London’s Loveable Villain by Andy Scott

April 29, 2021

A biography of wrestler Chick ‘Cocky’ Knight by his great-nephew, this is a life worth exploring but reads more as a set of facts than a story.

Knight had quite the life, not only wrestling on-and-off for more than 25 years either side of the war (including a televised BBC match in 1938) but also boxing professionally and working as a bouncer across London. He also saved three people from drowning in two separate incidents including diving from Hammersmith Bridge.

It’s clear an autobiography by Knight would have been a compelling tale, but sixty years after his death, this account is naturally based on both family members and archive research. Unfortunately it falls into the common trap of seemingly including every morsel from that research and feeling like an information dump.

It’s also very loose in how relevant the information is to Knight’s life, the most extreme example being a section which notes that Knight’s father worked as a taxi driver during the time of a driver’s strike, a meeting for which took place at Earl’s Court shortly before a Jack Johnson boxing match. While there’s no mention of Knight’s father being at the meeting, and Johnson had no connection to it (other than the ring already being partially set up and used as a speaking platform), we still get a couple of paragraphs on his career including his payoff for a notable fight.

Despite the inclusion of such material, the biography section of the book only runs to 80 pages. The remaining two-thirds is a listing of all known matches in Knight’s wrestling career plus any interesting detail from promotional posters and newspaper reports.

This is a mixed bag as the parts which are simply listings don’t make for a compelling read, but the additional information adds a lot of colour and puts his career in context. As well as demonstrating the popularity of the business in this pre-Joint Promotions era, the schedule also shows how older grapplers such as Knight continued working shows throughout the entirety of the second world war. It’s also striking that seemingly most of his matches ended in one or both grapplers disqualified or knocked out and reports of Knight fighting a referee or promoter are far from rare!

All in all, it’s tough to criticise this for falling short of what would have been possible if we had Knight’s own memories and perspective, but it’s also tough to recommend it to anyone looking for an in-depth story on any particular aspect of his life.


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