L: LaBarba - Lanagan
Wrestling Heritage A-Z
Joachim LaBarba (Also known as Pancho Zapatta)
A serious car crash almost put paid to the career, and life of Joachim La Barba.
With the looks that only a mother could love the middleweight made quite an impression with fans that disliked his rough tactics when he tangled with the likes of Jack Dempsey, Cliff Belshaw and Tommy Mann during a three week visit for Dale Martin Promotions in 1958.
Always billed as Mexican we have yet to uncover evidence that he was Mexican, though our scepticism is only because this is professional wrestling and it’s a good guide to question everything. Our search through the archives uncovers the wrestler first of all eight years prior to his Brutish debut working in Paris with the name Joachim LaBarba and Germany as Judas LaBarba.
He returned for a longer visit of around three months in October, 1961, again working for Dale Martin promotions.. On television he lost a November, 1961, contest when he was knocked out by Mick McManus. This was on the same bill that the American Luther Lindsay knocked out Joe Zaranoff in his historic sole British television appearance. There was a further visit in March, 1963.
Joachim La Barba went on to re-emerge in 1965 as the Mexican Thunderbolt Pancho Zapatta, an unmistakable Mexican villain with moustache, a shaven head and a poncho. Oh, and a tendency to get disqualified. A Royal Albert Hall loss against the much lighter George Kidd at the Royal Albert Hall was most likely the highlight of his Zapatta tours in 1965, 1969 and 1972.
The Flying French born Canadian was a claimant of world titles at welterweight, middleweight and light heavyweight. His speciality flying tackle was said to be a sight to behold. A scientific wrestler by all accounts, with a superb physique, he worked in Britain from 1936 until 1938. These matches pre-date any career record we can find for North America, which extends from 1938 until 1953.
Leo Labriola (Also known as Mustapha Labriola)
Born in 1901 the globetrotting heavyweight was a veteran of twenty odd years when he worked the rings of Britain from 1951-1952, already well known in Australia, Europe, America and the Far East. Something of a hell raiser in the ring the Melbourne Argus reported from Labriola's match against George Pencheff, "Labriola had been thrown and when he rose he struck the referee George Thompson, a former heavyweight champion boxer, on the back of the neck rendering him unconscious.....Thompson recovered and assailed the Italian whereupon several policeman rushed to the ring and quelled the occasion."
Belgian heavyweight for whom we can find a record of just one UK match, against Norman Walsh in Aberdeen on 8th March, 1955. We have no more to offer, other than he was the father of Eric Brazil who impressed two decades later.
Light Heavyweight from Bath who worked for Dale Martin Promotions from 1960 until 1964, opponents including Johnny Czeslaw, Steve Logan and Arthur Fisher.
Jacques (Jacky) Lageat
The dark haired muscular Frenchman, erstwhile European mid heavyweight champion, will be forever remembered by British fans for the Titanic struggle, in which he lost his championship belt to Briton Billy Howes at Wembley Town Hall in May, 1962. It was a heave-ho struggle, super-human powers displayed by both wrestlers all the way through until the ninth round when Howes body slammed the French man and fell on to him for the winning pin. The same bill included one of the famous grudge matches between Jackie Pallo and Mick McManus, which ended in a draw. Back in France Lageat was a regular tag partner of Francisco Pina Farina (after Farina's unmasking as L'Ange Blanc) and Charles Verhulst (billed in France as Allan le Foudre). Lageat was the son of French promoter Roger Lageat. He chose not to capitalise on his father’s credentials and was known in his native France as Jacky Corn, which was his mother's maiden name. He also appeared in a couple of French films.
Following an amateur grounding at Kirkcaldy East-Bank Alfred Laggergren turned professional using the name Alf Lagren. He was born on 19th October, 1913, the son of Alfred and Mary Lagergren, of Methil, Fife a town on the east coast of Scotland.
Scotland wasn’t exotic enough for promoters and so when we first uncovered Alf wrestling in 1934 he was billed as Swedish. Wrestling the Golden Hawk in Portsmouth in 1934 Alf body slammed his opponent and scored the first fall in 25 seconds. Whilst appreciating a fine and clean contest the reporter of the Portsmouth Evening News said, “They did all sorts of things I did not understand.” Alf apparently understood less than the Hawk as he lost in the sixth round.
Records suggest that Alf was a skilled wrestler and popular with the fans. We have records of Alf wrestling from the mid 1930s onwards, working with the best of them all, including Charlie Green, Danny Davey and Jack Dale, and beating each of them on occasions. As well as wrestling throughout Britain there are reports of Alf wrestling in Sweden and France.
In Scotland Alf was almost invincible, whilst elsewhere the Swedish version of Alf had a good record but not quite unbeatable. Such was the reality of professional wrestling. Although we acknowledge that results in wrestling prove little the results do suggest that Alf was a class act, a good enough wrestler to hold his own with the best.
At the outbreak of war he volunteered for the Royal Air Force. He served with 13th (South Lancs) Parachute Battalion and took part in Battalion deployment to the Ardennes in Winter 1944-5.
