Newport’s rough-house brawler Dick Richardson enjoyed the most colourful of ring careers and fought some of the biggest names of his day, yet – despite winning a European heavyweight title – he will always be best remembered for an infamous night in Porthcawl on 29 August, 1960.
Born in 1934 on the same street as Welsh great Johnny Basham, the ‘Maesglas Marciano’ was the son of a milkman who died when Dick was aged just seven.
Richardson would never have it easy and was often in trouble as a youngster, before National Service took him off the streets.
His first love was rugby, but he boxed as an amateur and in the army, where his record included a defeat to a man who would later figure prominently in the Welshman’s story – Brian London.
After jobs as a plasterer and a labourer in the steelworks, Richardson – who stood at 6ft 3in and weighed 200lb – turned professional in 1954, but continued to supplement his income by working as a motorcycle stunt rider in a circus wall of death and, later, as a milkman.
Under London manager Wally Lesley and Welsh trainer Johnny Lewis, Richardson lost his first fight to George Cooper (twin brother of Henry), before building an impressive knock-out reputation as he developed into a British title contender in a great domestic talent pool that also included Joe Erskine, Henry Cooper and London.
Erskine was a fellow young Welsh prospect closing on a British title shot when the pair met in 1956 before an estimated 35,000 crowd at Cardiff’s Maindy Stadium, and the thrilling showdown – described by some as the best heavyweight bout ever fought in Wales – did not disappoint.
Richardson sent Erskine to the canvas for the first time in his career in the fifth, but the Cardiff man was in control for much of the fight and won a wide points verdict.
The Newport man was soon back to his bruising best, though, his crowd-riling bouts rarely lasting the distance.
“Dick was a dirty bastard,” Henry Cooper said of him. “He loved to put the nut in. He used to do it deliberately, usually in the first round.”
Included on Richardson’s record is a two-round disqualification win over former world champion Ezzard ‘the Cincinnati Cobra’ Charles, while he fell to defeat in world-class company against the likes of Nino Valdes, Willie Pastrano, Cleveland ‘Big Cat’ Williams and Cooper.
But in 1960, six years into his professional life, Richardson had only once competed for a major title – a 1957 draw against Commonwealth champion Joe Bygraves – and his career seemed to be on the slide.
Then, the opportunity presented itself to fight for the vacant European crown against Hans Kaldfell in Dortmund.
Unphased by the fervent crowd, the Newport boy pounded the home favourite to the canvas in the 13th.
Kaldfell staggered back to his feet, but as the referee administered the count to the German Richardson brushed past the official and hammered home more punches that crumpled his foe.
Richardson somehow escaped disqualification, but the new champion needed a police escort to get him past the baying crowd and into his dressing room.
Returning to Wales, Richardson faced veteran American Mike DeJohn at Porthcawl’s 12,000-seat Coney Beach Arena, a venue that had been built amidst the seaside resort’s fairground by Sir Lesley Joseph.
The arena was described by Henry Cooper – who beat Richardson there in 1958 – as “a dump”.
DeJohn felled 26-year-old Richardson three times in the first round, before the bout descended into an untidy wrestling match.
The ugly affair ended in the eighth when the home favourite was disqualified for a blatant head-butt, the outraged crowd responding my pelting the referee in the ring with chairs, bottles and other debris.
Despite the loss, Richardson was guaranteed a big pay day when he returned to the arena to make the first defence of his European crown against London.
Hartlepool-born London, then 26, had claimed the British and Commonwealth titles with a stoppage win over Erskine in 1958, but when he arrived in Porthcawl he was on the comeback trail.
He had lost his belts to Cooper, and in his next two bouts endured stoppage defeats against Floyd Patterson and Valdes, the former in a challenge for the world title.
An April 1960 win over Pete Rademacher got the ‘Blackpool Rock’ back on track, though, and he scented the chance to get back amongst the big money by taking Richardson’s European crown.
The bout between the two fiery characters was predictably bad tempered, and heated up even further at the end of the seventh when London was cut by what he claimed was a head-butt.
The Englishman appeared to drive at his opponent before the bell had even sounded to herald an out-of-control eighth round, the furious London shouting continuously at Richardson as he tried desperately to knock out his opponent.
Heads, fists and elbows continued to clash, further bloodying London’s features, and at the end of the round referee Andrew Smyth stopped the challenger because of his cuts.
But that was just the beginning of the controversy.
London threw a punch at Richardson’s trainer Lewis, sparking a shocking mass brawl between the seconds from both corners that included London’s father – former British and Commonwealth heavyweight champion Jack.
The referee, ring announcer and spectators were sucked in, before the melee was eventually broken up by the police.
The unflappable Richardson remained on his stool, shielded by cornermen.
“Am I annoyed? Wouldn’t you be,” raged a furious London – who was later fined £1,000 by the British Boxing Board of Control – in the post-brawl interviews.
“I’d licked him by a 1,000 miles, it was my second who stopped the fight. I had the European Championship in my grasp, [I’m thinking] I’m back at the top, I’ve licked him, I’ve well licked him. I won every round easily. To me he’s a novice, I made him look like a novice.
“When it was finished I went over to shake hands with Richardson and some little fellow took a swing at me. I don’t mind Richardson coming at me, I’ll fight him anywhere, but I’m not having some little [fellow] taking punches at me, so I had a go back.
“I’ll fight [Richardson] again with a £5,000 side-stake and we can have butting legal so we can both use the head but not just him – that’s not fair.”
In his interview Richardson shrugged off the controversy.
“I was well satisfied with myself and I boxed to orders [from my camp],” said the Welshman. “[London’s] a very good fighter, he’s hard, tough, he can punch… but I’m a bit better.
“My targets are Floyd Patterson and the world title. I think I’m in sufficient form – I’m the best in Europe.”
Richardson never got that world title chance.
He made a successful defence of his European title against old foe Kalbfell in Dortmund, before returning to the city for a stunning first-round stoppage of another German, Karl Mildenberger.
Richardson was stopped in his fourth defence, falling to former world champion Ingemar Johansson before 50,000 fans in Gothenburg.
The Welshman ended his career in 1963 after his next bout, a fifth-round loss against Cooper in a challenge for the British and Commonwealth crowns.
Aged just 28 and with a record showing 31 wins, 14 defeats and two draws, Richardson opened a butcher’s shop in Camberley, Surrey and prospered until his death from lung cancer in 1999, at the age of 65.