Eric Grainger was born on the 16th November 1906. He had a brother Jim and half brothers and sister John, Harry and Edna. Like many young men at the time, he worked in the local coalmines at both Denby, and Ormonde but at the age of 15 took up boxing. He was trained by the Mellor brothers and Bill Gordon of Codnor. His first fight was in Stewart’s boxing Booth at Ripley Fair. His opponent was Sam Minto and the contest went for six rounds, which earned him £1. It wasnt long before he signed up as a professional Boxer with Charlie Coates of Sutton in Ashfield. Boxing historian Miles Templeton notes that he had a number of his early contests at the Town Hall, Alfreton and he soon graduated to boxing in ten round contests were he would earn between £5 and £10 for each fight. He also boxed at the Welfare Hall, Somercotes, Osmaston Manor, the Cattle Market, Chesterfield, Goose Fair Nottingham and at the New Inn at Heage. Eric was in his prime in the 1930s he boxed at Welterweight (10st 7lbs) and was quite a noted puncher, many of his early victories were within the distance. All his fights took place in the evenings or at weekends because he continued to work down the pit during the day.
An early description of one of his contests appeared in the trade paper 'Boxing' in April 1930,
"Eric Grainger (Codnor) was too good for Charlie Newman (Worksop). The last-named was plucky, but he was badly punished and retired in the eighth round".
Another article in the Ripley & Heanor News dated 14th August 1936 covered an event at Heanor Town Ground on Wakes Monday evening.
“Some keen fighting was witnessed in an eight two-minute round welter-weight contest between Eric Grainger of Codnor Gate, and Jim Warren, of Sutton, Grainger being declared the winner in the fifth round on points.
Credited to http://www.chatarea.com/HeanorDistrictLocalHistory.m3328703
In 1936 Eric gained the Midlands Counties Lightweight and Welterweight titles after knocking out Gunner Thomson and Kid Haycox.
Eric had 60 fights in his professional career and only lost 8. Some of the more memorable fights are listed as follows:
Took Howard Powell 10 rounds three times.
Stopped Jack Warren in the 4th round (Warren went 10 rounds with Dick Turpin British Middleweight Champion)
Fought Tommy Martin three times. (Martin beat Jack London, British Heavyweight Champion & also fought Len Harvey and Jack Peterson)
Beat Art Musson twice over 10 rounds
K.O.’d Bob Barlow
Also fought Dennis Buckley (Jack Peterson’s sparring partner)
Other noted opponents were
Mick Miller, Jack Bland, Tiger Allen, Alf Siddons and Bobby Dobbs.
Eric went on to fight a further eight seasons in boxing booths around the country.
Fig.1 Eric's professional Boxing Licence
Eric lived in Codnor most of his life, first at the Corner of Hollywell Avenue and Heanor Road and then later on Hillcrest Drive. He did spend a short period of time living at Waingroves in the late 1940s early 50s. It was here were he had a small hut, which he used as a sort of training facility for passing on his boxing skills to young men in the area.
In his later life he still got involved as much as possible with the sport. He would insist in being taken to Goose Fair, were he was instantly recognised by the people running the boxing booths and it would be quite common to see him up in the ring, refereeing the fight.
Although Eric mellowed in his old age he was still fond of a pint and this could sometimes lead to some interesting events in the local pubs.
His daughter remembers the night when she received a telephone call from the Landlady of the Lord Byron Pub on the corner of Wright Street.
“Pat, you’ll have to come and get your dad, he’s fighting on the street”
“What do you mean he’s fighting on the street, he’s 72!”
Apparently some argument had started in the Miners Arms pub between Eric and another local. This eventually spilt out onto the street and ended up with Eric knocking his tormenter over the wall into the Byron car park and breaking his glasses. Eric then picked him up and walked him home.
Eric also had a keen interest in breeding and showing terriers. His nephew, Keith Staley remembers seeing Eric washing his dogs and rubbing chalk powder into their coat and a little coffee stain to highlight the brown of the saddle before taking them to the show.
Eric visited my parent’s house on Alfreton road in the mid 1960s when we had some puppies that required their tails docking. (This was an operation that Eric performed unceremoniously with a pair of scissors). I was probably only 6 at the time but I remember him as a big man dressed in a trench coat that went almost down to his feet. He was completely bald on top and had the most amazing cauliflower ear that I couldn’t take my eyes off. But he had a kind face and was laughing and joking with my dad, who he worked with at Denby Hall pit.
Eric was always very proud of his boxing career and kept many souvenirs and pictures to remind him of the opponents he had fought.
Eric died on 20th December 1987 but his memory lives on in the form of the “Eric Grainger Memorial Trophy”, which is awarded each year by the Aldercar and Langley Mill Amateur Boxing Club to the most outstanding club boxer.
Fig.2 I believe this picture is from a charity event, which Eric (far right) helped organise, and shows a cheque being handed to the wife of former boxer “Tiger” Allen. More information needed.
Fig.3 The same event was attended by many of Eric's friends and former opponents. Some of the names in this picture are; Billy Strange, George Anthony, Fred Holmes, Dick Johnson, Doug Radford, Ken Page, George Butler, Wilf Parkin and Eric sat behind the table with a hat in his lap and a hand on his shoulder.
Many thanks to Eric’s good friend Bernard Goodwin for the above two images.
I would like to thank Eric’s daughter, Pat Gent for her kind help with this article and allowing me to display the above pictures. Also many thanks to Boxing historian Miles Templeton of http://www.prewarboxing.co.uk/ for supplying much of the boxing facts and 'Boxing' newspaper article.
Information for this page also sourced from the following
Around Ripley, by Julie Potton & Janet North 1995
Grandma's Pudding, by Keith Staley 2007
Heanor & District Local History Society