British boxer Maurice Hope’s gripping autobiography is a world-class read

Norman Giller, octogenarian former Daily Express football writer and author of more than 100 sports books, returns to his old SJA hunting ground to run his experienced eye over Land of Hope and Glory…


In a previous life, I earned my daily bread as a publicist in the biff-bang world of boxing and among my favourite fighters was an Antigua-born, Hackney-raised Black southpaw called Maurice Hope.

He represented the Windrush Generation and became the first British immigrant to win a world championship.

It’s sad that I have to stress that he was Black, but when I first fell in love with boxing back in the bad old days, there was a colour bar. Black Lives did not matter. It was 1948 before Dick Turpin was the first Black man allowed to challenge for the British title, and there was still a lot of bigotry about when Maurice started to make his presence powerfully felt in the boxing world.

There is an undercurrent of the Black struggle in Maurice’s riveting autobiography Land of Hope and Glory (Pitch Publishing), that has been lovingly and conscientiously woven by ghostwriter Ron Shillingford, former sports editor of the Cayman Compass in the Cayman Islands and now an entrepreneurial freelance.

One of the most poignant chapters of an absorbing book is when Maurice described how his boxing success enabled him to move from London’s ghetto to the sunny side of the street in Winchmore Hill… where he was frozen out by neighbours who considered his very presence was knocking value off their property.

I first set eyes on Maurice when he was starting out on the amateur circuit under the expert eye of Repton trainer Tony Burns, who at the time was also preparing a young English international light-heavyweight called Ray Winstone for ring glory.

We became mates when he joined the professional stable run at the Royal Oak gym in Canning Town by my closest pal Terry Lawless. In my role as headline-hunting PR, I popularised the ‘Let’s Go Mo’ battle cry that Maurice took to war with him as he battled his way to the world light-middleweight title.

In Land of Hope and Glory, Maurice tells the gripping tale of his ups and downs in the ring, and his reggae-to-riches story reveals how his have-gloves-will-travel attitude made him a bigger name on the world stage than in the UK.

He gives a harrowing account of how a secret eye injury changed his life; and there are run-ins with the Mafia, and the part he played in Frank Bruno’s decision to join the Lawless stable when he was the most in-demand fighter in the land.

The book has a pleasing pace that means you feel you are in the ring with Maurice, which is even absorbing when taking a beating from the legendary Wilfred Benitez.

The last time I saw Maurice was when I gave the eulogy for dear Terry Lawless, and – along with the beautiful Pat – he looked a million dollars. In company with Viv ‘Master Blaster’ Richards, Curtly Ambrose and Andy Roberts, he reigns as King of his beloved Antigua.

Let’s Go, Mo.

‘Land of Hope & Glory: The Windrush Kid Who Conquered the World’ by Maurice Hope with Ron Shillingford is out now from Pitch Publishing.

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