Stuart Armstron Interviews Richy Horsley


Published May 2015

This week I was lucky enough and to be honest pretty honoured to have the chance of catching up with  Richy ‘Crazy Horse’ Horsley, legendry Bare Knuckle boxer and author or ‘Born to Fight’ from Hartlepool.

SA – Thank you very much for agreeing to do this interview, first of all I would like to say congratulations on your marriage to Wendy recently and would like to wish you both health and happiness.

I have been aware as many people are of your reputation as a legendry fighter for quite some time, I met you last year at BBAD Newcastle and have got to say in comparison with your reputation you came across as very humble man in regard to some of the amazing fights that you have had and a real gentlemen, with your trademark flat cap.

SA - So how did it all start? I believe you started in gloved boxing in the ABA’s?

RH – I became interested in boxing by watching the domestic fights on sports night back in the late 1970's. I started going to a local boxing gym in 1978 and enjoyed it. There were some good boxers in the gym and being a new lad I took a few pasting’s until I got a bit better.

SA – Did you have much success in gloved boxing?

RH – I reached the national quarter-finals twice. I also boxed in Germany and won. Our club went out a few times.

SA – I have heard that you had a huge following for your home time of Hartlepool with many fans travelling to watch your fights, this must have been amazing to have such support, do you think that this helped you mentally in your fights?

RH – In one way it helped because you thought ‘I can’t let anyone down’ but in another it was added pressure. When the bell rings, you are on your own.

SA - Did you fight any well know names?

RH – I boxed Crawford Ashley for the Northern Area title. I got beat. He went on to be a triple champion winning British, Commonwealth and European title’s and had 3 world title fights. I also boxed the English champ and was winning the fight until we clashed heads in the last round and the ref stopped it cos I was cut. I got 6 stitches in my eye. I almost boxed Glenn McCrory in the early 80's and he went on to be world champion. I know you are interviewing him soon so tell him I said hello.  I hadn’t been in the gym for months and as soon as I walked in the coach said to me “Just the man I want to see, I was gonna come to your house after the gym. Will you fight Glenn McCrory on Thursday night in Consett. They’ve had a pull out and have been on the phone today asking if you are available.’’ Glenn was a class act. I’d boxed on the same bill as him a couple of times in the Junior A.B.A's but I wasn’t gonna fight him unprepared so I said no. Now if there had been an incentive, like a few quid to make the trip worth- while, I would have accepted.

SA – What would you say was the highlight of your gloved boxing career?

RH – Probably being top of the bill in London and winning by knock out. I was wearing bandages and ten ounce gloves and still broke guys ribs with a body shot. I could bang.

SA – Was there a low point during you gloved boxing career

RH - I remember training really hard for a tilt at the ABA Heavyweight title and because the secretary of our club put a letter in a drawer and forgot to tell anyone about it (the letter was from the ABA). We arrived at Gateshead Leisure centre 15 minutes late for the weigh in and I wasn’t allowed to weigh in. The letter said all boxers had to be weighed in by a certain time. That was a low point for me. I was devastated. Only a fighter will know how I felt.

SA – How many sanctioned gloved fights did you have?

RH – I had 39 fights in the ring, licensed and unlicensed.

SA - As mentioned you have a fearsome reputation for fighting, in the ring, in the street, anywhere really, but can you recall your first ever fight?

RH - I was 6 and in infant school. I had blood all over my legs cos my mam always had me in short trousers then (laughs). Loads of little scraps with local lads. Then in senior school I was best fighter in the school. Laughable now but it’s a big thing when you’re a kid. I had a bare knuckle fight on some waste-land with a biker. I was 14 and he was 19. I won.

SA – How did this fight make you feel?

RH – It made you feel good to win. I never went around looking for trouble. Trouble always came to me. It was a nice feeling knowing you could look after yourself.

SA – Did you make a conscious decision to morph into Bare Knuckle or was this just a natural progression?

RH – It was a natural progression. It’s not something you set out to do it’s just something that happens. I was working the doors and tough-guys were always turning up to fight me, trying to take my rep  but I was white hot.

Richy HorsleySA – What do you think made this different to gloved boxing?

