When Peter Banasko died at the age of 78 in 1993 the Liverpool Echo article marked his funeral with an article entitled “Salute to boxing’s unsung hero: Banasko -one of the true greats”. He had become the first Liverpool-born boxer to win a national title when, at the age of 13, he won the 6 stone schoolboy Championship of Great Britain. To the shame of the sport and the country he was denied the fame due to him as a professional due to a ban on non-white boxers fighting for a national championship. That this should apply to a man born in the Empire’s second city, a man who served in the armed forces during the Second World War, is an appalling indictment of the overt racism of the Britain in which he was raised. It is astonishing to think that this ban continued until 1947.
Peter Emmanuel Banasko was born on 18th December 1915 to Isaac Emmanuel [1892-1970] and Lillian Frances née Doyle [1896-1988]. Lillian was Liverpool-born and Isaac, a merchant seaman, was born in what is now Ghana. Peter attended St Malachy’s school in Toxteth and his success as a boxer saw him pictured in the Liverpool Echo (27th December 1930). He fought over 100 fights as a schoolboy and turned professional aged 17. In addition to the racial prejudice which dogged his career he suffered a string of hand injuries and after the war, in which he served as a Sergeant PE Instructor with the Royal Berkshires, he decided to end his career. However, he maintained his involvement with the sport as a manager and in the 1950’s had two future World Champions under his wing in Hogan ‘Kid’ Bassey and Dick Tiger. In Adeyinka Makinde’s biography of Dick Tiger [Dick Tiger: The Life and Times of a Boxing Immortal – Word Association Publishers 2004] he records how Banasko “considered his role as being one that transcended the confines of a manager and trainer. Many times he paid for the fighter’s passage, lodgings, clothing and initial upkeep. He offered them his friendship and made them part of a sort of extended family in which his wife played an active part.” His break with both Tiger and Bassey was not without rancour and after this he chose to distance himself from the sport. In his autobiography Hogan Bassey spoke of the break with some regret, acknowledging that Banasko had “guided my steps to an Empire championship and we had been on friendly terms for so long”. The aforementioned Dick Tiger biography relates how devastated Tiger was at losing Banasko as his manager, the news reducing him to tears.
Banasko’s career had a number of interesting highlights. He boxed in front of the Prince of Wales (the future Edward VIII) and was presented with a gold watch by the Prince. Reputedly he fought in a number of exhibition bouts which were refereed by the Everton star William Ralph ‘Dixie’ Dean.
In the 1930’s the Banasko family were living at 179 Grafton Street L8, and after his marriage to Margaret in 1939 he took up residence at 9 Wynnstay Street L8. From about 1945 to 1955 Peter Banasko lived at 31 Corney Street L8 before moving to Skelmersdale where he died in 1993. The only address in Liverpool still standing is 9 Wynnstay Street which is one of the redeveloped ‘Welsh Streets’ in Toxteth.
The picture on the left shows Wynnstay Street at the time Peter Banasko lived there - to the right is No.7 in the re-developed street.
This picture appeared in the Liverpool Echo on 27th December 1930 after Banasko's success boxing for St Malchy's club.
The young Peter Banasko
There is an article on Peter Banasko penned by his son on the National Museums Liverpool website. There is an account of his career on the Merseyside Former Boxers Association webpage. His role in developing Hogan Bassey and Dick Tiger is covered in the workls quoted in their entries.
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