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Layton, Reginald Joseph (Reg) (1920–1993)

by Grantlee Kieza

This article was published online in 2017

Reginald Joseph Layton (1920–1993), boxer, boxing trainer and promoter, and motorcar dealer, was born on 28 November 1920 at Kelmscott, Perth, third of four children of Western Australian-born Lawrence Joseph Peter Branson, dairyman, and his English-born wife Eveline Lucy, née Dickins. After his parents separated, Reg took the surname of his stepfather, Henry Layton, a motor mechanic. He attended several schools but during the Depression finished his education at age twelve to work on a farm at Collie. By 1939 he was living at Geraldton and working as a labourer.

Layton became a popular boxing drawcard, having received early training from the American former world junior-lightweight champion Tod Morgan (Albert Pilkington), who admired his courage. The raw-boned, craggy-faced Layton was five feet ten inches (178 cm) tall; his fighting weight of ten stone twelve pounds (69 kg) would later increase to twelve stone (76 kg). Although knocked out in two rounds by Eric Drage in December 1939, the following year he stopped Ron Saunders in three rounds, outpointed Drage in a rematch, and fought a draw with the former Western Australian welterweight champion Jack Prater. He ended 1940 with a win and loss against Harry Jackson.

On 26 October 1941 Layton was called up for full-time duty as a rough rider with the 3rd Remount Squadron, Citizen Military Forces. In May 1942 he was posted to ‘K’ Field Security Section. He transferred to the Australian Imperial Force on 19 August. A report, following a course at the School of Military Intelligence, described him as industrious, reliable, enthusiastic, friendly, and tactful, but lacking self-assurance. Continuing to box, on 26 October 1942 at Perth’s Hollywood Stadium, he won the Western Australian light-heavyweight title with a fifteen-round decision over Ralph Finkelstein. Gordon McAullay took the title from him in May 1943 and in Melbourne the Filipino Francisco (‘Young Frisco’) Eusebio knocked him out in December. He had defeated Jack Marr in November, however, and he beat Jack ‘Kid’ Dale in March 1944 and Don Luff in May.

From July 1944 Layton served with his unit at Merauke, Netherlands New Guinea (Papua, Indonesia). In Brisbane, after his return to Australia in April 1945, he outpointed Bill Broome on 20 July and a week later knocked out Jack Oliver. He had suffered a bout of malaria before a match on 30 November against Doug Brown, who flattened him in the second round. Discharged from the army as a lance sergeant on 1 February 1946, Layton joined the Queensland Police Force six days later. At Holy Cross Catholic Church, Wooloowin, on 27 June 1946, he married Alma Eileen O’Connor, née Bell, a widow and a stenographer; they later separated. In January 1947 he attempted to swim across a flooded creek near Archerfield to reach a stranded family but was swept some four hundred yards (370 m) downstream; the Royal Humane Society of Australasia awarded him its bronze medal.

Posted in 1949 as an instructor with the Queensland Police-Citizens’ Youth Welfare Association, Layton trained boxers at its Lang Park gymnasium. He coached the Australian amateur team for the British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Cardiff in 1958, guiding Wally Taylor and Tony Madigan to gold medals and Ollie Taylor to silver. On 14 February 1960 he resigned from the police force as a senior constable. In partnership with Wally Taylor, he opened Laylor Motors Pty Ltd at Woolloongabba and would sell Peugeot, Renault, BMW, and Nissan vehicles over the next three decades. The pair also formed Layton-Taylor Promotions and Stadiums Pty Ltd.

For more than forty years, at Lang Park and later a gym next to his car yard, Layton trained some of Australia’s greatest boxers, including the Taylor brothers, Madigan, Hector Thompson, Gary Cowburn, Fred Casey, Noel Kunde, Barry Michael (Swettenham), Brian and Mark Janssen, Steve Aczel, Doug Sam, Emmanuel Otti, Don Green, Arthur Bradley, Jeff Dynevor, Boyd Scully, and Neil Kerle, who fought as ‘Young Layton.’ He promoted bouts that drew large crowds to Brisbane’s Festival Hall. In the 1970s he staged major fights at the Milton tennis centre, featuring Thompson, Lionel Rose, Jeffrey White, and Tony Mundine. Layton guided Thompson to the Australian light-welterweight and welterweight titles and the Commonwealth light-welterweight crown, and to two attempts at a world championship.

Although he trained his boxers hard, Layton always put their welfare first. They and others close to him knew a kind and good-natured man. He was noted for his honesty in business affairs. With his second wife, Jacqueline, he moved to Surfers Paradise in 1976, then to Oxenford, and finally in 1989 to Lowood. He died there on 19 April 1993. Following a Baptist funeral, he was cremated. His wife and the three sons of his first marriage survived him.

Research edited by Darryl Bennet

Select Bibliography

  • Courier-Mail (Brisbane). ‘Boxing Mourns the Loss of a Legend.’ 21 April 1993, 56

  • Kieza, Grantlee. Australian Boxing: The Illustrated History. Smithfield, NSW: Gary Allen, 1990

  • Layton, Jacqueline. Personal communication

  • Layton, Reginald Jr. Personal communication

  • National Archives of Australia. B883, WX30993

  • Queensland Police Museum. Service History Reginald Joseph Layton

  • Taylor, Wally. Personal communication

Additional Resources

Citation details

Grantlee Kieza, 'Layton, Reginald Joseph (Reg) (1920–1993)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/layton-reginald-joseph-reg-18176/text29743, published online 2017, accessed online 26 March 2019.

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