THE MOST famous boxer Fulham ever produced celebrated his 90th birthday on Saturday, surrounded by 200 family and friends at the British Legion Club in Parson's Green.
Tommy Barnham was the light-weight champion that never was, after Adolf Hitler killed his chances in a world of fewer boxing divisions but considerably more fighters.
Known as 'Seaman' during his 93-fight career, Barnham's ship was torpedoed off the coast of Africa in 1941, and he and a mate were forced to drift in shark-infested waters for three hours, before their new jailers turned up.
When asked what had taken them so long, the Germans admitted they were worried about the sharks - and they were in a boat.
Barnham fought and came close to beating world champion Duilio Loi at Earl's Court in 1951. But he did beat Joe Lucy at the Royal Albert Hall a few months later before Lucy went on to become British champion.
The culmination of Barnham's career came 57 years ago next week, when the Fulham fighter went 10 gruelling rounds with Manchester's Frank Johnson at the same Earl's Court Empress Hall which saw him go close with Loi.
A cut eye forced Barnham to remain on his stool at the end of the 10th, ending his career at a time when any fighter into his fourth decade was considered remarkable.
Johnson died more than 40 years ago. But his tough opponent boxed 627 rounds over 14 years and was lavished with gifts as a golden age of boxing turned up to pay homage.
His brother, Johnny, reckoned Tommy has survived so long thanks to three sacrifices.
He said: "Tommy never smoked; he never drank; and he never swore."