What we can learn from Randolph Turpin.

This is both a series of memories and inspiration, along with a tribute to Randolph Turpin. The Turpin brothers in general, represent a British boxing dynasty, Randolph arguably being one of our best boxers to date.

  • Randolph and Dick Turpin
  • Training Partners
  • The Nelson’s Gym
  • Life Lessons Learnt
  • Arthur Batty’s Weight training system
  • The middle weight with heavy hands

You can look up the detailed history around the Turpin’s lives in detail and I do recommend the book on their lives too, there’s a list of resources at the bottom of this article – below I’ve pulled out some of the ideas and bit relating to their training protocols and it’s also nice taking a trip down memory lane, the Nelson’s gym and my time there as a youngster.

Strangely years later, when I was training very hard in Jeet Kune Do – David Turpin, a descendent of Randolph was my sparring partner, along with Mick (my Sensei) and Carl Sabin – legends in their own ways too. Funnily enough David looked a lot like Randolph looking at the old pictures. Mick is the subject of another article, a pioneer in a hybrid Karate style, mixing in Jeet Kune Do principles - alongside a traditional Shotokan, Wado Ryu mix...

I first heard about Randolph as I trained in the Nelson’s gym Leamington Spa from an early age of 12. Back then the gym was a rickety large shed filled full of old school weights, many of them dating back to the gyms origins in an old factory on the same space. There were no windows or heating, making the gym super-hot in the summer and cold enough your hand nearly froze to the bars in the winter. Nelson’s factory made gelatine, sweets and the like and I’m sure Arthur Batty used gelatine to help boxers hands heal later on combining the power of gelatine with weights for rehab. Nelson’s gym was started by Arthur Batty giving the Turpin’s and other boxers a different venue to the Rose and Crown where they used to train.

The gym was a heady mix of door men, builders, boxers, powerlifters, weight trainers and body builders. Needless to say, the atmosphere was conducive to high intensity and focus. You didn’t really need to say the phrase train hard or go home….that’s all everyone did in there.

The old hands would teach you exercises, routines, techniques and even dietary advice was a plenty. Back then I learnt the secret fish dish (sardines on toast) which was one of the old timers favourites for a good reason. Omega 3, B12, trace minerals and bioavailable calcium all in a tin for less than 30 pence. Minamino – added to pints of milk was the recovery drink of choice. I’m pretty sure you can’t buy that anymore. It was for old people needing building back up but an early sweet amino acid drink mix. Tasted quite nice in a cold pint of milk.

The walls were littered in places with old memorabilia and the young Randolph Turpin was up there with his victory against Sugar Ray Robinson. One of the wonders of today’s computer age is youtube – you can see the first fight below in its glory. Back then all we were left with were stories, and old pictures of the fight from newspapers yellowed in time.

Something which hit me straight away on watching this old footage is the physical condition of both the boxers. They look like modern middle weights, back then Randolph was an early adopter of weight training principles into normal boxing training. Something Arthur Batty was responsible for. Arthur developed a system to keep boxers agile whilst covering them with a suit of muscle armour – the proofs in the pudding and you can see the awesome physical condition Randolph achieved ahead of his fight. People said he looked like a heavy weight.

His legendary victory over Sugar Ray – was short lived, and 64 days later the return match (a clause which guaranteed a rematch in the even of a loss by Ray) was close won by Sugar Ray in the 10th after a cut which lead Ray to go for a wild knockout – he achieved this and the fight was ended – possible prematurely by the ref in the 10th.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3c9o_lJag10 (first fight)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jiH-RpjfQ6c (second fight)

When the old Nelson gym closed, I think it actually burnt down and then got rebuilt – one of the committee members past me on an old bar from the gym. It’s highly likely Randolph used this bar as part of his own training.

Earning him the nick name the middle weight with heavy hands.

