For a few short months in 1951 Randy Turpin was perhaps the most famous sportsman in Britain. He had defeated the seemingly invincible Sugar Ray Robinson at Earls Court to become World Middleweight Champion and an unlikely national hero.
In the rematch, some 64 days later, Robinson was badly cut and within a round of being pulled out of the fight but rallied and stopped Turpin to win the title back.
Turpin would never regain it and so began a long, slow and grimly inevitable decline that ended with the bankrupt Leamington fighter’s suicide above a transport cafe in his home town in 1966.
Turpin always claimed that he had never seen a lot of the money he was supposed to have earned and that hangers-on and opportunists had taken advantage of him.
Award winning novelist and screenwriter Kirk Lake has written a short story focusing on the final hours of the boxer that is being published by record label turned book publisher Rough Trade Books in their new “Editions” line.
Rather than look at Turpin’s ring exploits Lake gets into the troubled mind of a man on the brink who had had it all and watched it slip through his fingers and get picked from his pocket.
Thoroughly researched and both tough and tender The Last Night of the Leamington Licker is an extraordinary piece of boxing writing which deserves its place on the shelves of great boxing literature alongside books such as Leonard Gardner’s Fat City, F X Toole’s Rope Burns and Harry Crews’ The Knockout Artist.
Randolph Turpin died in May 1966. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2001.
Kirk Lake was born in Leamington Spa in 1966. He was originally told the story of Randolph Turpin by his grandfather who had known Turpin in his early years.