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Kenzie Thorpe - Boxer

Kenzie in his commonly known image sat on his house boat

Kenzie Thorpe is best known for his wildfowling, poaching, conservation and paintings. Much of his surviving notoriety is possibly the result of Colin Willock’s book “Kenzie – The Wild Goose Man”. What is only briefly touched upon in this book is Kenzie’s boxing career.

Reading Colin Willock’s book is a wonderful collection of stories. However, you have to be aware that Kenzie was a great story teller and this can make it challenging to identify the truth from the tale. In the book Colin describes his boxing career starting at age 18 ½ and ending aged 23 having won 57 fights. Colin states Kenzie had turned professional after half a year and became middle-weight champion of Lincolnshire.

This means that Kenzie, born 1906, was boxing between 1926 and 1931. The Lincolnshire Middle-weight champion between 16th May 1929 and 10th April 1933 was Len Harvey who held the title for seven defences. I have looked for amateur titles and can find no amateur Lincolnshire middleweight title for that period.  However, he did hold the title of Welter Weight Champion of Lincolnshire in 1930.  In interviews in the 1960’s Kenzie claimed to have fought over 50 fights with 10 of them professional bouts. The number of fights sounds about right, he actually fought 14 professional bouts. It is clear that Kenzie was well known as a boxer in this period and highly respected. The most fights that warranted press reports can be found in the period March 1928 through to November 1930 when he drew with Jim Simpkins.

Here are some of the accounts:

March 1928:

“The fourth contest was between Kenzie Thorpe and Mike McCormick, both local lads. It was unfortunate for McCormick that he came up against Thorpe for Kenzie was the best fighter of the evening. Thorpe punished McCormick severely in the first round and the later was saved by the gong when floored for a count of four. Kenzie Thorpe was declared a winner, McCormick retiring at the end of round one.”

April 1928 sees Kenzie vs Kid Faulkner from Upwell as “the start turn” of the evening.  “This was an excellent bout, and Thorpe administered a good deal of punishment in rounds one and two. In the third round Thorpe brough Faulkner to his knees twice and in the last seconds of the round brought him down heavily, but the gong saved Faulkner being counted out. Faulkner retired and the fight went to Thorpe.”

May 1928 sees a grueling fight against Eddie Stevens of Christchurch, “Stevens boxed well and it was easy to see he was the more experienced. Thorpe was knocked out in the ninth round.”

1929 sees Kenzie face Bobby Clarke who attempts to knock him out quickly  “Thorpe’s stamina saved him, however and in the last two rounds the positions were reversed” – the match resulted in a draw.

One thing is consistently clear from the posters and adverts of 1929 onwards is that Kenzie was an entertaining and popular boxer that was a draw for crowds with buses run to the various venues. When Kenzie marries his wife Eliza Ann Wilkinson in December 1930 he is described as “the well known pugilist” in the local press (having applied  to the Justices for permission to marry as she was underage).

Perhaps one of the most grueling fights I came across was against Jim Simpkins in October 1930 and it illustrates his strength and resilience:

 “The fight that attracted the most attention was a return ten rounds contest between  Kenzie Thorpe of Sutton Bridge (welter-weight champion of Lincolnshire) and Jim Simpkins (welter-weight champion of Northants). An unfortunate occurrence took place in the first half-minute, when Simpkins landed a punch to the heart, which sent Thorpe to the canvas.

Thorpe’s seconds appealed for a foul and the doctor was asked to examine Thorpe and he declared that there was no foul blow. The referee and M.C. then conferred with Simpkins, and the fight was postponed for five minutes., for Thorpe to recover, and the fight was restarted.

Both men fought hard during the first five rounds, and the rounds were in favour of Simpkins, but in the final three rounds Thorpe expended all his boxing ability, and the referee pronounced the fight a draw.”

When you consider how much harder boxing gloves were in this era and the lower regard for the health of the boxers it is possibly a good job that he retired from the sport the following year. He was clearly a formidable contender that did not go down easily.


(source British Boxing History website and various newspaper articles)

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