top of page

The night the champ took a dive at the Albert Hall

You won’t find Jeff “Patto” Patterson’s name on the list of Australian heavyweight boxing champions or even much about his 1959 title fight against reigning champion Allen Williams at Launceston’s Albert Hall.

ALLEN WILLIAMS

Williams, a Sydney truck driver, had held the Australian heavyweight title since 1955 and was tipped as a likely challenger for the Commonwealth title.

A shameless self-promoter, Patterson was 31 and a well-known footballer who hadn’t boxed competitively for some years.

When the champion hit the canvas in the fourth round, Patterson claimed victory but before he could celebrate the referee declared it a “no contest.”

There was a riot among the 2,000 spectators and the bookmakers declared that all bets were off as Patterson and Williams beat a hasty retreat.

Jeff Patterson was the publican at the Cornwall Hotel and a former Victorian Football League footballer. His fight with Allen Williams in Launceston remains one of Australia’s more infamous championship boxing bouts.

Born in Melbourne in 1928, Jeff Paterson came to Launceston in 1954 as playing coach of the struggling Cornwall Football Club in the Northern Tasmanian Football Association.

An orphan raised by a Richmond baker and his wife during the Great Depression, he was a big lad with boxing being his favoured sport in his teens in Victoria.

In his autobiography What A Life, published in 2005, he admitted to fixing some of his fights to beat the bookmakers.

He was a latecomer to Australian Rules Football and was 22 when he made his VFL debut with South Melbourne in 1951 where he quickly gained a reputation as a rough and tough player.

He then played at fullback for Richmond and Fitzroy, attracted by the promise of bigger match payments, for a career total of 44 VFL games.

One of his teammates at Richmond was legendary coach Tom Hafey who described Patterson as a player of limited ability who made the most of what he had and was as tough as any player of the day.

Patterson’s deal with the Cornwall Football Club, later the East Launceston Football Club, included the management of the Cornwall Hotel then owned by prominent Launceston hotelier Fred Castley.

Often described as a “colourful character” in the press, Patterson combined football and his hotel duties with gambling on horse racing and boxing.

JEFF PATTERSON

He brought several of his VFL mates with him to Launceston, including the revered Richmond player Don “Mopsy” Fraser, and did well with his football team. He also played seven games for the Tasmanian State team.

In May 1959 he hatched a plan with Ernie McQuillan, the trainer of reigning Australian and NSW heavyweight champion Allen Williams, to stage a title fight in Launceston.

In his autobiography he justified what he was planning to do on a horse race at the Mowbray race track where he lost £10,000 to the local bookies. Allen Williams agreed to take a dive on the basis of a £1,500 loser’s purse and a cut of the expected betting winnings.

When the championship fight was announced the local bookmakers thought Patto had no chance and started off offering odds of 200 to 1. Some were also probably hoping that Williams would bring Patto down a peg or two.

Unknown to them Patterson and Williams rehearsed their fight with the champion to go down in the fourth round. In his autobiography Patterson says he and his mates stood to collect £300,000.

The fight was held on Thursday 28 May 1959 to a sellout audience of 2,000 at the Albert Hall. It was the first televised (not live) sporting fixture in Launceston, being filmed by Melbourne’s Channel 9.

Williams went down as planned in the fourth round but official referee Terry Reilly was so outraged at the obviously rigged fight that he refused to declare Jeff Patterson the winner.

The Examiner’s back page headline on Friday 29 May said: “Champion upset at outcome of title contest” and provided a blow-by-blow report of the fight. The national sporting press was much less kind, describing the fight as a farce.

Patterson mollified some of his supporters with free beer at his pub and claimed he made £40,000 out of the fight in ticket sales and the TV rights. He said Williams made enough to buy a new truck for his transport business.

But by October 1960 Jeff Patterson was £150,000 in debt in Launceston and fled Tasmania for Hong Kong. Amazingly he then became a successful event promoter in Europe.

According to his autobiography he promoted the Everly Brothers, Sammy Davis jnr, Roy Orbison, Fats Domino and Edith Piaf and brought top American performers Sammy Davis Junior and Roy Orbison to Australia.

He counted a number of underworld figures among his friends and continued to promote boxing matches.

Patterson made a much-publicised trip back to Launceston in 1970 where he declared he was able to pay off his debts. Married three times, he died in Sydney in 2013 at the age of 84.

Images courtesy of The Examiner newspaper.


Comentarios


Recent Posts
Archive
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square
bottom of page