Bare-knuckle fighter Roy “Pretty Boy” Shaw has passed on. He was one crazy motherfucker.
The bare-knuckle fighter and armed robber Roy “Pretty Boy” Shaw, who has died aged 76, once gloried in the title of the “hardest man in Britain”. The opening line of his 1999 autobiography, Pretty Boy, encapsulates the way that he presented himself to the world: “I am a ruthless bastard.” Born in Stepney, east London, three years before the outbreak of the second world war, Shaw was bullied as a boy and, after his father’s death when Shaw was 10, finally reacted to being harassed by lashing out violently. In 1963, he was a member of a gang that robbed a security van in Kent, for which he was arrested a few weeks later and jailed for 18 years.
He was returned to prison and spent the remainder of his sentences in a variety of jails where he channelled his energy into working out with weights. After his eventual release, he was encouraged to try his hand at bare-knuckle fighting and it was through unlicensed contests, with and without gloves, that he established his reputation. What was billed as the “fight of the century” and “a fight to the death” between him and the Gypsy boxer Donny “The Bull” Adams, in 1975, was halted by the police on the grounds that such contests were illegal. It attracted enormous publicity at the time and so great was the amount of money riding on it that they agreed to wear gloves and fight. Shaw won and went on to take on his great rival, Lenny “The Guv’nor” McLean, whom he beat. He lost the re-match and a third unlicensed fight with McLean, although the two men continued to differ as to how many times they had actually fought.
After giving up his fighting career, Shaw went into the property business. A second volume of memoirs, Roy Shaw Unleashed, also ghostwritten by Kate Kray, was published in 2003 and footage of his fights found a new audience on YouTube. There are some elements of regret in his memoirs. “It’s not big and it’s not clever to go to prison,” he concluded.
Yeah, scary dude.