David Robert Green MBE, better known as Dave ‘Boy’ Green, self-admittedly over-achieved during his tenure as a professional boxer. “If I had finished my career as a British champion I would have been over the moon,” was how he explained it, but after capturing the Lord Lonsdale belt in just his 16th professional outing his ambitions began to grow vastly.
Green went on to become a two-weight European champion (the first Englishman to achieve such a feat) and fought for a world title on two occasions, going toe-to-toe with, arguably, the greatest to lace up gloves in the modern era. What was the secret to Green’s success?
“I had the greatest man in my corner,” said Green. The man in question was his lifelong manager and ‘father-figure’ Andy Smith.
Their first meeting was at Smith’s boxing gym in St Ives, Cambridgeshire, when Dave, a young amateur, visited from the small Fenland town of Chatteris searching for sparring partners. Along with the sparring he ever-so needed came the man who would guide Green throughout his entire boxing career.
“I was a good fighter, but then Andy came along and changed me into a great fighter,” Green told Boxing Social. “I was getting good sparring with very good fighters like Mickey Laud and ‘Dezzy’ [Des] Morrison. Andy and I clicked right from the off.”
Dave’s relentless, front-foot fighting style suited the professional ranks and after one final attempt at the ABA title, losing in the semi-final to five-time champion Terry Waller, he made the switch.
Beginning his campaign at light-welterweight in December 1974, ‘The Fen Tiger’ dismantled his opponents with a relentless work-rate and impressive power, claiming the British title after just 18 months as a professional when he stopped Joey Singleton.
Momentum started to build with every victory, which included European title success against Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Piedvache and his greatest victory, moving up in weight to halt recently dethroned world welterweight champion John H. Stracey.
Next up for Green was his first attempt at the world title and the first blemish on his professional record against Mexican Carlos Palomino.
“He was a very tough and a very underrated fighter. That fight was my best performance, against Palomino,” said Green, reviewing the contest in a positive light. “I was two rounds up before he got me. His face was marking up nicely, I cut him, and he was swelling up. Most boys would have pulled out, but he kept going and got the win. He was a very good fighter and a very nice man.”
Two years after the Palomino defeat, Green was back to winning ways, picking up a European title at a second weight by defeating Henry Rhiney. During that time, the world welterweight title had changed hands twice. The famous WBC belt was now in the hands of a young American fighter named ‘Sugar’ Ray Leonard.
“[Promoter] Mickey Duff called Andy [Smith] and told him ‘’Sugar’ Ray wants to fight Dave’. No hesitation, Andy said, ‘set it up’. And that was that,” said Green. “We were soon on a plane to America, we flew over, shook hands with Ray’s team and signed the paperwork.
“I got paid £125,000 for the fight and I was happy with that. I was told; ‘if you beat ‘Sugar’ Ray, you’ll be earning what he gets for the rest of your career.’ [A clause in the contract guaranteed Green a $1 million purse for his first title defence if he had beaten Leonard]. But, of course, that never happened!” he chuckled.
Unfortunately for Green, Leonard would show the boxing world a glimpse of what was to follow in his illustrious career, outboxing the challenger before finishing him off with a devastating flurry of punches, knocking the Englishman out cold in the fourth round.
“My dad thought I was dead! It was one hell of a knockout and a lot of people were worried for me. Even Ray said he was worried. At the time, I thought, ‘if I just get in his face, keep on his chest and walk him down, I can beat this guy!’” said Green, unable to contain his laughter. “It didn’t matter what I had done, the boy was so good. I couldn’t beat him no matter what.”
The Leonard fight would mark the end of Green’s endeavours at world level. “I was in the mix with some seriously talented fighters throughout my career and I would have never had got that far if it weren’t for my manager Andy Smith,” he said.
“He did it properly with me. He knew me better than I did, and that is what made him a great manager and a great man. He knew when I was ready to move up in level and he got it right every time.
“Andy used to have me stay around his house in the week of my fights so he could sort out my food for me and kept an eye on me, made sure I was focused and ready for every fight. He was like a second father to me.”
After Leonard, Green racked up four straight victories against domestic opposition before suffering a shock loss to an 8-7 Reggie Ford in November 1981. This would prove his final fight as a professional.
“We agreed that when my time is up, no questions, let us just walk away, and that is exactly what we did,” said Green. “Andy called the ref over at the end of the fifth against Reggie Ford to wave off the fight, then he took the MC’s mic and announced to everyone my retirement. The timing was spot on, just like everything else we did.”
Even in retirement from the ring, they stayed close friends until the day Andy Smith died at the age of 78 in 2005. Boxing lives on in the Smith household through his son Robert W. Smith, a former professional fighter and now the General Secretary of the British Boxing Board of Control.
Today, Dave ‘Boy’ Green is Managing Director of a marketing logistics company and lives in his hometown of Chatteris, Cambridgeshire, with his wife Kay. After a successful career in the ring, Green showed he had a knack for business, too, something else he made sure Smith got the praise for.
“Even after boxing, Andy helped me. He got me a job and, within a year, I had a 50% share in the company,” said Green.
“I was lucky enough to mix it with some great people throughout my life. Meeting Muhammad Ali, my favourite footballer Bryan Robson is another highlight. But if you were to ask me ‘who’s the greatest person you’ve ever met in your life?’ The answer is very easy – Andy Smith.”