Colin Bell - Lack Of Fighting Instinct Proved Colin Bell’s Downfall

Name Colin Bell Place Of Birth Narrabri NSWDate Of Birth October 6, 1883Date Deceased Manly 1948Height 6 ftWeight 13 st 7 lbDivisions HeavyweightTitles Australian Heavyweight

Stadium Span 1911 -1923Career Span 1909-1923
Fights At The Stadium
Jack Howard lpts 20 18 Mar 1911
Dave Smith koby 14 10 Jun 1916
Les O'Donnell wf 6 09 Dec 1916
Tim Tracey ko 3 03 Mar 1917
Albert Lloyd koby 2 24 Mar 1917
Gordon Coghill ko 5 09 Aug 1921
Jim Roland Dwyer koby 13 24 Feb 1923

Random Jottings

• First Fight May 6, 1909 (Sam Hillings)
• Last Fight February 24, 1923, Jim Dwyer
• Lacked ambition and killer instinct. In his last fight against James Roland Dwyer, he lost against a much poorer boxer.


Heavyweight Who Should Have Been a Champion, but Wasn’t.
Lack Of Fighting Instinct Proved Colin Bell’s Downfall

(By Jack Gell)

A BOXER without heart is about as capable as a one armed painter with the itch.
The will to win, with which is incorporated the refusal to acknowledge defeat at all times, is so much a necessity for the ringman that he is doomed to defeat and general failure without it. There is s no half measure. Possessed of the fighting “heart” or “devil,” or whatever you care to call it, there is always the possibility of triumphing lack of skill or condition. But all the attributes in the world will avail nothing unless they are backed up with that very real quality which spurs a man to victory and compels him to go down fighting.

Australian heavyweight Colin Bell was a man without this brand of “heart.” Not that he was in any sense a coward - the term must not be taken as implying the possession of a “yellow streak,” - but he did not possess the fighting instinct that is so well defined in the average boxer. Although endowed well above the average, both physically and mentally, he was pre-destined never to make a great success in the ring.

The “find” of a Moree squatter who had the rough edges knocked off him and was
developed by Larry Foley, Bell threatened many anxious moments for the heavyweight world. In the gymnasium he was the personification of everything a heavyweight champion should be. He was skillful above the average…..was as fast on his feet as the fastest lightweight, stood well over 6 foot in his socks, and was built in proportion. Superficially, a fighter every inch of him, but he possessed that hopeless minus quantity, lack of “devil,” which made all the difference between a ring fighter and a gymnasium gloveman.

And so, while capable of doing everything that was asked of him in exhibition bouts, he could not take into the ring with him the very asset so necessary for success.

Bell had an indifferent career as a boxer. He placed some good wins to his credit, but other fights he should have won were snatched from him in his hour of victory by men, who had they acknowledged defeat instead of fighting on in the hope that the tide may turn in their favor, would have gone under to him. That was Bell all over. There was a sort of faint heartedness or soft heartedness about him that caused him to hesitate when he should have gone in to finish his man, a shortage of combativeness more in keeping with the kindergarten than the boxing ring.
Still Bell could not help it. He was a sort of boxing misfit, a skilled Hercules who because of his one great failing, was a boxing pigmy. He did his best to overcome his weakness, but Nature remained paramount and he never did the great things that, with his wonderful strength and skill, should have been an easy accomplishment.

Take the fight he had with Dave Smith at the Sydney Stadium on June 10, 1916, as an instance. It was typical of other battles which the Moree giant participated in with, if anything, this difference - that he demonstrated his incapacity to become a great fighter in a greater measure than usual. For that night he had victory within his grasp four or five times and was not equal to effecting the “killing” that should have been easy for him.

Bell had just returned from a trip to England and America where he had fought, among others Bombardier Wells (the English false alarm) * and Joe Jeanette (the colored heavyweight who for many years was the idol of Paris), without adding to his laurels. He looked a veritable giant alongside Smith, who although heavyweight champion of Australia, was little better than a middleweight. As a matter of fact he weighed 13 stone 11 ¾ pounds as against hi opponents 11st 9lb, a difference of over two stones.

But this tremendous advantage did not worry Smith, who had the fighting instinct well developed, and besides was a firm believer in the familiar and popular boxing axiom that the bigger they are the harder they fall. And so instead of Bell being the aggressor and endeavoring to overwhelm his man with his strength, it was Smith who took up the attack from the moment they were called together. David and Goliath in a modern setting.

The enormous strength which Bell possessed, with the added advantages of skill with his hands and cleverness on his feet, should have counseled the big fellow to carry the war into the enemy camp, but the absence of “devil” that prompted caution proved his undoing. Smith, realizing that his strength would not prove equal to the task if he remained on the defensive and allowed Bell to wear him down, punished his man at every opportunity and set a pace that might have caused his own downfall had he not been in superb condition.

