Chick ‘Cocky’ Knight aka Arthur Richard George Knight was born on the 17th February 1903 and passed away on 15th June 1967.
Born in Hammersmith, West London, Chick, as he became known, was one of the first British Wrestler’s to be featured on BBCTV in 1938, fighting Canadian Earl McCready at Earls Court.
He fought all over the world, from his first contests in 1932, through to 1958, with many different variations of his name being used, such as Cocky, Chick or Chic, and was known as London’s Loveable Villain due to his marmite like relationship with the crowd, which could result and often did, in either disqualification, or opponents and on occasion referees getting thrown out of the ring! Needless to say, Chick was still a leading heavyweight of some prowess, fighting all the great of his era, including many bouts with old foe Bert Assirati, George Clark, Farmers Boy, Legs Langevin, Joe Cornelius, Dara Singh and many others.
He fought and was highly acclaimed in India, lived in Singapore for a time whilst competing, where he was known as ‘Singapore’s Loveable Villain’, and competed under the name, Sergei Orloff, or ‘the Russian Bear’. Chick’s fight posters in Britain proclaimed him often as ‘Killer Cockney’ or ‘Hardest and toughest fighter to ever enter the ring’, yet outside of it his family and friends knew him to be as gentle as a lamb.
He shared a live of fine cigars and boxing with none other than Britain’s last hangman, executioner, Albert Pierrepoint, and when either was in their respective towns, the two would meet up, with Chick when fighting in Manchester, staying at Albert’s Oldham-based public house.
Chick was also unique in the fact that he was a triple lifesaver, saving a fellow soldier from drowning in Catalan Bay, Gibraltar in 1924, and then later in 1930 2 people from drowning in the Thames at Hammersmith. As a result he was awarded Royal Humane Society certificates for both heroic feats. In 2020 Chick was up for a posthumous Mayor of Gibraltar’s lifesaving award as a result of media coverage last year, and an on-going campaign is attempting to get a plaque on Hammersmith Bridge to acknowledge the later rescue.
Chick was also on the few wrestlers and certainly one of the first to compete against a Boxer, none other than former British Empire Heavyweight Champion Bombardier Billy Wells, in a televised exhibition ‘comeback’ match at Earls Court in 1938. Although Chick lost through disqualification, his claim that his punch which was declared low, did enough to put down and wind Wells, to which Chick would proclaim was enough to declare him the official winner!
His colourful life included a spell in the 1st Battalion Suffolk Regiment from 1918 through to the late 1920’s, where he rose through the ranks, seemingly to Sergeant Major, and was regimental champion in Fencing, Boxing and Wrestling. His army career included serving in India, Singapore, Malaya and Gibraltar, and included him attaining the India General Service Medal.
Upon leaving the services in 1927 he turned amateur Boxer, and was successful in winning the Police ‘H’ Division Championship and the London Business House Championship, and he would later return to adorn the gloves again for a year when he turned professional heavyweight in 1935-1936. He fought seven times, winning four, and his last saw him defeated due to injury against former British Heavyweight Champion Reggie Meen, who was knocked down in the fight twice by Chick.
Chick’s celebrity friendships continued throughout his career, and saw him appear in a number of George Formby and Flanagan & Allen films, as well as appearances as a film stuntman on occasions.
Chick married his wife Lilian in 1928, and had two children, daughter Iris and a son Ronnie, who would also follow Chick for a short time into the wrestling game.
Upon finishing in the ring, in 1959 Chick served as a lifeguard at Acton Swimming Baths, a doorman at the cinema, before taking up the door work full-time as a noted bouncer of some repute at London’s Lyceum and several leading Soho & West End nightclubs. This would lead Chick into further security work at Kensington Palace, then home of Princess Margaret.
He would often be seen around his home area of Barnes travelling to and from his various workplaces or public houses on his Bella 200 scooter, a strange sight with his 19-20 stone frame aboard the small scooter!
Chick died at his home in Barnes in June 1967, and is buried together with his wife Lilian in Richmond & East Sheen cemetery.
Although never acclaimed, for whatever reason, as one of the great heavyweight competitors of his era, Chick fought and won several major contests, and battled and won on numerous occasions against some of the great names.
Chick has rightly earned his place, finally, in the Legends Hall of Fame and was inducted in August 2020.
A book about Chick’s colourful life, ‘London’s Loveable Villain’, will be out later in 2020.
(our thanks go to Chicks great nephew and author of the upcoming book, Andy Scott, for the above)