B: Zoltan Boscik
A Taste of Goulash
A fiery, spicy, complex, classic concoction originating in central Europe. A highly respected wrestler from the Heritage Years, and one of our personal favourites, shares all these characteristics with the famous stew.
The art of a professional wrestler is to give the impression that every hold really hurts. Zoltan Boscik was an artist; a wrestler who looked as though he meant business. Whilst those other bright young things the Cortez brothers, Al Miquet, Borg twins and the like would fling themselves around the ring Zoltan would apply a succession of submission holds much to the annoyance of the fans. Annoyance turned to exasperation as Zoltan exerted further punishment. Exasperation followed by indignation and the ultimate outrage should a submission ensue. Heritage member Tony Heath remembers, "I was always intrigued by his three in one special that if I remember correctly comprised of a compounded hold based on a grapevine.... a submission quest that often weakened an opponent mid- bout as well as providing an effective submission.... he could draw the venom from the audience with his gamesmanship and tortuous technical holds which he applied with great ease"
All this without even breaking the rules.
Zoltan just had the look. His scowl itself could bring lesser men to nearing submission. All of that, and more, because he could fly around the ring just as well as the aforementioned fast boys. Our praise for Zoltan is not intended to take anything away from any of the other lightweights of the era, but in the early 1960s his wrestling techniques showed an all-round maturity that would not be seen in contemporaries Jon Cortez, Al Miquet, and Johnny Saint until closer to the end of the decade.
Maturity at an early age may well have been due to fact that by the time he turned professional Zoltan had seen more of life than any of his contemporaries. They too had been born into a wartime nation, but Zoltan's native Hungary had been invaded by their former allies Germany, followed by annexation by the USSR, and post-war succumbed to growing influence from the Soviets. Zoltan Boscik grew up in socialist Hungary. He was sixteen years old in 1956 at the time of the Hungarian uprising, the first challenge to their oppressors since the Soviet army had driven out the Nazis at the end of the Second World War.
Zoltan was a student of mining at the time. If it was the folly of youth that led to a plan it was the bravery of youth which led to that plan being put into action. Somehow, and at great risk, Zoltan and a few close friends managed to cross the border into Austria. The massive number of refugees entering Austria following the uprising had led to a crisis in the country, which hastily set up refugee camps to house the new arrivals, and sent out messages asking for help from other western nations. By October, 1957, 23,000 Hungarian refugees had arrived in Britain from Poland. Zoltan was one of them and began training under a National Coal Board scheme for refugees. The future must have seemed promising, but with 4,000 Hungarian miners in the country questions were being asked in the House of Commons and there was growing unease about the feasibility of British mines absorbing the newcomers.
With prospects of a mining career diminishing Zoltan found work at an ICI factory in Huddersfield. The location was just right, because it allowed Zoltan to pursue his amateur wrestling interest at Ted Beresford's gymnasium. Zoltan had begun wrestling in Hungary three years before leaving the country. As regulars at Beresford's gym he befriended a number of young professionals, making their way in a sport that was rapidly gaining popularity and had recently gained television exposure.
Three years later the name Zoltan Boscik was becoming familiar to wrestling fans up and down the country, or at least those who watched their wrestling at independent shows run by opposition promoters Tommy Whelan, Tony DeMarto, Frankie Price, Cape Promotions and, of course, Paul Lincoln. With Lincoln's challenge to Joint Promotions gaining momentum in the early 1960s he required a stable of reliable, talented workers appreciated by the fans. Zoltan joined a group of wrestlers destined for national and international stardom - the Cortez brothers, Borg twins, Ray McGuire, Leon Fortuna and Roger Green amongst others. Alongside these were the more experienced men from whom Zoltan learned much of his ring craft, men like Frankie Price, Grant Foderingham and Pat Kloke. Zoltan quickly gained a reputation as a fast, technically accomplished and aggressive young lightweight. In October, 1962, he was selected as one of ten wrestlers to take part in a Paul Lincoln promotional film at the ABC Cinema, St Johns Wood. The black and white film, This Grappling Game, was narrated by John Slater, a familiar face in many classic British films, and featured Zoltan wrestling Peter Cortez.
