I’d heard the name Dave ‘Boy’ Green whistle through the Fenland wind, ever since I was a boy I was always well aware. I’m a Fen boy through and through. I grew up fast in a small village called Mepal. 6ft by fourteen, I utilised my aerial presence playing centre back for a fearsome local side called Chatteris Tigers. Looking back I can reflect on the extent to what that meant, wearing the roaring crest of a tiger emblazoned upon my chest.
I’ve seen plenty of garden centre lions, sleeping on the front walls of Fenland houses. I’ve seen the odd pond of koi carp and all the neighbours’ gnomes get nicked. But I’ve only seen one house with red boxing gloves cast in concrete on either side of the driveway. Not your typical piece of garden sculpture, but we’re not talking your typical house. As we approach the aptly named ‘Ringside’ and see Mr Green running the shammy over his Mercedes, it all becomes clear. There’s only one Dave Boy round here.
David Robert Green was born in Chatteris on Coronation Day, June 2nd 1953. He grew up in a small terraced house on the High Street with his parents Ken and Mary and his elder brother Michael. There was hard money to be made from the fertile land that surrounds the market town and the family ran a 92-acre arable farm, growing sugar beet, potatoes, barley and wheat. Chatteris had boxing pedigree. Eric Boon was a local boy who became British Lightweight Champion in the pre-war years. He was an early inspiration for a young Green, who joined the Amateur Boxing Club in 1967.
After school David went on to work at a huge carrot farming operation in Norfolk, where eighty tons of carrots had to be washed, bagged and loaded each day. Bag-by-bag he built his strength and in the gym his trainer Jim Moore taught him how to tunnel it into his gloves. He developed into an all-action young fighter who thrilled audiences wherever he went, sickening opponents with vicious shots to the ribs. As word spread, nobody dared fight him in The Fens.
“You want to move on and get a lot of fights, so we traveled all over anywhere, we went down to Eastbourne and up to Manchester, two hours which either way, it didn't matter where.”
In November 1973 20 yr old David was the only senior member at Chatteris ABA and had no one suitable to spar with, a crucial part of sharpening up for a fight. So Jim suggested that he went over to see Andy Smith at his gym on Pig Lane in St Ives. Andy Smith was a highly respected professional manager, who had taken Joe Bugner to the European Heavyweight Title.
“Joe Bugner, Jeff Gale, Mickey Laud, ‘Dezzy’ Morrison, I was training with all the pros, all different boys you see, that's what it's all about. Then Steve Hopkin came on the scene then Jimmy Harrington came on the scene. All middleweights and a bit bigger than me, so it was good for sparring you see.”
An instant mutual respect developed and Andy Smith soon realised that Green’s exciting style would provide a valuable asset to the paid ranks. “Andy Smith used to say to me, ‘I've trained boys for years, but I've never trained a boy like you. You just want to win so badly.’ But that's how I was. I'd do anything to win.” After losing just once in the last fourteen fights of his amateur career, it was agreed that David would become a professional under Smith’s management. “I don't know what it was, I thought the pro game would suit me better than the amateur game. Because the amateur game was three rounds and by the time you get going it’s all over, but in the pro game you've got eight to ten rounds, so you can get them in the finish.”
The professional game represented a significant step-up for David. Whereas in his amateur days he was training three times a week he was now training every evening as well as retaining his job on the farm:
“I’d be up 5am in the morning to do my road running. I'd leave my house at 7am, pick people up on the way, work all day, come back home at 5pm, get in my car and drive up to St Ives where I’d train 5.30pm to 7.30pm, come home, have my tea and I’d be in bed at nine ‘cos I’d have to do it again the next day.”
The word ‘Boy’ was part of local dialect meaning ‘mate’ and had been used by Eric Boon in the early stages of his career. Realising David’s potential, Andy Smith suggested that he adopt the name to make him more distinguished. He also became affectionately known as ‘The Fen Tiger’ for the relentless way he would come forward, and his shots were labelled ‘The Muck-Spreader’ and ‘Carrot Cruncher’ for the style and ferocity at which they were delivered.