The bar weighs 35kg almost exactly half Randolph’s fighting weight. You can see a nice montage of Randolph phenomenal power here; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8FKSNle1Ab4 

I’m not sure exactly what the series of exercises were that Arthur used, I’ve looked around hard – but clean and press was certainly one of them. Overhead press, bicep curls…. I’m sure some of the Olympic lifts would have been in there too. I’m going to keep searching, once I find the system – or someone tells me if they reach this article then I’ll of course share the love.

Excerpt from Wiki;

“He had embarked on a weight training regime designed by a man called Arthur Batty and built up his physical strength. Weight training was frowned upon in boxing circles because it was thought that it made fighters muscle bound and inflexible in their movements. Turpin proved to be the exception to this rule and many of his future opponents including Sugar Ray Robinson would comment on his immense physical strength. Turpin developed a knockout punch with either hand and became a formidable force for any fighter to deal with.[3]”

“Arthur was always making gadgets for training and taught a weight-lifting technique that still left you with your mobility, but it was no good for a featherweight.”

Sources and further reading;










Here's a a nice article from a newspaper dating back to before Turpin's second fight in New York


-A quiet, solemn-faced
stranger from England with the build of a life-
saver and skin the colour of creamy coffee will
walk into the bright lights of the Polo Grounds in
New York the night of September 12 to defend bis
world middleweight boxing title.
Randy Turpin won the crown
probable the most valuable in the
business under the heavyweight
class without ever fighting more
than 150 miles from his modest
little home in Warwick, England.
And he won lt the hard way by
punching out a decisive points vic-
tory over Sugar Ray Robinson, the
man the experts called the greatest
fighter, pound for pound, In the
That night In the Polo Grounds
he will be giving Robinson a sec-
ond change.
What happened th« first, time ?
Was it a fluke ? A home town de-
cision ?
Turpin is confident he can pro-
vide the same answers In New
York that he gave so convincingly
In London in July.
Randy claims he beat Robinson
with a plan.
"I had the fight more than half
won before I ever got in the ring,"
he declared. "All that was left was
. to find out if it was going to work.
By the third round I knew lt
"We figured out Robinson could
be hit when he was backing away,"
Turpin's handlers explained. "We
studied the pictures of every Robin-
son fight we could get our hands
on. We saw that he was quick. He
came In bursts. When he backed
off his opponents always looked so
relieved that they were willing to
rest. It looked to us like he could
be hit when he let up. The few
times anybody tried it they seemed
to land."
Neither Randy nor any of his
usual handlers had ever seen
Robinson fight in person.
"I figured that if he knew we
were watching he'd hold something
back," Turpin said, "Just like I
did when I knew his manager
(George Gainford) was watching
But the Turpin camp knew they
needed some outside help. They
made a deal with Mel Brown, an
oversized American negro middle-
weight who has been campaigning
in this country.
Brown signed on as a sparring
partner. He and Randy, plus
Randy's old brother Dick-.>
former British middleweight title-
holder who now acts as Randy's
trainer-ran the movies of Robin-
son over and over. They studied
every punch.
Brown's Job was to be Robinson.
He copied the style by the hour.
And the Turpin brothers plotted
ways to beat it.
Their answers were nothing sen-
sational. They've been shouted at
almost every fighter stace David
kayoed Goliath. In the shortest
possible term they amounted to "be
first" and "be careful."
? Turpin learned his lesson well.
[ He tied up Robinson when he
'? could. He ducked under punches.
I bending his right knee almost to
; the floor, and slid up in under
! Robinson's fists. And when tho
[ champ halted a barrage. Randy waa
[ in on top of him with left jabs,
i Turpin forced the pace. He kept
moving forward. Jabbing at
Í Robinson's head and stomach,
i Sometimes he looked awkward and
! off balance. He always has. But
I Robinson couldn't do anything
! about it.
He had to give ground. And when
! Turpin saw him backing away, he
j pounced in.
