I: Iaukea - Ironfist
Wrestling Heritage A-Z
Prince Curtis Iaukea
Prince Iaukea (pronounced ‘E-U-Kowa’) the rule bending heavyweight caused more than a few murmurs when he hit the north of England in the autumn of 1967. Rarely had we seen a wrestler of such proportions. Not too tall as we remember, though we have seen references to him standing 6’3.” Maybe it was the stocky build that made us suspicious of the advertised dimensions, because we are also dubious of the 27 stones that was claimed, thinking just over 20 would be closer to the truth. A big lad, nevertheless, who started doing the rounds for Morrell, Beresford and Relwyskow Green Promotions at the beginning of October. We also questioned the claims that being the heaviest man in Hawaii he was the country’s King! We are talking of America’s 50th state here, claimants of Kingship were probably few, and we doubt that even then he was the biggest kid in town.
We were led to expect great things of our latest visitor. There was a rare accolade for the newcomer when he was introduced from the ring during a television bill on arrival in the UK, and we were told he had recently dropped his U.S. Heavyweight championship to Killer Kowalski at Madison Square Garden. Another of those wrestling facts we now question.
All this nonsense aside it was three weeks into his tour we witnessed Prince Curtis in a match against Leon Arras. Light heavyweight comic Leon was hardly a suitable opponent for a man who was said to hold such international status. The match was enjoyable enough, thanks mainly to Leon’s antics as he literally ran rings around the American. Until the fateful and inevitable moment when Iaukea performed his speciality “Big Splash,” obliterating poor Leon and being immediately disqualified by referee Don Branch. Such a shame that Big Daddy and future referees didn’t take note. A similar path and disqualification endings against John Cox, Albert Wall, John Lees, Tibor Szakacs, Kendo Nagasaki, Gwyn Davies, Ian Campbell, Count Bartelli …. by now you may have gathered we were not overly impressed by our Hawaiian monarch. A bit of a wrestling mystery all this. Iaukea had been given a big build-up but was then not allowed to shine. Maybe he was not what the promoters had expected and he seemed relegated to a novelty interlude from the skilled heavyweights of the time – Joyce, Robinson, Wall, Davies et al. At Bradford Norman Morrell allowed the Prince brief televised action against Johnny Yearsley. It would be satisfying to report that things improved for Curtis during the following months before he departed the country in February, but they didn’t; the frequent disqualifications coming alongside frequent knock out defeats.
A promised return to UK shores never happened and readers will have to search the internet for details of the Prince’s considerable international accomplishments.
We do have knowledge of his success in Australia, which he had first visited in 1964 prior to his UK visit. In Melbourne in 1970 he defeated Billy Robinson for a version of a world title. Heritage stalwart John Shelvey, an authority on Australian wrestling, provides detail:
"This was the World Championship Wrestling Belt (Australian version) that was initially held by Killer Kowalski at the very birth of that promotion. It was said that Kowalski had beaten Ed. Carpentier (true) for the belt (false as the belt couldn't change hands on a disqualification and that was how Kowalski had won a bout with the Frenchman). However, it was a semi legitimate way of bringing a 'World Title' to Australia if you sort of screwed your eyes up tight and avoided asking too many questions!"
The German heavyweight champion from Bochum whose first claim to fame in the UK was the unfortunate fifties hospitalization of Gwyn Davies. Here was a class heavyweight who later achieved the accolade of numbering amongst the lucky 14 wrestlers to appear on the first Royal Show in front of H.R.H. The Duke of Edinburgh at the Royal Albert Hall in May 1963. His opponent was Dazzler Joe Cornelius, arguably the most popular of all Albert Hall heavies. That Hermann went down by the odd fall in three is no reflection of his ability. It could have been no other way. A respected wrestler throughout Europe Hermann Iffland was a regular winner of West German tournaments on his home territory.
Born in Pakistan in 1932 Fazal Ilahi was in his mid twenties when he came to Britain in the 1950s and settled in Bradford. He took up work as a spinner and weaver at British Belting and Asbestos in Cleckheaton.
One of his interests was wrestling and by 1959 was wrestling professionally part time. Contact with the Crabtree family brought him his early matches for independent promoters Max Crabtree, Norman Berry and Jack Taylor. Our last sighting of Fazal Ilahi was at the end of 1962. A father of seven children Fazal also enjoyed walking and was very active in his local community and known for his charity work, mostly through connections with his local mosques.
Fazal Ilahi died in November, 2019. The cause of death was mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer caused by asbestos exposure.
See the entry for entry for Bulk
Dwight J. Ingleburgh
Read our extended tribute in Personality Parade: Stars, Stripes and Yorkshire Grit
Okay, not the biggest name in wrestling, but definitely one worth reading about. “The Adonis of the North” Syd Ingleson was born in Hull and moved to Bradford whilst a child. He was Principal of the Sydenham Physical Culture Club in Bradford and mostly celebrated for his success as a physical culturalist. That success reached a climax with winning the 1933 Mr Britain competition outright. In 1934 he began wrestling professionally, mostly around northern England against the likes of Fred Unwin, Les Stent and Jack Alker.. We have found matches between 1934 and 1938.
Bouts involving this 1971 Japanese visitor, Sueo Inoeu, began in such good humour. Twenty two years old when he came to Britain the Japanese heavyweight would offer a half smile before bowing deeply to the audience, his opponent, and seemingly anything that moved. The first round or two were usually fought within the rules, with the obligatory pauses for the occasional bow. The initial signs of irritation, when things were not going the Japanese wrestler’s way, would be the unleashing of a flurry of chops. Their force stopped his opponent in his stride, temporarily at least, but when they weren’t enough Mitsu Inoue would discard the rules and use any tactic to win. In his 1971 Royal Albert Hall bout against Steve Veidor he dragged the Cheshire heavyweight from the ring o start a rare ringside brawl amongst the fans.
Seven years of wrestling activity deserves more than this. We have records of Dave Irelend working for independent promoters between 1958 and 1965. We would welcome further information.
Iron Duke (Salford)
See the entry for Peter Stewart
One of the true pioneers of all-in wrestling James William Welsh was the Iron Duke and was born in London on 6th May , 1901 to a family of Irish heritage. His father had begun working life as a labourer but by the time of William's birth was working as a crane driver. William Welsh went on to work in London's Surrey Docks as a stevedore and joined the merchant navy in 1921, serving on the battleship Iron Duke.
It was from here that he took his fighting name, The Iron Duke. It was a name which reports suggest suited a no-nonsense rugged style. In a contest against Francis St Clair Gregory it was reported, “The Iron Duke opened with heavy punching and the second round was only half through when the Cornishman was beaten to the mat with blows on the back of his neck. He was apparently dazed and the referee counted him out.”
On another occasion the Iron duke “secured the first fall in the second round by punching his opponent to the boards.” The opponent was none other than the giant 7 feet tall, 22 stones Carver Doone!
We have read of other equally rumbustious encounters with Jack Pye and Bulldog Bill Garnon. Whoever the opponent the Iron Duke could give as good as he got. In fairness we should add that there are many reports of the Iron Duke wrestling skilfully and within the rules, such as a match with Sam Rabin, in which “the encounter was notable for the sporting way in which it was contested,” and against Carl Reginsky, “One of the finest and cleanest wrestling bouts seen in Plymouth.” Iron Duke wrestled mainly, but not exclusively, in the south of England against all the well-known names of the All-In era, finally disappearing from our rings around 1945.
The Iron Duke died on 15th September 1970.
See the entry for Clive Myers