The Sands Brothers (group photograph)


National Portrait Gallery

National Portrait Gallery
Canberra, Australia

Clem, Percy, George, Dave, Alfie and Russell Ritchie, better known as the 'Fighting Sands Brothers', were members of one of Australia's most remarkable sporting families. Of Dunghutti descent, they were born at Burnt Ridge, near Kempsey, and took up boxing in emulation of their father, grandfather and a great-uncle, who'd had some success as fighters. They adopted the surname Sands as a tribute to a local boxing fan and railway worker who'd allowed Percy (1921–1974) – who boxed under the name Ritchie Sands – to jump a train to a fight in Newcastle in 1939. The brothers claimed numerous victories in a period spanning 20 years, notching up 607 bouts between them and winning a third of that total by knockout. Clem (1917–1989) held the NSW welterweight title from 1947 to 1951; Alfie (1929–1985) was the NSW middleweight champion from 1952 to 1954; while George (1924–1986) won 55 of his 101 fights. The most successful of the sextet, Dave (1926-1952), claimed his first belts in 1946, winning the Australian middleweight and light heavyweight titles. He took out the British Empire middleweight boxing title in 1949; and in 1950 held the Australian middle, light heavyweight and heavyweight titles simultaneously. In all, Dave won 97 of his 110 professional bouts and at the time of his death, aged 26, was ranked number three in the world. Dave's death inspired the youngest brother, Russell (1937-1977) to succeed in the ring. He won the state and national featherweight titles in 1954 and retired in 1959 having won 35 of his 58 fights.


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