BURKE, Richard Dominic 'Dick'  [1912-1989]

 Richard Dominic ‘Dick’ Burke was born in Liverpool on 16th September 1912, the seventh child of  Dublin-born Michael Martin Burke, an upholsterer,  and his wife Catherine. The family home was 20 Exley Road L6. (His other Liverpool address was 19 Coleridge Street L6, both houses have since been demolished).

Like many Liverpool boxers he found his way into the sport via the Everton Red Triangle club, making his professional debut aged just sixteen and after only eight amateur bouts. Often referred to as the ‘Liverpool Whirlwind’ his short but action packed professional career was a true reflection of his nickname. In his own words, Dick Burke’s approach was to go “anywhere and everywhere for a fight , the harder the better. I was determined to get there, and to do it quicker than anyone had done it before. “  Between 1929 and 1934 he fought no less than 72 professional bouts, a punishing regime which averaged out at a little over three weeks between each contest. He lost on only 16 occasions, and in his first 58 fights was defeated just 8 times. Of his victories, 30 were by knock outs.

Whilst he never won a title, his prowess was reflected in his performances against some of the top boxers of his era. Of particular note were his two fights against world champion ‘Panama Al’ Brown, considered by many to be one of the greatest bantamweights in boxing history. Dick Burke first fought him at Sheffield on 1st December 1932 in a bout arranged to raise funds for a children’s charity. He had prepared for the fight with fellow Liverpudlian Ernie Roderick and despite conceding weight to Brown he went the full 12 rounds. 6,000 people watched the fight, which was refereed by the one-time World Flyweight Champion, Jimmy Wilde. He fought Brown again 6 months later at the ground of Grimsby Town FC. On this occasion Dick Burke believed he had built up a sizeable points advantage only for the referee to stop the fight with just 30 seconds to go after he had suffered a cut eye.

Among the champions he defeated were Domenico Bernasconi (Italian and European bantamweight) Bert Kirby (British flyweight) Terence Morgan (Welsh flyweight  and bantamweight) George Morgan (Welsh featherweight) Phineas John (Welsh flyweight) Cuthbert Taylor (Welsh bantamweight) Jacky Quinn (Irish flyweight and bantamweight) Jimmy O’ Neill (Scottish bantamweight).

Dick Burke fought his last professional bout in October 1934 against Albert Roothooft at Rotherham. Taken to hospital after the fight he was told that he could not fight again and had in fact been putting himself at some considerable peril going in the ring over the last six months. As a paper reported at the time “the red haired Irish battler, at the age of 22, has received doctor’s orders to hang up the gloves for ever.” His ring career over he spent time as a physical training instructor on cruise liners before enlisting in the Royal Air Force at the outbreak of war. His RAF career was to see him travel the globe and bring his expertise to bear in training RAF boxers in the far east.

In the 1960’s he and his wife Marie settled in Scunthorpe, where he died in August 1989 aged 76.

A newspaper article summarising his career (Scunthorpe Evening Telegraph 27-2-1996) provided  a fitting epitaph, “…few could match his hard hitting, all action style whilst outside the ring he mixed with ease with his fans and peers alike. He was a man for the people, one the supporters loved to cheer and the boxers used to respect – a British hero in an era of fighting legends.

In the 1930's Liverpool boasted some of the finest boxers in the land. Dick Burke was pals with two of these legends, Nel Tarleton (who was godfather to Dick's daughter) and Dom Volante. The pictures below show the fearsome threesome.


Much of the information on Dick Burke was provided by his grandson Steve Barr. If anyone would like a copy of this material please email. There are two good newspaper extracts about his career on the boxing biographies website.