Obituary: Edmund ‘Eddie’ Phillips, ex-boxer, 84

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BOXER Edmund “Eddie” Phillips, who has died at the age of 84, was a well-known amateur and pro welterweight boxer who was raised in Edinburgh.

Phillips was regarded as world middleweight champion Randolph Turpin’s favourite sparring partner and, during his youth, sparred regularly with Sean Connery.

Phillips was the son of a Nigerian doctor who had settled in the Capital.

Boxing began for him when he joined the Sea Cadets during the Second World War. It was there he met a young man called Tommy Connery, who claimed to be from Fountainbridge.

Tommy became famous as Sean Connery, and Phillips often said that 007 could have made it as a fighter if he hadn’t gone down the path of acting.

“I sparred loads of rounds with Connery,” he said, “He was fast, skilled and tough. He could have gone all the way in boxing if he had chosen to.”

After his time in the Sea Cadets, Phillips returned home to Edinburgh to continue boxing. He joined the Sparta Amateur Boxing Club, his first step towards making a career from his hobby. During 1946-50, he won a clutch of titles at the club, helped by trainers such as Bobby Horne, Joe Fortune and others.

After his early spell of success, Phillips was forced to relocate to Nuneaton, Warwickshire, to follow his father. The decision to move with his father was a crucial one, as Turpin was to reside in neighbouring Leamington Spa. The English boxer’s manager, George Middleton, invited Phillips to become one of Turpin’s main sparring partners. It was to be a decision Turpin would be glad of in years to come.

In the lead-up to Turpin’s fight against Sugar Ray Robinson, Phillips would imitate Robinson’s style, and this would prove crucial as Turpin went on to defeat the American fighter.

Phillips was to return to the US briefly with Turpin as the Englishman was contractually obliged to a rematch with Robinson.

It was this fortuitous turn of events which also led to Phillips befriending Robinson, who later introduced him to his own ring idol, former world heavyweight champion Joe Louis.

Following that, Phillips returned home to resume his own professional career, winning 24 of 54 paid bouts with eight draws. By 1957, he decided to hang up his gloves to focus on other matters. He began a chimney sweeping business before taking up a job as a doorman which he carried out at various Edinburgh venues until he was 65.

He then became a popular school lollipop man in the town of Macmerry, his adopted East Lothian home. His soft voice and well-mannered nature were an instant hit with children and parents alike.

After divorcing his first wife, Phillips married Eileen in 1986. He is survived by her and his four children and grandchildren.