The fact was, that Smith knew of Bell’s weakness and, like a good general, capitalized it at every stage of the contest. Ducking and side-stepping and dodging he leaped in and out at the mountain of muscle in front of him and so punished him about the head with lefts and rights that after a few rounds Bell was tottering. But only momentarily. He pulled himself together well and then did what he should have done from the start - opened out. For a round or two he fought as if he really meant it. Smith was hard put to it to defend himself and in the sixth session was in such a bad way that had Bell taken proper advantage of the opportunity he would probably have with a knock-out.

But he did not. He procrastinated. He just could not assert that once of “devil” that constituted the difference victory and defeat with the result that Smith was given the “breather” that enabled him to gather his scattered senses. And having done that and possessing the very thing that Bell was deficient in, he made attack his defense and in a few moments was dominating the fighting again.

With all this, it must not be imagined that Bell was fighting badly. Far from it…
neglecting to follow up his advantages and consequently was being forced to play a minor role when he should have won his way to victory.

Again a few rounds later he caught Smith with a terrific left over the right eye, splitting it badly and causing the blood to flow freely. A second later he hooked a powerful left to the jaw and again Smith was flying distress signals. But did Bell go in to finish his man? He did not. And so Smith, maintaining a relentless attack, continued on until, by the time the tenth round was reached, Bell was obviously done.

For a while the big fellow tried to bluff that all was well, but Smith refused to believe him and continued to pepper him with rights and lefts. And then Bell got another chance. A heavy right to the jaw had Smith in a bad way, but instead of crowding in and administering the finishing punch as he had plenty of opportunities to do, he allowed the damaged warrior freedom from trouble until such time as his head had cleared and then had to take what was coming to him - which was not altogether pleasant.

By the time the fourteenth round was reached Bell was badly used up. Smith had gradually worn him down until he was comparatively easy for the smaller man to handle. And so Smith, who was showing signs of wear and tear, concluded that the best thing to do would be to get the business over. With right and left he pasted Bell unmercifully and drove him staggering, back on to the ropes. As Bell rebounded Smith’s right flashed through the air on to the opposing jaw and Bell crashed to the floor helpless. The finishing punch was not a particularly hard one, but it was all that was necessary to terminate the big fellow’s interest in the proceedings.

If ever a boxer should have won a fight it was Bell that night. But, although Nature had endowed him handsomely, the most essential ingredient for the development of a successful fighter had been overlooked. And because of the lack of “devil” there was invariably the devil to pay - for Bell - whenever he entered the ring.

* Wells was also famous for being the third person to fill the role of the "gongman" - the figure seen striking the gong in the introduction to J. Arthur Rank films.

The Following Notes Are Taken From An Article in “The Sydney Sun”
by W.F. Corbett, dated August 26, 1944.

• “Colin Bell, with the chest of a locomotive boiler, a neck the girth of an Atlantic Funnel.

• “Hero of fights untold, follower of a dozen callings, he is caretaker of the Australian Railway Union’s building downtown. Colin Bell, as massive as the concrete block he looks after. Hands as huge as a steam grab, a hand that could pulp your bones, Colin has tossed a glove with men who stand out in big type in the record books. Men like, Jack Johnson , Bill Lang, Sam Langford, Sam McVea, Dave Smith, King Levinsky.

• Of Johnson he says “I was with him in America for three months as his sparring partner. He was the best. Never in that time did I see him off balance. I believed I was a good boxer, but he could do just what he liked with me.”

• Explaining the rumor that Johnson was afraid to fight Langford, Johnson told him, “Well Colin, I can get £6000 to fight white men who are easier to beat than Langford. The promoters would offer me only £1800 to fight Langford. If I were offered £6000 to fight Langford, I would.

• Bell was made as hard as a cliff face by a life of vigorous variety before he became a boxer. The strength of his hands was acquired from the old blade method of shearing. He has been a bullock driver, sheep drover, tank sinker, tin miner, done miles of fencing in tough country, took a turn at saw milling and also a taxi driver.

• One of the strange things about Colin Bell throughout his career was the mercy he showed on his opponents. It used to be said that if he had the killer instinct, he would have beaten all the heavyweights of his time. Bell confirms this, “When I could knock an opponent out with one punch that was all right, but after staggering a man, I could not go in for the kill. I just couldn’t do it, that’s all there is to it.”

• In 1944 he was 61, 18 stone. His top fighting weight was fourteen stone 10 pounds when he beat George Cook. In the ring he had the pace of a featherweight.

• For three years he hunted buffalo in the Northern Territory. He rode in wild west shows. Is gentle, courteous, but has a rollicking robustness that would have gone pretty well in a medieval banquet hall.

Copyright Mike Hitchen, Lane Cove, NSW, Australia. All rights reserved