WHEN BRIAN ANDERSON moved from Carrickmagrath in Ballybofey to North Kensington in London 1958, his first port of call was to join a local boxing club.
Anderson rolled up to Middle Row Boxing Club and what followed was a remarkable association.
At the first attempt, Anderson – boxing as a novice – won the North London Divisional Championships.
He was a bantamweight and moved up to featherweight, where he won the All-London Championships.
Picture caption: Sean McCafferty, Brian Anderson, Jim McCourt and Paddy Fitzsimons, who boxed for Ireland at the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Picture by Irish Photo Archive.
He was out of the sport in 1961, but came back to conquer the lightweight division in 1962.
Two years later, in April 1964, Anderson went to Wembley for the British ABA Championships and came up against Scotsman Dick McTaggart. Anderson was at light-welterweight by then.
McTaggart was an Olympic Gold medallist at the 1956 Games and won bronze in 1960.
However, Anderson toppled McTaggart in the semi-finals of the British ABA Championships and the eyes of the sport were craning towards the Donegal man.
However, he lost the final at Wembley to Coventry’s Robert Taylor, with the decision described as a ‘travesty’.
One report read: “The crowd stood up in protest after the decision was given to Taylor. Everybody was convinced that Anderson had been robbed.”
McTaggart was picked for British Olympic team with Anderson having been in contention to go to the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo.
And yet Anderson’s dream wasn’t totally dashed.
In September, just a month before the Games were to begin, the Irish Press took up the story that Anderson was set to replace the injured light-welterweight Jim Neill on the Irish team for Tokyo.
The Irish Press reported: “The IABA dropped a real bombshell last night when they announced that Brian Anderson will be nominated to the Irish Olympic Council to fill the vacancy left by the declaration that original light-welter choice Jim Neill was not fit.
“Anderson, currently of the Middle Row BC in London, was born in Donegal, but really hit the headlines when he beat Scotland’s Dick McTaggart in the semi-finals of the ABA Championships last March.
“Anderson further enhanced his reputation when he went to Hungary with the English international side and won his two bouts, beating Istvan Toth, the Hungarian Olympian.
“As he has done so little in Irish boxing and his name has not been mentioned as a possible, his selection by the IABA comes as a shock.”
George Onion from the Middle Row BC blasted his native officials: “It is through their own foolishness that the English ABA have lost him.”
Anderson went to Tokyo alongside three other boxers Sean McCafferty, Jim McCourt and Paddy Fitzsimons. McCourt won a bronze medal and he remains close friends with Anderson – back domiciled in his native Carrickmagrath now.
Anderson came up against Cambodian Nol Touch, but lost out to a narrow 3-2 decision from the judges.
“He was floored in the first minute by a tough little opponent who knew how to punch, but Anderson came back courageously to attack at every opportunity,” was how one scribe put it.
“Anderson’s best round was his last, in which he belted the Cambodian around the body, compelling him to hold on.”
Anderson later recalled that the left hook from Touch had ‘left me groggy for a while’, but there was still widespread disappointment at the verdict of the ringside scorers, with Harry Carpenter – calling the fight on television – saying it was a ‘remarkable decision’.
Anderson created history in 1965 when he became the first boxer from Donegal to win an Irish senior title, claiming the 1965 light-welterweight crown.
In 1979, along with his brother Peter, he founded the Twin Towns Boxing Club. His grand-daughter, Ciara, has followed the family tradition and is a two-time Irish champion.