CLIVE MYERS (IRON-FIST) – A PERMANENT PRESENCE

Reviewed by Clayton Goodwin

Those were the days, my friend – we thought they’d never end.

Cast your mind back to the 1970s, even the early-1980s if you like. There was always wrestling on the television, and tens of thousands packed public halls and venues throughout the land to see the grappling. Dale Martin / Joint Promotions were the promoters. Mick McManus, Johnny Kwango, Jackie Pallo were among the many star names. There were heroes and villains, excitement and a feeling that it would never end. Is there anybody who was alive then who can ever forget Saturday afternoons eating toast and drinking tea while watching “wrestling on the telly”. As it happened I didn’t particularly like the sport, but the spectacle was so compelling that it could not be ignored.

There was also Clive Myers (Iron-fist). He was a young man of Jamaican heritage from South London, wore the Jamaican colours into the ring, was always the “goody” who wrestled fairly, comparatively short among the behemoths, and was everybody’s hero. In those years I organised a write-in Sportsman of the Year contest for the UK Weekly Gleaner newspaper. Myers won it every time, bar one. This was the age of the great West Indies cricket team of Clive Lloyd, Viv Richards, Malcolm Marshall, Michael Holding etc etc, world-renowned West Indian heritage athletes and boxers, and stars of table-tennis, football and both Rugby football codes. No wonder one fellow-journalist, knowing that Clive was a personal friend, was incandescent with rage and accused me of “fixing” the result.

The contest was genuine – and there were the letters to prove it. It was just that televised wrestling was so very, very popular. It was watched week in and week out by many more people than ever attended major sports events. Those isolated in the countryside or anonymous in the cities, grannies and grand-dads, the reticent and the reserved, all invited Clive Myers into their living-rooms through the medium of the television screen. He was a permanent, personal presence. And he had a knack of “getting himself across” to the public in a modest manner. Before making his living from the ring Myers was a photographer, many of whose pictures were published in the West Indian press (and beyond).

One memory in particular sticks in my mind. Clive arranged for me to interview him at the Royal Albert Hall in the afternoon before the wrestling got under way. When I arrived, there was nobody around except the stewards and Myers, who was in the ring was testing the ropes. He asked me to join him. Have you ever tried to clamber into a fight-ring without the help of a stool? It is very high, difficult and most undignified. The presence of the venue, then empty, was over-powering. What must it have been like with thousands of cheering/jeering fans? I found it daunting enough when Iron-fist came out from one corner towards me. His intention was to shake my hand in welcome – if he had had a more serious, professional, purpose I would have thrown myself through the ropes in terror.

Then it all ended. Televised wrestling ceased suddenly, and, deprived of the life-impulse, the hundreds of local shows across the country collapsed. Clive Myers went on to a further career, for which he is remembered even more fondly. He became the pioneer and “god-father” of arm-wrestling – first on television’s Indoor League hosted by former cricketer Freddie Trueman and then through his own promotions conducted with inimitable crusading zeal. Myers’ campaign on behalf of an activity in which everybody could participate – whatever their age, gender, skill, social background, physical (dis-ability) – achieved its ultimate recognition when he brought the World Arm-Wrestling Championship here to the Black Lion sports centre in Gillingham, Kent, in 1987. Then the music stopped. Clive was converted to Jehovah’s Witness and threw himself into promoting his new faith with the same vigour as he showed for his sport. (As he reminds us – wrestling is the only sport mentioned in the Bible).

Clive Myers returned to live in Jamaica a good few years ago. He is enjoying the sun, the sand and sea on the island’s north coast away from the centres of tourism. Nor, is Iron-fist forgotten. He has returned from time to time to receive awards – though he told me that his last visit would indeed be his last – and his name is mentioned enthusiastically and frequently in the social media of wrestling nostalgia. For that generation he will remain always the man who played by the rules and took on the over-sized ogres.

Those were indeed the days, my friend, we thought they’d never end …. And, in a way, they never will.

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