Place of Birth - London
Date of Birth - December 1900 (exact date unknown)
Passed Away - 9th December 1979
Contribution - Promoter/matchmaker/manager
Greatest Accomplishment - Promoting more than 20 world title bouts
Solomons was born in London at the turn of the century and the hustling, bustling city was perfect for someone of his entrepreneurial nature. His father worked in a fish market and this was the family business. Naturally, after leaving school Solomons joined his father in the trade and his main role was to import fish from abroad.
After the First World War, boxing experienced a boom period with the emergence of the awesome heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey and Solomons became a fan. He attempted to embark on a successful career himself and boxed under the name of Young Kid Mears. Unfortunately, on 3rd January 1919, he faced Young Joe Brooks in Southampton and was stopped in 3 rounds. His girlfriend, Fay, was not impressed and issued an ultimatum; it was a choice between her or boxing. He chose her and continued in the family business. Fay would soon become his wife.
A portrait of Hackney in London where Solomons once lived
However, he still had the boxing bug and later decided to become involved in management. His first step was to take over as the manager of Eric Boon, who was a lightweight from Chatteris in Cambridgeshire. Solomons was living in Hackney, east London and Boon stayed with him for a while, until his professional career took off. Boon went on to win the British title in 1939.
Having established a foothold, Solomons next opened the Devonshire Club which featured shows involving up-and-coming stars. He also operated as a matchmaker for other promoters and was quickly regarded as a prominent figure in the UK boxing scene.
His first major promotion was a contest between Jack London and Bruce Woodcock on 17th July 1945. The British and Commonwealth heavyweight titles were on the line and it was held at the White Hart Lane stadium in north London, which was the home of the Tottenham Hotspur soccer team. Woodcock won via 6th round KO.
The following year, on 14th May, he staged a bout between world light heavyweight champion Gus Lesnevich of the USA and the UK’s Freddie Mills. This was held at the Harringay Arena in north London and Mills was stopped in the 10th round.
Lesnevich was brought over to the UK by Solomons to defend against Mills
Solomons was by now an influential player and he generated a lucrative partnership with leading American promoter Mike Jacobs. This led to him working with champions such as Dado Marino, Chartchai Chionoi, Jimmy Carter, Archie Moore, Joe Brown, Emile Griffith, Ike Williams, Joey Maxim and Sugar Ramos. This represents a roll-call of some of the biggest names in boxing during the 1940’s through to the 1960’s. He also produced an International Boxing Annual in 1952.
Solomons was known as the “Sultan of Sock” and was an easily recognizable figure with a seemingly ever-present cigar hanging out of his mouth, which became his trademark.
Griffith was one of the many big names whom Solomons worked with
Perhaps his greatest moment was when he brought together the legendary middleweight champion Sugar Ray Robinson and British hopeful Randolph Turpin. On 10th July 1951 at Earls Court in London, Turpin pulled off one of the biggest upsets in boxing history when he outpointed the apparently unbeatable Sugar Ray.
To rival the magnitude of that event, Solomons managed to bring Cassius Clay over to the UK to face Henry Cooper on 18th June 1963. This bout unfolded at Wembley Stadium in London and provided the famous moment of Clay being knocked down courtesy of Cooper’s left hook in the 4th round. Disappointingly for Cooper, Clay rebounded and stopped him in the next round. Clay, of course, would change his name to Muhammad Ali and go on to be regarded as one the best heavyweights of all time.
Solomons with a box of his favourite cigars
Solomons launched the World Sporting Club and also promoted the first ever professional boxing match in Israel. He had moved to a district called Furze Croft in Hove on the south coast, but the advent of boxing on TV loosened his grip on the sport and in the 1970’s notable rivals entered the scene, such as Mickey Duff. Nevertheless, Solomons maintained an office in the Strand in central London and continued to promote until his death in 1979.
He was undoubtedly one of the most powerful, effective promoters in British boxing and was responsible for putting together some of the most memorable contests ever. He had a flair for his craft and could generate an atmosphere of razzmatazz at his shows. He made a valuable contribution and deserves acknowledgement.