By Paul Mason
Born To Box – The Extraordinary Story Of “Nipper Pat Daly” – Alex Daley – Pitch Publishing – RRP £19.99
If you don’t know about “Nipper” Pat Daly, as I didn’t, his story, lovingly told by grandson Alex, is extraordinary. Imagine in this day and age, an u16-year-oldr old child taking on British Title or even World class opposition in a professional boxing match and winning nine times out of ten. Pat Daly did this time and again, and amassed over 100 professional fights, eventually retiring before he was even 18 due to burnout and poor management.
In my opinion, the book was a case of what might have, and should have been. Daly was an exceptional talent, who ultimately was overworked and underpaid by his trainer and manager, “Professor” Andrew Newton, who seemed to have his own financial interests at heart at all times, rather than looking at, what surely would have been a much celebrated British World Champion. But he virtually burned Daly out before his true potential could be reached.
Born in Wales in 1913 and moving to London aged five, Daly would then move to a small mining town in Canada, before returning to Marylebone aged nine. He would take up Boxing at the Marylebone Road gym owned by the aforementioned Newton.
Unbelievably, Daly turned professional at the age of just ten, and over the next few years, he compiled an impressive amount of wins, fighting at small venues in and around London, often giving away age, height and weight to opponents. By age fourteen, he was sparring with the likes of World Middleweight Champion Mickey “Toy Bulldog” Walker, and more than holding his own, so much so, it lead to Walker and his manager being astounded by Daly’s talent.
During 1928, aged fifteen, he fought 25 times, defeating many of Britain’s leading flyweights, plus the reigning flyweight champion of Italy, Giovanni Sili. A points win over top British flyweight title contender (and future British flyweight champion) Bert Kirby, put Daly in line for a shot at the Lonsdale Belt, then held by Johnny Hill. But by late 1928 Daly had outgrown the flyweight division, and, as a recurring theme throughout his short career, he would not get what he richly deserved. By early 1929 he had moved up to bantamweight.
Daly was to have an even more jaw-dropping 33 contests in 1929, during which, he gained a top ten ranking with the prestigious Ring Magazine. There were calls within the press for Daly to be allowed to fight for the British bantamweight title, then held by Teddy Baldock, but a recently introduced British Boxing Board of Control regulation at the time prevented boxers aged under 21 from contesting British titles, again robbing Daly of the fame, riches and accolades that he so deserved. In late 1929, he fought the reigning British featherweight champion, Johnny Cuthbert, over 12 rounds, but suffered weight-making trouble in the weeks before fight night. Daly outboxed the champion and was ahead on points when knocked out in the eighth round.
Naturally, as Daly began to fill out, he moved up to Lightweight, but dropped back down to take on “Seaman” Tommy Watson, a future British Featherweight Champion and World Title Challenger. Again Daly built a healthy lead with a crisp performance, before being alarmingly dropped several times on the way to being stopped in eleven rounds, again suffering weight-making issues that are fully documented in this riveting book. This fight would prove to be the breaking point for Daly, as he suffered severe concussion that he would struggle to recover from the full effects of for many years.
It lead to a three fight losing streak, losing to Nobby Baker in thirteen rounds, and then, after finally being given an extended break for the first time in his career, he returned to lose over six (points) to Tom Banks, a man who wouldn’t live with “Nipper” at his best. He would then draw with Pat Green in Paddington less than a month later.
Daly continued his career, with seven fights in two months. Although Daly won them all, the spark just wasn’t there, and Daly looked a shadow of his former self. He accepted that he would never fulfil his destiny, and decided to retire in 1931, months shy of his eighteenth birthday and after over a hundred professional contests.
In the late 1940s and early 1950s, he would go on to run his own gym in Shoreditch, where he mostly coached amateurs and trained and managed a handful of professionals. After relocating in the 50’s he taught boxing in Peckham while running his own Irish dance hall, also in Peckham. Daly would be forced to use his Boxing skills for very different reasons during this time. Eventually, he relocated to Sussex and passed away in 1988, aged 75.
Quite simply, Daly should have been allowed to fill out to his natural weight and to be allowed to grow as a man physically and socially. Instead, he was exploited by his manager and forced to keep training and in shape virtually all year round, and made to box almost every other week.
This book is a stunning insight into early 20th century Boxing life, and it’s good to see his grandson bringing his story to life, and it’s an extraordinary tale. Alex certainly does his grandfather justice, in a book that gets more unbelievable by the page. It’s sad to think that “Nipper” could have been a major contender, and potentially could have been celebrated in the same breath as great British fighters of days gone by. This book goes some way to letting people know that “Nipper” Pat Daly deserves to be talked about in the same esteem. He was simply born to box, as the book advises, but he was also destined to be a World Champion… if only.
A great read, and highly recommended.