How boxer Cuthbert Taylor was barred from British title fights due to his Caribbean
He was once called “the best in Europe”. Cuthbert Taylor, a bantam and lightweight boxer, had more than 250 official bouts in his career, recording 151 wins, 22 draws and 69 defeats between 1928 and 1947. He competed as a flyweight for Great Britain at the 1928 Olympics – the first Black boxer to do so. But for the color of his skin, Taylor’s career would have been more extensive than what has been recorded, according to historians.
As a matter of fact, Taylor’s talents were never fully recognized because of the color bar which stopped him from fighting for the British title. The color bar ran from 1911 to 1948, and the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBofC) was in charge of it. The board, which still presides over the sport, said at the time that fighters had to have “two white parents” to compete for titles.
Taylor, from Merthyr Tydfil, was born in 1909 to a father of Caribbean descent and white Welsh mother, thus, he was deemed “not white enough to be British” by the board.
Last month, a plaque for the boxer, who died in 1977, was unveiled at the Court House in Merthyr Tydfil, where he used to train, to mark Black History Month. The plaque reads: “British amateur flyweight champion Cuthbert Taylor trained on this site.
“He was prohibited from competing for professional titles under the British Boxing Board of Control’s colour bar rule, which was in place between 1911 and 1948.
“Denied the chance to succeed because the colour of his skin.”
Taylor’s grandson, Alun Taylor, said he was “sickened to his stomach” by the BBBofC’s treatment of his grandfather and demanded an apology, BBC reported. “I understand that the world operated under different values at that time, and that the people who made those rules are now long dead,” he said, according to BBC.
“All our family need is the people in control of the BBBofC today to acknowledge what they did was wrong and to show that they would never do the same thing again.”
Growing up, Taylor and his father Charlie fought in the boxing booths on traveling fairs, where Taylor’s talent was unearthed by boxer Tommy Farr, according to boxing historian Gareth Jones. During those traveling fairs, Taylor and his father would fight dozens of bouts against allcomers of all weights and sizes, Jones added.
“Often they’d fight two 12-round bouts in the same day, one in Merthyr and the other in Cardiff,” the boxing historian explained.
Taylor won the ABA flyweight title in 1928 and went on to represent Britain in the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam but was defeated in the quarterfinals of the flyweight class to the potential silver medallist Armand Apell, according to Merthyr History.
Despite not having won any medal, Taylor was celebrated as the first Black boxer to compete for Great Britain in Olympics. After the Olympics, he went on to fight in several official bouts but he could not fight for the British title because of the color of his skin. The championship barred nonwhites no matter their athletic ability and exceptional skills.
Thus, Taylor never had the success at a professional level that his talent deserved. “As an amateur, he was good enough to represent Great Britain in the Olympics but not as a professional to claim the title of British Champion,” writes Merthyr History.
Following the Gresford pit disaster that killed over 200 miners in Wrexham, Taylor and American world champion lightweight Freddy Miller sold out Liverpool’s Anfield stadium in a charity fight in 1935 to raise funds for the victims. Still, Taylor was not allowed to challenge Miller’s belt, according to BBC.
Taylor, before his death on November 15, 1977, passed on his boxing expertise onto another amazing boxer in Merthyr called Howard Winstone.
During last month’s memorial for the late boxer, Merthyr MP Gerald Jones called for an official apology. The MP had last year led a debate in the Commons about discrimination in boxing, highlighting what Taylor went through. He told the Commons: “Due simply to the fact that his parents were of different ethnic backgrounds, Cuthbert Taylor would never have the recognition and success at professional level that his remarkable talent deserved.
“That was all because of a rule that left a stain on the history of one of our country’s most popular and traditional sports, one that has otherwise been known for bringing people from many different backgrounds and communities together.”
This year, the MP told the Commons: “We will keep up the pressure on the BBBofC, and continue to embarrass them until they do what many of them have already said in private is the right thing.”
Taylor’s grandson Alun Taylor has said that all he is asking for is a written apology so he can laminate it and pin it to his grandfather’s grave.