A BLUE plaque paying homage to the first black boxer to win a British title has been unveiled in Warwick.
Dick (Lionel) Turpin has been recognised with the new plaque on Parkes Street in Warwick – the town where he was born and lived much of his life.
The plaque, which was funded by Warwick Town Council, was unveiled in a ceremony which attracted the local, regional and national boxing community.
Dick’s family were joined by mayor Richard Edgington, Olympic bronze medallist Frazer Clarke, former Warwick Trident College student and Team GB boxer Lewis Williams, MP Matt Western, and Ady Bush – Warwick Trident College warden and the man behind the plaque’s installation.
Dick was born in 1920 in Warwick and, after serving in World War II, was the country’s number one middleweight boxer in 1947.
He was not allowed to box for the title until the British Boxing Board of Control lifted the colour bar in 1948.
Dick became the first black boxer to contest a British title against Vince Hawkins in June 1948 – winning the fight in front of a crowd of 40,000 at Villa Park.
After becoming the first black fighter to win a British title, he went on to win the Commonwealth middleweight title. Dick retired from the sport in 1950 and died in 1990, aged 69.
His brother Randolph Turpin is famed for beating Sugar Ray Robinson to the Middleweight Champion of the World title in 1951 and has a statue in the town centre.
Ady Bush campaigned for Dick’s plaque as well as fund-raising for the statue of Randolph.
He said: “Dick broke the colour bar more than 70 years ago and, after all those years, it’s incredible to see the impact he has had on British sport being recognised in this way.
“We have been campaigning tirelessly for decades to give the achievements of the Turpin brothers the platform they deserve.
“To have some of our students from Warwick Trident College here was fantastic and a great opportunity for them to learn about how different the world was for black athletes in the 1940s.
“It’s a great honour to have been involved in getting this plaque placed and I hope people will stop, read and truly appreciate the enormity of his achievements.”
Dick Turpin’s son, Keith Turpin, said: “We are extremely proud of what Dick achieved all those years ago, not just in boxing but in giving other athletes of colour the courage and inspiration to follow their dreams.
“It’s humbling to have this plaque here where he was born and grew up, and a great honour to add to his induction into the Boxing Hall of Fame earlier this year.
“We would like to thank Warwick Town Council for making this possible, Sainsbury’s for displaying the plaque on their premises, and Ady for his hard work and commitment to keeping the Turpin legacy alive.”