It has come to light that Terry Downes died last Friday, Oct. 6, in the London suburb of Watford at age 81. At the time of his death, he was England’s oldest surviving world champion.
Downes finished his career with a record of 35-9 with 28 KOs. Most of his losses were stoppages that resulted from cuts. He is best remembered for his bloody three-fight series with Paul Pender. Downes won the middle fight before a delirious crowd at Wembley Arena when Pender retired after nine frames, bringing a sudden end to what had been a sizzling fight. It earned Terry the world middleweight title, or at least that portion of it recognized in New York, Massachusetts, and all of Europe. The other piece of the fractured title was held by Gene Fullmer.
His first and third title scraps with Pender were on Pender’s turf in Boston. The first match was stopped on cuts after seven rounds. Eighteen months prior, Downes had undergone surgery to repair his nose and remove scar tissue above both eyes. Pender won the rubber match by unanimous decision.
Terry Downes was born in the Paddington district of London, earning him the nickname Paddington Express. When he was a teenager, his parents migrated to the United States. Downes made his mark as an amateur while serving in the U.S. Marines. He aspired to represent the U.S. in the 1956 Olympics and was invited to participate in the Olympic trials, only to be told that he didn’t meet the eligibility requirement. He thereupon returned to London to turn pro.
Downes was thrown to the wolves in his third pro fight. He was stopped in the fifth round by 28-fight veteran Dick Tiger, a future world middleweight champion. Sixteen months later, Terry won the British middleweight title with a 13th round stoppage of Phil Edwards. He earned his first crack at Paul Pender’s title with a 10-round decision over Joey Giardello.
In 1962, Downes staved off a late rally to win a 10-round decision over Sugar Ray Robinson. The fabled Robinson was then 41 years old and in his twenty-second year as a pro. Shortly after, Downes moved up to compete as a light heavyweight. His final bout came against reigning light heavyweight champion Willie Pastrano who stopped him in the 11th round.
Downes was only 28 years old when he retired. He had the luxury of retiring young because he invested his ring earnings wisely, acquiring a small chain of betting shops. He would subsequently have a sideline as an actor, appearing as a heavy in several movies. In 1989 he released his autobiography titled “My Bleeding Business.”
Downes, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2012, died in his sleep. He is survived by his wife of 59 years, five children, and eight grandchildren.
Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel