|03-01-2013, 06:18 AM||#1|
Join Date: Jul 2006
here's a copy of a story from 1985 reflecting on Fred Henneberry, who also fought in Britain and tried to get a fight with McAvoy and was also down to fight ma man Bert Gilroy.
When the war broke out Henneberry rather than wait for a "no promises" shot at a British title took to the states to try a dirrect campaign for recognition and titles over there. Smart move, Gilroy should have done the same and excepted Charley Rose's invitation to fight in the US and on the Louis v Conn card no less!
anyway here's Hennebery...
The Terror Of The Thirties
Sydney Morning Herald
Sunday April 2, 1995
AND now there's a funny thing. The old man waiting there in the driveway of his Dungog cottage - rising 85 and grey hair all around - was once upon a time the enfant terrible of the Australian boxing ring, the Terror of the Thirties.
"Pleased to meet you," says Fred Henneberry with a wizened grin and proffered hand as I get out of the car, "and shake the hand that shook Jack Dempsey's."
Don't mind if I do, Mr Henneberry ... and let me get a closer look at you. He is an old man and no doubt about it, though without any hint of decrepitude. His gait is firm as we make our way up the garden path, his words articulate and his manner forthright.
Around and about us on this tiny town day, there is a soft and sunny lassitude in the air, which contrasts rather oddly with the tumultuous scenes about to be set by Mr Henneberry of the time when he rose to fame ...
"They were hard times," the old boxer begins from his comfy armchair, "very hard times indeed, and we fought to feed our family."
He came to adulthood in the hazy no-man's land of Australian history that lies between the two world wars, and during the Depression things really were damn hard for the whole Henneberry family out Albury way. Big Mike Henneberry, Fred's dad, was at least fortunate to have a job as a foreman at the local quarry, but it was rather tougher for his five surviving sons, not least the youngest - Fred.
He couldn't get work to save his life, until ...
"Until I went to the local bootmaker and said, 'Do you need a man around here ...?' and he said, 'Yes, do you know where I can get one?' "
In the end, Fred got the job anyway, and if he wasn't an automatically imposing fellow in the early days, at least by all accounts he had heart, and plenty of dreams about how he was going to make his fortune.
Like boxing for example. Fred had always fancied his chances at making a go of it in the Friday night fights up in Sydney, ever since his father had taught him "the sweet science", as he calls it. As a bare-knuckle fighter of some note in those parts, Michael Henneberry had taught all his sons how to "put up their dukes", and young Fred couldn't help but noticing that he made a very fair fist of it, even against his older and stronger brothers.
"And what's more I loved it," he says now. "I always loved to box from the time my father taught me how."
He loved it so much in fact, that he wanted to head off to box professionally as soon as he left school, but his father wouldn't hear of it until he was at least 19 years of age. Cometh the birthday, cometh the chance.
Fred Heneberry made his professional boxing debut in February of 1930 at Newtown Stadium, just next to where that suburb's railway station still stands.
The ring of course was in the middle of the stadium - the sole focus of attention for the 7,000 odd men who as ever were finishing their working week by going to the Friday night fights to drink, smoke and yell themselves hoarse at the succession of fighters who paraded before them.
"Back in those days, you've got to remember," the old man says, "every serious suburb had a boxing stadium, and the Friday night fights were a real institution."
Speaking of which, the youngster had to fight an institution first up - a far more experienced fighter by the name of Joe Black who was older, heavier, and meaner. He was a pug who fully intended to turn Fred's lights off for him - and quick smart, too.
It took some doing, but young Fred matched him well. To the howls from the smoky mass of men, the 19-year-old from Albury dodged and weaved his way through the whistling haymakers of Black, and returned fire with some rather more precisely executed punches of the pugilistic art.
"I had the better of him from the beginning," Henneberry says, with no little pleasure at the memory, even at this distance of time. "And I dropped him in the fourth."
Back in the dressing rooms, Fred sat beside the older pug in the easy and companionable calm that only two men who have just been desperately belting each other can know. Not talking, just bit by bit regaining their equilibrium.
Presently, the older man cleared his throat to speak.
"When mugs can beat you," he said evenly, looking young Fred up and down, "it's time to get out of the game." Then he got up, and staggered off into the night.
"And do you know what?" Henneberry asks a tad rhetorically. "He never did fight again! That was it."
Fred himself, though, was of course just beginning. Only four fights and four wins later, a short article appeared in The Sydney Sun illustrative of the regard in which the rising young fighter was held:
"It has not taken Fred Henneberry long to make the grade," the paper reported. "Next Friday night at Leichhardt he will step into the main event, opposed to American Tommy Fielding. Only 19 years of age, Henneberry looks about the likeliest welter-weight proposition we have. He is full of devil, and the harder the other fellow hits him, the harder he will fight back."
True enough, by all accounts, and if Fred did well from the first it was perhaps because his father really had taught him well. As the old man describes it still, Henneberry senior had taught him the crucial basics of boxing which he believes not only escaped a lot of his opponents at the time, but still escapes all present-day boxers.
"It's a lost art," he says with some emphasis, and with that he jumps up and insists on demonstrating, obliging me to reluctantly leave the safety of the couch.
|03-01-2013, 06:19 AM||#2|
Join Date: Jul 2006
Re: Fred Henneberry.
