Theodore William John Seamarks 1907-1986
Bedfordshire Middleweight and Heavyweight Champion.
Theodore William John Seamarks turned professional at the age of 17. He is probably best remembered for his fights against Tony Arpino the Anglo-Italian fim star in the 1930’s [three wins one draw]. Johnny used to train with Gerry Dancer Bedford Rugby Club’s first British Lion – Rugby Union. During the war years he became a special police constable.
Friday 2nd September 1932 – Bedfordshire Times
SEAMARKS DEFEATS ARPINO – KEEN CONTEST FOR COUNTY HEAVY WEIGHT TITLE
Friday 11th November 1932 – Bedfordshire Times
SEAMARKS RETAINS HIS BOXING TITLE – ARPINO AGAIN BEATEN ON POINTS AT BEDFORD
Friday 24TH July 1936 – Bedfordshire Times
SEAMARKS BEATS ARPINO – LOSER HANDICAPED BY DAMAGED HAND
What the papers had to say in the 1980’s :
Johnny Seamarks was a respected tradesmen of the ring.
He sparred with World Champion Contenders like Mickey Walker and remembered a bout at the Corn Exchange against Teddy Waltham, later a famous boxing official, that was refereed by the former world champion Jimmy Wilde.
Johnny had great fights at middleweight for the Bedfordshire title against another home town boy Reg Perkins, a London-managed boxer who went the distance with the great Len Harvey.
But it was his battles against the dazzling Anglo-Italian film star Tony Arpino more than 50 years ago that people still remember.
Their first fight for the Heavyweight Championship of Bedfordshire was billed as the “Fight of the Century”. It went the full 15 rounds and Johnny won on points at the Bedford Corn Exchange on August 29 1932, proving a popular winner after recently losing his middleweight title to Reg Perkins.
In the return on November 8 of that year, the eventual result was the same, although Jack Hart the referee at first called a draw and was then attacked by Johnny’s mother, said the Bedfordshire Times.
The Beds Times accepted £25 stake money from Arpino in 1933 but the third fight between the pair did not take place until July 19, 1936, after Johnny had been persuaded to come back out of retirement and come in as last minute sub at the Clarence Hotel Yard in St John’s Street.
He took a six count in round four but Aprino damaged his hand and had to carry it for the rest of a losing battle. Johnny was so overwhelmed by the win that he challenged Arpino and a return bout was arranged for August 7.
Two days before then, Arpino fell from a platform during training and the fight had to be rearranged for the Bedford Town Football Ground in Ford End Road on September 14. Johnny was badly shaken in the third, took a four count in the ninth but came back to earn an honourable draw.
They used to say that when Johnny was in action the floor of the Corn Exchange used to creak with the weight of the masses who turned up to watch him fight for a three pound purse. And since most of the town’s police would be there to watch him, they also said there was never a better time for a criminal.
Hungry boxers are the meanest and toughest of their trade. And in hungry times there are more of them, meaner and tougher, than in times of plenty.
In the 1920’s and 1940’s, the Bedford area produced men prepared to fight hard for just a few shillings. The town was a breeding ground for hard men.
One of the toughest of the breed was Johnny Seamarks of Oakley, who was born in 1907 and died last year, having had a boxing career that would make the modern man wince at the thought of a fight a week, at least, and more than 300 in a career.
Theodore William John Seamarks was born in Bromham in 1907 and went to the local school until he was 13. It was at school where he was keen on soccer says George White, an old chum, that Johnny first started fighting.
A playground argument broke out into fisticuffs and one of Johnny’s friends ran to get his dad, also John who was a farm labourer.
When Seamarks the elder arrived, he didn’t stop the brawl as everyone expected him to do but he started cheering on this son and heir.
“Go on boy” he shouted, says Mr White. “If you don’t give him a damn good hiding, I’ll give you one.”
After that the lad was hooked. And to follow his passion for the sport the boxed in fetes, though never in fairground booths, and turned professional at 17.
Managed by Alf Redhead, he had his first bout at the Derby Baths and never looked back.
Redhead made him give up soccer because of injury risk and at a time of high unemployment he was making £2 or £3 a fight – at the time the equivalent of a week’s wages.
By the time he was 21, he had boxed nearly 200 times and when he retired at 30, they reckoned that he must have had nearly 400 contests. At one stage of his career, he boxed just about every day for a month.
A quiet “gentleman of the ring” he was a tough fighter than an elegant stylist and boxed throughout the whole weight range as he grew up, maturing as a middleweight but fighting upto heavy… and still winning.
Said Chris Lovell, now 76 and still living in Marlborough Road: “ You has to fight hard for a living in those days and be available at all times. Johnny taught me a lot at the George and Dragon in Mill St and at the Rose Yard. He finished with a cauliflower ear but there was no question of him being punchy.”