« Back to slideshows

Lions in Winter

This series of photographs, by Nick Dirs, is an invaluable record of London boxers from the sport's 'Golden Age'. Boxing has faded from public consciousness and it is difficult to grasp quite how big it was and quite how feted its stars were, especially within their local communities. Fighting in the 'Golden Age' was a tough, stark occupation. It follows that the men who fought in the era were exceptionally tough, brave men. Some in the series fought more than 200 times, an Olympic champion and a number of British champions. Over the years, their names, like boxing itself, have faded from public memory. But, as these portraits show, they remain still proud, still tough. These photographs revive the memory of these men and for that reason alone are important. That they capture their extraordinary pasts makes them even more so.

Alex Trickett
BBC Sports Writer


I have always had a fascination for the East End and with it's most feted sport, boxing. Although my roots are very much in East London I was brought up in dull and uneventful suburbia. The East End of my parents became an almost mythical place, exciting and dangerous, the antithesis of what surrounded me.

In my mind boxing is a microcosm of East London. A boxer's habitat is one of extraordinary contrasts, where the light is brighter and the shadows darker than for mere ordinary folk. The gyms and the concrete of the East End providing a world of anonymity and secrets, and then for a fragment of time a life exposed and laid bare under the lights of the prize ring. It's a life I never had the courage to espouse. Boxers are my heroes.

I wanted a series of portraits that had both a physical and spiritual resonance. The scars and the battered noses are the physical reminders of what went before but more importantly the photographs needed to expose the spirit of men who lived and fought in my parents East End, men who lived the life of bright lights and dark shadows. I hope I went some way in achieving this.

I have tremendously fond memories of the time I spent with the men whilst taking their photos and I thank them all for their time and patience. I would like to pay tribute to George Merritt who has since past away. I found George's stories inspiring and his spirit intoxicating. Thank you George.

Nick Dirs
Photographer