Suddenly bobbing and weaving back and forth, he becomes a flurry of feints, crosses and uppercuts which, if they don't quite whistle, at least make this younger man feel it is prudent to take a step or two back, just in case.
"Like this see, and this ..." he instructs as he bounces around, with his fists flying every which way. "The four basics of boxing are balance, a straight left, a right cross, and a left hook. If you've got those, you've got most of it, and a good left hook will beat most of anything else anybody has got to throw at you ..."
With that the air is suddenly full of a flock of left hooks which fly out from behind his wiry body, and land just to the left of my ear, whereupon my instructor just as suddenly sits down.
All of this is not, mind, in the manner of the old shambling pug of the movies who spends his time throwing imaginary uppercuts and right crosses at unseen opponents. Rather, it is the distant and undistorted echo of the boxer who once was, still moving quickly and with purpose, demonstrating all the moves his father taught him a full three-quarters of a century earlier.
If he remains a great believer in the "science" part of boxing, still there is little doubt this gentle old man was once a hard man to beat.
Grant Lee Kizea, in his excellent book, AUSTRALIAN BOXING, The Illustrated History, actually heads his chapter on our man as, "Fred Henneberry, All-in Scrapper", and opens his chapter thus:
"Fred Henneberry had a fierce Irish temper and a reputation as a wild man of the ring who would do anything to win a fight.
"In the ring Henneberry was a savage..."
Hello? Can that be you, sir?
"I gave no quarter in the ring and I asked for none," he replies a little defensively, as he takes a long swig of tea. "That was the way I was brought up ... and that was the way I fought ..."
In 1932, at the tender age of 20, Henneberry beat Ambrose Palmer to become Australian middleweight champion. It, too, was a notoriously hard fight, but if Henneberry will admit that he sometimes deviated from the strict letter of the boxing law, what he does take exception to is any suggestion that he ever lost his temper.
"Never, never, never, " he says, again with emphasis. "I never lost my temper you see, because my father always told me not to and I never did. It was the quickest way to have your block knocked off, if you did."
In his own defence on this issue, he cites a story written about him by Sun journalist Bill Corbett, where Corbett says of Henneberry: "His brain was packed in ice."
This, Henneberry makes clear, is a phrase which he treasures still, and the one he would like inscribed on his boxing tombstone.
Yet, for all the examples of rough'n'ready untowardness that abound in stories about him - in his 10 famouos bouts with Ron Richards, Henneberry was disqualified in five of them - there are equally as many stories of times when his pure boxing skills were apparently extraordinary.
There, for example, in the carefully preserved scrap-books Henneberry has put out on the dining room table for me, is the story of the fight in 1936 between himself and the American, Tommy King.
Headlined, "HENNEBERRY GIVES BRAINIEST DISPLAY OF CAREER", and written by Jim Donald in The Referee, the now dog-eared old article includes such sparkling passages as this:
"There were times during that desperate hellfire scrap on Monday night when young Henneberry climbed the Olympian heights of boxing skill, craft, courage and endurance. And Tommy King was never far behind him. The Australian worked with sharp-edged tools, the American with slightly blunter.
"It was the flashing Toledo rapier blade opposed to the cavalry blade of a Scottish clan war. Each is a deadly weapon in the hand of a master but Henneberry was more cunning, more agile in hand and brain ..."
At the end, Henneberry stood tall as the winner on points, and Donald gave his final summation:
"Henneberry's showing was a revelation. He looked a champion, and fought like one. On his display he must be accorded the distinction of being catalogued Australia's most brilliant, versatile and crowd-pleasing pugilist of the present time ..."
Is that you Mr Henneberry?
"That's me," he agrees with a pleased smile. "I like to think I always gave value for money."
A fair bit of which he made and kept for himself, which was only fair.
Around and about this life of a famous boxer, his "civilian life" went on, of course, and Henneberry enjoyed it to the full.
Oddly enough, that same fellow, Joe Black, who had staggered off into the night all those years before, was to become the king-pin of many of Sydney's illegal gambling casinos, and liked nothing better than to offer his hospitality to the famous boxer who bested him, Fred Henneberry.
"He turned out to be one of the best supporters I had," says Henneberry, now with a faraway look in his eyes, "and we ended up having some very good times together."
All magic dragons must one day cease their mighty roar, though, and in 1941 after brief stints of mixed success fighting in London and New York, Henneberry finally hung up the gloves for good.
"I had just had enough, and that was that," he says simply.
The beginning of a long career as a publican beckoned, and when he was 40-odd and moving around from town to town in New South Wales, selling beer - every inch the famous former boxer - he happened to be in Narrandera the night of its annual dinner-dance and was rather taken with the 23-year-old pianist, who went by the name of Molly.
She couldn't dance, of course, because she was near-wedded to that piano, but at 1 am he finally intercepted her on a tea break.
"You," he said, "are the woman I've been wanting to dance with all night."
Forty-three years on, Molly Henneberry is the same gentle lady who has been serving us tea and biscuits in the sunny lounge room, and constantly making sure her Fred is right for everything he needs.
"I don't know what he was like in the ring," she says a little later on, with a protective arm around his shoulders as I get ready to leave and return to Sydney, "but he has been a very, very good man to me for four decades now. A very good man."
And you can't ask better than that.
Standing hand in hand on their front porch, they get smaller and smaller in my rear-view mirror.
The Terror of the Thirties and his good wife slip back into the Dungog day.
© 1995 Sydney Morning Herald