By now Zoltan was wrestling most nights of the week travelling throughout the country still working for the independent promoters. Not just Britain, but across the English channel, facing Continental wrestlers such as Le Petit Prince and Jackie Rickard. When Paul Lincoln was asked to arrange a wrestling tour to Malta it was Zoltan booked to take part alongside other Lincoln mainstays and former world boxing champion Randy Turpin.
Our last recorded match for the opposition is on 19th December, 1965 for Jerry Jeary in Dudley. There may have been a few more in the week leading up to Christmas, but in January, 1966 everything was set to change. Paul Lincoln Promotions became part of Joint Promotions with their wrestlers gaining access to the nations biggest promoters, biggest venues and, of course, the all powerful television screens. With other Lincoln men such as Johnny Williams, Alan Sargent, Roger Green and Bob Anthony also making the transition many of Zoltan's opponents remained familiar. But there were new challenges, with Zoltan now matched against experienced Joint Promotion wrestlers such as Bernard Murray, Jackie Pallo and Jim Breaks.
Things were looking up for Zoltan. On March 12th he made his television debut at Beckenham Baths, taking the only fall required to defeat York's Steve Best. The match was fairly even until the fourth round when Steve tried to up the pace but Zoltan came back aggressively, countered an attempted throw and pinned his opponent. The following week he was back on television, this time going down to an old foe from Paul Lincoln days, Jon Cortez. Within a week came another milestone in the young Hungarian's career, his first appearance in front of more than five thousand fans at the Royal Albert Hall. Zoltan gave away both weight and experience in the opening match of the evening against Linde Caulder, finally succumbing to a folding press in round five. Dale Martin's publicity guru Charles Mascall wrote, "Caulder and Boscik got one of the biggest crowd appreciations of the evening and so brilliant and skilful were they that they each merited every cheer." He would have to wait until October of the same year before gaining his first Royal Albert Hall win, his opponent being Tony Borg.
Zoltan had been in demand for five years, but now his career was rapidly gaining momentum. Two TV shows, a Royal Albert Hall debut, and the following month another milestone on 13th April, 1966, when tag team wrestling made its debut at the Royal Albert Hall. Whilst tag wrestling had been popular around the halls for many years promoters Dale Martin had always felt it just wasn't quite classy enough for the prestigious Kensington venue. Zoltan and Frenchman Julien Morice faced the top team of Dulwich brothers Jon and Peter Cortez. Tag wrestling was never a speciality of Zoltan's. There were no regular tag partners, though he could be seen not too infrequently with Bobby Barnes, Kim kendo, and mostly fellow Hungarian Peter Szakacs.
Being on the smaller side, even for a lightweight, meant that Zoltan was usually giving away weight against other lighter men such as Jim Breaks, Bernard Murray and Alan Sargent. Russell Plummer claimed, following another Royal Albert Hall contest, that Sargent would have been unlikely to pin the Hungarian even if the match had lasted all night! It wasn't just Zoltan's skill that made him special; it was that hard edge to his style that made him a cut above the rest. Whilst most lightweights were often described by unimaginative promoters on their posters as "Fast and clever," Zoltan was fast, clever and aggressive to an extent rarely seen in the weight division. Competition in the lightweight division was fierce in the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s - Johnny Saint, Al Miquet, Jon Cortez, Jim Breaks, Bill Ross, Bobby Ryan, George Kidd, Jim McKenzie, and Zoltan Boscik were all names popular amongst fans and highly skilled in their chosen profession.
Living in London it was understandable that the majority of Zoltan's bouts were in southern England but he was more than willing to travel. Ted Beresford, Norman Morrell, Relwyskow & Green and Wryton Promotions were keen to book Zoltan for their shows in northern England and Scotland, with the result that in 1969 and into the early 1970s he travelled more extensively than he had since his days of working for the independent promoters. With his dues paid by travelling further afield Zoltan was duly rewarded with championship honours.
Whilst Dale Martin Promotions certainly kept Zoltan busy they showed little interest in rewarding him with belts of any kind. Things were very different in northern England and Scotland, where Zoltan was involved in many championship bouts for British, European and world titles.