RH – In gloved boxing you are fighting trained fighters. You have to be at a certain standard or you wouldn’t be allowed to box. In bare knuckle you fight anyone who thinks they can fight.
Whether they can or not is found out when they get hit. Lots of people can give it but can’t take it.

SA – Was BKB big in the North East or did you have to travel to find fights

RH – I didn’t travel to fights they always came to me. I was minding my own business and getting on with my journey through life. People wanted my rep. When-ever I’d socialise out of town I had to always be aware of my surroundings and watch peoples body language. There was always someone wanting a go. I was always recognised by someone and word would get around that a fighter was in the building and people would want a pop at you, especially when they had a bit of Dutch courage. Treat me with respect and I’ll treat you the same. I wasn’t the placid man that I am today. I was a warrior with a killer instinct and was prepared to die in a fight.

SA – How many BKB fights did you have?

RH – I would say I had around 150 fights without the gloves and lost one. They were street-fights in lanes and alleys and car parks and pubs.

SA – Who was the biggest name you fought?

RH – The people I fought were not people you would have heard of but they were hard men in their own right. All old men now like me but when I fought them they were real fighting men with reputations. They were well known in their areas and towns, the hardest of their time. Men like Davo Halse, a hard as nails man who nobody wanted to fight. He wiped the floor with all the hard men around these parts. I fought him twice. Brass Howe was another hard man, I fought him twice. Bri Suckling was an animal, he was a wrecking machine. He would fight anyone. He had a terrific right hand punch, he caught me with a right hand and I thought a hand grenade had gone off in my head. I fought him three times. A bare knuckle pit man came through from a mining town to fight me, he was appropriately called Big John. He was the hardest man in his town. I knocked him out. His mate was very cheeky so I knocked him out as well. Two for the price of one. Another guy who ran a team of Doormen came for a go, I knocked him out. George Sorby was another very hard man. I beat him outside a pub called The Queen Vic in about 1990. I could go on and on….

SA – What was you hardest fight and who was you opponent?

RH – The hardest fights are always in the boxing ring with trained fighters. I’ve had many wars in the gym, toe to toe slug fests what nobody sees unless you happened to be in the gym at the time. I’ve had cuts, stitches and broken bones. They are all part and parcel of the fight game. When you are out of shape and out of gas and you have a fit man in front of you landing bombs on your head and body, they are all hard fights. You take a gulp of air and your lungs are on fire. You have to have the fighting spirit in you to take your medicine and carry on. You have to stay on your feet and bob and weave or tie him up and hope you get a second wind. You have to stay with it. Never quit. Go out on your shield with honour.

SA – Would you have liked to have fought any of the really big names like McLean?

RH – I would have loved to have fought Lenny McLean. He couldn’t take a shot very well. He got knocked out six or seven times. He mysteriously forgot to mention these defeats in his book. He was very good at knocking out people who could not fight but as soon as he fought someone who could box, he was out of his league. I was heavy handed and I could box. I’m certain I would have beat McLean.

SA – I have heard but I don’t know if this is true that you once had a fight lined up with Charles Bronson but his parole didn’t go through, is this true and how do you think your would have got on?

RH – Yeah it was all sorted we were just waiting for Charlie’s parole and it looked like he might get it. Everyone was excited about it. Unfortunately he got knocked back and it all fell through. I was super confident of knocking out Charlie. He had not fought at the level I had. I had respect for him because he was very strong and could hit but he was biting off more than he could chew against me.

SA – Did you train physically and mentally differently for BKB than you did for Gloved?

RH – You prepare for every fight the same mentally. You can be 100% fit but if you are not mentally prepared you will lose.

SA – As we know back in the day Bare Knuckle was an underground sport, but now it’s being brought to the forefront by companies such as BBAD. How do you feel about the changes?

RH – I think it is great that BKB is going forward as a sport and is starting to get recognised as such. People like Joe Smith-Brown and his promotion company BBAD are putting on some great shows and each one keeps getting better. It won’t be long before its mainstream. What a great time to be a BKB fighter.

SA – What would you consider to be you high point in Bare Knuckle Boxing?