S Turpin had trained hard, boxing
up to 10 rounds a day for three
weeks. He knew he never had
fought more than eight rounds in
j any of his other 43 professional
! bouts. He knew Robinson was in a
i class miles above anybody he had
ever met before. And he was ready
for this one to go all 15 rounds if
The 23-year-old English waa still
going strong at the final bell.
Randy is the son of Beatrice
Whitehouse Turpin, a white Eng-
lish woman, and lionel Cecil Tur-
pin, a British Guiana -negro, who
came to Europe to fight in the first
world war and who was gassed in
Lionel Turpin died a few months
alter Randy was,born. He left his
24-year-old widow with five chil- ¡
dren. Randy, Jackie and Dick, Jean
and Kathleen.
Mrs. Turpin's health was not too
good and the traditionally Im-
poverished churchmouse " was .>
millionaire compared with the Tur-
pin family.
They moved in on her father,
old Thomas Whitehouse, who had
made quite a name for himself as
a bare-knuckle heavyweight.
Grandpa Tom got a paper route.
Mrs. Turpin scrubbed floors. And
they had a Government pension of
less than a pound a week.
When Randy was two. he be-
came very sick-double pneumonia,
bronchitis, a stomach ailment. The
doctor said he wouldn't live more
than a month.
With his brothers Dick and
Jackie, he learned to fight early.
The kids in the street taunted
them about their colour. They
took it as long as they could and
then they fought back with their
All three fought often as ama-
teurs and in the side-shows at
carnivals, taking on all comers.
When Dick turned professional, be
brought along his little brothers as
an added attraction. -
Randy Joined the Navy as soon
as he was old enough. They made
him a mess boy. Randy is deaf In
one ear and does not have perfect
hearing in the other-a result of a
swniiming accident when he was
He remembers that in the Navy
they made him jump through his
paces because often he could not
hear the orders.
He turned professional while still
in the navy, knocking out Gordon
Griffiths, of Wales In one round In
London on September 17, 1946, in
his first professional bout. Since
then he's won all but three fights.
He fought one .draw with Mark
Hart, lost on points to Albert
Finch and was stooped In five
rounds by Jean Stock, of France on
September 21, 1948.
The Stock fight reminds Randy
of other unpleasant memories. It
came at the very time that his
marriage was breaking up.
In 1946 Randy married Maria
Treresa Stack, a 19-year-old white
girl from his home town.
Randy, jr., a cute, curly-haired
boy with a fair complexion, was
born a vear later. Randy and his
wife had trouble. Randy won't tali
about it other than to say he's
sorry the marriage didn't work.
Teresa has the custody of the
boy and gets £6/10/- a week by
court order. They are legally
separated but not divorced.
Randy moved along fast as a
boxer and two years ago started
head-lining the London fight cards.
When Dick lost his British middle-
weight title to Albert Finch, Randy
got it back with a five point knock
1 out. Then Randy kayoed Lue Van
Dam. oí Holland. In Just over two
minutes for the European title.
Despite Randy's continued suc-
cess, the British Press was more re-
strained about his world chances
than you would imagine.
The reason was simple. Most of
the writers thought Randy could
not take it because ha ls a negro.
Turpin knew what Uley were
sa. lng. And hs has . straight-
forward answer:
"Nobody, regardless of his col-
our, likes to take lt in the stomach.
And when they were talking about
the Robinson fight they seemed to
forget that ii was going to ba two
coloured boys fighting."
Nevertheless, Turpin did
everything possible to prove his
critics wrong.
He hired an expert to teach him
weight-lifting that would build up
his stomach muscles. He took long
sessions ot pounding in tbs tummy
with a medicine ball. And ne made
his sparring partners by to hit
him down below.
Arthur Batty, the weight man
Turpin hired, said the champion'»
muscles (stomach) are now two
Inches thick and hard enough to
stand quite a blt.
Randy does not say much. He
likes to listen to sweet music played
loud. He reads comic books, likes
bright plaid shirts and does not
dance, "although I like to watch
other folks dance."
He ls deeply religious. He sleeps
with a Crucifix, a gift from his
mother, above his bed. He has a
cross tatooed on his right forearm.
Other tattoos, souvenirs from his
navy hitch, are the words:
"Mother" and "Ma" across his