Claude Clifford – life in a trophy

The trophy stands more than a foot high.  The handles are elegant and expansive.  It has been dropped, the off-kilter base ensuring it tilts to the right.  It’s faded, dented and aged.

 

It was awarded to a boxer named C. Clifford in 1915.  The cursive inscription is brief.

 

Brisbane Gymnasium Tournament

3 May 1915

Challenge

C. Clifford v O Kenn

C. Clifford

Winner on points

 

Almost a hundred years after the fight, the trophy sat on a shelf in a second hand store.  It became my Christmas gift.  My parents also presented a challenge, to find out what happened to C. Clifford.

 

The website www.boxrec.com contains the details of every man who ever fought professionally.  I put Clifford in the search bar and flicked pages until I found Claude Clifford, who had five professional fights in Brisbane between 1918 and 1919.

 

Claude Clifford, was a featherweight.  Given the information on boxrec, he had to be the same fighter who defeated O’Kenn in the Brisbane Gymnasium Tournament.

 

Clifford was 22 or 23 when he made his pro debut against Mick Daniells on October 5, 1918.  Daniells was also making his debut.  The fight, at Brisbane Stadium, went ten rounds.  Clifford won on points.

 

In 1919 he fought Jimmy Graham three times inside a month, from January 25 to February 22.  Each bout was scheduled for six rounds.  Clifford won twice on points and forged a draw.

 

He lost his last fight, retiring after the sixth round against Billy Unwin, on September 13.

 

Clifford’s fights featured two minute rounds instead of three.

 

Unfortunately, the boxrec website didn’t offer a date of birth.  It didn’t offer a fight narrative.  There are no details on the website for an Australian called O’Kenn, which meant he didn’t fight professionally, under that name at least.

 

No search of any archive provided additional information about Clifford or the men he fought.

 

I went to Births Deaths and Marriages on George Street in Brisbane. At the helpdesk, a woman called Laura listened briefly and offered a form, an application for certificate or extract of DEATH IN QUEENSLAND.

 

I wrote my name in capitals and signed beside the x Laura marked on the page.  In a table titled details of death, I wrote his name.

 

Columns asking for Clifford’s date of death, place of death, his parent’s names, my relationship to the deceased and the reason I wanted the information were left blank.

 

Laura searched the data base, finding details for two men named Claude Clifford.  One of them died in 1926, aged 61.

 

‘Too old,’ I said.  ‘He wouldn’t have been boxing in his fifties.’

 

She searched the other man, Claude John Clifford, and found the names of his parents, Mary O’Halloran and Claude Clifford.  She said there might’ve been a brother called Edward.  She gave me her email address.  I promised to send a picture of the trophy.

 

Laura called the next day and gave me an update.  Clifford died from a cerebral haemorrhage in Brisbane on April 3, 1926.  He was 31 years old, had never married and had no children.

 

Strangely, he died in the same year as the other Claude Clifford

 

‘I’ll go upstairs and search through the archives,’ Laura said.  ‘And call you back.’

 

Laura didn’t call, but the following is the email trail, after I sent her a few photos of the trophy.

 


From: Matthew Watson
Sent: Wednesday, 25 February 2009 8:20 AM
To: Laura
Subject: Good morning

Laura,

Please see attached the photo of the boxing trophy awarded to Claude Clifford.

Unfortunately the inscription is blurred, but, as I mentioned, in 1915 the trophy would’ve cost a fortune.

 

When I have a few mates over to play pool, we often take turns at drinking from it, a tribute of sorts.

 

Have a great day.

 

Cheers

Matthew W.C Watson


From: Laura
Sent: Wednesday, February 25, 2009 11:21 AM
To: Matthew Watson
Subject: RE: Good morning

 

Hi Matt

 

Thanks for the picture, the detail and cut is amazing on the trophy.

I have an update for you on Claude Clifford’s next on kin/brother and sister, will email you after lunch when it dies down a bit here and let you know. Would that help?

