Ambrose Palmer

Ambrose Palmer was born in Footscray, Victoria into a boxing family. His father Bill was a former Victorian lightweight champion who had trained with the legendary heavyweight Peter Jackson, and together they developed “The Method,” a technical style of boxing that Bill then taught to his sons.

Ambrose followed his older brothers into the professional game after losing in the final of the 1927 national amateur title. Ambrose went undefeated in his first year as a pro, earning himself an eliminator against Brisbane’s Norm Johnson. Palmer was ahead on points when he was disqualified for a low blow.

At the end of 1930, Australian middleweight champion Jack Haines was criticised in the press for selecting Palmer as an opponent for a non-title fight. Palmer shocked the 23-year-old champion, outpointing Haines in a major upset which earned him a shot at the Australian middleweight title.

Haines built up an early lead but had to settle for a draw after Palmer rallied in the championship rounds. The two men fought their third 15-rounder in just 12 weeks on December 27. Palmer once again rallied, knocking Haines out in the 12th round and became the new star of Australian boxing. Haines spent a month in hospital after the bout recovering from a cerebral haemorrhage.

Palmer lost the title on another low blow to Bob Thornton but reclaimed it before losing once again on a low blow to Fred Henneberry after outpointing him in a thrilling encounter six months prior. He outgrew the middleweight division, moving up to heavyweight for a major money fight with top contender Young Stribling. Stribling toyed with Palmer, badly damaging his left eye and knocking him out in ten rounds. Palmer made just under a year’s salary for the fight.

The Victorian dominated the light heavyweight and heavyweight divisions in Australia in the 1930s, never losing to another Australian boxer. He stopped Fred Henneberry in their third bout and beat Ron Richards four times. He also split fights with Dave Shade (losing again by low blow) and defeated American puncher Deacon Leo Kelly. Kelly stopped Palmer in their rematch, derailing a major money fight with Maxie Rosenbloom, and Palmer retired due to further damage to his left eye. He later returned to the ring, stopping Kelly in a rubber match before retiring again following a points loss to Gus Lesnevich.

After boxing, Palmer played Australian Rules Football for Footscray before a broken jaw forced his retirement. He trained fighters in Melbourne throughout the 1940s, 50s, 60s and 70s, teaching “The Method” to a new generation of Australian boxers. His crowning accomplishment as a trainer was when Johnny Famechon won the world featherweight title in 1969. Palmer died in 1990, aged 79.

Billy Grime

“The Wombat Walloper”

Billy Grime was born in 1902 in the small village of Wombat near the town of Young, New South Wales. Grime started boxing in tent shows in Young until he moved to Sydney in 1920 and turned professional. Winning as many as he lost during his days as a preliminary fighter, Grime entered and won the NSW state championship tournament in 1921, winning four fights over 20 rounds in the space of ten weeks to claim the title.

Grime graduated to a main event fighter in 1922, headlining shows in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, but with mixed results. In 1923 he won the Australian featherweight title when he outpointed Bert Spargo. In 1924 he won and lost the Australian lightweight title in bouts with Hughie Dwyer, before regaining the title with an 18th round knockout over Ben Martin.

Grime defeated many international opponents in 1925 and 1926, regularly headlining shows across the east coast of Australia and earning himself a world ranking at junior lightweight, a class that wasn’t recognised in Australia at the time. On New Year’s Day in 1927, Grime added the Australian welterweight title to his collection when he knocked out Eddie Butcher in the fourth round with a body shot. The win clearly established Grime as the biggest boxing star in Australia.

Against the persuasion of his friends and promoters, Grime travelled to America later that year. He claimed he was doped by his manager in one of his fights, and that he was paid to take a dive in other bouts. He returned to Australia in 1929, having lost more than he won, but he was a shell of his former self. He lost a disappointing fight with former flyweight world champion Fidel La Barba in front of 9,000 fans in Melbourne. His last great win was over Petey Sarron in 1929, but he lost four times to the future featherweight champion in subsequent fights.

Investments in an Athletic Club and a brand of boxing boots failed, and Grime was forced to continue fighting into the 1930s. He finished his career as it started; fighting in the tents of agricultural shows and display his three championship belts as an attraction. He worked odd jobs in his later life before dying of heart disease in 1949.