This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007
James William (Jimmy) Carruthers (1929-1990), boxer, was born on 5 July 1929 at Paddington, Sydney, fifth of eight children of English parents John William Carruthers, labourer, and his wife Agnes Jane, née Allison. Jimmy attended Glenmore Road Public School, Paddington. His natural talent for boxing was recognised and encouraged at the Woolloomooloo Rotary-Police Boys’ Club. He won the Australian amateur bantamweight title in 1947 and was included in the Australian team for the 1948 Olympic Games in London. After winning his first two bouts he was forced to withdraw because of a gashed eyebrow, a recurring injury that plagued him throughout his career.
As a wharf labourer and member of the Waterside Workers’ Federation of Australia, Carruthers spoke out in favour of unionism and world peace in the 1950s, thereby earning himself an Australian Security Intelligence Organization file. Fellow `wharfies’ and officials supported his boxing career by arranging time off for him to train when he prepared for a major fight. He married his childhood sweetheart, Myra Louise Hamilton, a machinist, on 10 February 1951 at All Saints’ Church of England, Woollahra.
After Carruthers had turned professional in 1950, his manager Dr John McGirr and trainer Bill McConnell shrewdly planned his professional campaign. In 1951, in his ninth professional fight, he won the Australian bantamweight title against Elley Bennett. In his fifteenth fight, in November 1952, he contested the world bantamweight title with Vic Toweel in Johannesburg, knocking him out after 2 minutes and 19 seconds.
Carruthers defended his title four months later, knocking out Toweel in ten rounds. He then defeated the American Henry `Pappy’ Gault in November 1953 despite slashed eyebrows and a tapeworm, which was discovered later. The bout, promoted by the Federation of New South Wales Police-Citizens Boys’ Clubs, drew an Australian record boxing crowd of 32,500 at the Sydney Sports Ground. While some of the takings went to charity, Carruthers received £8625, the largest purse earned by an Australian boxer to that time. He successfully defended his title a third time, defeating Chamrern Songkitrat in Bangkok, in a ring soaked by torrential rain.
A southpaw, Carruthers was tall (168 cm) for a bantamweight with a long reach and broad shoulders. The boxing commentator Ray Connelly noted that his `incomparable speed of hands and feet, exceptional balance, movement and anticipation’ enabled him to demoralise opponents. The press saw Carruthers as a `true sporting son of Sydney’: there were stories of his waiting outside pubs while his wharfie friends drank inside and he was a star graduate of the police boys’ clubs. His success enabled him to challenge the authority of Stadiums Ltd, the firm that dominated boxing in this period, and gain a greater percentage of takings.
When Carruthers retired on 16 May 1954, he was only 24 and at his peak physically and financially. He achieved the remarkable feat of retiring with a perfect record of nineteen wins in nineteen bouts. In four years of professional boxing he had grossed an estimated £64,500, enabling him to purchase homes for his family and his parents. He also bought the Bells Hotel at Woolloomooloo, close to where he had worked as a wharfie. In 1961, having sold his hotel, Carruthers made a comeback to boxing primarily to earn money: he had always regarded it as a business. He trained with the athletics coach Percy Cerutty in the Portsea sandhills but lost four of his six bouts. For many years Carruthers officiated as a referee.
In the 1960s and 1970s he and his wife ran a fruit shop and milk bar at Avalon and a juice bar in the city. In later life Carruthers became a regular churchgoer and was baptised into the Churches of Christ. He died of cancer on 15 August 1990 at his home at Narrabeen. Survived by his wife and their two sons and two daughters, he was cremated. His portrait, painted by John Curtis, was presented to the State police commissioner, Colin Delaney, in recognition of Carruthers’s early association with the police-citizens boys’ clubs.
Richard I. Cashman, 'Carruthers, James William (Jimmy) (1929–1990)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/carruthers-james-william-jimmy-12294/text22077, accessed 20 June 2013.
This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007