by Harry Otty
With all of the brouhaha surrounding the new movie based on the life and times of Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter, I felt it might be a good time to indulge in some 60's retrospection of my own, to which end I decided to spend a cloudy and damp Thursday afternoon chatting in the company of one of the true gentlemen of our beloved sport.
In the sitting room of his modest home of the last thirty-odd years, Liverpool fighter Harry Scott offered some fascinating insights into both his own career and the boxing scene of the 1960's and early 70's. One look at Harry's record will show that he fought some 79 fights -- although he maintains that at least two fights are missing -- including several fighters of true world class. Names such as the aforementioned Hurricane Carter, Nino Benvenuti, Emille Griffith, Lazlo Papp, and Alan Minter immediately catch the eye, but Harry recalls other fights with greater affection.
When first introduced to the sport as a teenager, Harry derived the greatest pleasure from the daily training and was not immediately attracted to the competition aspect. As his twentieth birthday approached, many felt that it was already too late for Harry to try his hand at the fight game, but he gave it a go anyway. Training at the famous Maple Leaf club in Bootle, he began to build up a reputation for himself. The club had a very strong squad at the time and Harry was among several of the clubs members that got to box for his country.
As an amateur he sparred with Dick Tiger whom he describes as "A very powerful man, but not very clever." (Indeed, later in his career Harry sought a match with Tiger, whom he felt could be out-boxed due to his lack of ring smarts.) Sent as a substitute to the European Championships in Lucerne in 1959 Harry acquitted himself admirably by coming home with a bronze medal despite reservations over his inclusion. This was one of his proudest moments in the sport and the medal is one of his most prized possessions. The trip to Lucerne cost Harry his job in Liverpool and his amateur trainer suggested that he turned professional. His pro career began with only one defeat in the first ten fights. The only blemish on his first year was a disqualification in his second fight against Johnny Bowler in Kensington, London.
A year in the capitol did little for Harry's progress as he was not part of the syndicate of fighters that were connected to the right managers or promoters and his own managers were unable to hand pick his opponents. Despite this handicap, he was able to progress to a Central Area title, which he won via a first round stoppage of Syd Parkinson in Manchester in September 1962. Following that, he was soon being proposed as an opponent for some of the top rated middleweights.
A trip to Vienna to face the unbeaten Laszlo Papp in 1964 remains vivid in Harry's memory for a number of reasons: the most notable being that he felt that he had won the bout. A photograph from the fight that sits on a shelf in Harry's sitting room is striking for a number of reasons. The handsome Hungarian is the main focus of the picture, but it is the blood that runs down from his eyebrows that catches the attention. If the fight had been held anywhere else it might have been stopped, but Papp was popular in Austria and his corner were allowed to use practically every trick imaginable to stem the flow of blood. Harry felt that he might be unlucky and receive a draw as he was, to all intents and purposes, the visiting fighter. He pursued a rematch, but never got one.
Harry maintains that he toughest opponent was Hottie Van Heerden of South Africa, to whom he lost on points to in 1964. Upon arriving in Cape Town for the fight Harry found that there were no scales available for checking his weight and the make shift gym in the local school hall had but one bag. After a couple of days Harry tracked down a set of scales in the hotel and found to his horror that he was a couple of pounds over the limit for the fight. He began running extra miles in the cool night air so as not to be seen and was relieved to eventually make the weight. Van Heerden was a tough character and shipped some heavy punishment on the way to a close points victory.
After defending his central area title against Alfie Matthews in Liverpool, Harry was offered a fight with Rubin Carter who was looking to get his career back on track following defeats by Joey Giardello, in a world title fight, and Luis Rodriguez. Promoter Mickey Duff argued over the purse that Scott's management were demanding saying that he never paid anyone £1,000 (around $2,000). The truth was he couldn't get an opponent for Carter and in the end relented. Of that March 9, 1965 fight, Harry remembers being cut in the third, but fighting on until the ninth when he was still in it. The cut was not as bad as some he had seen or suffered before, but the referee saw fit to call a halt. A rematch the following month saw a bizarre start to a memorable fight for Scott.