Lieutenant Alfred Lagergren was killed on 3 January 1945, aged 31 years old, buried at Hotton War Cemetery, Luxembourg. His wife in the official records was stated as Catherine Lagergren, and we have found a marriage record of 1936 in Westminster, London.
A letter from his Commanding Officer to his parents states that Alfred and his platoon were surrounded by Germans whilst entering the village of Bure, “With amazing bravery and absolute coolness Lieutenant Lagangren kept the enemy at bay by himself by standing in the doorway of a house throwing grenades passed to him members of his platoon. This went on for some time until the Germans brought up a machine gun and Lieutenant Langergren lost his life. There has never been a braver or more self sacrificing act than this.”
French heavyweight visited Britain for a month in 1964. He lost to Canadian Don Griffin at the Royal Albert Hall. Returned in 1969 for two high profile matches, losing to Sean Regan at the Royal Albert Hall and getting knocked out by Tibor Szakacs on the tele.
This low key 1950s light heavyweight from Croydon was often seen in opposition to his friend Kurt Jorgens. Bert was often billed as “Lucky Bert Lamb” on the posters, a reference to his childhood survival of polio, which was a killer in the 1950s. Illness left Bert with a weak and thin leg, which his merciless opponent would repeatedly attack. Fans would scream at the injustice of it all. We just weren't that sophisticated in those days.
Spanish heavyweight visited Britain during the 1950s and 1960s. Credited by wrestling-titles.com as a Spanish and European champion in the 1940s details and dates are scant. He was nicknamed "El Strangulador" as a consequence of a tendency to use a rather lethal looking headlock.
Wrestling enthusiast Adrian Pollard said of Felix: "A tough, sturdy character - he could certainly wrestle with a high degree of prowess and easily made most of the lady fans-possibly some of the men (just being fair) swoon a bit with his Latin charm and Hollywood looks! As well as his persona he had the ring attire to match and was a colourful addition to the wrestling bills on which he featured."
Felix made his first short visit, of about a week, to Britain in 1953. He rturned for a more extensive tour between November 196o and March 1961. He wrestled mostly for the northern promoters and met most of the top mid heavyweights and heavies, including a television loss against British heavy middleweight champion Eric Taylor.
Apart from working throughout Europe he went on to work extensively in the United States, using the name Felix Godo, returning to Spain shortly before his retirement in 1967.
Greek heavyweight Andreas Lambrakis was born in Athens. He visited Britain in the spring of 1960, having previously worked in Australia. In Britain he worked mainly for Dale Martin Promotions but with the occasional jaunt further north. Opponents were top of the range including Mike Marino, Georges Gordienko, Joe Cornelius, Ray Apollon and Geoff Portz. He was a rough, tough villain who would swagger around the ring taunting opponents and fans alike. He continued to travel following his UK visit and went on to work in Canada and the USA for the WWWE Although their styles were as similar as chalk and cheese the similarity of family names with Spiros Arion has caused confusion at times and, which on the death of Andreas Lambrakis, led to rumours that Spiros Arion had died.
Seamus Lanagan (Also known as Dick Lanagan)
When it comes to wrestling tradition the North East of England stands proudly amongst those other centres of professional wrestling south Lancashire, Yorkshire and London.
Newcastle, Middlesbrough and the surrounding areas have produced dozens of famous, and not always so famous, names that have each made their contribution to our wrestling heritage. One of those names is that of Seamus Lanagan, or more precisely Dick, the birth name by which he was sometimes billed. Seamus was a well known figure in the north east of England in the 1960s and 1970s, working for the independent promoters alongside Boy Devlin, Sean McNeill, Jim McCormick, Les Prest, Laurie Coulton, and Lord Bertie Sinclair.
Another opponent was Digger Rowell, who was largely responsible for preparing Dick Lanagan for the professional ring. Much of Dick's knowledge of entertaining the crowd was gained in the fairground booths, where he worked alongside Pat Roach, Farmers Boy, Durham Ox Archie Buller and all the men named above. Dick had been going along to the Hoppings Town Moor Fair since childhood, but it wasn't until 1966, when he was in his mid twenties, that booth owner, Ron Taylor, took him on as one of his resident wrestlers. They were long hours, starting at 11.00am and sometimes working as many as five bouts during the day. He told the story of one occasion at the Hoppings Fair in Newcastle, where the bravado of one challenger swiftly evaporated when Pat Roach stepped forward to accept the challenge.
Whilst working for Ron Taylor Dick met World heavyweight boxing champion, Muhammed Ali. That was in July, 1977, when Ali included a visit to Ron Taylor's boxing and wrestling booth during his four day visit to South Shields. During the visit Ali and his wife had their recent marriage blessed at the Al-Ahzar Mosque.
Away from the booths Dick Lanagan worked regularly around the many smaller halls of the north, billed as Dick or Seamus Lanagan for around twenty years. In the 1980s he cut back on his wrestling appearances but remained involved in the business as a referee.
Dick Lanagan died in January, 2016.
02/02/2020 Andreas Lambrakis revised, Alf Lagren revised,
06/10/2019: Felix Laban revised