64 Day Hero (1986) The Tragic Story Of British Boxer Randy Turpin

I’m ashamed to say I’d never heard of Randolph Turpin, fighting under the name Randy Turpin, before. A British boxer born and raised in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire. Of course his fighting records were way before my time however I feel I should of at least of heard his name. Especially when the boxing stats website BoxRec has him riding high in second place behind Joe Calzaghe in their Lb for Lb points system.

Couldn’t believe stumbling across this documentary whilst looking into Italian director Franco Rosso other work. Being that I’m a massive fan of his film Babylon (1980) and what with that movies 40th anniversary this month. Intrigued by 64 Day Hero I instantly wanted to see it! But where was I likely to find this low budget, vintage documentary? Bless the British Film Institute or BFI. There it was, for free viewing, on their player. Instantly pressed play for a little look. I’ll watch that later I thought! Nope, I watched it all right then and there. Here’s the link 64 Day Hero – A Boxers Tale BFI Player

64 Day Hero is a factual account of the life of Randolph Turpin. From his upbringing and rise and, unfortunately, his tragic fall. The film is filled with richly personal moments. We meet his brothers and sisters. His friends, wife and his elderly manager. Real salt of the earth people retelling his story. With equal touches of the somber and remembered shared humour, some of which is pretty dark. You are transported to eighties Britain as the interviewer and films writer Gordon Williams narrates and generally wanders around meeting people. It never feels forced. Even when Gordon walks up, Alan Whicker style, with his cameraman in tow. Everyone answers naturally and what feels like complete honesty..

We get to see photos of their youth together and reels of amazing footage. Lots of fight footage. One major fight that would truly put Randolph’s name in bright, big stage, lights. The time he would beat the world class boxing legend of Sugar Ray Robinson. A shocked Sugar Ray’s first professional loss since 1943 when Jake LaMottaThe Bronx Bull” otherwise known as “Raging Bull” had beaten him! Now in 1951 Randolph had become the second fighter to beat him. Standing there in the ring, after 15 strong rounds, with a bewildered Sugar Ray, stood Randy Turpin. Now the middleweight champion of the world!

This was more than just a massive feat. Only three years earlier there had been a shameful Colour Bar within British boxing. From 1911 to 1948 no boxer of “coloured skin” could fight for a British title. Thankfully times were changing and with the Windrush Generation arriving and the British Nationality Act being passed, the colour bar was dropped. And in a brilliant fashion it would be Randolph’s older brother Dick Turpin (pretty sure there’s no relation to the legendary Highway Man hehe) that would become the first British black boxer to win a heavyweight title when he beat Vince Hawkins in the year the bar had been dropped.

The title says it all really! 64 Day Hero. Sugar Ray would fire off the clause in the contract that meant he could insist on a rematch. A quick turn around. 64 days. This time it would mean travelling to New York City. This would be the turning of the tide. Yet his boxing record would stay true for many years. Knock out, after knock out, Randolph still smashed his way through the ring.

Unfortunately it would be his personal life that would take a hit. He liked the ladies, spending big money and took terrible business investments. Women trouble, financial worries and family rifts would hinder his life. His playboy and womaniser ways were to be added to his anger problems and an explosive short tempered fuse. He also had bad connections with promoters and maybe even gangsters. What likely made these erratic moments worse was the fact that being constantly punch around the head for most of his life most probably didn’t help matters. It is said that due to the circumstances behind his death Turpin became somewhat of a forgotten hero. So it was great to read that in 2001 he was inducted in the International Boxing Hall Of Fame in New York. Also back home, in the Market Square of Warwickshire, he has his own statue.

I won’t go into too much detail about the whole story but a few highlights that I really enjoyed were………

  • Randy’s old mate turning up in an silver in Audi looking like a side kick of The Kray Twins. Retelling “fun” in Randy’s back garden as he remembers having knives and a spear thrown at his head as they sparred together.
  • The footage and speech from Randy on the Leamington Spa Town Hall balcony. It must of been a such a surreal moment for the young man as he is made to address the mass crowd whilst sandwiched in-between the mayors of both Leamington and Warwick.
  • The fight footage is incredible and a must for any boxing fan.
  • The welsh 19th century Gwrych Castle training ground and the dodgy looking owner who befriends him.
  • Great little story about a man called Arthur Batty who designed a weight training regime to get Randy muscle bound but still flexible.
  • The Turpin brothers and sisters cheeky smiles and dry wit as they told stories of their brother. Not many of them in a good light! hehe
  • And last I’d like to add his loving poor old manager. He’d kept all Randy’s receipts and invoices and to be honest looked pretty lost during the interview.

