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Godfrey, Sidney George (Sid) (1897–1965)

by G. P. Walsh

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

Sidney George Godfrey (1897-1965), by unknown photographer

Sidney George Godfrey (1897-1965), by unknown photographer

State Library of New South Wales, Home and Away - 19695

Sidney George (Sid) Godfrey (1897-1965), boxer, was born on 20 August 1897 at Raglan near Bathurst, New South Wales, sixth child of Joseph Godfrey, farmer, and his wife Lillian, née Jones. He began boxing at 12 in a barn on his father's farm and at 14 went to Sydney where he worked for a blacksmith at Auburn for 5s. a week. He did well in amateur bouts and greatly improved after taking lessons at Redfern from Jim Barron, a former heavyweight. After some notable amateur successes, he attracted the attention of 'Snowy' Baker, who in 1916 arranged twelve professional fights, six of which he won by quick knockouts. In 1917 he won the Australian featherweight title from Vince Buckley and next year sixteen fights out of eighteen; he was dubbed the 'K.O. King' and was one of boxing's greatest drawcards.

In the Philippines in 1919 Godfrey drew with Francesco Flores over fifteen rounds and in a second bout was knocked out in the first round by Cabanello Dencio. Back in Australia in 1920 he lost his featherweight title on points to Jackie Green, but defeated such first-class fighters as Englishman Joe Symonds and Belgian Arthur Wyns, European featherweight champion.

By 1921 Godfrey was in the lightweight division and was trained by Arthur Hennessy. He reduced his weight to 9 st. (57 kg) to fight Frenchman Eugène Criqui, later world featherweight champion, for a purse of £800: on 21 February before a crowd of 15,000 (with thousands turned away), on one of the wildest nights ever seen at Sydney Stadium, Godfrey made the weight at the ringside and fought well until his drastic dieting reduction took its toll and he was knocked out in the tenth round. Criqui refused a challenge to fight him at 9 st. 5 lbs. (59 kg). In Brisbane on 10 August Godfrey lost on points to Archie Bradley, 'the Gympie Tiger', in a bout according to the perplexed Godfrey fought on 'the Marquis of Queensland Rules'. Later that year he knocked out the Filipino Dencio in Sydney. In 1921 he won the Australian lightweight title from Hop Harry Stone; Godfrey's challengers included Stone and Bert Spargo; but he lost it to Hughie Dwyer in 1922. He retired in 1924; making a come-back next year, he lost a bout for the welterweight title.

A deadly puncher with a trip-hammer right as his speciality, Godfrey, with his aggressive ringcraft, delighted the crowds and earned £20,000 prize money. Out of 109 professional fights he won 79 (41 by knockout) and drew 12. On retiring he managed some hotels and became the well-liked and genial host at the Horse and Jockey, Homebush. He retired from business in 1957 and lived at Bronte. He died of heart disease in the Mater Hospital, North Sydney, on 22 February 1965 and was cremated with Anglican rites. He was survived by his wife Eva Margaret, née Pettingell, whom he had married at the Methodist parsonage, Auburn, on 13 March 1917, and by their two sons and five daughters. His estate was sworn for probate at £66,630.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Blanch (ed), Australian Sporting Records (Melb, 1981)
  • Parade, Nov 1973
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 6 Feb 1949, 27 Apr 1950, 21 July 1957
  • Truth (Melbourne), 7 Dec 1952
  • Daily Examiner (Grafton), 23 Feb 1965
  • Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 23 Feb 1965
  • Sun (Sydney), 24 Mar 1975, 14 May 1980.

Citation details

G. P. Walsh, 'Godfrey, Sidney George (Sid) (1897–1965)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/godfrey-sidney-george-sid-6412/text10963, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 22 October 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

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