Chris Finnegan 1944-2009
By Clive Bernath: Chris Finnegan, the former British, European and Commonwealth light-heavyweight champion, has died at the age of 64. His death comes just four months after his younger brother Kevin was found dead at his Hillingdon home. The cause of Chris’s death is not yet known but he had been admitted to hospital suffering from Pneumonia
Chris was best known for winning a Gold medal at the Mexico Olympics in 1968. He turned professional in December 1968, stopping Mike Fleetham in the third round. Though Chris was a double champion his finest hour was arguably in pushing American legend Bob Foster to the limit for the WBC/WBA light-heavyweight crown in 1972. Foster, who had defended the title an incredible 10 times, knocked out the brave Finnegan in the 14th round of a classic that was voted Ring Magazine Fight of the Year.
The light-heavyweight scene in the 1970’s was as strong as in any era and although Foster was the undisputed king of the 175lbs division the Buckingham bricklayer was the world No.2 . Following the defeat to Foster, Finnegan lost his European title to Rudiger Schmidtke via a 12th round tko After a couple of wins the now 29 year-old Finnegan faced the young and fresher emerging British superstar John Conteh in May 1973. In an epic battle the 22 year-old Conteh prevailed on points over 15 rounds and it became clear Finnegan’s peak years were behind him. In the rematch almost a year to the day later Conteh prevailed again, this time by sixth round stoppage. Chris retired in October 1972 after regaining his British light-heavyweight crown against Gypsy Johnny Frankham in yet another unforgettable war.
Chris and Kevin Finnegan were as tough and as talented as they come. Kevin was a former British and European middleweight champion and also engaged in some memorable battles in the 1970’s. Over a three year period from 1975 to 1978, Kevin fought 14 times, five of those fights were against future undisputed world middleweight champions Alan Minter(3 times) and Marvellous Marvin Hagler (twice).
The stories about the two brothers training sessions in the gym they used in Hayes, west London were not for the faint hearted. As legend goes when the brothers sparred together they never held back at all and fought each session as if their lives depended on it. Neither Chris or Kevin were particularly big punchers but both possessed fine boxing skills, which were often overlooked because of the incredible bravery and tenacity they displayed every time they fought.
To describe a boxer today as a ’real throwback to a bygone age’ is a term used far too loosely but in the Finnegan’s case it is very much a perfect one.
March 4, 2009