Richy Crazy Horse Horsley

RH – A high point was the two wins over Davo Halse, for the significance of what they meant. He had been at the top for years and was unbeaten. The second and third fights with Bri Suckling were also a high point for me. People who witnessed them said they were the most brutal they had ever seen. I still find it hard to believe none of us 

died in our trilogy.

SA – What would you say your lowest point was?

RH – Losing the first fight to Bri Suckling was a very low point for me. I had to sit back and lick my wounds and heal properly which took a long time. I can’t remember

how long it was, six, nine, 12 months? Each day I was preparing myself mentally for a return fight. I went over the fight in my mind a million times. Once I was prepared mentally, I was ready to fight. If he beat me again I would have shook his hand and told him he was the better man, but I broke my hands on him I hit him that hard he was unconscious and gurgling on blood.

SA – What made you retire from the fight game?

RH – I had been a fighter for 25 years from 1979-2004. A quarter of a century of fighting, now that’s a lot of fist.

Richy NW

I’d had enough and was too old at 40. Father time beats everybody.

SA – How did your book come about ‘Born to Fight’? By the way I must say it’s a cracking read!

RH – About 15 years ago I was contacted by a man from South Wales who said he was writing a book about Street-fighters. He was travelling around the country doing interviews and he said my name kept coming up so he had to get in touch for an interview. After I told him a few things he said I should write my own book because I had a very interesting life story that people would want to read about. The seed had been planted. The man’s name was Julian Davies and we remain friends to this day and when his book came out which was called Street Fighters, I was on the front cover. What a fantastic job he done with that book, it’s a great read for anyone who likes fighting. I had a hernia op and was resting so I decided to put pen to paper and over the months a story started to come together. It was a rough copy but I got it printed just to see what it would look like and called it ‘On The Chin’. Anyway I called in the help of an author of many books called Steve Richards and we worked on the rough copy of ‘On The Chin’ and added new material and he rewrote it and that’s how ‘Born To Fight’ came about.

SA – Now that same as I still do I know that you were a Bouncer back in day, one with pretty fearsome reputation. Do you think that your reputation helped or hindered?

RH – It hindered at first because every man and his dog came to fight, but I didn’t complain. I was a fighter and I loved to fight.

SA – Did you find that people would try and single you out and have pop as they fancied their chances of taking your rep?

RH – Lots people came down with a sole purpose of fighting me trying to take my rep but I done them all.

SA – Did you enjoy working the Doors?

RH – Some great nights and some headaches like everywhere really.

SA – As a Bouncer myself, I know that some bizarre and funny situations present themselves, have you got a funny story to share?

RH – Had a fight with a tanned muscle bound body builder who was staring at me on the door. I flattened him outside and got false tan all over my knuckles. (laughs)

SA - Maybe an odd question to finish with but did you ever drink in the Powlett in Hartlepool? That’s my old bar as featured in my first book ‘The Diaries of a Doorman – A Collection of True Short Stories’.

RH – Think I only ever went in The Powlett once. It got knocked down a few years ago.

SA - And last but not least, what next for Crazy Horse, can we expect another book at anytime?

RH – I am currently working on a book with Michael Blackett about the history of bare knuckle up to the present day. It’s a joint venture. It will be different from all the others as this will be bang up to date with all the fighters of today, with profiles, blow by blow accounts and things like that. It will be a cracker when it’s done. I’m also penning the fighting life of a local bantamweight who was a professional boxer in the 1950s and 60s. This one will be purely boxing. I also work full time. I’m a busy man.

If you enjoyed this interview then I can very highly recommend Richys book ‘Born to Fight’ Click here  to find out more

Born To Fight
Stu Armstrong is a man of many talents. By day he is a Implementation Consultant, by night he guards the door of a nightclub and when he isn't taking time out with his children Ben, Luca and Sol he can be found writing books about his experiences of club doors both here in this country and abroad.  Add to that a book containing poetry and his children's series about a dog called Mr Wag and you have to wonder where he gets the time to be patron and chief fund raiser of anti knife charity "Choose Lives Not Knives" let alone presenter on Radio Northumberland with his show about combat sport where he interviews some of the biggest names from boxing to M.M.A.
Stuart can be found on his website or on his Facebook page also on Twitter.
Visit Stu's Amazon shop for some great reading including    'The Diaries of a Doorman Collection'
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