The Royal Albert Hall would provide a fitting setting for some of Green’s biggest nights in the ring. At 9pm on the 1st June 1976 he made his way into the grand arena wearing his iconic tiger skin gown for the first time, and beat Joey ‘The Jab’ Singleton to win the British Light-Welterweight crown.
Later that year, Green was back at The Albert Hall and went one step further than his hero Eric Boon when he won the European title by stopping the ‘Pride of Paris’ Jean-Baptiste Piedvache in round nine. “Now Piedvache had 41 fights and won 40, the fellow was a good fighter but I just kept at him and at him and blew his eye open and got him in the end.”
“I don't care what anybody says, if you get hit on the chin, whoever you are, you're gunna go down, it's as simple as that.”
In 1977 Green moved up to Welterweight and beat former World Champion John H. Stracey, to line up a shot at the world title against Carlos Palamino at Wembley. Sadly, it wasn’t to be and although he was always within a genuine chance of victory, Palamino caught him flush with a left hook in round eleven and sent Green crashing to the canvas for the first time as a professional. “My best win was against Stracey. Beating the former world champion has got to be your best win. But my best performance was against Palamino. I got beat but I was the best ever. One punch and he had three cuts and thirteen stitches to his eyes. I thought I’d got him, and of course that's what happened, but listen he was a good fighter.”
David’s second and final shot at the world title came on March 31st 1980, when he traveled to Landover USA, to fight one of the greatest boxers that has ever lived, Sugar Ray Leonard. “I wouldn't have beat him if I'd have trained for fifty years, the man was so good, but that's the way it goes. He never trained as hard as me, but he didn't need to because he was so clever.” The speed, power and accuracy of the blows were incredible and a thunderous left hook to the chin would end the fight in round four.
“Sugar Ray says, that it's the best punch he ever threw. He threw a left hook, he threw a right but I was gone by then. What I can remember of it, I was out for a long time.”
David fought for the love, not for the need. He got £125,000 for going four rounds with Sugar Ray, but still believed he had enough for one last shot, “Listen the money’s nice, but I still wanted to win the world title, that’s what it’s all about.” After fighting his way back to the brink of British and European titles at Light Middleweight, his final contest came on November 3rd 1981 against Reg Ford at The Royal Albert Hall.
As the rounds went by, Andy Smith realised that the effects of the previous forty fights had caught up with Green. As ever, the desire was there, but the sparkle had gone. So at the end of the fifth round, Andy Smith picked up the MC’s microphone and stepped into the ring to utter the breathtaking words that would signal the end of a glittering career.
Dave ‘Boy’ Green was fighting for the World Title during what is regarded as the greatest era in Welterweight history, which aside from Sugar Ray Leonard and Carlo Palamino included Tommy Hearns, Roberto Duran and Wilfred Benitez. In the ring he was a savage fighter, who would never let his opponent off the hook. In his house today, he is humble, respectful and quick to heap praise on all those he faced. He sold out crowds wherever he went and whenever he stepped into the ring, it was like a cup final for The Fens.
“They reckon when I fought Palamino, there was more people at Wembley than there were in Chatteris. But I was very lucky, I had great support and that's what you need.”
In his snooker room at Ringside, pictures of David with the stars of his generation surround the full size table. Ali, Sugar Ray, Best, Minter, Magri and Moore. As we make our way round all four cushions, we are treated to a once in a lifetime tour. When we return to the baulk end, David asks, “Out of all these people who do you think was the best man I ever met?” We drop names, not thinking straight, half astonished by what we have just seen. When really there’s only one man it could have been. “Andy Smith” says David, “Because without him I wouldn’t have achieved what I’ve achieved. Never forget where you come from.”
I’m proud to come from The Fens and that in a large part is due to Dave Boy Green. The legend lives on.
Dave ‘Boy’ Green’s professional Record: Bouts: 41 Wins: 37 (29 inside the distance) Losses: 4