Three random things I found out were….

  • Writer Gordon Williams had written the novel “The Siege Of Trencher’s Farm” that would become known as the horror/thriller Straw Dogs (1971) from director Sam Peckinpah!
  • Gordon Williams would also co-create and write the British TV private detective series Hazel alongside, WTF!, 90s England football manager Terry Venables!
  • There’s lots of parallels with another 40s/50s British boxer turned actor called Freddie Mills. He also met a chilling end and mystery surrounds his death. Rumors and conspiracies hit a round like a squash ball! Incidentally he was born up the road from me. One of his nicknames was The Bournemouth Bombshell. There’s a recent documentary about his life too, which I need to see, called Murder In Soho – Who Killed Freddie Mills (2018)

I kind of got a feel of documentary filmmaker Errol Morris’s style when watching. Has a The Thin Blue Line (1988), Gates Of Heaven (1978) kind of feel. OK let’s get real, obviously not as Oscar winning good as Errol’s movies but it’s the very intimate approach to the interviews that made me think of him. 64 Day Hero won’t be for everyone. Its slow paced and looks dated. To me though I love looking back at time capsules like this. It might all end in very tragic circumstances but what determination to push through all the barriers he must of hit in 30s, through to the 60s England and excel like he did is really an incredible story.

It was by chance that this post fits in with Black History Month of October here in the UK. Randy Turpin’s story fits in well.

Thanks for popping in for a look. All the best…. Mikey

14 thoughts on “64 Day Hero (1986) The Tragic Story Of British Boxer Randy Turpin

  1. Great post. Ashamed to say I’ve never heard of Randy until now, so many thanks for the intro. What an incredible story and rise to fame he had. Can you imagine how a lad from Warwickshire must have felt fighting in the ring with Sugar Ray? Not to mention how surreal it must have been to have ended the fight as the winner!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Goodness I’m so sorry for the late reply. I didn’t get any notification on this post for some reason.

      Don’t worry I was the exactly the same, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t heard of him. Hard to imagine what he must of felt winning that fight. Then before he knows it he’s the world middleweight champion. Surreal bewilderment.
      Funny thing, I mention he used Gwrych Castle in Wales as his training ground after his historic win. I’d never heard of that castle either but strangely today I heard the new series of Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here is set in the grounds! Thanks Maddy
      All the best… Mikey

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  2. Great post 🙂 I can’t remember If I saw this documentary (it does sound familiar), but I may have to check it out again cause it does look interesting. Your mention of the BFI (British Film Institute) got me all giddy like a fanboy 🙂 As you can tell, despite living in the US, I love reading anything that site produces. Mark Kermode also does his BFI player choices of the week on that site – I believe the BFI has a youtube channel as well? 🙂 Anyway, keep up the great work as always 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Goodness I’m so sorry for the late reply. I didn’t get any notification on this post for some reason.

      Yes John you are an enigma! 🙂 And its brilliant to hear your love of the BFI, Moviedrome and Mark Kermode too. You have great tastes buddy. All the best… Mikey

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve never heard of the guy either (I’m not a big boxing fan, so it probably makes sense that I wouldn’t), but his story sounds pretty cool. I know this was a documentary, but I’m surprised it hasn’t been made into a movie by now…especially in the UK, where I’m sure he’s more well known than here in the US. And how cool that the statue stands in the middle of what looks like a small-town public square!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Goodness I’m so sorry for the late reply. I didn’t get any notification on this post for some reason.

      HI Todd. I’d been an off and on boxing fan since my youth. My Dad always watched it. Then I’d just watch the big fights when Brits like Frank Bruno took on Mike Tyson etc. Poor Frank hehe. They used to be always on the telly. Now it’s all big “pay for view” and don’t really follow it. Though I do watch all the Tyson Fury fights.
      Randy’s story is so fascinating. You so right! Why isn’t this a movie already!! The whole thing is written ready to go!!.
      The statue is cool. Good place to sit and have a Cornish pastie or a bag of chips.

      BTW total random one. Is Stanford, Concho anywhere near you? LOL check the interior photos of this place!!! Unless you have a virtual allergy to cats that is!!! (Someone shared it FB and I saw it was AZ and thought of you) 🙂
      https://www.realtor.com/realestateandhomes-detail/669-County-Road-8235-Stanford_Concho_AZ_85924_M16223-15166?

