Most boxers will tell you the punches don’t hurt as much as the blows they take outside the ring.
Frequently being forced to take fights at the last minute, rarely being paid what you were promised and then finding your manager was working for the opponent. Those are the kind of setbacks that might fuel the anger, rage and bitterness known by many in the sport.
So, imagine being Len Johnson, a retired middleweight boxer with more than 100 fights behind him, entering Manchester’s Old Abbey Taphouse pub after a tough day driving buses around town on a September night in 1953.
Johnson, then in his early 50s, was teetotal but he was ordering a round for his friends. Whatever optimism, banter and conversation the group had brought to the establishment was swiftly brought to a close in one moment. He was refused service and thrown out because of the colour of his skin.
It wasn’t the first time the boxer had been discriminated against for being black. But Johnson fought back, just as he had done his whole career.
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