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Goose Fair - Sideshows and Ron Taylor's Excelsior Wrestling and Boxing Pavilion

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:NTGM006037
:Nottingham
:Forest
:Goose Fair - Sideshows and Ron Taylor's Excelsior Wrestling and Boxing Pavilion
:1975
:Snowden, James
:J Snowden
:
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Showing the 'Greatest show on earth, Mirrors of life and laughter' stall, 'George the gentle giant, Scotland's tallest man (7ft 3 and 28 stone)'. Ron Taylor's Excelsior Wrestling and Boxing Pavilion is the older looking structure on the right. Ron Taylor was the last boxing booth showman in the country. He had retired, but came out of retirement at the age of 90 to hold a special show at the Great Dorset Steam Fair and at Nottingham's Goose Fair in 2000. Ron was born in Cardiff and was one of seven children. He and his four brothers all fought in the booth, but never turned professional as they saw themselves as showmen first and boxers second. Involvement with fairs started with Ron's great grandfather in 1888, who was a bareknuckle fighter in the days before the Queensbury rules. When gloves and the rest of it were introduced he saw the potential for this new type of fighting and opened a booth. By the early 1900s Ron's father and uncles were travelling the show. Four generations of the Taylor family have now presented boxing shows on the fair. In the heyday of booth boxing the Taylors were patronised by nobility (who apparently liked to come along and gamble) and their show would hold 300 people and stage as many as 15 performances a day. Ron took control of the family booth in 1936 and immediately took it all over the country, instead of concentrating on Wales as his father had done. His fighters were rarely beaten, but if they were the winner was often asked to join the booth team. The fights were invariably tough, and the booth was popular with farmers and miners whenever it came to town. Punters could either take on each other or have a go at one of Ron's fighters. If they won, then they got a cash prize. On many nights the crowds were rowdy, and alcohol often made for better entertainment. At some fairs there would be more than one booth and if there was an outstanding man in the town he'd go from booth to booth beating up the 'house' fighters. As the regulations governing fighters (the British Boxing Board of Control restricted their licenced boxers using the fairs) the role played by the booths in the introduction of new talent became less significant. The end was in sight. In an attempt to halt the slide Ron eventually introduced wrestling (which had become a TV favourite) to widen the booth's appeal. But it wasn't enough, the booths died out, but not before Ron had the honour of being the last man standing. Ron was left with many golden memories, the best of which was probably the summer day in 1977 when the greatest boxer of all time stepped onto the front of the booth. On a charity tour of the UK Muhammed Ali came to see Ron at South Shields, and after a sparring session and a display of all his best tricks invited Ron to his wedding! (information extracted from Vanessa Toulmin of the National Fairgrond Archive's book on booth boxing, 'A Fair Fight')