"The bell went for the first round and I walked across the ring and he was still in his corner with his back to me - they forgot to put his gum-shield in! Me being stupid tapped him on the shoulder instead of just reaching around and punching him - he spun around and hit me with a right hook right on the chin. The next thing I remember it was the sixth round."Scott, who had never been on the canvas before, rallied to win the ten-round verdict. Following his victory, he called his wife, who was waiting anxiously for news at home in Liverpool. She told him that the report had been on the evening news and that he had come back from a first round knockdown to win on points. Nevertheless, Harry insisted that he not been down in the fight!
Harry's lack of true 'killer instinct', which he regards as his greatest flaw as a fighter, nearly cost him dearly. Several years down the line it did cost him as he lost his last fight simply because he didn't want to hurt the young novice they had put in front of him. He knew then that it was time to quit.
After the Carter victory though Harry was hot property and his management had a hard time getting him fights. Daily calls to his management met with the same reply, "No one local wants to fight you!" Keen to cash in on his popularity Harry persisted with the calls for six months claiming he couldn' t live off fresh air and needed a payday. One day his management called him and offered him a fight in London with world welterweight champion Emile Griffith.
"I couldn't say no because I had been crying down the phone to him. I said 'when is it?' and he said 'Seven days time.'"
Besides the extremely short notice for the October 4, 1965 match, Harry also found that there was a stipulation in the weight and that he had to come in at 160 pounds. After training he could usually do 162 no problem, but he had only been ticking over in the gym as there was usually more than a weeks notice for a regular match let alone a fight with a reigning world champion. Harry commenced training immediately and attempted to squeeze a months training into a week and dropped twelve pounds in weight. Roadwork, sparring and gym work together with his usual job of unloading the daily newspapers at the train depot left him quire exhausted. Come weigh-in time he was 2 ounces over and Griffith's management wouldn't go for it, they insisted that he lose the excess. Harry had one hour to make the weight. A vigorous rubdown, a walk around the high street and another rubdown later Harry was back on the scales. When the official called out 'eleven stones - six pounds dead.' Harry remembers thinking 'Yes, so am I.'
"For four rounds I did alright. His corner were screaming and shouting I believe for him to get into the fight. After four rounds I felt as if, you know when they say 'can't bust a paper bag', that's the way I felt."
Realising that their man was totally spent Harry's corner called off the fight after the 7th round blaming a hand injury. After the defeat Harry became a typical case of 'have gloves will travel'. Bouts in Gothenburg, Rome, Milan Copenhagen, Johannesburg and Bologna established Harry in the role of opponent. In September 1966, he was good enough to take Nino Benvenuti to a points decision in Rome (at the time Benvenuti was 65-1) and to oppose fighters rated in the world top ten such as Carlos Duran and Sandro Mazzinghi. Although Harry himself was rated with the best middleweights in the world at one time his championship days were seemingly behind him.
In his last bout, June 1973, Harry felt that he could beat the youngster they had matched him with at any time he chose, but he felt for the man just starting out in the fight game. With his opponent in trouble after a first round knockdown, Harry began to miss on purpose and carried his foe for six rounds. In the seventh round, after Harry had been on the end of a fast combination, the referee stopped the fight in favour of the youngster. Harry quit boxing in disbelief and never fought again.
Now that he had no reason to train for the fight game himself he helped out occasionally with novices and rising stars. Some of those he assisted were Larry Paul, (British light middleweight champion) and John Conteh the world light Heavyweight champion. Harry has also helped countless other youngsters who may not have made it in boxing, but went on to make it in life thanks in part to the disciple that boxing instils.
The life and career of Liverpool's Harry Scott might not be the stuff of Hollywood of Raging Bull or The Hurricane, but it is a story of courage, conviction and honour. Harry persevered in the face of adversity as he was not a 'connected' fighter and often struggled to get a straight fight yet he always found a way to provide for his loving wife of forty years and his two children.
While he may not be a celebrity in the true sense of the word this honest, soft spoken and unassuming man is a true gentleman. Always on hand to present prizes at local amateur boxing events and to give advice to any that seek it Harry Scott is a star in Liverpool boxing boxing circles and his fame is simply the high regard in which he is held.
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