Yesterday’s Hero: The Strange Case of Johnny Mann

BACK in late 1929, the British lightweight title was held by Fred Webster of Kentish Town. There were many challengers to his title and two of them were contested at the Stadium Club on High Holborn, in London, on 13 November 1929.

Sam Steward is the former champion, having been defeated by Webster about six months earlier. His opponent, Johnny Mann of St George’s, at the east end of London, has only had 21 professional matches, of which he won 16 and lost 5. He was once a top amateur athlete, once. competed for Limehouse and Poplar BC, he is said to have entered more than 400 amateur competitions.

His losses were all against good fighters and since losing was a very important part of the game at the time, especially when one was learning on the way to promotion, his chance was That before Stewart was considered very high. The two men weighed at two o’clock on the day of the contest, as was standard practice back then, and both men put in the agreed limit, 9 lbs 10, where Mann was two lighter than two. pounds.

Johnny lost his sister, Eva, a few weeks before the contest and he was very worried because of this. As the death of a young person became much more common at the time, he was urged by both his family and his manager to keep things going. After weighing, he returned home, where he told his parents that he was going to bed to rest. They woke him up at five o’clock and then departed for the venue, as they were going to watch the match. Johnny had told them he was going for a short walk and that he would go to the club by himself later. He never came.

The climactic showdown between English flyweight champion Jackie Brown and Phineas John of Wales went well, with Brown winning points, but supporters are wondering where Mann’s whereabouts are. . In the end, they canceled the competition and Harry Fenn, a local boxer, joined in for a very short time to bring Steward to a decisive 15 round.

Since Mann had completely disappeared, Scotland Yard was notified, and the young boxer was treated as a missing person. He was finally found, unconscious, on the pavement just outside the Oval cricket ground, at two in the morning. He was taken to the hospital in an ambulance by a well-intentioned passerby whose identity has never been identified. Harry Stone, an amateur boxer and friend of Johnny, recognized him there and alerted his parents. It is not known why Harry was at the hospital.

Johnny remains in a state of lightheadedness and delirium and his parents have been asked not to contact him until he recovers. His mother admitted that on the day of the contest, she found him in his room, sobbing about his sister and asking where she was. He was clearly not in the mood for a 15-round competition, but right at the time, his mother told him to “calm down and take a shower in cold water.”

His manager, Billy Palmer, took a while to convince the press that Johnny didn’t just leave the competition but didn’t like it at all. Despite that, Johnny’s stood between the administrators and promoters there was a difference.

He did not fight in the ring again until December 1931, more than two years later, and he had 15 more competitions, losing only one of them. He is a boxer of the highest rank, considered certain to be England’s champion, but his mental deviation, or whatever it is, is enough to isolate him. won the championship for the rest of his career.

In later life, Johnny became a respected coach at Stepney and St George’s BC, where he was responsible for the development of the great Sammy McCarthy.


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