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  4. What a handsome family, and he really had the gift. What a sad ending. (I looked him up). Apart from getting entangled with gangsters probably, his story reminded me of Alexander Dumas, whom I’ve been talking about with hubby this past week ’cause he’s reading The Club Dumas right now. Evidently, Dumas had EXTREME success during his life. For one thing, The Three Musketeers was insanely popular and sold millions of copies! He was super rich, had mansions. But because he liked the ladies, too, and for whatever other reasons of poor accounting, he died penniless and forgotten.
    It’s also very strange that both these boxers, Randy and Freddie, died under suspicious circumstances. It sounds like those posts Pam does where the music people all die suspiciously. It’s like “It was a suicide,” and somebody’s hanging from the ceiling with their hands tied behind their back. Yeah, right. Suicide.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Goodness I’m so sorry for the late reply. I didn’t get any notification on this post for some reason.

      I know right!! what a sad ending for Randy. Proper tragedy.

      How great is that quote about Dumas by playwright Watts Phillips “the most generous, large-hearted being in the world. He also was the most delightfully amusing and egotistical creature on the face of the earth. His tongue was like a windmill – once set in motion, you never knew when he would stop, especially if the theme was himself.”
      Amazing they found a load of his old plays.
      Now that I know he wrote Musketeers and Monte Cristo I recognised the name but if asked on the spot who Alexandre Dumas was, honestly I wouldn’t have recalled his name.

      I love the picture of him on Wiki. He looks like a real good time guy. Fascinating reading his Dad was the first person of color in the French military to become brigadier general! In the 18th century!
      There’s something to be said for living life to the full, drinking, ladies or gentleman, fine food and high living. Not like you can take it with you but it is sad to hear he died penniless and forgotten. Thanks for the heads up on him Stacey, I enjoyed reading about him.

      Yeah the Randy and Freddie circumstances are real fishy! Yes indeed like one of Pam’s articles. Intriguing, dark and twisty tales of infamy. Those dodgy suicides are not very convincing.
      Apologies again for the late reply.
      Best wishes
      Mikey

      Liked by 1 person

      • You’re welcome!
        I know, I love the mixed race stuff too, ’cause we never learn that in school, the writer of Three Musketeers being a person of color–maybe they do now? Not when I was growing up. But I restrained myself from bringing that up because I’m always talking about race and race relations and thought I’d just swerve around that topic for once, lol. But YOU brought it up, hahaha! But anyway, it is fascinating. Might do a post in Mr. Dumas. If I can think of something worthy enough, lol ……..

        Liked by 1 person

        • I’d very much like to read a post dedicated to Mr Dumas. I’m sure you can find plenty on him and add your seasoning of “tears over laughter” flare to the proceedings. Yeah I love those stories.
          Flipping it to a lunatic white man, have you been watching The Good Lord Bird? 7 part mini series about abolitionist John Brown played by Ethan Hawke. Based pretty much on said true accounts and even features Frederick Douglass. I got the final episode to go tonight and then can’t wait to read about the real accounts. He sounded totally BONKERS! Its a mad mix of historic tale, darkness and comedy. The recurring joke about the narrator “Onion” is funny.
          Anyhoooo! Off topic, on topic? Who knows. That’s how we roll…… LOL

          Liked by 1 person

          • I have seen Mr. Hawke in the previews, and he does, indeed, seem to be playing a nutty crazy character. I gotta see it….
            some day….

            Liked by 1 person

            • I finished it last. It’s really good. Bit Django, bit O Brother, Where Art Thou. Reading the history after it sounds like it really followed true, as best that it could.. Even down to a meeting with Harriet Tubman. Some of the interesting bits I read were his effects on Lincoln’s and Frederick Douglass debates. Possibly being the catalyst for the Civil War and best of all this quote from Malcolm X. Where he is said to have said white people could not join his black nationalist Organization of Afro-American Unity, but “if John Brown were still alive, we might accept him” HeHe.
              Feel bad I never knew his story but as always history is so fascinating.
              BUT MAN that guy sounded craaaaazy LOL
              Hope you do get to see it………. some day….. 🙂

              Liked by 1 person

              • Me too. That’s definitely street cred coming from Mr. X, so the guy was DEDICATED. Fascinating. I guess you find out when you watch the series what drove him….
                That’s what I wanna know. Props ! ! !

                Liked by 1 person

  5. […] 64 Day Hero (1986) – Wolfman Rating 8.5 – IMDB Rating 7.2 “Documentary about the life of Randolph Turpin who in 1951 defeated the legendary Sugar Ray Robinson to win the World Middleweight Title.” I got obsessed with this tragic but incredible story of boxer Randy Turpin and his family. Were the doc might be dated it didn’t take away my fascination with it. I wrote a review of 64 Day Hero here. […]

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