and blamed boxing for his problems. His story is one of tragedy because the life of one of the country’s most celebrated sportsmen ended when he was just 37 years old. 

For anyone with an interest in professional boxing the name Randolph Turpin is remembered for his sensational win over Sugar Ray Robinson. In July 1951 World Middleweight champion Robinson arrived in Britain with an incredible record of 132 fights with just one loss, to Jake LaMotta. After fifteen rounds Turpin was declared the winner on points. He received a civic reception before a crowd of 10,000 people on his return home to Leamington Spa.

His hold on the championship was short lived, losing the return match two months later, but his place in boxing folklore was secured.

Following a stoppage against Carl 'Bobo' Olsen in 1952 in an attempt to regain the World title Randolph's career went into decline, with a final fight, apart from two unlicensed matches, in 1958.

Business failures resulted in Randolph declared bankrupt in 1962. He had turned to wrestling simply as a source of income a few months earlier. At the time of his bankruptcy hearing it was said that he had failed to learn lessons about his financial management and squandered away what his believed to have been good money from his wrestling earnings. A few days before his death Randolph had received a tax demand for £800 and the council planned compulsory purchase of his home. He was found dead from gunshot wounds. His death was ruled as suicide, though his family believed he had been murdered, based on a letter he had written claiming attempts had been made on his life.

Randolph Turpin was born on 7th June, 1928, died 17th May, 1966.