We all understand that the nature of professional wrestling meant that championship belts did not hold the same cachet as would have been the case in a conventionally competitive sport. Nonetheless, the belts were an important indicator of the esteem of wrestlers in the opinions of the promoters and the holders of the championship belts were inevitably men who deserved to hold the honour.
Such was the case in June, 1969, when Zoltan defeated Jim Breaks at Sheffield to take the British lightweight championship, a claim consolidated with another championship victory over Breaks at the Royal Albert Hall the following year.
With the British belt in his grasp the northern promoters were keen to capitalise on Zoltan's new status.
Jim Breaks and George Kidd became frequent opponents in the north, often with championship honours at stake for Jim Breaks' European lightweight belt or George Kidd's world crown. Championship contests with Break's European belt at stake was a favourite matching on Morrell-Beresford shows at the end of the decade. Another championship victory over Breaks always seemed feasible, but was destined never to materialise, the closest of many Breaks European encounters being a no-contest result at Sheffield, a draw in Bradford, Leeds, and a double knock out in Manchester (with Breaks winning the return contest).
Zoltan's annexation of Kidd's world championship never seemed a realistic proposition to fans at the time; there was no expectation of anyone ever defeating Kidd in a title bout. Nonetheless, Boscik versus Kidd was another favourite matching of Morrell-Beresford, the two meeting in non-title matches at most of Scotland's venues, with Kidd's belt on the line at Kirkcaldy, Nottingham, and Edinburgh. The championship bout with the highest profile was the one staged in front of five and a half thousand fans at the Nottingham Ice Rink on 17th November, 1971. Zoltan's aggression failed to make an impact on the world champion, finally succumbing to a surfboard submission in the sixth round.
Zoltan was temporarily relieved of his British belt by Jon Cortez, before regaining it until a final loss to Johnny Saint at Sheffield on 12th May, 1971. The Sheffield match was considered a classic at the time. Outstanding holds and counter holds with the theme of an aggressive Zoltan attacking Saint's bandaged left knee. With one fall apiece and two public warnings against Zoltan the climax came in the eighth round when Saint's drop-kick was followed by a body slam and shoulder press for the deciding fall. Championship honours were to remain wanting from that day on. There were occasional tilts at the European belt held by Jim Breaks and later Bobby Ryan, and in 1976, following the retirement of George Kidd he lost to Johnny Saint in the semi-final of the knock-out tournament to find Kidd's successor.
Zoltan's style was perfect for television. On the small screen small stature was not an issue, whilst the cameras ability to focus on those hard facial features, capture the occasional blind side move and the sneering disdain of his opponent could only stimulate the emotions of ringside fans. TV producers and promoters were well aware of Zoltan's appeal and frequently booked him for TV shows. Zoltan appeared on television more often than many names that are more often discussed forty years later. More times than Johnny Saint, Johnny Kwango, Brian Maxine, Rollerball Mark Rocco, Tibor Szakacs, Giant Haystacks, and the list goes on. The golden years for Zoltan were undoubtedly between 1969 and 1972. In this period only seven wrestlers featured in more televised bouts than he did, and they were Les Kellett, Mick McManus, Steve Veidor, Mick McMichael, Vic Faulkner,Bert Royal and Adrian Street.
Throughout the 1970s few wrestlers were more active than Zoltan Boscik. Was he the biggest draw in wrestling? No, but his was a name that fans were always pleased to see on the posters; because they knew that he was a multi-dimensional wrestler who would always give them value for money. We find it hard to imagine fans going away from any of Zoltan's matches feeling disappointed; here was a man who possessed the greatest ability required of a professional wrestler, the ability to always arouse emotions.
In the 1980s the wrestling scene in Britain was changing rapidly, many fans considering the changes to be for the worse and staying away. Zoltan had by then been a significant part of the business for a quarter of a century. He had given everything for half of his life and owed nothing to the business. He began to take things easier until finally disappearing from our rings in 1988. Following his retirement Zoltan emigrated to New Zealand where he died on 25th July, 2020.
Page revised 26/07/2020