Saturday, March 26, 2011

Death of the father-in-law of the Marquess of Milford Haven

Former boxer George Walker has died of a heart attack aged 82 in the South of France

From East-End gangster to millionaire wheeler-dealer who married his daughter to a Marquess, his was a classic rags-to-riches story.

Former boxer George Walker, who has died of a heart attack aged 82 in the South of France, certainly left his mark on the British scene.

He will be forever remembered as the man who invented the shopping centre — he gave birth to the pioneering but brutally ugly Brent Cross in North London, the first of the great shopping complexes which have defined life since the Eighties.

He masterminded his talented boxing brother, Billy Walker, who challenged Henry Cooper unsuccessfully for the British heavyweight title.

He also kick-started Joan Collins's once-ailing career when he helped finance The Stud, the film in which a near-naked, 40-something Joan caused a sensation by besporting herself on a garlanded swing in close proximity to the manly Oliver Tobias.

Such entrepreneurial success was a far cry from George's humble beginnings. Born in Stepney, the son of a £2-a-week drayman, Walker left school at 14 to work as a porter at Billingsgate fish market.

Then, while doing National Service in the RAF, he became interested in boxing: he got out of square-bashing in full kit and heavy rifle by volunteering for the boxing squad.

George took up the noble art as a light heavyweight, becoming known as the Stepney Steamroller and winning the British Amateur Boxing Championship. At one point, he was ranked No7 in the world, but an injury in the mid-Fifties put an end to his fighting days.

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