 

Kinda Regards

Laura

 


From: Matthew Watson
Sent: Wednesday, 25 February 2009 11:23 AM
To: Laura
Subject: RE: Good morning

Laura,

That would be great.

I love the trophy – it’s almost a hundred years old.  I’m happy to keep it, but I’d also like to find out if his family wants it back.

 

Cheers

 

Matthew W.C Watson


From: Laura
Sent: Wednesday, February 25, 2009 11:21 AM
To: Matthew Watson
Subject: RE: Good morning

 

Matt,

 

Well really you could keep it because the only relatives as such that I can find is third generation.

Claude had no wife or children and his brother and sister have passed away, so the next of kin would break down to his brother or sister’s children.

After searching all, I can only find information on his sister’s 3rd and 4th children (she had 9)- who have also passed away. However his sister’s children’s children are still alive.

 

And on his brother’s side I can’t find information to determine if he has surviving kin. He was married to Eileen Athens Ward (D.O.B. 01/09/1915) and had two children:

Leonard Edward Clifford (who I can’t find info on) and Edward Alexander Clifford- who died in 1997.

So in summary, the trophy should be yours to keep! Hope that helped.

 

All the best

 

Laura

 

In 1915, Claude Clifford must’ve appreciated that silver trophy.  It was victory, a day he’d been the best.  I hoped he drank a beer from its ample body.

 

Eleven years later he was dead from a cerebral haemorrhage.  There are no details of his death other than his brain exploded.  To attribute that death to boxing might be erroneous.  He hadn’t had a professional fight for six years.

 

And Claude diversified as a sportsman.  Laura said he was also a jockey.

 

‘I don’t know if he died in the ring or on a racetrack,’ she said.

 

Since the inception of boxing, about 900 fighters have died as a direct result of a fight, either in the ring or in hospital.  About 20 of those deaths belong to Australian fighters.

 

Boxing is a dangerous sport but Clifford’s career as a jockey was dangerous too. More than 300 Australian jockeys from injuries received during a race.

 

There are risks in life and sport.  Some people take more than others.  Clifford was a fighter and a jockey, risking his existence.

 

There might be someone alive who knows how he died but I didn’t ask Laura for details of his third generation relatives.

 

Besides, Clifford’s trophy ended up in a second hand store.  No one alive cared to keep it, so I gave up the search.  The trophy is mine.

 

Nothing of importance ends up on the shelves of second hand stores, but second hand stores sell a lot of important things.

 

 

 

To see the trophy got to http://theramble.com.au/2014/02/claude-clifford-life-in-a-trophy-2/

 

 

About Matt Watson

My name is Matt Watson, avid AFL, cricket and boxing fan. Since 2005 I’ve been employed as a journalist, but I’ve been writing about sport for more than a decade. In that time I’ve interviewed legends of sport and the unsung heroes who so often don’t command the headlines. The Ramble, as you will find among the pages of this website, is an exhaustive, unbiased, non-commercial analysis of sport and life. I believe there is always more to the story. If you love sport like I do, you will love the Ramble…

Comments

  1. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Matt a fascinating story and I admire your tenacity and diligence trying to track
    Claude Clifford down ! You deserve to keep the trophy Well Played !

  2. Love your story Matt. I like filling in the dots of history to find the man behind the deeds. Toowoomba racecourse is Clifford Park, but I guess its a pretty common name.

  3. Super read. Love the sleuth at work. Good to find such helpful people, who take an interest in things as well.

  4. Great stuff, Matt. Enjoyed the story very much.

  5. Matt you have shared a great story and I have really enjoyed reading it. I have been researching the Clifford family and was happy to be able to add this story to the information that I have found. I do not have any more information on your Claude except the other Claude was his father and also fought in Brisbane. As you say horse racing is also dangerous and the Leonard Edward Clifford you mentioned was a jockey who died in a race fall in New Zealand in 1945.

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